Mind the gap bring back retail deregulate building

Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management, handicapped accessibility, draught tolerant native plantings… It’s a very long list that totaled $340,000 worth of work. They only paid $245,000 for the entire property. And that’s before they even started bringing the building itself up to code for their intended use. Guess what? They decided not to open the bakery or brewery. Big surprise.

Here is much more, from Johnny at Granola Shotgun, one of the best pieces of the year, with superb photos, lovely twists and turns in the narrative, hat tip goes to Anecdotal.

Here are all posts by Johnny, “I’m an amateur architecture buff with a passionate interest in where and how we all live and occupy the landscape, from small rural towns to skyscrapers and everything in between. I travel often, conduct interviews with people of interest, and gather photos and video of places worth talking about. The good, the bad, and the ugly – it’s all fascinating to me.” — a new master of the medium.


I think most people with "normal" jobs have no idea.

And then when you have all this capital at risk and finally make some money back... "pay your fair share! you didn't build that! Oh, and garnish the employees wages who owe child support, and help collect sales tax, and could you pay more in wages, please?"

'and help collect sales tax'

Sorry, that one is too easy to complain about - a receipt tax is about the simplest tax going, at least for the brew pub example. (For a national chain, the variety of sales taxes in the U.S. is a nightmare, however.)

There is now software, so national collection is a lot easier. You still have to file though.

Some states are harder than others.

But software would also make it easy for consumers to do their own consumption taxes...and by the way, they are supposed to do this for use tax. I'd love to see a state audit its citizens with Amazon records, for example.

Also, I may be slightly bitter about the sales tax, because some states used to actually pay businesses a tiny amount to handle them. California, where I am located of course stopped doing that.

" I’d love to see a state audit its citizens with Amazon records"

Amazon has been collecting state sales taxes for a while now.

'There is now software, so national collection is a lot easier.'

I know, but such software is most definitely not free, and has to be integrated into whatever ERP software you might be using.

'I’d love to see a state audit its citizens with Amazon records, for example.'

Depends on the state, and as noted below, Amazon is already collecting sales tax in basically all states that require it.

'because some states used to actually pay businesses a tiny amount to handle them'

I have a very hard time imagining the Commonwealth of Virginia ever doing that, but who knows, maybe at some point the state did.

Well, it seems to me pretty obvious that without the business providing "Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, ", it would have neither workers nor employees.

Without "fire lanes" no emergency services.

Without "on site stormwater management" the property would flood itself or harm other property.

Unless the author is arguing for high tax funding corporate socialism so government does everything for the business for "free" paid for by business taxes high enough.

I've lived in towns where the government built the curbs, curb cuts, side walks, etc and then paid for them with taxes and levies. Businesses objected to those costs as well, but many had called for widening the road to handle more traffic better to help grow their businesses.

And places in Texas flooded recently for the first time because nearby development did not provide local storm water management.

"Unless the author is arguing for high tax funding corporate socialism so government does everything for the business for “free” paid for by business taxes high enough"

That is what they want. But instead of "business taxes" it's more like "as regressive a tax as possible".

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but the mandatory parking requirements are quite often way more than the business actually requires. A business owner can be counted on to provide enough parking for his potential customers without some bureaucrat who knows nothing about the business telling him what he needs based on some arbitrary measure like ratio of square feet.

As my original blog post points out it's impossible to argue against the regulations that are now on the books. It's also impossible for mom and pop businesses to comply with them. The numbers don't add up. He's one of my points. The mandatory parking requirements insist that what is now permeable open ground be paved. It's the paving that will create the storm water problem. See how that works? In order to create the fire lane that wraps around the entire building the site must be graded, excavated, paved, and landscaped with retaining walls at huge expense. A small fraction of that money could be used to create handicap accessible bathrooms, etc. I understand that fire safety is extremely important. But at a certain point the local businesses that would have generated taxes to support local city services dry up. So desperate revenue starved governments subsidize big box stores and chain restaurants into their jurisdictions to try and plug the funding gap. For the record, I don't believe there is an answer to these interlocking dilemmas. I expect things to carry on until the whole set of arrangements just fails of its own dead weight. That might take a while. After the dust settles we'll come up with new arrangements. I'll be dead by then.

...and who is smart enough to figure out how many parking spaces are needed? The business owner taking the risk who the politician/bureaucrat who has no skin in the game?

