Austin Hill

It’s not just an out-of-control IRS or EPA. And it’s not merely the punitive demands and restraints of the new federal healthcare law.

American enterprise is being stifled and squelched by state and local governments, in ways that most Americans don’t even see. With increasing propensity, elected officials nationwide are at times suffocating private businesses with regulations, and at other times competing directly against them – and it happens among both Democrats and Republicans.

A striking reminder of this emerged last week, when it was reported that Democrat San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was contemplating some sort of “ban” on alcohol sales during the Super Bowl. Drunken vandals got out of hand last year in “the City by the Bay,” when the Giants swept the World Series. The same thing could happen on Super Bowl Sunday this year, with either a 49ers win or loss. So, therefore, the city should step in and try to keep the booze away from the bad guys – at least that’s how the official reasoning went.

The news first emerged with local newspaper and radio websites reporting that the Mayor was seeking a ban. By the time global publications like “International Business Times” had picked up on it, the Mayor had tempered his rhetoric a bit, saying that he was “seeking input from business owners” on how to prevent alcohol-induced vandalism.

The irony here is obvious. This is, after all, San Francisco, a place where, in terms of social and cultural “norms,” almost anything goes. It’s the city where elected officials almost did not pass a ban on public nudity for the first time last November, and yet city officials now want to control liquor consumption.

But here’s the part of the story that nobody reports: such mandates by local governments, arbitrary and unexpected as they often are, damage businesses. Restaurant and bar owners all over the country are naturally banking on steady foot traffic and lots of food and beverage sales on Super Bowl Sunday. No doubt some owners craft their monthly or quarterly budgets around an expected uptick in sales on that day. When politicians disrupt this, they hurt small business owners.

But travel northward some 1200 miles or so from San Francisco, and a less imaginable, more difficult to understand phenomena is happening with private enterprise the worse for it. The state government of Idaho has actually developed a voracious appetite for buying and owning for-profit small businesses of a variety of sorts, and competing against private owners.

Austin Hill

Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.