[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]The root of the problem

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]The root of the problem

It is good to hear that government schemes to harass small business owners with new licensing regulations have been scrapped.
I love the fact that my neighborhood is full of small businesses. The owners are friendly, and the variety of shops is wonderful. I certainly would not like to see my Yongsan neighborhood become like my hometown in Canada, which has vast residential areas where there is no commerce ― areas where you have to drive several kilometers even if you only need a liter of milk.
It is because I like my pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that I want to see these small businesses survive, and I realize that they face a serious threat from the “big box” stores that are able to offer fantastic discounts based on their economies of scale and highly efficient operating methods.
But I cannot support the proposal that the proper solution is to limit the operating hours of the large discounters, as this type of government meddling with the marketplace inevitably leads to a host of twisted policies that are difficult to undo once their purpose has been served.
There is a better way to protect the small retailers: make it harder to drive.
The reasoning is simple. An absolute requirement for a trip to a large discounter is a vehicle, whereas the great majority of customers at small shops arrive on foot.
Make driving harder, or more expensive, and customers will automatically shift their purchasing dollars toward their small local shops.
This could be accomplished in any number of ways, most of which are already in place: toll roads and tunnels, increased fuel taxes or license fees, lanes reserved for buses only, subsidies for public transportation, limited parking spaces, expansion of car window-sticker programs to limit driving days ―the list goes on.

by Brendan Hillson
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