How Regulation Nearly Killed Chinese Food

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A hundred years ago, Americans waged a war against something they considered “a serious menace to society”: Chinese restaurants. Or, as they were disparagingly named by one commentator, the “iniquitous Chinese chop suey joints.” Chinese restaurants were accused of employing too many Chinese workers to the detriment of white unionists—they were even accused of posing a danger to white women, with one writer claiming that “beer and noodles in Chinese joints have caused the downfall of countless American girls.” Among other tactics, American officials discriminated against Chinese restaurants through licensing and regulation. Happily, the anti-Chinese campaign lost, and there are now more Chinese restaurants in the United States than there are McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC restaurants combined. Nevertheless, the anti-Chinese propaganda war did have grave and harmful effects in stereotyping Chinese people and nearly halting their immigration altogether. In the Summer 2017 edition of Regulation magazine, Gabriel J. Chin of the University of California and lawyer John Ormonde examine the repercussions of this unfortunate war, and the lessons that this unfair regulatory treatment provides today. Elsewhere in the issue, Christina Sandefur stands up for free speech in medicine; Michael L. Marlow asks whether government should subsidize and regulate electronic health records; and Jonathan Klick and Murat Mungan make the case for compensating the falsely convicted, along with other articles and book reviews.

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