Gabriel F. Benzecry and Daniel J. Smith
- Gabriel F. Benzecry is a Ph.D. Economics fellow with the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University.
- Daniel J. Smith is the director of MTSU’s Political Economy Research Institute.
Sidewalk vending is now banned from major downtown Nashville corridors at the request of Mayor John Cooper, who referred to these micro-entrepreneurs as “scumbags.”
This ban will not only hinder job opportunities and economic mobility for Nashvillians, but will also impose a number of foreseeable adverse consequences on local residents and tourists visiting the Music City.
While this exodus of street vendors may be good news for restaurants and shops in the entertainment district, who will no longer have to deal with their competition, it will destroy the livelihoods of 250 full-time vendors and 500 season, with the threat of a recession looming large.
This is particularly unfortunate given that street vending is one of the few avenues for people with limited resources to achieve the American dream of running their own business.
Street vending offers unique employment opportunities to the marginalized—people equipped with little more than the determination to succeed.
Why would you want to prohibit Tennesseans from taking such initiatives?
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The ban threatens to raise prices
The effects of this restriction will also hurt Nashvillians and tourists who flock to the entertainment district for a night out.
These street vendors sell a variety of things, including soft drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and CBD oil.
Visitors clearly have a desire for these wares conveniently offered by street vendors; otherwise there would be no need to ban sellers from selling them!
If street vendors are banned, there will be less competition, which will likely drive up the prices of similar products sold by brick-and-mortar restaurants. This is the last thing we need on top of record levels of inflation.
Visitors can also expect to find certain products less convenient and require longer wait times.
Imagine parched tourists fighting a beer-drinking crowd in a honky-tonk on a hot night just to get some much-needed hydration that a street vendor could have delivered to them on the spot.
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This movement will fuel the underground market
One of the most basic lessons of economics is that when you ban something that consumers want, you usually drive the market underground.
This is exactly what happened in California. If vendors attempt to operate illegally in the entertainment district, envision enforcement of this rule to divert valuable public safety resources away from dealing with much more serious safety hazards than workers selling bottles of water and snacks to tourists.
Even worse, underground sellers pose a much greater risk to consumers because it makes it easier for fraudsters to enter the market.
Like the recent regulation of party vehicles and the football stadium boondoggle, this appears to be another case of local Nashville political leaders pandering to influential special interest groups at the expense of ordinary citizens and growth. economic of our region.
They hope that this will increase their chances of re-election because ordinary citizens will not be able to discern the relationship between the street vending ban and its foreseeable consequences.
There is nothing wrong with entrepreneurial street vendors. The real plague on Nashville is the political games politicians play when Nashville’s livelihoods are at stake.
Gabriel F. Benzecry is a Ph.D. Economics fellow with the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University. Daniel J. Smith is the director of the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University and professor of economics at the Jones College of Business. Twitter: @smithdanj1.