Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's Just Another Movie

I know a man who is a local business owner. He owns a restaurant. One day, the city approached him in his shop and told him he needed to install a mop sink in the floor of his shop. Health code demanded it.

Easy enough. The very next day, he opened up the phone book and called a plumber to come out and install this mop sink. He paid the plumber, got his signature on some of the paperwork the city had left for him, and mailed it all of to the city. Problem solved.

A few weeks later, he received a letter from the city informing him that he was being fined four hundred dollars for failing to comply with health codes. He contacted the city and asked what health code he was in violation of, and they told him that they'd warned him to get a mop sink, and he'd failed to comply. He explained that he had in fact gotten the mop sink, and had sent in the paperwork to prove it. They told him that yes, they'd received that paperwork, but the plumber who installed the mop sink had an expired license, and so his signature was unacceptable, and so he would have to get a new mop sink installed by a licensed plumber. Finally, they told him that instead of a new sink, if he got an architect to approve the placement of the mop sink, and a licensed plumber to approve the installation of the mop sink, then they would approve his paperwork.

So he called another plumber. This man came out, looked at the sink, and said, you need a new part here, it will cost you twelve hundred dollars. The owner of the restaurant couldn't afford twelve hundred more dollars, on top of what he'd already paid to have the sink installed, so he called another plumber.

Before the third plumber could come out, he had a city health inspector arrive to inspect his business. The inspector looked at everything. His sanitation, his food safety practices, his cooking temperatures, and his mop sink, and approved. He passed his health inspection.

Later on, someone else from the city arrived and explained to him that because he had failed to turn in the approved documentation proving that he'd installed a mop sink, they were hanging a temporary public health warning in his front window. He tried to explain to the person that he had a mop sink, and offered to show it to him, but the city employee wasn't interested. The paperwork wasn't properly filled out, so as far as the city was concerned, it wasn't safe to eat here anymore.

People would arrive every day to eat at this man's restaurant, and as they approached the front doors, they would see the big yellow public health notice, and turn around and walk away. Time after time, customers who had arrived to do business with him left before even opening the door because of the sign in the window.

Then another plumber came to look at the sink. He said everything looked fine, but before he would sign the cities paperwork, he wanted eight hundred dollars for the inspection. So my friend called another plumber.

One day, someone from the city came to do a building inspection. They looked at his handicapped access, they looked at his emergency doors, they looked at his facilities, and they looked at his mop sink. Everything being in order, they passed him on the inspection.

Later on, someone else from the health department showed up and noticed the public health warning hanging in the window. They asked him why it was there, and he explained the situation. They called there supervisor, and returned to tell him that he didn't have to have the sign hanging in his window, because he was addressing the problem, so they took the sign down.

Then he had another plumber come out and look at his mop sink. This one said everything looked fine, and agreed to sign the city's paperwork. The papers were signed and delivered to the city, and for now, the problem appears to have been addressed.

But in the intervening months, how many customers turned away at his doors while the public health notice was up? How many hours were wasted by city employees, private plumbers, and this business owner while he tried to address their concerns? How much money was lost in travel expenses, unproductive man hours, and lost business?

Not because the city mandated that he have certain equipment in his business. Once they told him he needed a mop sink, he got it the very next day. Not because the city was truly concerned with public health, after all, merely having a mop sink is no guarantee that it will be used. Not because the city was concerned with compliance, because he offered to show the city inspectors where the mop sink was, and they informed him it wasn't the sink, but the signature, that was the root of the problem. Not because he was failing to meet health or building codes, because he passed his inspections.

No, all that waste was the result of paperwork being filled out improperly. You can argue that it was his responsibility to ensure that his plumber was licensed, but once the work was done, and the paperwork sent in, he believed the problem was addressed. The reality is that this kind of thing can only happen under an oppressive state authority. He needed a mop sink. He called a professional. He got a mop sink. That wasn't at the root of the cities concern.

They didn't really want him to get a mop sink. They wanted him to get a signature from someone they had previously approved. Someone who was paying them money in exchange for permission to operate a business. When it turned out that the person he'd contracted to do the work wasn't paying his protection money, they punished my friend. Not because it was his fault, but because they have a vested interest in making sure that the only plumbers who can get business are the ones who have paid for the privilege. Otherwise, no one would pay.

And so like so many other government practices, they punish the consumer for the actions of the provider. Because the plumber failed to keep his protection money current, the consumer is punished for purchasing his services.

This is the kind of insidious consequence of living under subjugation. In order to ensure that people will comply with their theft, they set enforce their demands with violence. No men with guns arrived to shut down his business, but if the city had decided to shut him down, and he had decided to stay open, you can be sure the men with guns would not have been far behind. They can't allow for people to ignore their edicts, even in the simplest things, or else no one would listen.

What if the city had shown up and put him out of business, mop sink and all, just because he had the wrong signature on his paperwork? How much would have been lost then?

For want of their fees the signature was lost. For want of a signature the
mop sink was lost. For want of a mop sink the business was lost. For want of the business the savings was lost. For want of the savings the mortgage was lost. For want of the mortgage the home was lost. For want of the home the life was lost.

For want of a nail the kingdom was lost.

No comments: