This summer, 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski wanted to make some money to help out his disabled parents—his mom has epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. So he decided to open a hot dog stand. He saved $1,200, mostly money made by mowing lawns and shoveling snow. He checked with the city to make sure he didn’t need any licenses or permits, even going to city hall in person with his mom. And then he bought a cart.
On the same day he set up shop, the city of Holland, Michigan shut him down.
The problem: The cart, which is in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, is on the edge of official downtown commercial district of Holland. The city bans food carts in that area in order to minimize competition for the eight tax-paying restaurants a couple of blocks away.
“What makes market capitalism work is the ability of individuals to provide highly nuanced, competing alternatives to some existing business,” commented Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “This seems like just another sad episode of some government micromanaging the lives of many to benefit a few.”
The political system is set up to benefit insiders who have established positions in every industry. They don’t want competition. They want to pull up the ladder after they have climbed up.
The teen’s efforts to help his parents ended up being profitable. The story hit the local media and he became a kind of hero. Readers encouraged Nathan to “keep up the fight” while simultaneously blasting the zoning ordinance that he ran afoul of.
Shoreline Container, a local packaging company, bought Duszynski’s cart for $2,500. The company plans to use the cart for outdoor cookouts. The company has agreed to let him use the cart for free except on a few days during the year.
Nathan also got the finest civics lesson that any public high school kid has received in twenty years in Holland, Michigan. He has seen civil government at work. He has seen how special-interest groups get politicians to feather all their nests.
So, he came out ahead, I guess.