Some kind soul has anonymously stuffed printouts of several opinion pieces in my mailbox. My guess is this is in response to my blog. The pieces are left-wingy in tome—one is by Paul Krugman. I’m not sure if this is someone who agrees with my Clear Grit politics, and wants to hear my take on these, or someone who agrees with Paul Krugman, and wants to win me over. Either way, the material is appreciated. We read your mail. I’ll try to deal with each in turn over the next few days.
The first piece is on New York restaurant Serendipity 3, which was awarded an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for “world’s most expensive dessert”—a $25,000 US chocolate dish featuring 5 grams of edible gold. One week later, they were shut down by the NY Health Department, for a kitchen containing “a live mouse, mouse droppings… fruit flies, house flies, and more than 100 live cockroaches.”
The moral the article takes from this is that “the public sector is in bad decay,” because of those who have “lobbied against higher taxes and regulations on business.”
This seems an odd conclusion—after all, the Health Department closed the place down. How does this show it as powerless or lacking the necessary resources?
But what about the larger case—the case for government regulating business? The article suggests that this would somehow help the poor. It does not say how.
For good reason. Government regulation hurts the poor, and helps the rich.
First, it raises barriers to new players entering the market, and so protects those currently there—at the expense of consumers generally. Prices and profits are higher as a result. This is doubly true because new players entering a market, without an established reputation, usually compete on price.
Second, it provides from everyone’s taxes services that benefit established businesses, giving them for free what they would otherwise have to pay for. In the present case, if the government did not automatically certify the quality of restaurants, would there be no quality checks of any sort? No chance; restaurants competing on quality would necessarily want some evidence to present to consumers. Someone would provide a certification service privately; or an industry association would. Either way, this would be borne fully by the regulated businesses, and their relatively wealthy customers, instead of by all of us.
Meanwhile, the genuinely poor need food to be as cheap as possible; for them, quality is a secondary consideration. But, with government enforcing the same quality standards on everyone, they have no choice—they must pay higher prices plus higher taxes for something they don’t want or benefit from, for the sake of the rich.
The current writer, for from really caring about the poor, is apparently troubled by the quality of the goods at the “high-end food markets” near his home, which he planned to patronize to the exclusion of ever cooking for himself. The poor, of course, cannot contemplate such options.
But this, in itself, is fair enough. It is a legitimate task of a food reviewer, and the wealthy can pay for this information, by buying a newspaper or magazine, and choose service providers accordingly.
But I do mind the dishonesty and callousness of pretending it is all for the sake of the poor, who will be harmed by it; and of demanding that the poor should pay for the pleasures of the rich.
Next… child labour.