Free Markets, Free People


Here’s A Pro-Business City

Yeah, you probably thought immediately, “he’s being facetious and talking about New York city”. Ah, you got me. From Jacob Sullum at Reason:

Vince Nastri III paid $9,000 for the coffee machine he installed in his lower Manhattan tobacco shop. Now it could cost him thousands of dollars more. The city’s health department is threatening him with fines, saying he is operating a “food-service establishment” without a permit, even though the coffee is free. Nastri could apply for a permit, but then his customers would no longer be allowed to smoke.

Damned if he does, no coffee if he doesn’t. Tell me, since when did it become any government’s job to decide whether or not you could offer free coffee to customers of your establishment if you chose to do so?

And does this mean that lawyer’s and doctor’s offices which offer free coffee to clients and patients are “operating a food-service establishment without a permit”, or is this really just a bit of selective targeting and enforcement to harass an out of favor business?

Well, unless I see a lot of citations in the coming months citing business establishments of all types and sizes who provide coffee to their employees or customers as “operating a food establishment without a permit”, I’ll have to conclude its the latter.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks

29 Responses to Here’s A Pro-Business City

  • Oh, I have zero doubt that’s it’s simply a case of NYC bureaucrats being true to form and being their usual nitpicking, nanny-state, overregulated selves,

  • Yes but keep in mind that NYC, like California, runs a HUGE budgetary surplus every year. If not for that, you’d scratch your head and wonder why they would nickel-and-dime businesses and drive away both dollars and jobs. But– thankfully!– we’re totally flush with cash and can afford to hassle some punk who runs a smoke shop for offering free coffee to his customers. Left unchecked, who knows how much damage this guy could inflict on society?

  • personally if i were him i would pass out bags of coffee to people as the came in and only offer hot water and the service to brew coffee just to screw with them.

  • “Tell me, since when did it become any government’s job to decide whether or not you could offer free coffee to customers of your establishment if you chose to do so?”

    Since we allowed liberals to make policy in this country. Mind you, even though I am a Republican, Republicans do make plenty of mistakes and fugg up plenty…it is just that this kind of crappola doesn’t happen when the right is in control of things.

    New York City was bad news 40 years ago. Just ask me – I was born in Queens, and my father worked in Manhattan for years. He was glad to get out of there when he could, and he was born there like my mother.

    What this guy should do is put up a sign that says, “I wanted to serve free coffee to you folks, but the dimwits at City Hall have told me that it is illegal. If you want free coffee, ask them why I cannot give it away to you.”

    Michael Bloomberg, you suck. And so does the Left.

  • I think it’s totally reasonable that the government can impose safety regulations, including requiring food handlers’ certs, whenever food would pass between you and a stranger – even in a soup kitchen.

    But this goes a step beyond ensuring basic food safety: in order to give away coffee, the business is being forced to be licensed as a restaurant. That’s a heck of a leap.

    • Skorj, if you don’t like how someone prepares your food, then you have the freedom not to go there. However, someone else may not mind, so don’t infringe on their freedom to do business with whom they want.

      There’s a deli near my work in midtown Manhattan, which I no longer frequent. One morning I noticed the old man cashiering and then chopping vegetables — thank God someone else’s vegetables — without washing his hands or putting on gloves. Yuck! I don’t know who he was preparing food for, otherwise I’d have told that person.

      He had never prepared food for me, so I was bothered but not completely grossed out. Then a couple of days later, their new guy was preparing my food, and I noticed one of his hands had no gloves. Yuck! I said to him, “Do you know your hand has no glove?” He just stared at me with the biggest dumbass look you can imagine.

      Call me racist, but they’re all from south of the border, and this was just after the first swine flu cases. I walked right out and haven’t been back since. That’s how a free market works.

      • Skorj, if you don’t like how someone prepares your food, then you have the freedom not to go there.

        It’s not so simple as that when it comes to food handling, Perry. The one time you find out you don’t like the way someone prepares your food might well be the time when you get a life-threatening food-borne illness.

