Our Own Lying Tastebuds

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Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The reason that cases like this infuriate people is we know what’s going on behind the curtain.

The public wants to be protected from impure food. The customers in the lobby can’t see what’s going on in the kitchen. Commercial food preparation is hidden from view, it’s not transparent, we can’t evaluate how much risk we’re taking. So we empower the government to inspect food preparers, to make sure they are sanitary. Safe food preparers get a permit to sell to the public. The $30 fee is supposed to cover the cost of inspections.

A kid selling bottled water from his porch is different because his food preparation is transparent. We can see the seal on the lid. We know the risk we’re taking. And even if it’s a kid selling Dixie Cups of Country Time lemonade poured from a pitcher, we can see the kid and judge the likelihood he’s infected our drink with salmonella or E. Coli. We can decide whether to take our chances. In that case, we don’t need the government to inspect the kid’s kitchen and the kid shouldn’t need a permit to sell to the public.

If the public can make that distinction, instinctively and automatically, why can’t the bureaucrat? Because the food preparers who had to pay for the permit will complain that letting the kid sell without a permit is not fair, the kid is cutting into their business, the bureaucrat should level the playing field. That’s not a public health issue, that’s rent-seeking and it pisses people off.

People learn.

Bureaucrats and bureaucracies, it seems, never do.