If You Can Make It Here


The Manhattan Institute's Steven Malanga has a depressing though sadly unsurprising account of the innumerable ways that New York City thwarts and harasses small business:

Doing business in Gotham has rarely been easy for the nearly 200,000 small firms that form the backbone of the city's local economy. Virtually everyone who runs a business in New York has long had to deal with uncompromising inspectors, unsympathetic city bureaucracies, and complex regulations, to say nothing of profit-crushing taxes. But over the past few years, small businesses' woes have worsened significantly, say many entrepreneurs and business groups. Taxes, fees, and fines are worse than ever; city departments have stepped up inspections and enforcement; city agencies have stymied efforts to cut red tape; and at a time when the national and city economies are struggling, commissioners have promoted new social policies that have added to businesses' burdens. "In 25 years, this is the worst I've seen things," claims Ramon Murphy, owner of two bodegas and president of the city-based Bodega Association of the United States.

NEXT: Wiki Magazines on the Way, Neal Stephenson Is Awesome.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “””Taxes, fees, and fines are worse than ever; city departments have stepped up inspections and enforcement; city agencies have stymied efforts to cut red tape;”””

    A republican has sat in the Mayor’s seat since 1994.

      1. So TrickyVic is a moron. Not really newsworthy.

        1. Really, which part of that is moronic?

          The fact that a republican has been Mayor since 1994. Or the fact that NYC has been ran that way by republican mayors since 1994?

          I can’t say if a dem would be better or worse. My guess is about that same, but that’s a moron talking.

          1. “Really, which part of that is moronic?”

            Thinking we give a shit.

    1. The mayor of New York is not a Republican. Bloomberg was a Democrat before he became a Republican to run as Guiliani’s succesor. He is a political opportunist and not representative of any party except the party of Bloomberg.

      1. Just to be perfectly clear, Bloomberg is officially an Independent and has been for sevreal years now.

    2. Yeah, let’s get a Democrat in there, you know, an Obama type who will double down on all the republican policies while shouting “Hope! Change!”

    3. Meanwhile, Dems control city council by a 47-3 margin.

      Is Bloomberg the problem?

    4. As the piece itself comments on the last NYC mayor:

      “In 1990 alone, Mayor David Dinkins increased city spending 5.2 percent and heaped $859 million in new taxes on firms. (At the same time, the state financed a 6 percent budget boost with $900 million of new business taxes.) City departments also began an aggressive push in the early nineties to increase business fines and violations; many owners saw this as a move to rest the city’s ever more swollen budget on their backs.”

  2. If you think running a small business in the Big Apple is tough, try running one in the Big DC. Yet people do, and they make a lot of money too, some of them! If you don’t like it, you can always move to those “wide open” states like Alaska and Wyoming. Of course, you’ll starve to death, because you won’t have any customers, but you’ll be, U NO, FREE!

    Politicians in NYC and DC pile on the regs because they can, because people with cash either live in the city or come there every day. If you own an apartment building in Manhattan or downtown DC you can charge big rent. And if you’re a politician, well, you can charge your own kind of rent. If people don’t like it, they can leave. So far, they haven’t.

    1. Love it or leave it! HURRR!

    2. I somehow suspect that there is something between urban regulatory hell and unoccupied tundra.

      1. No, no. The other 46 states (I discount California as just as bad) are figments of your imagination. No one will ever decide that the current regulatory environment in NYC is so bad they’d up and move to where, I dunno, the other 291 million Americans live.

    3. Actually, people of average means are leaving NYC in huge numbers every year. The difference with other cities is that their place is taken by newcomers–evenly split between the wealthy who can afford the jacked up rents and the taxes, and the poor who crowd four and five to a room.

    4. If people don’t like it, they can leave. So far, they haven’t.

      America, love it or leave it.

      Oh wait, that’s what the conservatives used to yell to the dirty hippies. To which they would (rightfully) reply:

      “…Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    5. If people don’t like it, they can leave. So far, they haven’t.

