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Cronyists Shut Business, Sunder Family, Put Teen Entrepreneur in Homeless Shelter

Cronyists Shut Business, Sunder Family, Put Teen Entrepreneur in Homeless Shelter

2 Mins
August 10, 2012

Laws have consequences.

In Holland, Mich., the law under which Nathan Duszynski's hot-dog cart was shut down has not only blocked the 13-year-old's entrepreneurial efforts, it's left him in a homeless shelter where his step-father can't join him.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been working on the case .

Duszynski's step-father lost his job and has multiple sclerosis; his mother can't hold a job because of the epilepsy she acquired as a result of giving birth. So Duszynski decided he'd better step up and take care of himself and his family.

So the would-be entrepreneur got a cart and, together with his family, sought the permit the law required him to get. They all thought he had what he needed. But then he opened up, right where his permit said he would, and he was shut down before he could sell his first hot dog.

He was violating the zoning laws.

With the business shut down, the family continued to decline. Duszynski and his mother ended up checking into a homeless shelter -- and his step-father could not join them, because he needs medications the shelter won't allow.

And why was it necessary to prevent this young entrepreneur from supporting his family?

The mayor of Holland argues that the zoning law protects the downtown businesses, which pay special assessments to make the downtown area nicer. But paying a special tax doesn't give you a property right in a whole neighborhood; it doesn't, for example, give you ownership of your neighbor's land, or the right to stop him from permitting a hot dog vendor to use it.

The protection to which businesses are entitled is the protection of their rights -- of their freedom to produce, own, and trade -- not protection from competition, even in nice neighborhoods. When government violates one businessman's rights in order to help another business, that's cronyism, and like all other rights violations, it threatens people's ability to live.

And in this case, it put an entrepreneur in a homeless shelter.

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Law / Rights / Governance