The Second Battle of Yorktown: Defying the Park Service

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A restaurant owner in the Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown was told by the National Park Service to close his restaurant. The Park Service does not own it. It leased the building to the owner. It unilaterally broke its lease.

He closed it for a few days. Then he re-opened it.

The Park Service now has a huge public relations problem. It can choose to enforce its order. It can send in armed men to force the closing. Or it can just ignore this act of defiance.

The media have picked up the story as a human interest story. In this story, the Park Service is the villain — a bureaucratic agency trying to force the Republicans in the House to raise the debt ceiling. “Shut it down!” This mentality led to the closing of various Washington monuments. It has backfired on the senior-level bureaucrats who came up with this policy. First, a bunch of World War II vets removed the barriers, and walked into the monument area. Now a restaurant owner is doing the same thing.

What’s a bureaucrat to do?

It is significant that the restaurant owner is taking his stand in Yorktown. This makes the Park Service’s PR problem even worse. Yorktown is where George Washington, with help from the French fleet, defeated General Cornwallis in October 1781. That defeat ended Great Britain’s resistance to the American Revolution. The Park Service wants to be seen as George Washington. Instead, it is being seen as Cornwallis. It is going to lose this PR battle. It’s the bureaucratic world turned upside down.

This confirms North’s law of bureaucracy: “Some bureaucrat will eventually enforce a regulation to the point of utter imbecility.”

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