What is even more shocking is that if a person who bought a motorcycle shop (in NJ) that had been on the same property for a half century three decades ago tries to sell it today, they will actually be on the hook for dealing with all the oil, brake fluid, gasoline, etc. that has seeped into the ground, and not only for the three decades worth that happened when they were the owner.

Shocking how a property owner becomes responsible for their property, isn't it? Maybe if the city could just give that potential brew pub a half million dollars as a subsidy, the way major corporations are paid hundreds of millions dollars to locate their plant in a particular area, this problem could be easily solved.

And really, why should any brew pub owner even be forced to have toilets, much less ADA compliant ones - think of the money they could save (ask a Georgetown resident how they feel about that idea, by the way).

This seems like an easy fix. Have the regulatory agency pay for any changes it mandates. Pass the cost along as a general consumption tax to the entire populace.

Expensive regulations only becomes an issue when the people who pass the regulations don't have to worry about paying for the implementation.


Now, wait a second. If a business is seen as increasing costs for the local government, say, for more firemen, policemen, tearing up the street, added costs of any kind, it hardly seems unreasonable that the business be asked to pay some of that added expense. Some regulations are meant to prevent the taxpayers from essentially subsidizing the business going in. If it's a restaurant, for example, good luck getting much back. Other regulations are meant to ensure that existing businesses are not hindered by new businesses, not by competition, but by, say, crowding the sidewalk with sandwich boards, etc. You might also consider doing your homework before buying a property.

The way it works is like this: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2014/10/anchorage-cops-want-more-part-time-work.html

'Have the regulatory agency pay for any changes it mandates.'

So, selling a piece of property to a church that wishes to build a nursery/elementary school on it, a piece of property that my business has contaminated with heavy metals, and between the time of my original purchase and potential sales the laws have changed, the responsibility for dealing with the results of my profitable actions is to have everyone else pay for it?

Yep, sounds like the sort of libertarianism that all loyal readers of Prof. Cowen's web site can get behind.

Yes I can definitely get behind this, even though I don't agree with JWatts's point more broadly.

1) It undermines the rule of law if you can change the law after the fact and make a former owner liable for decades of activity that was compliant at the time.

2) These former businesses are usually not around to pay anyway, so it's typically a moot point.

3) Requiring the new owner of the land to pay distorts the market in an often undesirable fashion. Previously developed land goes unused (with sprawl increasing instead) and the pollution remains in place.

Yes, I think that if a regulation is introduced requiring clean up of old pollution, the government should pay. It's the most logical way of doing it.

The libertarian argument would be about how many such regulations should exist, not who pays. A different party being required to pay doesn't make it more or less libertarian.

'It undermines the rule of law if you can change the law after the fact'

So, I have a chromium processing plant on a piece of land since 1945, where I have been dumping various byproducts of the manufacturing process. Then, in 1972, regulations - oh, let us make up a name like the Clean Water Act, shall we? - are passed to limit the amount of chromium byproducts that enter the water supply. And which further allows a new government agency to force companies to be in compliance with that regulatory framework.

So, fine, I actually follow the laws regarding waste water discharged into the local river that also just happens to be used to supply water to several towns downstream (though quite possibly I might just start donating money to various public policy institutes that question the science behind such burdensome regulation, and even whether such regulation should ever be permissible), but do nothing to take care of the mounds of waste on my property.

Then, being a clever person, instead of actually cleaning up the waste on the property, I declare the company bankrupt (and use some professionals able to make sure that my assets are so structured that there is no way for the government to take them in even partial payment for cleaning up the mess I created for my personal gain), and let the taxpayers deal with it down the road anyways.

Maybe we could call such a place a 'Superfund site,' and have the taxpayers pay for it anyways.

'These former businesses are usually not around to pay anyway'

Killed by regulations, right?

'Requiring the new owner of the land to pay distorts the market in an often undesirable fashion.'

So, the old owner doesn't have to pay, the new owner doesn't have to pay, only the taxpayer has to pay - yep, loyal reader libertarianism. (My actual example involved the old owner having to pay for the clean up, if that was not clear.)

'Yes, I think that if a regulation is introduced requiring clean up of old pollution, the government should pay. It’s the most logical way of doing it.'

And the owner of the property gets to say I've got mine, thank God for taxpayers? Because there is at least one motorcycle dealer in NJ that would get fully behind that proposal after decades of not caring about what dripped into the ground of his property over decades.

Being able to declare bankruptcy while sheltering one's wealth is the problem in the scenario you describe.

Evading environmental cleanup responsibility is just one of many dirty tricks that could be accomplished by such means.

In any rational legal system, the seller would have to disclose all material facts about the property to the buyer. Moreover, you could even imagine that buyers would be entitled to an independent inspection by a licensed individual of their choice.

If a Church wants to build a nursery, they should read the disclosures and test the ground themselves. Then the question of what remediation happens, whether buyer or seller pays, who verifies it can be rolled into the purchase price. Or the Church can go find a more suitable plot of land and leave the contaminated one to a use that is more appropriate. You know, sorting out available parcels into their most beneficial uses . . .

JWatts, while I agree to some extent with the sentiment, I don't think that's really workable (in general--for some specific regulations it may make sense).

The problem is that business investment carries risk, and this system would place the government in the position of bearing a significant portion of that risk. That would be unworkable. The government can't afford to help renovate all new restaurants when 90% of them (or whatever the number is) fail. The government would need to limit who got this funding, and that would probably result in an extensive, unwieldy application process, as well as various requirements business need to meet in order to qualify for the funding. This would be a burden similar to the status quo, but with even more government meddling and a process even more subject to corruption.

Yes, the need to fund regulatory compliance activities would probably reduce the level of regulation. But I don't think this would be an improvement overall.

Where a regulation is actually important, it makes logical sense to require the business itself to fund the compliance. A business, for example, ought to be responsible for the safety of customers on its premises. The problem is regulations that do more harm than good.

I don't know the solution. More cost-benefit analysis may help. However, as with many government problems, the real problem may actually be that this is what the electorate wants. Voters want their town to look nice and want to be assured of safety. And very often they are anti-development.

"The problem is that business investment carries risk, and this system would place the government in the position of bearing a significant portion of that risk. That would be unworkable. "

I don't think this is applicable. Government funding could (and should) be restricted to new regulations, but the government pay for the upgrades required. This ensures that the tax payers are directly paying for the regulations their elected officials are promulgating instead of placing an indirect tax on business that the customers end up paying.

Someone will pay for these regulations, why shouldn't it be the government that creates them?

"Pass the cost along as a general consumption tax to the entire populace."

Ah, the tax and spend I grew up with as an early boomer.

The government hiked taxes in bond issues to fund building roads, water and sewer, got rural electric loans arranged, built schools and fire houses to open up land for development as housing or industry.

But people objected to paying higher taxes on small houses in town to build large lot, large home sections of town for incoming managers and professionals.

But the Levittown developments too often put in poor quality roads, etc so a decade later the town had hundreds of homeowner taxpayers demanding their roads get fixed, the flooding stopped. I moved into southern NH after the towns had learned from all the problems and passed laws preventing roads from being declared public ways until every aspect of road quality and drainage met high stankard. Developers complain of high costs, but existing taxpayers seldom see tax hikes caused by new development.

"Maybe if the city could just give that potential brew pub a half million dollars as a subsidy, the way major corporations are paid hundreds of millions dollars to locate their plant in a particular area, this problem could be easily solved."

You think you're joking, but that's the way that any new development is done in Detroit and inner suburbs like Hamtramck. The normal property tax rates in these cities are insanely high (in some they're over 5% annually). The subsidies come in the form of 15-year tax abatements. Here's a guy who will enjoy over $150K worth of such subsidies on his downtown condo when all is said and done:


The same kind of deal would be available for the Hamtramck bank building redevelopment. Whether or not that would make the project make sense or not, I don't know.

'You think you’re joking'

I'm not joking, actually. However, this suggestion is not about merely tax abatement, but really involves handing over hard, cold cash.

However, when someone local person you know is handed a half million to run a profitable business for their own profit, most people seem to think that smells like corruption. Oddly, large corporations are able to escape that problem as they play states and municipalities against each other.

It's a terrible system, but I don't blame corporations. When you're going to get screwed no matter what you do, you might as well pick the predator with the smallest implement.

Few would argue against handicapped-accessible bathrooms in an establishment like a pub, but you can't defend the entire set of regulations simply by appealing to one of the most defensible single rules.

How do you defend "Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management, handicapped accessibility, draught tolerant native plantings…". (Note from the pictures the building has a paved parking lot already, and is on a level site with level, step-free entry).

And then you people wonder why there are so many empty lots sitting around unused. Because no one wants to touch them because they inherit liabilities more than the property is worth. This guy just happened to be dumb/unlucky enough to buy a toxic property. I see the same thing with properties designated as historically protected in my city. No one can afford to comply with all the rules for maintaining and repairing them, so no work is done on them and they go into a state of disrepair.

