No Brotherly Love for Entrepreneurs

The city of Philadelphia is governed by the ordinary things one finds in American cities: a mayor, a city council, various bureaucracies. But it is also governed by something else: the word “no.” At nearly every level, Philadelphia’s city government and related bureaucracies operate with a one-word vocabulary; whatever the question is, the answer is “No.” In field after field after field—from zoning to permitting to occupational licensing—would-be entrepreneurs hear that answer time and again.

But as anyone who has ever spent time around a toddler can attest, a one-word vocabulary quickly wears thin—and in this (as in many things) what is tolerable in a toddler makes for terrible public policy. Saying nothing but “no” eventually yields exactly what one would expect: nothing.

And nothing, unfortunately, is what Philadelphia has to look forward to unless it begins to reshape its approach to entrepreneurship.

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