Failure is an Orphan

The now-famous presidential soundbite “You didn’t build that“, has been argued, laughed at, celebrated, dissected, defended and ridiculed ever since the last syllable passed President Obama’s lips. We even covered it here in a guest post a few days ago. Basically, the argument in favor of Obama’s remark was that government was responsible for the infrastructure, schools, teachers, roads, city councils and everything else that “helped” and “allowed” you to succeed.

And, of course, I think that rationale is complete and utter pig poo.

However, if I temporarily hypothesize that it’s kosher, then does the opposite side of the coin also hold true? You know: does government share in the failure of a business, sort of a “YOU-didn’t-screw-that-up” government waiver? ‘Cause I really don’t think that’s their argument.

You’ll see where I’m going when you read the following article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

When longtime Chattanooga-area resident Christian “Thor” Thoreson and his partner Christina Holmes decided to launch Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs in February 2011, the business seemed tailor-made for the downtown area.

Thoreson’s pedicabs, which are pedal-driven tricycles with a two-person passenger compartment attached behind the driver, fill an important need for downtown. By offering a cheap and convenient way for people to get around between hotels, tourist attractions, bars and restaurants, Buzz Chattanooga is a boon for tourist and a convenient addition for locals.

The pedicabs prevent drunk driving and free up precious parking spaces. They also cut down on auto emissions — a major plus for a city as hell-bent on glomming on every goofy green fad that comes down the pike as Chattanooga.

The pedicabs seem like a win for everyone. They provide a needed service for tourists, help get people in local businesses, get drunk drivers off the road, are environmentally friendly and provide Chattanoogans with well-paying jobs.

Even though I’m not exactly someone concerned with “green” this or “green” that, this idea seems to make sense. Plus, if people are willing to pay for it, why not? Leave it alone and see if it works. Heck, how much trouble and regulation could there be to a glorified Big Wheel with a rear seat?

Stupid question on my part.

Just to get Buzz Chattanooga off the ground, Thoreson had to abide by those 11 pages of pedicab-specific regulations. And that’s on top of the dozens and dozens of pages of rules pertaining to all for-hire vehicles in the city, including pedicabs.

The city ordinance limited the number of pedicab permits available, capping the number of pedicabs serving Chattanooga to just six. Each pedicab permit requires a $100 fee.

Those six pedicabs have to be outfitted with a horn, a rearview mirror, headlights, tail lights and turn signal.

Pedicab drivers are required to go through an intensive licensing process by the city, including passing a test given through the Chattanooga Police Department Regulatory Bureau Transportation Inspector’s office, as well as being subjected to a drug screening and a background search.

City regulations don’t allow pedicabs to cruise for passengers — they must remain parked and wait for customers. Strangely, even though cars often come much closer, pedicabs must stay at least 10 feet away from horse-drawn carriages. The vehicles also can’t be operated in public parks.

Huh? They can’t ride what is essentially a bike in a public park? I’d think that would be the IDEAL place to have them. However, I’ve looked and can’t find the reason for that rule anywhere.

Anyway, back to the government-sponsored torture:

But there is one regulation in the mountain of rules that pedicab owner and operators must follow that is more unfair and outlandish than any other.

Sec. 35-251(3) of the Chattanooga City Code states that a “pedicab driver shall not operate a pedal carriage or pedicab on any bridge or in any tunnel.”

That’s right, pedicabs can’t take passengers the 2,000 feet from downtown to North Shore. Pedicabs aren’t allowed on the Market Street bridge. They’re not even allowed on the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge. They can’t take visitors staying at the Delta Queen to the Chattanooga Aquarium. 

Larry Zehnder, administrator of the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department, advised the city council that having a “speedy motor vehicle [on the pedestrian bridge] could be a hazard.” 

In case you got lost there, the “speedy motor vehicle” to which Zehnder is referring is the pedicab.

Yes, really.

After dealing with the frustrating regulations placed on his business, the unwillingness of city leaders to allow him to serve customers on both sides of the river and difficulties in selling ads on the pedicabs, Thoreson decided yesterday to throw in the towel and close Buzz Chattanooga.

When asked what he’d tell another entrepreneur considering starting a business in Chattanooga, Thoreson replied, “Stay the hell away.”

Thoreson’s story is the hidden side of regulations that the city council and other bureaucrats rarely consider in their absurd exercises in trying to keep people safe and micromanage businesses. Too often, regulations stifle entrepreneurs’ ability to innovate, and prevent them from improving their businesses, serving more customers and, ultimately, making Chattanooga a better place.

I’m sure that the city council won’t lose one second of sleep about Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs tonight. Yet it is the city’s regulations, and the actions of other city governments and our national government, which is the thousand-pound weight drowning such start-ups. And I don’t see the “You didn’t build that” crowd pounding their chests on TV, offering mea culpas for helping to destroy this man’s dream. No, the failure was the individual’s fault.

When someone defends Obama’s ludicrous “You didn’t build that” pap, you may wish to remind them of the old proverb: “Success has many fathers, while Failure is an orphan”.

That’d be a much more truthful description of government, IMHO….

9 responses to “Failure is an Orphan

  1. Enjoyed your take on this! Thanks for posting.

    • You’re entirely welcome. Small business start-ups today have a hard enough struggle, without various levels of government knee-capping them before they even get out of the gates.

      Wishing you and your future business (whatever it may be) success DESPITE the local municipality. And, whatever it is, please be sure to drop me a line, and we’ll do a follow-up post on it for you.

  2. LivinRightinPGH

    The whole FOOLISH notion that “If you have a successful business, you didn’t build that.” is about as illustrative of our President’s Marxist view of capitalism vs government as a comment could be.

    First we’re going to tax the daylights out of you. THEN…if you ARE able to save up what’s left to start a business, we’re going to make you jump over, through, and ensnare you with every STUPID regulation and permit we can think of,(all, of course, coming with some sort of “fee”, AKA: TAX) IF you wish to get your business started. THEN….we’re going to limit you in scope, market and any other regulation which we can produce faster than a hen lays eggs.

    I’m surprised those MORONS (scientific term….look it up) in the Chattanooga government didn’t require “Flatulence control and capture devices” on the drivers of the pedicabs to cut down on the methane emissions. Or, they could have just simply outlawed Mexican food for all pedicab drivers. But I digress…..

    So now, Chattanooguts (isn’t that what you call a citizen of that city?) will fight with parking; taxi cabs that as we ALL know are KILLING THE ENVIRONMENT; and miss what would have been a lovely way of viewing their beautiful city. Which, just goes to prove what I have ALWAYS believed: Liberal policies always produce the exact OPPOSITE of their stated intent.

    Wonder what’s next on their “Buffoon’s List of Ideas”?

    • I love ya, Pgh!
      😉

      Governments, both small and large, hamper businesses with regs daily. This stifles the entrepreneur who is just trying to get going, and favors the large corporation, which has the manpower to deal with the hurdles.

      Admittedly, a business-friendly president and congress won’t change this overnight.

      BUT,
      if we don’t start to reduce the minefield of red tape and mind-blowingly stupid regulations that a new business has to traverse (and soon), we can start viewing 8% unemployment as a BEST case scenario.

      • LivinRightinPGH

        JTR: Combine THAT with the pending recession that will surely hit early next year with “Taxmageddon”, Obamacare, etc, and we’re going to watch ANOTHER 1.6 to 2 million jobs evaporate. (Read Heritage’s study at Heritage.Org, if you get the chance.)

        Oh, and let’s not forget the debacle that is Dodd/Frank, and the Czars who implement unconstitutional regulations daily.

        THEN, we get the purposefully misrepresented ads about Romney ONLY paying $2,800,000 in taxes (capital gains rate on $20 million) as if $2.8 million is somehow LESS than what I paid. The only reason you even DO an ad like that is that you KNOW the gullibility (and ignorance) of the average viewer who knows SQUAT about taxation. I’m sure that the 49% of Americans who DID NOT pay ANY taxes last year believe he should pay MORE.

        WAKE UP, people! Read “Two Heads are Better Than One”. Read the “Morning Bell” from Heritage. Educate yourselves or quit complaining about being the next lemming in line that’s going over the cliff.

        Oh, and have a nice weekend.

  3. LivinRightinPGH

    Sailor Jerry and Coke with a lime.

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