You walk outside one morning and witness your neighbor struggling to move a tree that has fallen across his driveway. Do you (a) ask him how you can help or (b) compose a letter to request a hearing before the town council in order to request permission to assist your neighbor? You request contains a detailed outline of your proposed methods of assistance whereupon you dutifully wait 2-3 weeks for a response back from said council. If you’re like 99.999% of people on this planet you go with (a). And that right there is what the free market is all about. People identifying a problem encountered by their fellow man, visualizing a solution, and then offering that solution If the solution is desired then people will show their acceptance by voluntarily engaging in trade in order to obtain said solution. If not desired then no such trade takes place.
But that is not the world we live in. There is no free market in the US or anywhere else in the world. There must be a defect in humanity that inflicts some with the instinct to force their ideas of what is normal or right or fair onto those that happen to be in proximity to them. In other words, we have a “permission market” – if you wish to solve a problem and offer the solution to the world you must first seek out the permission of these self-anointed guardian and kiss their ring on bended knee.
A recent example of this ring kissing involves a company “VidAngel” – a streaming service brought to market by two brothers who wanted to stream movies to their home with certain profanity or violent acts omitted. They searched high and low and when they couldn’t find anyone offering such a service, they started one! As an aside, this is how many such innovative companies get a start – unable to find a solution to a problem the entrepreneur solves the problem and then markets it to others with the same problem. CEO Neil Harmon recently explained on the Tom Woods Show podcast that when they started out they knew there would be copyright challenges to what they were attempting (witness the fall of Aereo, another innovative problem solving company) so they made sure to strictly follow the letter of the law. Their service, they contend, falls under the Family Movies Act, which gives consumers the right to filter movies they own – on videotape. So in order to comply with that antiquated provision they actually purchase on the consumer’s behalf a DVD or Blu-ray disc that is dedicated to only that consumer. Then their software allows the consumer to selectively remove certain words or content. Don’t like the “f” word – then delete away! Ok with profanity but don’t want violence? No problem! They were not secretive about their business. They requested licensing arrangements from all the studios. Some granted a license, but for those that did not, they followed the disc per consumer route. Then the big three (Disney, Warner Bros and Fox) decided to put an end to their little endeavor – not alone mind you, but with the help of the United States Federal Government. You see government is here to protect our rights, even the imaginary ones (copyright, trademark, patent and before that, slavery). VidAngel has now been shut down due to an injunction issued from U.S. District Court in California.
Even in the permission market it’s not enough to ask and get permission, you are also subject to the mercurial whims of those in power. Almost enough to make one have second thoughts about starting a business…nah… regulatory uncertainty would never have an impact on business starts and job growth.