        Have you ever been into the kitchen of any of the food establishments you have patronized in your life? Have you conducted a full inspection of the receiving, storage, and preparation of food?

        Having run a restaurant and taken classes in proper food handling, I would say that having accepted standards enforced is a good thing

        ut I would argue that depending on the government to decide who is or is not an acceptable food preparer actually allows more food mishaps to occur rather than less. Just because a restaurant has paid for a license that doesn’t mean they are serving safe food (as almost anyone can tell you).

        Sorry, Michael, but that’s just wrong. You don’t just pay for a license, your facilities and procedures are regularly inspected. And in many jurisdictions, you have to have a certified food protection manager on site during all hours of operation. There may be some restaurants that are not operating properly, but having the county health departments enforce the standards does NOT lead to more food mishaps.

        • The one time you find out you don’t like the way someone prepares your food might well be the time when you get a life-threatening food-borne illness.

          In which case I’d have legal grounds for shutting down the restaurant and suing it. In a free market, that threat would be enough to keep them in line.

          Furthermore, I as a customer, knowing there are certain risks whose consequences might be ameliorated only after my death, would be very choosy about where I dine.

          Have you ever been into the kitchen of any of the food establishments you have patronized in your life? Have you conducted a full inspection of the receiving, storage, and preparation of food?

          None that I can remember, and thank you for so clearly demonstrating the problem: that information is uncommonly available, instead replaced with “faith” that the government has been there to make sure it’s clean.

          Most establishments are clean enough, but not because of law. It’s because our wealth, courtesy of capitalism, allows us to be clean without much cost, and it’s to a restaurant’s best interest to maintain a reputation — or at least not develop a bad one. Most everyone in New York heard about that KFC with the rat problems. The government didn’t need to shut them down, because they’d have shut down from a lack of business.

          timactual can laugh all he wants at the concept of “englightened self-interest,” but it’s not just the financial industry I work in that relies on building reputations, and doing everything necessary to preserve a good name.

          It would be easy enough for me to judge a place’s cleanliness for myself, and I’d rather trust my judgment than some bureaucrat who may not have done his job (having been bribed or out of laziness). Even now, NYC is using GPS to track its building inspectors, to make sure they’re actually going around to the sites. That doesn’t build trust, quite the opposite: it tells me that the current lot of inspectors can’t be trusted without being watched carefully.

          There are certain places I avoid because of reputation and my personal experiences. I categorically refuse to eat anything from Taco Bell, for example. And not only did I stop patronizing that deli, there’s a Chinese restaurant I no longer go to (ever since I found a hair on top of my lo mein). My father’s method was to check the men’s room first, because it’s actually a good barometer of the kitchen’s condition. One place was so terrible that he said to his friends, “Let’s get out of here.”

          Cleanliness is a good thing. A government that tries to enforce “cleanliness” via arbitrarily standards is not a good thing. But I already knew you worship at the feet of the state. You might talk a good line on this and that, but in the end you rely on what law provides you.

          Having run a restaurant

          Which you don’t seem to be doing now, notwithstanding it’s something many others have tried…

          and taken classes in proper food handling

          Really, you had to take a class for that? So I suppose you would find it odd that I’ve never taken a class, yet my “food handling” is as clean and safe as anyone else’s on the planet? No small part is that I’m always washing my hands, use separate blades for raw meat and vegetables, and other things that are a matter of common sense. I didn’t need a class to know them, but I suppose some people do.

          You don’t just pay for a license, your facilities and procedures are regularly inspected.

          In fact, Michael was talking about what the original post mentioned: the state’s authorization for someone to serve food. The license fee may not specifically pay for the inspection, but Yankees tickets aren’t directly paying A-Rod’s salary, either.

          And in many jurisdictions, you have to have a certified food protection manager on site during all hours of operation. There may be some restaurants that are not operating properly, but having the county health departments enforce the standards does NOT lead to more food mishaps.

          It’s not enforcing standards. It’s the myth that the standards can be enforced all the time. So people grow reliant, and they presume that any place they walk into will be ok. More often than not, they’ll be fine. It’s that occasional occurrence, however, that proves the state’s inability to protect us.

