There Is No Jury Better Than The Hat
I recently heard a story on NPR about government officials in Madrid, Spain, requiring street performers, mostly singers and musicians, to audition for permission to play on public streets. These new regulations also require that those approved acts remain a certain distance from one another and change locations every few hours. The piece offered:
And with more than a quarter of Spaniards out of work, more people than ever before have been crisscrossing the city with their violins and voices, for extra cash. People squeeze giant accordions onto the metro, and roll amplifiers on carts across cobblestones.
The street performers are a tourist attraction. But Madrid’s mayor, Ana Botella, says the clamor has reached its limit.
If this sounds like an idea that could only gain traction in a country known for fascist leadership, consider that Saint Louis did the exact same thing until recently. The Show-Me Institute has highlighted efforts to reform occupational licensing for things such as performers and valet parking.
It might be in the city’s best interest to regulate the activity to provide for passable sidewalks and streets, and to protect Madrid’s tourism industry. However, one such group of performers, called the Potato Omelette Band, objected to the requirement and secretly videotaped its audition, which contained lyrics critical of the city effort:
“Oh, my poor Madrid, my city. They are kicking out musicians and artists, and replacing them with police,” the song goes. “There is no jury better than the hat — the hat you put on the floor to collect donations.”
Indeed. While Americans debate whether government ought to act on an issue or whether it even has the power to act, musicians in Madrid remind us of the simple truth that nothing is better suited to solve problems than free people operating in a free market.