Cleveland Park, an upscale neighborhood here in the District of Columbia, might be the last place you would expect appeals to the principles of the free market. It is, after all, the home of what David Brooks once called ”Ward Three Morality,” an outlook that celebrates government control of the economy. But not always.
Recently an entrepreneur proposed opening a new wine store in Cleveland Park. He sought the support of the advisory neighborhood commission, a local government board, before making his case for a liquor license to DC’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board. The most serious opposition to the entrepreneur’s plans seems to have come from an existing wine store nearby. According to its attorney, the existing wine store was “a beloved extension of the community.” More candidly he noted the new store would offer competition to the existing business. At this point, you might think: the Cleveland Park commission blocked opening of the new business while congratulating themselves on protecting the town from a ruthless “capitalist logic.”
Well, not quite. Peter Fonseca, the lawyer for the entrepreneur, reportedly “urged the commissioners to consider free-market principles when making their decision. ‘This is America.’” And they did: “Commissioner Richard Rothblum agreed, saying commissioners should not get in the way of free enterprise. ‘I don’t think we have any place telling people what their business plan should be.’” The commission then voted 8-0 to support the entrepreneur’s effort at the Alcohol Control Board. The appeal to “free market principles” seems to have carried the day in Cleveland Park!
Perhaps this is only the beginning. If the free market is desirable for fine wines, why not the auto industry and the banks?