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Town's Food Truck Law May Be Confusing, But The Principle Is Clear
Would-be customers were standing in line at Peter Cimino’s taco truck in Amherst, N.Y., last month when an officer from the local buildings department showed up. The officer claimed the truck needed a permit, but Cimino denied it. So the code officer told his customers to leave.
Then, Cimino says, a police officer turned up and complained the incident was “ruining my lunch break.” He threatened to have Cimino’s truck—in effect, his business—towed away.
At one level, what’s behind the dispute is some confusion over whether, while Amherst drafts an ordinance to issue a new kind of permit to food trucks, its existing “transient business permit” law applies to these operations. The existing law was enacted in 1993, but until recently, it hadn’t been enforced against food trucks, to which even those enforcing it admit it’s badly suited. And before he started doing business in Amherst, Cimino asked town officials whether he needed a permit. They said he didn’t.
But at a more fundamental level, the level of the principles of political society, the problem here is the all-too-common notion that businessmen act by government permission, rather than by individual right. Human beings need the freedom to pursue the values that keep them alive, and it is the purpose of government to protect that freedom—not to decide on a case-by-case basis who should be able to make a living by offering his own products and services to potential customers. Permit laws constrict people's opportunities to live good lives -- and create opportunities to victimize people.
A hat-tip for this story goes to the Institute for Justice, which is advocating the rights of food truck owners nationwide.