          The problem with your reliance on government-set standards is a form of the so-called “market of lemons.” Akerlof’s basic argument applies here in the sense that government enforces — or pretends to enforce — a minimum standard of quality. You’re now expected to assume that any given food handler is clean, however, you don’t really know that. Government has said, “Any used car sold must be in certified good mechanical condition,” but buyers can no longer properly judge what’s worthwhile and what is not. They can’t tell if a seller is pulling a fast one, unless they inspect for themselves.

          Look at the outbreaks the FDA failed to prevent. Do you understand now why they occurred? Because people gave trust that was not truly earned, and some died because of it. “The government wouldn’t allow this to be sold if it weren’t safe.” Instead of checking how and where a toy was made, parents bought all the toys with lead-containing paint. The plain fact is that government cannot enforce the “standards” you cling to, which creates (in food, transporation and a host of other things) a false sense of security.

          You say, “In order for you to make this claim, you need to prove that there would be fewer illnesses or less severity absent the regulations. Until you can do that, this is pure speculation on your part.” Actually, there’s no speculation required. Where is your proof that government regulations have made us healthier or safer? It’s not “law” that made it so, but technology. MichaelW is correct, and I myself have written on this. Whether it’s a 40-hour work week, or health and safety standards, it’s capitalism that made it possible, not “laws.” Laws were necessary to make slavery viable in this country and others; slavery is ineffective in a free market. Laws merely followed what already came into existence. The other way around is impossible.

    • I think it’s totally reasonable that the government can impose safety regulations, including requiring food handlers’ certs, whenever food would pass between you and a stranger – even in a soup kitchen.

      I would disagree, Skorj. It may be “reasonable” in the same way as it is to abdicate responsibility for one’s own well being in any other context. But I would argue that depending on the government to decide who is or is not an acceptable food preparer actually allows more food mishaps to occur rather than less. Just because a restaurant has paid for a license that doesn’t mean they are serving safe food (as almost anyone can tell you). If all you look for is that piece of paper from the state, then you are probably going to make a lot of bad decisions along the way. If, instead, you depend on what people say about the food, the appearance of the place (does it look like it makes enough money to enhance its customer appeal), and other market-based means of evaluation, you’ll probably be better off.

  • Sorry, Michael, but that’s just wrong. You don’t just pay for a license, your facilities and procedures are regularly inspected. And in many jurisdictions, you have to have a certified food protection manager on site during all hours of operation.

    Well, speaking from experience, I’ve never come across a restaurant that was regularly inspected. In fact, the only inspections that I’ve ever seen (which is has been quite a few actually) have all been announced beforehand. And I don’t know about NYC, but I’ve never even heard of a “certified food protection manager” and I don’t know of a single restaurant anywhere that has one. Maybe it’s a hotel thing?

    The point is that reliance on a government entity that’s only worried about the proverbial “common good” arguably leads to less individual reliance on better indicators (such as the naked self interest of restaurants wanting to stay in business). People get sick in restaurants every day, so it’s not as if the government is performing some great service.

    In short, just because the government says something’s safe, doesn’t make it so. And people who let the government do their thinking for them will eventually regret making decisions based on that reliance.

  • The point is that reliance on a government entity that’s only worried about the proverbial “common good” arguably leads to less individual reliance on better indicators (such as the naked self interest of restaurants wanting to stay in business).

    Your original statement was that reliance on a government entity would lead to more food mishaps, not less. Now you’re backing off from your initial claim.

    The “naked self interest of restaurants wanting to stay in business” sometimes isn’t good enough. If a restaurant acting in good faith were to choose a bad supplier, it could be out of business before it has a chance to correct the error. But there are food safety laws that apply to suppliers; I suppose in the name of individual vigilance we should repeal them, too?

    In short, just because the government says something’s safe, doesn’t make it so.

    I never said it did. What I did say was that having enforceable standards is a good thing.

    • Oh please, spare us your “gotcha” moment. I’ll speak for Michael here, as I know where he’s coming from.

