During a run to the National Mall last week, I caught sight of Segs in the City, a company that offers those Segway tours everyone in D.C. likes to sneer at. Yes, Segways are awkward, silly and a slight disgrace to humanity, but Segs in the City holds a special place in my heart.

The District of Columbia requires a license for anyone just wanting to talk about the city. Before leading tours around the biggest attractions of the nation’s capital, you need both official permission and a few hundred dollars to pay for a license. Segs in the City thought this was a rather stupid idea and with the help of the Institute for Justice, sued D.C. in federal court over this law.

Theoretically, providing a mere tour of the monuments without a proper license can result in heavy fines and even jail time. I myself challenged this law; as part of welcome week, Hoyas for Liberty gave a tour of the monuments. And if the D.C. Council had their way, I could still be in jail today.

This is just one of the many examples of seemingly nonsensical, yet strategically implemented licensure laws in the District. The D.C. Council also requires you to have a license to be an interior designer. As silly as they may seem, these restrictions have the good intention of providing protection for those previously licensed from excessive competition.

However, these licensees and restrictions are forcing themselves into other industries; D.C. food cart regulations make it nearly impossible for food cart operators to offer anything else besides soda, chips and hot dogs. The same restrictions could also be applied to D.C.’s popular mobile food trucks; as they’re becoming more popular, established restaurants are lobbying for regulations that will make it more difficult to operate low-capital food businesses.

Leave it to overregulation to ruin a good thing. Mobile food trucks and carts are ways for those with culinary talents, but few financial resources, to share their food with the rest of us. But policy isn’t based on what makes sense. It’s based on who can hire the best lobbyists and lawyers. In a perfect illustration of this, Rogue States Burgers in DuPont Circle was closed down after being sued by the law firm above them over the smell.

The concept of regulation itself is reasonable, particularly when it comes to measures like drivers’ licenses. But the flip side of overregulation is that the politically powerful can often hijack legal hoops and hurdles to benefit themselves at the expense of the politically powerless.

The problem is considerably worse in the federal government, where politically connected corporations exploit the complexity of federal bureaucracies to shape policy toward their interests. Well-intentioned activists push laws through Congress, but never pay attention to the bureaucracies in charge of seeing out regulation.

The best example of this is the recently passed health care reform bill. Liz Fowler, the person overseeing the implementation of the health care bill is actually the former vice president of WellPoint, a private health insurance giant. Insurance companies on a whole think it will turn out well, for them at least. It’s no wonder Aetna, Cigna and GlaxoSmithKline don’t want the health care bill repealed.

It happens in pretty much every industry. The cap-and-trade bill was going to give out 85 percent of the carbon permits to polluters for free. The guys in charge of regulating offshore drilling had cocaine parties with oil company employees. One of the goals of the Department of Agriculture is to help prevent obesity, but they’ve also been helping Domino’s put more fatty cheese on their pizzas.

Too often, opponents of big government portray the conflict as government versus business. It’s far more complicated than that; businesses use big government regulation to fight over what they can’t get in the marketplace. And all too often, government sides against the small business owners who make up a huge part of our economy.

Preston Mui is a sophomore in the College and founder and president of Hoyas for Liberty.

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