In his latest piece for Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues that cities are threatening to “kill the food truck revolution with dumb regulations.” Many of these regulations are enacted in an attempt to protect local food businesses, but Yglesias suggests that keeping food trucks away from restaurants that sell the same kind of food “would be as if Slate were allowed to complain that it should be illegal to launch a new website to compete with our offerings, and that government should take our complaint seriously.”
Of course, this analogy is completely false. It would actually be as if, after typing in Slate’s URL, you were intercepted by a site with similar content written for a tenth of the cost. I am as big a fan of food trucks as the next guy. But the threat they present to local businesses are very real and worth consideration. The deli in my office building pays rent every month. As part of their lease, they were promised that no other similar business would be allowed into the building (this is a standard term). But now, there is a food truck parked thirty feet from their front door selling some of the same foods they do. The deal they signed up for has been broken and there’s not much they can do about it. Yglesias argues that, “the fact that an existing business owner objects to the practices of a new business is a terrible reason to block a truck from operating.” That’s an oversimplification of a real issue and it’s just plain wrong.
This post first appeared in my daily newsletter, NextDraft.