Businessmen Claim Capitalism Requires Government to Stifle Competition

(cc photo by Poldavo)

(cc photo by Poldavo)

Lydia DePillis gives us another postcard in the timeless quest of incumbent business owners to use local government to crush competition. The issue this time is the Latino Market located three days a week in Adams-Morgan. People shop at the market, and if the market didn’t exist they might shop elsewhere!

Here’s the problem: Neighboring restaurants that sell similar food say the city-sanctioned market has stolen their lunch traffic on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—the busiest days of the week. And that, the businessowners complained at a contentious ANC IC meeting last night, is plain unfair.

“I put all that I have in this business,” says Juan Loyola, who worked in an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in Tysons Corner for five years before starting Pollo Granjero in 2008. “If I fail, all that I have is gone. Who’s gonna help us?”

“They pay rent. They pay for trash. They are inspected,” added Adams Morgan Business Association president Pat Patrick, who owns a local commercial real estate agency. “These other vendors don’t have this. The hallmark of capitalism is that you’re starting out on a level playing field. And by god, this is far from a level playing field!

Kristen Barden from the local Business Improvement District at least went through the trouble of coming up with a public health rationale for shutting the market down, though not actual evidence of the existence of a public health problem. The incumbent restauranteurs seem to me to have a valid complaint that sales tax treatment between vendors and stores should be equalized. But the general notion on display here from Loyola and others is that it’s appropriate for public policy to attempt to protect the investments of incumbent businessmen from competition. That’s nonsense, but it’s people with a large financial stake in obtaining such competition who are likely to show up at meetings.