We’ve all seen it before in our factories, and in business in general… sometimes we just have to set our employees free in order to realize the benefits of creativity, experience, and ideas. Of course first we need to realize the people are worth far more than the cost of their hands, but that’s another story.
Via Cato@Liberty comes this story from The Washington Post regarding street food vendors in our nation’s capital. Although DC has great restaurants, quality street food has been basically non-existent. Why?
…regulations that have choked the life out of D.C.’s street food… the city’s moribund street scene, which had dwindled to an estimated 600 licensed vendors from the thousands who lined the streets in the 1990s.
Quietly and with little fanfare, the city, the Downtown Business Improvement District, local businesses and residents have been working with vendors to give hungry Washingtonians a taste of what they want: po’ boys, pulled pork, gumbo, shawarma, anything but another Polish sausage foisted off as a genuine D.C. half-smoke.
To start the process, though, these informal partners had to find a way around regulations that have choked the life out of D.C.’s street food for decades. Their answer was to create a 32-block downtown demonstration zone that gives vendors a pass on a number of rules as long as the waivers don’t create "imminent safety issues," says Scott Pomeroy, environmental programs manager for the improvement district.
Even that wasn’t enough in some cases.
Both vendors still needed public assistance. Central Kitchen had to persuade the city to exempt it from a regulation that requires each cart to be run solely by a licensed (and taxed) vendor, while On the Fly had to take advantage of the demonstration zone’s looser rules to get its oversize SmartKarts on the streets.
The suggestion that reducing regulation is somehow "public assistance" is what rubs the guys at Cato the wrong way.
Author Tim Carman writes, “Both [new food] vendors still needed public assistance.” And “the city [has] been working with vendors to give hungry Washingtonians a taste of what they want.” All praise the D.C. government, font of good food. But of course the city hasn’t produced the food. It hasn’t subsidized the vendors. It hasn’t put vendors together with investors. All it has done is to lift, in one part of the city, “regulations that have choked the life out of D.C.’s street food for decades.”
The government is famous for such silliness, but business definitely is not immune to the malady. How often do we stifle our employees, our own "fonts of knowledge," but creating ridiculous roadblocks? Paperwork and forms that get filed away never to be retrieved, chains of authority a half dozen suits deep, perhaps even requirements for the color of ink (yes, I worked at a Fortune-50 company that banned blue ink!).
Cato quotes the great Henry David Thoreau…
“This government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of the way.”
I would argue that the same applies to how businesses, and pretty much any organization for that matter, furthers the creativity of its employees.