Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saluting Illegal Activities

I work at one of those little neighborhood stores that you see on TV but don't think really exist anymore. We know our regular customers, and not just what brand of cigarettes they smoke. We know who is looking for a new job, who is dating whom, who got arrested and for what (it is one of those neighborhoods), and which parents to tell when the good kids start hanging out with the ones who cause trouble in the neighborhood. We chat with the folks who come into the store. If you stop for directions, we can help you find just about anything in town. If we don't carry what you want, we will let you know where the best place is to find it.

Because of this, and with the neighborhood that we're in, we get a lot of info on some of the not so legal stuff that happens. Some of it folks don't even realize is illegal. For example, folks go fishing for catfish and then sell it to people who transport it to Milwaukee (probably on ice in coolers) for sale. Now, I personally applaud the entrepreneurship of the folks who are doing this. They are providing a useful service for others, and they are able to support their families doing this. (I'm a little less comfortable with people who buy the fish not knowing that it came out of the Fox River. That's another story.) Here's the thing, if they were to take all of the steps to do this legally, it would be cost prohibitive. The guy catching the fish would need a commercial fishing license and a small business license and would have to comply with a host of regulatory requirements. The guy transporting the fish would need a business license, special retrofitting on the vehicle, to be specially licensed to drive a commercial vehicle, and to have all of the fish inspected before sale. The DNR would be involved. The USDA would be involved. The DOT would be involved. There's probably a whole lot of other bureaucratic agencies that would get their fingers in the pot too. This is the kind of thing that people are talking about when they say that the regulatory burden on small businesses is too great. We should be encouraging innovation and allowing people to benefit from it...not taxing it to death. The government needs to get out of the way and let people thrive.

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