      Or more simply translated:

      I have no coherent argument to defend the red tape, regulations, onerous fines and bureaucrats, but we’re not going to change it, so get out or get out your wallet.

  3. A republican has sat in the Mayor’s seat since 1994.

    We’re aware that it could be worse.

  4. What exactly does “Republican” mean? If you’re going by current perceptions, Bloomberg is a RINO. That’s not to say that it’s either good nor bad considering both Dems & Republicans fuck us equally. Of course you can try to rationalize or be partisan but I’ll leave that to someone else who feels like being a fucktard.

  5. I used to go to NYC several times a month, at least once a month. now I haven’t gone in at least over a year. most of my favorite places went out of business. there is still a lot of cool stuff in NYC but it sucks finding a cool store or place to eat or place to see bands and come back and find it gone.

  6. I keep hearing other republicans say republican’s don’t rule that way.

  7. I also dispute the notion that people won’t relocate their businesses to avoid PL’s “urban regulatory hell”. I saw plenty of examples of businesses leaving southern CA for Nevada when I lived out that way, and I see it now in New England (people opening up shop in New Hampshire rather than deal with Mass. or Rhode Island). I even knew a guy years ago who relocated his brew pub to Colorado after the city of Ann Arbor harassed him so much that he found he couldn’t make a living selling beer in a college town.

    1. But, but, they’re so enlightened in Ann Arbor.

  8. [H]e found he couldn’t make a living selling beer in a college town.

    Dear God, that’s a serious indictment. It’s like not being able to sell water to a guy who has been in the desert two days without water.

    1. NYC Regs are being amended to prohibit anyone providing water to parched pedestrians. Unless they’ve been thirsty for less than 2 days or more than 6 days, and not on a Friday.

      1. And you can’t move in anyway that might be misconstrued as dancing.

  9. Yeah. The last straw came when the city reassessed the property (he was in an old factory space near downtown) and his property taxes promptly tripled.

  10. harassed him so much that he found he couldn’t make a living selling beer in a college town.

    Sweet Jeebus! Even at a Baptist college town, you should be able to earn a living by brewing beer.

  11. hurlybuehrle, does your friend have some kind of blog describing his story?

    1. I don’t think so. There was much discussion of it on Ann Arbor blogs in the spring and summer of 2008 (his place was very popular), but I don’t think he blogged about it himself.

  12. What’s ridiculous is that people don’t see the harm this sort of thing causes. On a national level, what would our GDP be, and what rate of growth would we experience if we didn’t have so much government intervention and regulation? The fact that we can have boom cycles despite massive regulation reflects two things: our free(er) market starting place and the strength of our economy.

    1. The problem is we can continue to go down this road for another 50 years. After that, we’re Europe.

  13. One of my favorites moronic laws is the liquor law in Monkey County, MD.

    Rock Bottom Brewery, a local pub chain, brews its own beer on site. (Some of their brews are mighty tasty.) They then have to sell the beer to the county and then buy it back from them before they can sell it on premise. They actually have to roll the kegs out of the brewery to the county thugs workers and then roll them back.

  14. That might not be so bad if they buy it from the county for less than they sold it.

    1. Sure. Right after they get the Rock Bottom Perpetual Motion Machine working.

      1. I know. The county is probably using this arrangement to take a hefty cut.

  15. Actually, the do leave. There certainly has been no job creation in NYC and the middle class is leaving. I’d also guess that a lot of “small business” owners simply work in the underground economy.

    I don’t know if there is any job creation in DC but I bet there is not if you don’t count government jobs, and the middle class leaving DC too.

    1. Oh hell yeah, the “underground economy” is huge here. There’s a nearly bottomless supply of newcomers fresh off the boat who are willing to work hard for a fraction of what “an American” would demand. The businesses are above board but not the staff.

      1. I recall a story on NPR about wage/hour enforcement inspectors in NYC being impeded in part by the fact that so many of the workers consider their working conditions just fine and that so many of the employers are also immigrants who came up working at the same sorts of jobs.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.