      You harp on and on about “enforceable standards,” which sounds nice, but you want to avoid discussion of WHO decides the standards, WHAT the standards are, and WHO. In a free market, sellers of goods and services would be too scared to give anything but their best. They wouldn’t dare let anything slide. They would compete not on the basis of meeting some standard set arbitrarily by a government official, but on the basis of reputation: which one is setting the highest standard (service, trustworthiness, etc.) becomes the standard by which everyone else is measured.

      My employer is one of the most respected firms in the financial industry, and we exceed every “standard” the government sets for transparency and accountability. That’s because we want to compete so effectively that we’ll be considered THE standard.

      But as I said, when you have government supposedly enforcing standards, it can never do so as effectively as the free market. Government’s “standards” are set by politics and ignorance, by the bureaucrats who make arbitrary decisions and/or don’t know the industry. The “standards” are met without too much difficulty by many participants (this truism is proven by modern history), thus making “standard” a very low bar to clear. It might put enough fear into food handlers, but fear of government punishment is never as great as fear of losing your customers. If you really were in the restaurant industry, you’d know that a place needs a helluva track record to be shut down. Otherwise, well, fines may be issued but are rarely publicized more than obscurely.

      The Old West is popularly imagined as a violent society, but it was actually a very polite one. If you shoed someone’s horse poorly, no one would trust you anymore unless you redeemed your name, or unless you charged so little that a customer knew he would get what he was paying for. Even then, you might get shot by someone’s friends if your customer got thrown after his horse lost a shoe. There were no “standards” enforced, so every seller of goods and services was extremely careful to do a good job.

      Now there’s the more fundamental question which I had posed to the first person, and which you ignored. Some people might not care that he’s buying food from a dirty person. How is it YOUR right, or anyone else’s, to prevent that transaction? You’re being nothing more than a busy-body, trying to save the buyer from himself. It’s his right to be stupid: you can try to persuade him from something that harms himself and no one else, but you have no right to force him.

  • People get sick in restaurants every day, so it’s not as if the government is performing some great service.

    In order for you to make this claim, you need to prove that there would be fewer illnesses or less severity absent the regulations. Until you can do that, this is pure speculation on your part.

  • I think government regulation of food and drugs is legitimate and an important role, although that certainly does not mean that it is a good system or that the government carries it out correctly of efficiently. But there are too many things that are simply out of the ability of a consumer to reasonably judge for cleanliness. For instance, someone traveling through a strange city, especially if it is an unforeseen stop, will probably not know the reputation of any establishments. Additionally, just because the dining area looks clean does not say anything about what is actually occurring in the kitchen which is likely out of view of any customers.

    But we have digressed from the original anecdote: the case of the coffee-brewing tobacconist in New York. Making coffee, especially in a $9,000 coffee machine, is in no shape or form related to “food preparation”. The water is boiled. How many offices have water coolers. Office workers are not customers, but the coffee is not being sold either. I’m convinced this is nothing more than a way to hassle a member of the New York’s untouchable caste — smokers — or worst yet in this case, the evil cancer purveyors.

    The rest of the country needs to wake up and take a hard look at New York and California, think long and hard about what caused their current situations, and decide whether that is something that they want to become or not.

  • Ah, such innocence. That faith in the powers of enlightened self interest is truly touching. Of course, the key word is enlightened.
    You can certainly tell who has never worked in the restaurant biz.

  • Steverino:

    Your original statement was that reliance on a government entity would lead to more food mishaps, not less. Now you’re backing off from your initial claim.

    I’m not backing off anything, and I’m not sure why you think I am.

    The “naked self interest of restaurants wanting to stay in business” sometimes isn’t good enough.

    But reliance on government regulators is?

    If a restaurant acting in good faith were to choose a bad supplier, it could be out of business before it has a chance to correct the error. But there are food safety laws that apply to suppliers; I suppose in the name of individual vigilance we should repeal them, too?

