Today, the town of Sedona, Arizona joined the ranks of government organizations trying to make business incrementally more difficult. I operate campgrounds in the Sedona area, and as such I have already registered my business there with:
- The federal government for social security and medicare taxes
- The federal government for employee payroll withholding
- The federal government for income taxes
- The federal government for federal unemployment insurance
- The State of Arizona secretary of state and corporation commission
- The State of Arizona department for unemployment insurance
- The State of Arizona department of revenue for sales taxes
- The State of Arizona department of revenue (second time) for corporate income taxes
- The State of Arizona department of liquor, for liquor license
- Coconino County tax collector, for property taxes
- Coconino County health department, for health inspection and certificate
I am sure this list is incomplete, but you get the idea. I know for a fact that the town already has access to my business information, because they have access to the state department of revenue sales tax database that has all the data they want. However, I guess so they can feel important -- they want to make sure I have THEIR approval to exist and conduct private transactions with the public as well. Here is the only rational offered in their letter:
To those businesses operating in the City limits of Sedona:
Help Create Our Economic Future
To Create a viable economic future for Sedona, it is important to know what types of businesses currently exist within the community. As of January 31, 2006, in order to create a database, all businesses operating in Sedona, or headquartered elsewhere and doing business in Sedona, will need to apply for a business registration.
First, we businesses are already creating Sedona's economic future, and this notion that a couple of people in a small town city clerks office can do anything to add to productivity and economic growth is the worst form of governmental hubris. Second, though filling out a couple of pages may seem too small to complain about, we operate in over 200 locations. Thank God that most of them are in unincorporated area, or we would be filling out hundreds or thousands of pages a year just to help some city clerks with their "database".
Third, it is interesting to note that Sedona is starting is campaign for their economic future by making doing business there harder. Sedona reminds me a lot of Boulder, Colorado, where I used to live. In Boulder, this kind of data request would be the harbinger of some massive new regulation program. My best guess is that this will be the case in Sedona as well -- this database will be used to justify new regulations and taxes, not less.
I ran corporate planning staff groups at several large corporations. Every time my staff guys had a new analysis they wanted to do, they often wanted to send out a new requirement to all of our operations managers to report some new data they needed for their project. As their manager, I tried to be ruthless in defending our operating people, pushing back on my staff guys to find any other way to get the data they need, or to justify strongly the need to ask our folks to report yet another bit of data. In most cases, the analysis did not justify the work or the data could be acquired some other way, a way that required more work of my staff guys but a lot less from the operating guys who really mattered. This requests smacks of the exact same thing, except without the adult supervision to push back on their endless data requests. (Other example here).
This all made me think of this, maybe because my mind works in strange ways.
Beyond my irritation at this whole broadcast-flag-FCC-power-grab raising its head again, it made me think about people's reaction to regulation. In general, when people actually run into government regulation face to face, they hate it. That's why with this broadcast flag issue you tend to see a lot of people who generally profess to be comfortable with big government suddenly freaking out, perhaps because this is the first time, beyond the drivers license office or trying to mail a package at Christmas, they every run into the true face of government. Most corporations today are pretty good at sheltering customers and employees from the mind-numbing regulation they face.
To all you guys who are fed up with the FCC, let me assure you as a small business owner: The Department of Labor, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, Department of Commerce, and every state, county, and city agency you can think of is at least as overreaching and destructive.
The government: Not to know it is to love it.
Update: In the past, I have had a field day laughing at left-of-center groups who scream privacy rights at every occasion but support all the intrusion above. Most recently, I have taken on NOW and the ACLU over this issue.