Free market at work. Consumers benefit. Government responds. The story in microcosm.
The Sheboygan Press recently reported on the growth of the food truck business in Sheboygan – and city government’s predictable reaction to a popular new business model. The article features Sheboygan entrepreneurs who operate these popular businesses in Sheboygan. James Fleck, a factory worker who lost his job, opened Fleck’s Curbside Grill with his two sons. Carol Theodoroff sells pizza from her beachside truck. Greg Lee runs Gyros 2 Go from a fourteen foot trailer outfitted as a mobile kitchen. The article points out that food trucks like these have become extremely popular with local consumers. They have successfully taken advantage of new technologies such as smart phones and social networks to create an innovative and successful business plan. This is the market at work, providing new opportunities for individuals to profit by providing customers with something they obviously like.
The reaction of the Sheboygan city government was predictable. It passed an ordinance requiring food trucks to pay the city for the pleasure of doing business there and, more importantly, preventing them from doing business near restaurants, fairs, festivals or farmers’ markets. In other words, the government acted to protect incumbent firms from new competitors. Life is full of surprises. This is not one of them.