Incumbent businesses often lobby for regulation to keep out new competitors or kill smaller ones.Wal-Mart has lobbied for a higher minimum wage and for and employer mandate in health insurance. H&R Block supported stricter regulations on tax-prep. The large meatpackers supported Teddy Roosevelt's mandatory inspection of meat.
I call this Regulatory Robbery -- when business lobbies use regulations to deprive others of a livelihood, ripping off their own consumers in the process. Some of my free-market friends tear out their hair over these "cannibalistic capitalists," pointing out that, in the long run, increasing government power hurts all businesses, including the current incumbents who profit from the present regulations.
Why can't business lobbies forgo these cheap ways of getting short-term profit and instead lobby for free enterprise, my allies often ask.
Well, sometimes these business lobbies do stand up for economic liberty, even when the proposed regulation might help them.
These days we get an almost-example: the California Restaurant Association is refusing to back legislation to ban food trucks near schools. Here's the relevant passage from the Sacramento Bee article:
[Food truck owner Davin] Vculek said he will not make an accusation, but he can't help but wonder whether restaurateurs that oppose food trucks may be behind AB 1678 as another way to regulate the industry.
"It's interesting that the bill doesn't include fast food restaurants," he said.
Spokesman Daniel Conway said the California Restaurant Association has taken no position on AB 1678 but has concerns about setting a precedent of banning vendors from selling foods near campuses.
"Any proposal like this that treats restaurants like strip clubs or sexual predators obviously catches our attention," Conway said.
It would be nice to the restaurateurs take a firmer stance, and stand with their competitors, and oppose this rule.