Free Wi-Fi in a Carenderia? — Thoughts on the Power of the Market While Hanging Out in Burger King

I'm actually just hanging out in Burger King right now and ordered some food. I'm not really a big fan of their meals but then one thing attracted me to hang out here — fast-food-priced meals and free wi-fi. Instead of using a USB internet stick or paying for mobile data (I don't even have a capable smart phone right now), I can just grab a meal here and access the internet at the same time.

This reminded me of a news clip I watched in GMA a long time ago. It's about carinderias (small-scale local eateries here in the Philippines) in Pasig providing free wi-fi access to their customers. Yup, you heard that right. These small-scale businesses can afford providing internet access. This makes their target market broader. They suddenly attract young employees and businessmen as compared to just having the "blue collar" workers as their customers. Free internet access adds great value to the meals in restaurants and so what more in a small eatery where the food is already very affordable. Here's the news clipping:

Many times, as in my previous post about drug price control (see The Unintended Consequences of Dictating the Price of Medicine and What Should Be Done), "experts" and policymakers tend to assume that price fixing, specifically manipulating prices and making it artificially low or even at zero, is the solution to our problems.

The incentive for profit and the threats of competition force suppliers and service providers to either lower their price or provide higher quality service (or both!) naturally. There really is nothing wrong with "profiteering" or being a "greedy capitalist pig" (for as long as your profits are justly and fairly acquired). There is nothing wrong in making it easier for investors to enter the market and add more competition. As we see, they merely provide lower prices, better services, and innovations; many times naturally bringing down the price to zero much like when we get to have free drinking water in restaurants or like now when I'm using free wi-fi here in Burger King.

And look at how that innovative carenderia decided to risk capital and invest in providing free internet access to their customers. It was their incentive for profit and their actions to go against their competitors that gave them the courage to risk their capital to provide better service.

Small to medium businesses make up the backbone of our economy. Not only are these sectors key to significant increase in our prosperity, it will also help in alleviating poverty.

Should we really allow the government, who governs only under our consent, to impose burdens like red tapes, taxes, requirements, permits, on these small businesses? These things will only add to their costs and in turn will increase their prices, lower their wages and hiring capability, lessen their incentive to innovate, and many more negative effects.

Many carinderias and street food vendors don't have business permits or health permits or pay VAT or income tax. These people are just trying to make an honest living. They're not out there stealing, robbing, or committing other crimes. They just want to engage in voluntary exchange and trade. They just want food on the table for their families. They just want to send their children to school.

They are not pointing a gun at you and forcing you to eat in their place (this is called coercion). I've eaten tons of street food and didn't really get sick even without the grant of the State for a "health permit". I'm not saying that the food street vendors are selling are completely clean. All I am saying is that it is all voluntary. Again, they are not pointing a gun at you.

But technically they are in the black market. Legally, we gave the government the power to close down their stores and confiscate their hard-earned money. If you do not pay them certain fees or put up redundant permits on your walls, they have the power to send you to jail. You have no choice. Again, this is called coercion. It is not the entrepreneurs pointing a gun at you, it is the government (very timely since gun control issues and debate are trending and many want the government to have complete monopoly on force).

It's a good thing it's not as strict here as in other countries. The government really can't implement closing down all these places because the consumers and suppliers that are voluntarily trading are able to protect the market. It has already become de facto legal in many places. It has a very agorist counter-economics vibe to it all. I've heard from expats who are fellow libertarians that they actually love this aspect of legislation and governance in our country. This doesn't mean, though, that we shouldn't be concerned.

Anyway, my burger and my fries are cold now. *sigh*

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