Monday, December 14, 2009

Goldwater Institute: An easy way to worsen a recession

by Clint Bolick
Stroll into a car lot these days and you're sure to get a warm reception, maybe free popcorn and soft drinks, and definitely plenty of attention. Car dealers are among the businesses hardest-hit by the recession.
MannequinSo Chandler used-car dealer Tracy Tingue decided he needed to spice things up to attract attention and business. He bought and displayed eye-catching, but clothed, mannequins outside his lot holding "BIG SALE" signs. And it worked--customer visits and sales increased.

But in the nanny-state that America has become, no clever idea goes unpunished and soon Tingue was cited by Chandler sign enforcers because they decided the mannequins were illegal temporary signs. The Arizona Republic reports Tingue could face criminal misdemeanor charges, a $2,500 fine, and six months in jail.

While the mannequins were rather scantily clad, apparently human sign-walkers wearing the same outfits would be permissible. Tingue previously hired real people, but it cost him $2,800 for a couple of weeks while their plastic counterparts cost only $700.

The upshot is that the same industry upon which millions of dollars in stimulus funding and "cash for clunkers" has been showered still can be laid low by overzealous local bureaucrats. If this is what constitutes criminal economic behavior in Chandler, parents should be forewarned about letting their children operate lemonade stands.

Many Arizona municipalities are reducing budgets and laying off workers, claiming they're cutting government to its bare essentials. But it seems that Chandler may still have one bureaucrat too many.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Photo courtesy Edythe Jensen/Arizona Republic

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