    And yet, this still happens. So how is it that government regulators are making things better again? As for food safety laws, which do you think came first, the laws or the safety? I’ve never looked at the data in this industry, but I know that in the similar realm of work safety it was the safety that came first and the laws followed along afterwards, essentially codifying what was already best industry practice. I would not be surprised to find the same evolution in the food-handling realm.

    I never said [just because the government says something’s safe, that makes it so]. What I did say was that having enforceable standards is a good thing.

    Well, what you actually said was that I was just plain wrong in suggesting that relying on the government to decide which restaurants are safe may lead to more food mishaps, and you cited as proof the idea that “You don’t just pay for a license, your facilities and procedures are regularly inspected. And in many jurisdictions, you have to have a certified food protection manager on site during all hours of operation.” As I stated above, I know that is not true for any of the restaurants with which I’m familiar, and I’ve never heard of a “certified food protection manager”. IOW, I don’t see your counterargument as proving that I’m wrong.

    Leaving that aside, why does having enforceable standards seems like a good thing? Is it because restaurants are deemed not to have enough independence to regulate themselves? Greed and profit motive will lead them to cutting corners, and they won’t be concerned about the “common good”? I can understand the argument that having an outside source inspect and enforce standards would reduce search costs for the consumer, but I think that’s a double-edged sword. If consumers rely on the government to be independent and motivated by unselfish interests, then I think consumers will end up with a raw deal and that they won’t necessarily get what they bargained for. Moreover, how do you make sure the government inspectors do their job? These aren’t elected officials after all. So, I see how it looks like having enforceable standards is a good thing (and maybe it is!), but I’m deeply skeptical and see way to many holes in that theory.

    In addition, doesn’t your argument also militate towards having universal health care? If greed and profit motive are unreliable motivators for providing health care, then shouldn’t we want more government intervention to ensure that delivery of the services are safe and effective? After all, the naked self-interest of doctors sometimes isn’t good enough. And if cost of the services is also a concern, wouldn’t a unified, centralized set of standards and means of enforcement be much more efficient?

    People get sick in restaurants every day, so it’s not as if the government is performing some great service.

    In order for you to make this claim, you need to prove that there would be fewer illnesses or less severity absent the regulations. Until you can do that, this is pure speculation on your part.

    Which claim? That people get sick in restaurants every day? Is that really debatable? Or that the government regulations aren’t stopping these mishaps? Is that not a fact?

    If you mean the argument that more people get sick because of the government regulatory regime, you’re right it is pure speculation (and I’ve not stated otherwise), but it’s equally speculative that fewer people get sick thanks to those regulations, etc. Neither one of us can prove a negative, and it’s not as if we can conduct an experiment. I guess we could look at cross-tabulated data of the different regulatory regimes around the world and compare how many food-borne illnesses are contracted when certain controls are taken into account, but I’m figuring neither one of us is quite that invested in the argument.

    J:

    But there are too many things that are simply out of the ability of a consumer to reasonably judge for cleanliness. For instance, someone traveling through a strange city, especially if it is an unforeseen stop, will probably not know the reputation of any establishments. Additionally, just because the dining area looks clean does not say anything about what is actually occurring in the kitchen which is likely out of view of any customers.

    True enough, but isn’t that exactly why some restaurants have taken to having their kitchen encased in glass? Just so potential customers can see the process and judge for themselves the cleanliness? Also, advertising is a wonderful way to signal to potential customers that your establishment is clean and healthy, and it precipitates competition for cleanliness, does it not? Indeed, nearly the whole success of chain restaurants is that the standards are known, and thus a traveling customer’s search costs are reduced. Prices, driven by demand, are another way to signal quality. I’m not saying that any of these things are perfect by any means, but I think they are a lot more reliable than some government bureaucrat who has no real motivation to do his/her job better, nor to look beyond whatever standards have been promulgated from on high.

    timactual:

    Ah, such innocence. That faith in the powers of enlightened self interest is truly touching. Of course, the key word is enlightened.
    You can certainly tell who has never worked in the restaurant biz.

    I’ve worked in plenty, and am familiar with all aspects of running restaurants. I have several close friends, and lots of family, who have opened and operated restaurants, and I’ve seen first hand what goes into keeping the places clean and customer friendly. Never once have I heard any of those people say “well the law says I have to.” Instead, I’ve seen cooks, waitstaff, bartenders, et al. dressed down for endangering the health of the customers, since every owner/manager knows that all it takes is one bug, one rodent, or one puke-inducing meal to drive business out the door. These people are much more concerned with their establishment’s reputation than with what government regulators think is best (unless, of course, they are friends with the local board members and want to keep competition to a minimum).

    Again, none of that means that all restaurants are paragons of cleanliness, but how does that in any way suggest that government enforcement is a good thing? We’re already operating in a world of regulation and enforcement, so how does the fact that food mishaps occur mean that greater private regulation would not produce better results? That’s like looking at the costs of health care, deciding they’re too high and therefore we need more government intervention to do what the industry hasn’t done on its own.

  • Coffee, from a coffee maker, like a biggggg Mr. Coffee machine you might find in your kitchen.

    Cigar shop, not a restaurant.

    Doctor’s office, just went to one, don’t think it was classified as a restaurant, had a coffee machine.

    As far as government enforcement of standards IN RESTAURANTS…it’s the sword of the state hanging over their heads. Their personal enlightenment is encouraged by that sword. If they have a good ethic, the sword isn’t needed and can be ignored. Just like anything, there’s no guarantee an incident can’t occur, in the best managed, state approved, cleanest restaurant. That’s life, your mileage may vary.

    Flipwise – state regulation which probably DID come after good practice, now helps ensure that idiots don’t stay open, or don’t get to open. Case in point, the idiot in the UK who was happily making curry kababs next to one of his workers who had died, the body left waiting to be carted off by the meat wagon.
    Another instance, we don’t want me opening a restaurant based on my knowledge of food prep learned in my kitchen and my mother’s kitchen (and any other home kitchen I picked it up in….), my Dallas Board of Health certified son used to jokingly cite me in my kitchen all the time.
    It would be good if I could prove to people who allegedly know their shit that I’m qualified to do so, and that certification should come from people who may not (at least ought not) have a dog in the fight (another restaurateur, for example).

    But that don’t explain Mr. Cigar with his coffee machine becoming Che’ Cigar & Fine Eats because a clown thinks coffee machine equals restaurant.

    • It would be good if I could prove to people who allegedly know their shit that I’m qualified to do so, and that certification should come from people who may not (at least ought not) have a dog in the fight (another restaurateur, for example).

      And that’s entirely possible, without government. Two words always come to mind when these sorts of discussions pop up: Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL).

      • Hey, I’ll buy that! ah, now you’ve made met think though – Who’s going to enforce it my getting the Restaurant-UL seal of approval?

        I just don’t want a ‘me’ deciding I can, on my own, based on my knowledge of kitchen gadgetry, open a restaurant. It’s likely I’ll keep the joint clean, and try my absolute best not to wipe out my patrons, but it would also be good if there was someone who could validate that I know enough about the job not to be a public danger BEFORE I have an opportunity to become one.
        We could trust me to be enlightened, but I’ll be honest in saying there might be things I don’t know exactly that could make a difference. So I think we all recognize it would be good and comforting to have some certification mechanism.

        As an alternative I understand we could suggest to people that they NOT eat in places that aren’t Restaurant-UL certified. That has the force of suggestion for common sense behind it.
        Alas suggestion will stop neither my restaurant alter ego, nor foolish patrons from falling victim to my potentially dangerous good intentions.

        • My guess is you wouldn’t have to suggest it – if the Restaurant-UL compiled an excellent record of both compliance and healthy and sanitary eating, people would seek out such establishments. Wouldn’t you?

      • I’m not trying to be a smart ass either, I’m honestly looking for a mechanism that will work without some external enforcement agency.

        I wish people could practice good sense, in this case both providing a service and consuming the service, but again, alas, it will not be in the real world.

        • Well it could be, it’s just a duty/job that government has assumed in many cases and not let the market develop its own alternative.

