John Stossel: Reputation versus regulation
Or suppose you'd like to go to a dinner party to meet new people in your neighborhood. Or maybe when you travel, instead of eating at restaurants, you'd like to see how the locals live.
Bad news: Bureaucrats and the media worry that the dinner parties are not regulated.
Here's how the business works. On the website EatWith.com, people who want to throw parties post pictures of their homes and the kinds of things they like to cook. "I really reminisce back to the days when friends would get together for a dinner party and then, maybe meet new friends," said a hostess who let us watch one of her events. "Magical things happen around the table when you sit people with food and alcohol ... "
"After many tourist traps, I happened to be invited to a local family. It was such a profound and amazing experience. And when I'm back home, I said, OK, let's share this moment with millions around the world. And just build this platform called EatWith." Now, Michlin takes a 15 percent cut of the cost of every dinner party.
Government, always slow on the uptake, barely knows services like this exist. But when it finds out, odds are it will panic and regulate them. Fools in my profession will encourage that. WCBS-TV in New York, the TV station that gave me my first consumer-reporting job, aired a breathless report on "underground" dinner parties with ominous narration about "strangers" and a meal that was "completely unregulated!"
"Restaurants are regulated," say the nannies. "Caterers, too."
True. But most of the regulation is useless. It's the need to maintain one's reputation that does most to keep us safe — especially today, with instant feedback from the Internet. No clumsy government regulation is needed. Government (so far) doesn't micromanage private dinner parties. Charging a fee shouldn't make a difference.
Government pretends it must have a place at the table, but free people ought to be able to eat without government permission.
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