Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: NY Strangles Small Business

Keeping up with New York regulations is enough to shut down some businesses.

Kamal Saleh runs a small store in New York City. He was recently given a summons to appear in court for violating one of New York's many rules. His crime was selling cigars... 11 cents too cheaply.

It's not often people complain about things being too cheap. But New York City says stores may not sell tobacco below a certain price.

"Very cheap products should no longer be available. It deters children from starting smoking," says Dr. Kurt Ribisl, who studies tobacco policy and testified at the New York hearings in favor of the tobacco price floor. "Cigarettes are the most lethal product ever introduced into interstate commerce."

John Stossel agrees cigarettes are dangerous. But he asks Dr. Ribisl, "Shouldn't individuals have the right to decide for themselves if they want to smoke? And what is the cost to New York City businesses in complying with all these regulations?" For tobacco alone, the regulations are 47 pages long.

Saleh faces a $2,000 fine, a huge amount of money for a small store owner. "You have to sell a lot of sodas and sandwiches in order to make the $2,000," says Andrew Tilem, Saleh's lawyer. Tilem represents a lot of small businesses in New York and says all the regulations hurt them. "It's the big guy who basically can hire lawyers. It's the little guy who's trying to pinch his pennies to make a dollar that has the biggest problem."

Tilem says small stores are constantly going in and out of business, but "the big business community is thriving. You see Starbucks. You see 7-Eleven. You see Target, opening new stores."

John Stossel asks if New York has become a city of so much regulation where only big businesses can thrive?

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    If you want higher prices, just let capitalism do it's dirty work! You'll get more expensive products with lower quality over time, because that maximizes profit, so QED!


    Capitalism is not what it started out to be. It started out as the rejection of of government rule over business (economy). Capitalism has evolved into the partnership between corporations and government to loot our country. I am dismayed that Libertarians accept the existence of corporations and intellectual property. This has created the economic monster called the billionaire.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    If said billionaire earned his money thru voluntary transactions, what's the harm.

  • BYODB||

    I think you're conflating crony capitalism with actual capitalism. It's a pretty common error among socialists.

  • BYODB||

    And, additionally, if you don't believe in 'intellectual property rights' I'd wager you think that innovation should be punished?

  • Microaggressor||

    That doesn't even make sense.
    The argument against IP law is that it infringes on real, excludable property rights.

  • BYODB||

    Or, in other words, if you invent something you didn't invent that. Someone else helped you along the way, so that process belongs to the communal good?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In Mother Russia, the inventions own you.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    I take it you've never heard the libertarian argument against IP. Not only are you not representing it properly, you're not even strawmanning it properly.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    The proggies I know can't even identify crony capitalism correctly. For example, they supported Dodd-Frank, approved of the GM and Chrysler bailouts, love "green" energy and electric car subsidies, and were appalled when a bunch of Republicans were out to gut the Ex-Im Bank.

  • BYODB||

    True, although that's because crony capitalism is the only kind of capitalism progressives like. They're deeply authoritarian, so it sort of makes sense that only the government should be allowed to decide which businesses survive.

  • Tionico||

    Capitalism does not lead necessarily to high prices. In a free market system, when Charlie lists his item at twenty bucks and sells them at a pretty good rate because he is the ONLY local source, no one complains. Whem George figures out how to produce acquire the equivalent product at 20% less, Charlie has to make some decisions. Most of Charlies former customers will.....

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    I sometimes wonder what online game auction houses would look like if subjected to real world regulations. But then I don't.


    I don't know what an "online game auction house" is.

  • DaveSs||

    An in-game interface to use in game currency to buy and sell in game items.
    A common feature in massive online rpgs, though other games do have them.

    Most of them (officially) do not allow the use of real world currency to be used to buy or sell in game items or in game currency. As with all things there are ways around it for those motivated.

    I used to work World of Warcraft's auction house to find ridiculously under-priced items to flip . Heck of a lot faster than farming gold by killing monsters or doing quests. Also faster than gathering raw materials out in the world.

  • Microaggressor||

    You better not be that dick who tries to buy out an entire commodity market just to raise the price.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Whoa whoa whoa. Put down your +5 battleaxe and lets get to the bottom of this.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It'll happen. They keep trying to get CSGo under gambling laws or something. Seem to recall threat of the law under the D3 auction house when it came out

  • BYODB||

    An even more amusing exercise in considering online game economies is that many of their in-game currencies are worth more than some countries fiat currency. Ha ha?

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    I know guys who used to play Golden Tee daily (the trackball golf game in most bars) and made a decent living doing it. And then the feds said that IT couldn't send checks to players anymore because it constituted gambling and now the funds can only be used in the game. Of course it wasn't gambling at all because you had to outplay your opponents, but FYTW and that was that.

  • Finrod||

    Pinball was banned in New York City until 1976 because of associations with gambling.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Tilem says small stores are constantly going in and out of business, but "the big business community is thriving. You see Starbucks. You see 7-Eleven. You see Target, opening new stores."

    Shut up, dummy. Democrats always fight for the little guy against the megacorps.

  • Libertarian||

    This grinds my gears. As with the broken window fallacy, people don't see obvious signs of harm. They don't see businesses that don't open. They don't see people who could be better off because the economy is more efficient. Regulation is like friction in mechanics; it causes inefficiency. There are people in NYC that are worse off because of these smothering laws, but the Left doesn't realize it, and wouldn't admit it if they did. And even libertarians can't point to any particular Joe Sixpack and say, "hey! This guy is delaying dental work because he isn't making a good wage because the store that would have hired him isn't there." Etc, etc.


    Joe Sixpack? I love crystal meth. I even had that T-shirt made up for court.

  • Tony||

    How they effect the ability of people to do honest business should be factored in to intelligent regulations.

    "All regulations always bad!" is not intelligent.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    And if anyone around here knows from not intelligent, it's Tony.

  • Johnny Hit n Run Paulene||

    It's Tony all the way down.

  • Microaggressor||

    All regulations have costs, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. Doesn't matter how "intelligent" they are.

    Protip: they aren't as intelligent as you think.

  • Brian||

    Straw man incinerated! 200 points!

  • Tony||

    Really? Name a regulation on business you want to add or make stricter.

    (The fact that libertarians think the solution to every problem is less government and less regulation is why nobody takes you seriously.)

  • Johnny Hit n Run Paulene||

    Unlike the reasons we don't take you seriously, such as the generalization you just made sir.

  • Brian||

    Allow me to oblige you: rape laws are cool.

    Pro-tip: you know you're strawmanning when someone else has to take a turn making your argument for you.

  • Tony||

    Is that what you think you're doing?

  • Brian||

    Do questions make points?

  • Tionico||

    Show me ANY government imposed regulation and I'll show you a stupid regulation. NONE are "intelligent".

  • Tony||

    As I said, this is why you are not and will never be taken seriously.

  • R. K. Phillips||

    True. But "that government is best which governs least" still holds as true now as in Thoreau's time.


    Any smug authoritarian who utters the words: "it's the law", should have God come down from heaven and rip his tongue out of his mouth.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It bothers me how often people do that here.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Not a fan of the Dredd?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

  • Holmes IV||

    Stossel for President 2020.

    His moustache can be VP.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Stossel for Prez! My favorite part was how uncomfortable he made the guy because he had to admit his policy prescriptions were intentionally biased against the poor.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Honestly...I don't think I can recall even one issue I've disagreed with him on.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    "Cigarettes are the most lethal product ever introduced into interstate commerce."

    Obviously this quack is in the bag for Big Plutonium.

  • Radioactive||

    fuck, I always thought is was a bag full of cobras or was that a bag full of hand grenades...either way...

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The real comparison should always be to alcohol. The amount of misery provably linked to alcohol is astronomical. How can one complain about cigarettes while not doing so for alcohol reeks purely of classism. Because rich people like getting shit faced too. Though I wouldn't be surprised if you see pushes to only tax cheap beer or something.

  • Tionico||

    the problem is never righty attributed to alcohol. It is ALWAYS the issue with the mouth into which it is deposited. I know many people who use the stuff and never have an issue. There is NO mandate to get "shit faced" every time you crack a cork. Grow up and behave like a big kid. Alcohol is never the problem, unless you are talking about the ethanol FedGof mandates gets blended into motor fuel. Now THAT is always a problem on many fronts.

  • Longtobefree||

    My vote for leathality is political ads.

  • Longtobefree||

    It has been proven time and time again that small businesses do not donate as much money to the democrats as large corporations. Why in hell would NY want a bunch a small businesses? They can't afford the rent anyway.

  • BambiB||

    Stossel and Ribisl both have the wrong approach.

    Let people buy/sell tobacco at any price they want. And get rid of the Obozocare "one price fits all" insurance premiums. If you're a smoker, you should have a choice in health insurance: Either pay five times as much as a non-smoker -- or -- waive all insurance for smoking-related health issues.

    And no government safety net. You smoke, you get sick from it - same as choosing (over and over and over again) to drink poison.

  • John40||

    In his interview, Stossel references Walmart. There are no Walmarts in NYC. The local politicians and the unions do not want them.

  • crufus||

    Was the headline "NY Strangles Small Business" a reference to the death of Eric Garner?


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