Cambridge, Massachusetts is moving to allow some food trucks down by the Charles River, which seems like an excellent idea. Still, they don’t want the Riverfront to just become totally clogged with trucks, which is understandable. Yet rather than simply auction permits, they’re adopting a slightly odd point system (PDF):
This is not my favorite way of promoting ecological sustainability, but it’s clear enough what the public interest is supposed to be here. The rest of it is a bit hard to figure out. If you let trucks sell food at a profit maximizing price point and then auction permits, the government gets valuable revenue with which to help poor people. Attempting to help the poor through some kind of back door price control on food truck lunches doesn’t make a ton of sense. But what the point system gives with the one hand, it takes away with the other hand by giving bonuses to trucks that use “many different ingredients” and serve “a wide variety of different types of items” rather than trucks with more efficient business models.
All told, people get suspicious of markets in weird ways. Suppose someone wants to start a truck selling $15 lobster rolls and customers line up to buy them. What’s wrong with that?