Free Markets & Food Trucks

Even though I am a Boston native, I spend most of the year in New York City, where I go to school. One thing that caught my attention when I first arrived was the bounty of food trucks that dot the landscape. Walk down any street in Manhattan, and chances are, there are at least three food trucks on each corner, selling anything from hot dogs to peanuts to waffles to Greek food. A NYC food truck is the quintessential small business: a couple of guys, a metal box, and affordable food in one of the most unaffordable cities in the nation. The existence of the food trucks is thanks in large part to the relatively easy nature of NYC permits, which enable guys with carts and trucks to camp out anywhere and hawk their wares to the always busy New Yorker looking for a quick bite.

Yet, for much of my life, my native Boston has been hostile to the food truck revolution. City permits were so cumbersome and red tape laden that it repelled anybody who wanted to set up shop. It was a real shame because Boston is famous for being a “walking city,” which means that a well-placed street cart would make a fair bit of money, especially during an era of penny-pinching, which in the food universe has allowed mobile food units to be very profitable.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Mayor Thomas Menino and City Councilor Mike Ross signed legislation that deregulated and streamlined the permit process for food trucks. At last, the cumbersome business regulations were finally being eased, the small business owner was catching a break, and government got just a little bit smaller. As a result, food trucks were rolling through Boston, offering diverse food choices to a hungry, busy city. It even led to one food truck, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, landing a space on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. Imagine that:  A Boston food truck — a rare species just a couple of years ago, crushed by unecessarily strict business regulations — is now getting national recognition.

See, deregulation can be a good thing — a very good thing. If removing red tape can have this much of an effect on food trucks, just imagine what more deregulation on businesses will accomplish. It’s the free market at work, in its tastiest form.

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