The other day, The New York Times offered the story of Juliet Pries, who attempted to open an ice cream parlor in San Francisco:
Ms. Pries said it took two years to open the restaurant, due largely to the city’s morass of permits, procedures and approvals required to start a small business. While waiting for permission to operate, she still had to pay rent and other costs, going deeper into debt each passing month without knowing for sure if she would ever be allowed to open.
“It’s just a huge risk,” she said, noting that the financing came from family and friends, not a bank. “At several points you wonder if you should just walk away and take the loss.”
Ms. Pries said she had to endure months of runaround and pay a lawyer to determine whether her location (a former grocery, vacant for years) was eligible to become a restaurant. There were permit fees of $20,000; a demand that she create a detailed map of all existing area businesses (the city didn’t have one); and an $11,000 charge just to turn on the water.
Why $11,000? Why not $111,000? Or $111 million? Or any other arbitrary figure entirely divorced from reality?
George Savage wonders: “Why not Occupy City Hall?” Indeed. It’s very difficult to have economic dynamism in a society where the government takes two years to decide whether it will give you permission to sell your fellow citizens a strawberry parfait. Too much of American life is too far down this path already.