July 5, 2013
One thing I love about my city is that the authorities are too incompetent to enforce anything, and everyone knows it. Everyone laughs or brags about it, which is even better. The politicians are only concerned with empowering their offices and staffs while enlarging their circle of swindle. Given a choice, I'd rather have the legalized criminals paying attention to their own pockets if the trade-off is that they leave the rest of alone to conduct our voluntaryist lives of interaction, transaction, and entrepreneurial vision.
Because this insolvent city is tilting toward bankruptcy and lacks a police force to keep up with serious crime, business are, for a large part, left alone to conduct business as they wish. This is because Detroit just does not have the political manpower or police wherewithal to enforce absurd laws, including state laws.
I stopped in to a local bar on a recent Sunday, via bicycle, near the Detroit Warehouse District, for a Detroit microbrew and a bite to eat. The place sits on a quiet side street near the Detroit River, with ample parking, few cars, and my favorite thing in the D - outside seating. It's a must for me to sit outside in the warmer months.
As is the normal course for me, while waiting for my meal I ended up in a long conversation with one of the friendly employees about conducting business within the confines of government strangulation. As is typical in the D, this gentleman was an anarchist in spirit, if not in actual definition. We ended up talking about the myriad idiotic local (Detroit) regulations that govern outdoor seating, as well as the Michigan laws banning smoking in public places.
First off, he noted that the bar's business had plopped because of the fact that it is a "winter bar," making its money off of locals hanging out all winter, as well as folks heading to the Detroit Red Wings games. The Michigan anti-smoking laws killed business for the owner. He also noted that the city laws regulating the outdoor seating conflicted with the state laws regulating smoking, potentially hurting the bar's summer business. He said that no one really understood how the city's outdoor seating rules accommodated (or conflicted with) the state's smoking rules because allowing smoking in outdoor seating was dependent upon whether or not you were just drinking, or eating, or whatever the heck, and that they really didn't know what is or isn't legal in the outdoor seating area. How in the heck can any business owner cut their way through any of this bullcrap?
I don't smoke, and I personally despise smoking because it is something I will never do. However, these smoking laws - as all libertarians understand - are totalitarian. If I don't like smoking, then the onus is on me to reject any establishment that doesn't conform to my preferences. As to sitting outdoors, if the smoke is really bothering you it's a no-brainer to sit upwind from the smoker(s), and additionally, most times smokers will accommodate you if you ask them nicely to switch tables to stay upwind of their smoke. A little kindness and human interaction goes a long way.
The gentleman told me that because of the stupidity and complexity of trying to figure out what is or isn't allowed, and when, they just gave up and allow patrons to conduct business as usual. As he said, "The city won't bother us so we're not worried about it." A common - and heroic - theme here. Cross-posted at my blog "Detroit: From Rust to Riches." Follow me on Twitter @karendecoster.