My hometown of Buffalo is renowned for a few local delicacies, the most prominent of which is the chicken wing. Recently, a family friend of mine started a new business in Buffalo, which has become a sensation with locals. The business in question is called Lloyd Taco Truck, the first food truck that has graced the streets of Buffalo. They have had humongous success, despite a few minor setbacks. (The truck itself breaking down=not good.) The most recent of these setbacks, however, is one of a very peculiar nature, and one that any American should truly find preposterous.
Lloyd had a city hall hearing recently that evaluated its “questionable” business practices. What dastardly, manipulative techniques might the masterminds behind Lloyd have been employing? It appears that it would be moving around. A large group of local businesses banded together and started to make complaints to the local government, claiming that Lloyd’s ability to change location and find where crowds of people had gathered qualifies as an unfair business advantage. As far as my research into this has yielded, no ordinance exists in the city of Buffalo that disallows food trucks or mobile businesses of any sort; however, the complaints were apparently made with such volume that the issue was taken into a hearing. Posted here is a video of co-owner Peter Cimino speaking to the Buffalo City Council in defense of his taco truck.
What has happened here, exactly? Where is the American value of freedom of enterprise? Well established, well respected business owners are transformed into insufferable, petulant, tantrum-throwing toddlers because someone else had a good idea. Is this the America that attracted droves of immigrants from Europe in the 1900’s? Is this an America whose streets are paved with gold? No, this is an America whose businesses are driven by greed, whose leaders are so jaded by greed that they can’t recognize and appreciate ingenuity when they see it. Everyone claims to appreciate entrepreneurship. They’ll say that everyone is entitled to start their own business and make their own way in this country, but the callow minds of Buffalo business leaders painfully highlight the fact that not everyone practices what they preach.
This entire debacle brought to my mind our readings on Tocqueville. He would say that an American’s primary motivation is self-interest (or at least we have ourselves convinced that it is). When I originally read this, I found it to be quite plausible: when we all set out for ourselves, it appears that we can’t help but cause some good, even if unintentionally. However, I’m no longer entirely convinced that this is a good idea. If business leaders can’t handle a small infringement on their profits without going and crying to the powers-that-be, if our self interest engenders pettiness, then perhaps we need a small attitude adjustment.
It’s a dog-eat-dog business world, and the guy with the best idea always wins the day. And as far as good ideas go, the best taco you’ve ever eaten that can move around to wherever you might be sounds like one hell of a good one. Appreciate ingenuity, because it will almost always directly benefit you.