"It's the paperwork that killed me"


As I noted back in February, the Institute for Justice is currently fighting for Boston entrepreneur Erroll Tyler's right to earn an honest living free from unnecessary and arbitrary government interference. Yesterday's Boston Globe reports on another victim of the city's regulatory overreach: Ken O'Brien, the homeless proprietor of a Harvard Square book stall:

[T]he Massachusetts Avenue stand is closing today, and with it goes one more quirky piece of Harvard Square. Ken O'Brien, who has sold or given away tens of thousands of books since opening nearly three years ago, is giving away the last of his stash.

O'Brien, the first and only homeless person to belong to the Harvard Square Business Association, said he is tired of fighting City Hall.

His story is a long, involved one that includes getting arrested twice, obtaining various permits, and being moved onto subway grates by the Cambridge superintendent of streets, only to have the MBTA say he couldn't set up on its property. When he tried to open a book business in a nearby church, he found he couldn't get liability insurance. When he tried to get a tax identification number, he said, "they wanted all sorts of paperwork" that he couldn't provide, especially since he had a half-dozen other homeless people working for him on commission. Now his peddler's permit has lapsed, and he said he has grown weary of filling out forms.

"It's the paperwork that killed me," O'Brien said. Decades of living on the streets have weathered his face beyond his 55 years. He says he ran a similar business in New York and was never hassled.

Rest of the story here

[Thanks to Bob Ewing for the tip.]