NC: Criminalizing Ordinary Business Practices

May 21, 2014

State legislatures should eliminate unnecessary crimes from their books, write the Manhattan Institute's James Copland and Isaac Gorodetski.

Operating a small business is a serious challenge, and across all industries, only half of all new enterprises last more than four years. In North Carolina, businesses are facing additional concerns, as the state's lawmakers continue putting new laws on the books that criminalize standard business practices.

Entrepreneurs across North Carolina risk jail time for violating these unexpected regulations in the state's code:

  • Steven Pruner sold hot dogs from a food cart outside of Duke University's Medical Center. He was arrested in 2011 for lacking a proper license, despite the fact that he was unable to obtain such a license because he was not a restaurant owner.
  • The legislature has delegated authority to its administrative agencies, making it a crime to violate any rules promulgated by those agencies. The state has also given private licensing boards, such as the state's medical or dentistry boards, the authority to create crimes.
  • Because the state's Dentistry Board has the power to create regulatory crimes, it can act to protect its economic interests. Recently, the State Board of Dental Examiners sent cease-and-desist letters to local teeth-whitening providers in North Carolina malls. Dentists can charge high fees for in-office whitening. The case is heading to the Supreme Court.
  • When North Carolina resident Steve Cooksey overcame a serious battle with diabetes, he took to the internet to blog about his experiences and his new diet changes. But according to the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition, he was guilty of the unlicensed practice of dietetics, a misdemeanor, as the state board prohibits dispensing "free dietary advice."

On average, North Carolina's is adding 34 new crimes to the books each year. It is the small businesses who suffer from these regulations, because they lack teams of lawyers and compliance officers that can ensure compliance with every regulation. Small businesses are the nation's job creators, and these regulatory crimes threaten the state's economic recovery, not to mention the liberty of North Carolina's residents.

All too often, say Copland and Gorodetski, these regulatory crimes are merely the product of anti-competitive special interests.

Source: James R. Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, "N.C. Putting Too Many Crimes on the Books," News and Record, May 18, 2014. 

 

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