In New England we've seen a number of bars and nightclubs shut down for lack of sprinkler systems. They can't afford to install one, they can't get a proper occupancy permit without one. We've also seen people burned to death in nightclubs that didn't have them.

We see a lot of abandoned gas stations that can't be fixed up because the remediation is too expensive. But if you don't remediate, you're putting a bunch of benzene and lead into the neighborhood.

Cities could probably broadly get rid of parking minimums, and waive a number of other requirements on a case-by-case basis. But like you say -- those regs exist for a reason.

I am split here. Totally understand the costs and risks to business owners with all those regulations. But they exists for a reason. Having been in other countries, I can see why our accidental deaths and injuries are a lot less than say India or Kenya or China. These can be traced directly to lack of regulations in those countries.

Exactly. There are very real costs to a safer society. There are also very real benefits.

A lot of these regulations do not exist for a valid reason when viewed with the trade-offs in mind. 90% of them could be removed at a significant benefit for the average citizen.

Where do you get that 90% from, besides your ideology?

Pubs that don't open must be pretty safe.

Is a wasteland of unused buildings safe? I don't know, but it must be enormous fun for boys.

"Exactly. There are very real costs to a safer society. There are also very real benefits."

How much of these are truly safety requirements?

"Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management, handicapped accessibility, draught tolerant native plantings"

Out of the 7 you mention at least 4 are directly related to safety (sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management) with a fifth being arguably related to safety for a minority of people (handicapped accessibility). So more than half at minimum.

The facility already had all of these items. The request was for regulatory upgrades. And while I'm sure the justification was and is always safety, it's hard to believe this facility which is over a decade old is substantially unsafe in it's current design.

An example; The National Hockey Center rink ceiling is about 75 feet above the ice surface. Just under this ceiling are 85 sprinkler heads. The rink itself, being made of ice, won't burn. These heads could only be opened by a cataclysmic explosion. If that should occur, fire sprinklers are unlikely to save the building. This situation is found in virtually all hockey rinks and adds many thousands of dollars, money thrown away, to the cost of a facility. Many buildings simply aren't built because of the additional cost of never to be used fire sprinkler systems.

There's nowhere the sprinklers cover that isn't ice? Like the seating area, concessions, etc?

Seating area, usually aluminum seats. Concession are? Sprinklers 10 ft off the ground, about 3% of total area.

There are two distinct things: first is the net cost in raw dollars. That we can weigh directly against the benefit and, while different people can disagree, they can at least see both sides of the scale.

The second would be the opacity and labyrinthian complexity of the rules which, combined with the whims of enforcement, creates a cost of uncertainty that goes beyond mere accounting. In some cases, I've heard of a contractor asking the city directly for guidance on understanding a vague rule, only to be told that the only way to find out is to build it and then be held in violation by the inspector.

Surely this second part of the state of affairs is not rational. Whatever the rules are, the government should be responsible for compiling them into a single, clear and unambiguous set of rules and then interpreting them uniformly and predictably.

Many of those are low-hanging fruit and could be done less onerously or more cheaply.

Also, I think we could take a good look at what the government charges for the permits. These can be shockingly high. The cost to inspect pallet racking in a warehouse cost more than the pallet rack and installation itself. The project took 6-8 weeks, but almost all of that was waiting on a fire guy to wander through the building or the county guy to sign off.

Actual installation? One day.

We have a local radio show that discussed how a very popular Harvest Festival had to shut down because the local fire guys got greedy and permits started to enter the $10,000 range...$200 per booth, etc. The harvest festival said they would have to close, and then, believe it or not, the local government started to negotiate their permit fees down...weird, huh? Its like the mafia in some ways.

The permits are a way to collect taxes when other methods are cut or made illegal. Anyway, I thought libertarians were in to direct user fees instead of broad based taxes?

You contradicted yourself in a single post.

Part one: "The permits are a way to collect taxes when other methods are cut or made illegal."

You are implying that the permits allow the local government to collect additional taxes that aren't directly related to the expense of the festival and are high to compensate for low taxes in other areas.

"Anyway, I thought libertarians were in to direct user fees instead of broad based taxes?"

Clearly then these excessively high fees are not direct user fees.

We live in northern British Columbia and the safety argument certainly does not apply here: Any old moldy crap building and firetrap is "grandfathered" as long as its use does not change. But as soon as you try to improve it or change its use you are hit with the regulatory hammer.