          • I definitely agree that that’s how it came about. There’s no two ways about it in fact. It’s even entirely possible there WAS a reasonably adequate method in place, but for some ‘governmental’ type it wasn’t completely adequate and it has now been lost in the annals of time.
            I’m sure travelers knew to consult someone they thought of as a ‘reliable’ local for advice if they weren’t cognizant of the decent places themselves.

            My guess is it became more of an issue as people started traveling more than, say, 10 miles from their home on a regular basis, and the perceived need to try and ensure a standard suddenly became, in someone’s mind, more necessary. You know, minimum requirements for a post rider, that sort of thing. More modern without government poking into it yet, an acceptable stop on the stage route, a quality location near the train stop, or perhaps provided BY the railroad itself, market forces.

            We’re not THAT far removed from the circumstances you describe. Being as we aren’t that far apart in age, I would wager even that our great grandfathers labored in a system that did NOT have a plethora of health inspectors enforcing standards. Our presence implies they managed their way through the pitfalls.

            As Michael has pointed out, a wise businessman is sure to try and keep his reputation because to do otherwise would put him out of business, and his reputation is certainly going to be based in large measure on the quality of his food. Nor do I believe today someone can undertake the massive expense of such an operation without having a working knowledge that will obviously exceed my own. In short, fly by night pushers of crappy (possibly dangerous) dinners aren’t likely to make a buck and so there’s no profit in doing it if you’re not going to do it right.

            I’m not saying the market can’t manage that, I just don’t perceive there to be enforcement of it.

            Assuming there was such a method, which so far I haven’t seen described in a working fashion, for the real modern world, how do you even go BACK to that at this point? This genie, like most government provided genies, is difficult to put back in his bottle.

          • Enforcement is called “going out of business” because no one will take the chance, based on experience, of frequenting a joint that Restaurant-UL doesn’t certify.

          • Still comes back to enforcement – who has the authority to tell you to cease and desist in a completely government free market. That actually applies to any business. Sometimes the damage you’ll get to do is very limited because your profession, say buggy whips, can only affect a small subset before the quality of your product can be discerned by the market.

            Something like feeding people, well, you can do a lot of damage quickly even if the market will later realize that and run you out of business.

            I realize that experienced people may not fall victim to it because they realize it’s not a Restaurant-UL approved place and will never frequent the establishment.
            But…
            Can we really go back, especially in the case where many people can be, for want of a better term, poisoned, to Caveat Emptor?

          • Still comes back to enforcement – who has the authority to tell you to cease and desist in a completely government free market. That actually applies to any business. Sometimes the damage you’ll get to do is very limited because your profession, say buggy whips, can only affect a small subset before the quality of your product can be discerned by the market.

            The individual has the authority, either by not returning or not going there in the first place.

            As an individual, you have the power to shut down any business — to the extent of your own business with it, and that should be the extent of the “authority.” Do you see that what you and Steverino are advocating is that one person or a few individuals can act on behalf of “society,” forcing a business to shut down just because some people don’t think it’s good enough? Neither of you have yet addressed the fundamental question: by what right can you to force people to do business only by your standards and not their own? If they agree to a peaceful, private transaction that harms no one else, what is it to you?

            You argue, in essence, that people might not know a place is dirty. What, though, if someone fully knows what he’s buying and wants it anyway? Whether he’s ignorant or deliberate, you can try to persuade him, but do not force him. If he refuses, then what is it to you? It’s not harming you or anyone else. Let him go his own way and don’t lose any sleep.

            There are people who can’t sell particular kinds of meat, or even butcher it for their own use, because of “health codes.” Unfortunately it’s been argued on the basis of “religious freedom,” instead of on the basis of freedom, period.

            Something like feeding people, well, you can do a lot of damage quickly even if the market will later realize that and run you out of business.

            So there you have the threat of being sued. Or being dragged out into the street and shot.

            I realize that experienced people may not fall victim to it because they realize it’s not a Restaurant-UL approved place and will never frequent the establishment.

            Without health codes, people would scrutinize establishments more carefully. They’d rely on newspaper reviews and Zagat ratings, perhaps late night news segments about the latest dirty restaurant.

