Ever since food trucks started to become a big thing in the past couple years, nearly every city where they popped up saw a push to regulate it. This provided a great lesson in the origin and nature of regulation.
Food-truck regulation is always pushed in the name of consumer safety. It’s also always pushed by incumbent restaurants trying to erect barriers to entry.
Nick Manes at the Rapidian blogs about proposed food-truck regulation in Grand Rapids:
This was a controversial issue for many downtown restaurant owners, who believe that mobile vendors could undermine brick and mortar restaurants with more investment in the city. Greg Gilmore, owner of The Gilmore Collection which includes The BOB, said that he would one day like to support this, but sees the downtown food and beverage market as being “too fragile…Grand Rapids is not Portland.”
A number of other restaurant owners from places such as Ritz Koney, Tre Cugini, and The Dog Pit also spoke against the ordinance, believing that this would be damaging to the downtown economy and lead them to shutting their doors.
When it comes to food, many liberals see that regulation is largely about protecting big incumbents from smaller, localer competitors. But this is broadly the way regulation works. It’s why Wal-Mart has lobbied for a higher minimum wage and for and employer mandate in health insurance. It’s why H&R Block supported stricter regulations on tax-prep. It’s why GE supported the new lightbulb law. It’s why Philip Morris supported federal regulation of tobacco. Heck, it’s why the large meatpackers supported Teddy Roosevelt’s mandatory inspection of meat.
Regulation, however it’s sold, is often less about protecting consumers from Big Business and more about about protecting Big Business from smaller competitors.