But that's expressly the problem. This means that buildings continue to be used for their current lower-value uses because improving them to a higher-value use incurs an artificial additional cost.

I'm a land use attorney in a major city. My position, and its attendant hourly rate, exist almost entirely because (1) the entitlements process is extraordinarily difficult to navigate and (2) often leads to litigation even when done right. In fact, I just got back from chatting with a city functionary about how they'd classify a particular use, just so we could put it down on the zoning application--just so we would know whether we were filing the right paperwork. But they couldn't say. Not without guidance from the city attorney's office anyway. So the client will spend a decent sum of money just to find out whether the city agrees that Use X is really an A and not a B. And then, no doubt, once the city offers its opinion, neighbors will object that it's instead a C, which should be built only on the moon or in the heart of Mt. Doom.

This is terrifying.


I've come to believe the best solution is to have state-level regulations subject to some kind of cost-benefit analysis. I don't mean to say that cost-benefit analysis is perfect or precisely scientific, but it at least achieves some kind of somewhat happy medium: a drag on the endless accumulation of local regulations, while preserving the necessity of some regulations.

Local governments are much too small and beholden to busybodies to do serious cost-benefit analysis. When they do, it tends to just breed this industry of pseudoscientific consulting in which connected consultants get contracts to tell the city what it wants to hear anyway...justified by laughable analysis. Would a state level system be corrupt and slow, too? Yes, but I think less so. It is hardly possible to imagine a stupider system than what we have now, especially regarding the various "parking studies," which are widely panned gobbledegook.

Perhaps cities could also enjoy the option of opting out of certain state level regulations. But I don't think they should have the ability to add many more regulations on top of the state-level ones. So the state-level should be a sort of ceiling---except for serious issues involving, say, groundwater that affect public health across city lines.

Weirdly, Republicans seem very wedded to the sovereignty of cities over landowners, with Mike Lee having sponsored legislation to preserve cities' power to meddle in land use.

"Weirdly, Republicans seem very wedded to the sovereignty of cities over landowners"

Uh, not usually. Either states rights, or land owner rights.

Perhaps a corollary is that there is a Laffer curve in terms of benefits of regulation. If the only city code was that the sewer should be put in pipes, it would be a clear benefit for everybody in the city. If the second regulation were that all the sewer should be treated, then also the folks downstream would benefit.

When we have decided in our infinite wisdom, that an indoor climbing gym must have the same number of handicapped parking spots as a pharmacy, we are definitively beyond the peak benefit of regulation.

My personal opinion about government is that it is an institution that uses my money to make the world less livable for me.

This comment started strong and then kind of wiped out on that last sentence. Really?

What you agree with is a strong comment, and vice versa?

I do admit that it is very hard to be objective about the advantages and disadvantages of regulation, however, the common argument from the left, is that we do need these 4 unused handicap parking spots at the climbing gym, because without regulation, there would be sewer running in the streets, and we would get cholera. (Here in Portland, we do dump poop in the river during rain storms, because in the infinite wisdom of city workers, they decided to merge storm drains and sewer.)

It's that last comment about government that is childish and ridiculous. Just because there are some regulations that can be improved at the margin doesn't mean government = eeeeeevil. The first part is good, acknowledging that regulations are necessary. Reasonable people can work on which ones at the margin aren't necessary (like excess handicapped parking at certain types of businesses)

And in your reply comment, the 'common argument from the left' is nothing like what you typed. But you knew that.

I absolutely have observed big government supporters use various injustices from 100+ years ago to justify the excesses of government today.

Slavery -> Affirmative action

Burning rivers in Ohio->Justifies any environmental regulation without a requirement of proving harm.

Here in Portland, the local government actively makes changes that slows down traffic, for example replacing car lanes with high utilization by bike lanes that are hardly utilized, they just shut down a bunch of drinking fountains because of a national lead hysteria, and encouraged riots following the election of Trump, by using police to minimize the risk to the rioters, rather than the actual purpose of police, to protect property and the lives of non rioters.

You might disagree, but the expanded scope of government since 1970 has done nothing that makes life more convenient for a middle class net taxpayer family. National parks are still of the capacity they were in the 1960s, with half of today's population, TSA is an abomination taken straight out of the movie Brazil, the nationwide craze of light rail construction results in expensive systems with too low capacity to even put a dent in the ever increasing traffic, and is decreasing average car speed by removing lanes. I stand by my comment, on the margin, the extra efforts of government since the removal of lead from gas (1970s), is decreasing quality of life.