            Do you see the paradox that Michael and I have been trying to tell you? When government enforces standards, it in fact does not make anyone implicitly trustworthy, but rather makes it dubious that any given entity is truthfully adhering to the standards. Government can never be effective in making sure everyone follows the rules. There are health code violators no matter what government tries, just like it can never rid the road of bad (let alone drunk) drivers.

            UL is a great example of the private sector’s solution, an entity that focuses on a specific job and does it well (as opposed to government that wants to do everything for us). Another example is McAfee’s certification.

            But…
            Can we really go back, especially in the case where many people can be, for want of a better term, poisoned, to Caveat Emptor?

            We not only can, but we must. It’s the only way for a free people to live. And it won’t be some Stone Age world; you’re just not giving capitalists enough credit. It would be an opportunity for the smart ones to bill themselves as the cleanest operations.

            I’ve seen signs in Third World fast food joints touting their “Clean restrooms,” and they were. In fact, they were in better condition than most in the States. We take such things in the U.S. for granted, not because of laws, but because our greater wealth already made possible what laws later mandated.

            Now, “caveat emptor” is half inaccurate because it implies that sellers may suffer no consequences. Buyers should beware, but as I’ve been pointing out, a free market has solutions for people who harm others. If you sell me a pie that you advertised as “cherry” but it contains small stones, then regardless of what “warrant of merchantibility” laws are on the books, I regard it as implicit that the pie won’t break my teeth.

        • Have you ever been invited to someone’s house for dinner? How did you decide that it would be safe to eat there if your hosts didn’t have a piece of paper from the government certifying their qualifications to serve meals?

          • No dead kids laying around?

          • No other dead guests or barfing guests on the lawn or porch?

            Obviously I have accepted dinner in houses in which I have never before eaten. As a rule I’ve always KNOWN the person making the invitation, through work, or some other venue.

            So, the chance I will go to Tacoma Washington, any time soon, and accept a dinner invitation from a complete stranger that solicits me as I pass his house is small, call it even minuscule.

            First, if invited and I know the person to be, less than cleanly, I can decline. I think I am washing my hair perhaps, or counting pebbles in my yard.
            Second, I would assume I am not paying for the honor of dining there.
            Third, I will have an opportunity to inspect, not only the dining area, but the preparation area first hand.

            This way, should I discover that Fluffy kitty has been at the salmon before I have had my go, I can suddenly recall that I have a pressing engagement that was so pressing I forgot it up until this very moment. And, if my host has handed me my beer just after fishing around in his pants, I suspect the beer will suddenly find itself sitting in lonely isolation, unconsumed.

            Are those things that COULD happen in a restaurant, of course they are. In fact I make it a point never to get cheeky with my server for precisely the second possibility.
            Does inspection guarantee they will not? No, it does not. It merely lessens the chance, though many will argue, by a very good percentage.

            In the situation I’ve posited, I’m trying to keep goodhearted me, unaware of the proper cooking temperature for rabbit, which I serve, from giving you whatever disease uncooked bunny can give as a result of my simple ignorance (I was unaware that was a certification knowledge requirement until my son informed me otherwise).

            Perhaps I have the mistaken notion that urine is a good pot cleaning substance when mixed with the ash from a fire place! Perhaps I don’t even know what Hepatitis IS (the spell checker informs me, I certainly can’t spell it…though that has been corrected…).

            Given that my establishment ‘looks’ clean to you, as a patron, and given that I’m not letting you into the kitchen for an inspection (board of health rules…grin), and given that you have no prior knowledge of anyone eating at my newly opened restaurant getting ill from it (which doesn’t mean it has not happened, it just means YOU do not know it, yet…), and given that I have good prices, and others say the food is good so far (my reputation will soon span the city…for the wrong reasons…)…

            I want an agency that will prevent me from inflicting, at a minimum, my urine bath pot cleaning on you. If we can agree on a market driven agency that will WORK, I’ll concede the government should vacate the office at the soonest instant possible.