Miami’s Vice

To the millions of tourists who flock there each year, Miami is a tropical paradise. But, for thousands of entrepreneurs, life in Miami is anything but sunny. Although these are difficult economic times for entrepreneurs everywhere, times are especially tough in the Magic City. One survey of the 50 most populous cities in the United States recently placed Miami dead last in terms of job prospects, with nine people unemployed for every job posting. And unemployment in Florida, although down from its peak, is still hovering at almost 12 percent. In times like these, the government should not be standing in the way of people who just want to earn an honest living. But that is exactly what it is doing with the complex web of regulations, red tape and bureaucracy faced by Miami entrepreneurs.

The burdens on Miami entrepreneurs fall into two broad categories. First, many entrepreneurs are subject to occupation- or industry-specific regulations. These range from taxes and permit requirements to full-blown occupational-licensing regimes, under which entering even common occupations—such as cosmetology or interior design—can take years of arbitrary education and cost thousands of dollars. Second, Miami entrepreneurs must comply with paperwork and red tape that is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. Because these processes often leave unbridled discretion in the hands of bureaucrats to delay or deny the permits necessary to start a small business, they have bred a culture of corruption in which routine permits can be held up for months unless the right palms are greased. In either case, the result is the same—frustration for entrepreneurs, fewer choices for consumers and less economic growth at a time when South Florida desperately needs it.

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