That was easy to check with the Google. They shut down the drinking fountains for measurable lead in the drinking water:

"According to test results from the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) that were quietly posted to a city website, the Portsmouth neighborhood park’s only two drinking fountains turned up lead levels of 32.3 and 72.6 parts per billion (ppb), in excess of the 20 parts per billion “action level” set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for water in schools."



Wow, 32.3 and 72.6 parts per BILLION of lead in water fountain drinking water! No doubt many Portlanders get all their drinking water from just those two fountains and are quickly going insane. In fact, if one intended to get rid of their mother-in-law a good method would be to make her coffee with Portsmouth neighborhood fountain water. How long do you suppose it would take for her to keel over?

An analogy, which no one will accept, is this: Someone gives you and your wife a free two-week vacation in China. Would you turn it down because you've read in Salon that there are 73 serial killers in China?

Thank you for that classic anti-science, anti-intellectualism.

The 20 parts per billion “action level” was set at the end of some big fight about costs and benefits.

You don't get to say "wow, blah, blah" unless you actually know more about lead and childhood nerve/brain development, and can beat them on the actual science.

Amazing. We started to worry about the anti-intellectualism maybe five years ago, but now sadly, anti-intellectualism is tired of winning.

See also the President of the United States.

It is not "anti-science" or "anti-intellectual" (though "intellectuals" deserve to be pilloried) to claim that occasional exposure higher than the current standard is not going to cause grievous damage. And speaking of the "big fight" over the benefits and costs of the 20 ppb lead standard, the original EPA study estimated that they were roughly equal if the calculus was confined to health benefits only (cost of $230 million/year and health benefit of $292 million/year in 1988). The largest benefit came from reducing pipe corrosion ($525 million/year). See page 23: nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=2000911C.TXT

Viking wins this round.

Geez you guys, now you just assure me out of your ass that no one would drink too much of the dangerous water?

Well now they won't, geniuses, that's the point.

It's odd that the highest priority of the average healthy American is finding a parking space as close to the front door of the bakery as possible, never considering that the spot might be better utilized by some cripple. It's necessary to post signage and threaten draconian fines because the average healthy American wants to do as little walking as possible. Maybe my proposed valet parking service for health clubs will actually turn a profit.

Actually, the very concept of handicapped parking is nonsense: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2012/08/handicapped-parking-again.html

I don't actually care if I have to walk a few feet extra, but I do care if there is no parking what so ever, but a bunch of unused ones next to the entrance.

My hero of the day runs extra miles for the birthday cake.


Why not go the full libertarian and just decry the existence of regulations requiring parking?

And without the compliance regulations for the on site stormwater management (to take an example of something I actually know something about), everyone builds the cheapest alternative, which leads to stormwater runoff without consideration of downstream capacity, which leads to flash flooding and sewage systems overload, which leads to a very real public health problem.

Who should pay for this?

I'm reminded of the debate between my best friend and me: do we devote the most resources educating the best qualified students or the least qualified. Okay. That's not as easily accepted when differentiating between the most able and the least able. But it's the same issue, even if it's uncomfortable.

Obviously regulations accrete, and while they should be reviewed for cost and benefit periodically, it is rare.

Still, the "all regulations are bad" counterpoint might be contributing to lock-in as well.

When you choices for clean drinking water are all or nothing, you choose all.

"Mandatory parking requirements"

Yet every now and then I encounter some little hole in the wall place that got super popular and as a result customers end up parking in other people's lots resulting in signs threatening to tow anyone who isn't a proper customer....which I'm sure is something the neighboring businesses don't really want to get into.

Likewise if the WalMart next door set their lot so that whenever you get one inch of rain the store next door gets three inches in their parking lot, I suppose tensions would rise. How many of these regulations are there for no real purpose and how many are there because they are good for existing retailers (and not in the competition limiting sense)?

Great link.

I think most of the commenters here missed the point. All of these regulations on their own make sense. But when taken together, you have an environment where small-scale development is very difficult and blight ensues.

In a friendly argument about government regulation with a friend of mine who worked as a waiter for a large chain, I argued poorly that restaurant inspectors were unnecessary. He never considered my argument to have any merit.

Until one evening during a non-political conversation he complained about how late the restaurant closed because of all the work they had to do each night to meticulously clean the kitchen. Going out on a limb I casually asked if that was to comply with government safety regulations. "No! Those are requirements from the corporate office! If people got food poisoning it could destroy the company!"

The look on his face told me that a little light switch was now in the ON position.

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