Last night, a lady from my neighborhood just delivered her last pint of chicken salad to my door. Her chicken salad–made by “The Chicken Salad Chick”–has been all the rage, with everyone in the neighborhood forking over for this stuff. It’s a classic case of a suburban food hysteria.
But she is shutting down, not because of her failures but her success. The Health Department of the County called her home. They were very nice and sweet in a Southern sort of way. But they explained that it is not fair to those who have complied with all the regulations for selling retail that she should be allowed to bake and sell from her domestic kitchen. You have to have industrial ovens. You must comply with all food regulations. You must cook and sell only from an area zoned for commercial purposes. And yes, someone called to complain: not a customer but a competitor who does comply with all these regs.
It’s just fairness right? Well, call it what you want but note that this action was taking for motives having nothing whatever to do with the health of the public. It was driven by a competitor wanting to drive up her costs and therefore hurt her business. The regs are being used to clobber competition — which is precisely why they were created and precisely the way they work in the real world, all civics-texts pieties aside.
Cases of local tyranny always intrigue me because they are microeconomic cases that provide insight into how macroeconomic regulation occurs. The model is the same but on a much larger scale. The competitor who ratted out the Chicken-Salad Chick was another small vendor, not a major chain. The major chain work through larger bureaucracies to hammer larger competitors.
All in the name of health and your well being.