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Business Regulation

Read the following excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd, indeed. The circus of yesteryear, loved by children and fondly remembered by older folk, keeps running smack into the modern world. In 1992, tents must fall within local fire codes. If the clown isn't a U.S. citizen, he had better have a valid work visa along with his makeup kit and big false nose. And the kid who wants to run away from home and join the circus? Forget it.

Consider Carson & Barnes, the last fo the five-ring road shows. The circus is traveling an 18-state route this year, from March 21 to Nov. 15, doingn one-night stands. Each morning, about 200 performers and other employees, 150 animals, 80 trucks roll into town. Roustabouts race to erect the 'Biggest Big Top on Earth'. The circus performs two shows, packs, goes to sleep, rises at dawn and heads for the next stop. With scheduling tight, satisfing the local tests is no mean feat. The 237 small towns where the circus is performing this year all usually require about half a dozen permits, with regulations varying from place to place. This summer, the circus's soft-drink concession got shut down briefly because of bad water. An Illinois inspector found a high bacteria count and sent word to Wisconsin, so the water flunked inspection in Racine and Jefferson.

If a sucker isn't born every minute, it is true that people are easily fooled and that can cause the circus trouble. While his circus was crossing Texas this year, someone complained about the stunt Argentine acrobat Sulliana Montes de Oca does with her friend poodle. The dog sits on a platform as Ms. Montes de Oca appears to execute a handstand on the poor dog's head. It's an illusion, of course, but a local inspector even came out to investigate an abuse complaint, circus officials say. They showed him the steel rod the circus crowd doesn't see that actually supports Ms. Montes de Oca when she does the trick. Dave Brandt, the shows' press agent, says, 'Who would ever think a nine-pound French poodle can hold up a 90-pound woman?'

Local officals worry about the welfare of children as well as animals. About half a century ago, the Miller family circus actually did hire some young teenagers. And local kids willing to help set up the show got in free. But child-labor laws and insurance policy problems have put a stop to that. Applicants must be 18. Nevertheless, Carson & Barnes has problems even with the only minors it does employ - those who perform in acts with their parents. Last year, California inspectors demanded that 14-year-old Dulce Vital quit holding target balloons for her father's archery act. Though the act is risky and Ms. Vital is young, she knew the routine. When she was replaced in Desert Hot Springs by a 19-year-old stand-in, Isabel Macias, the new girl caught an arrow in the forehead and today has a scar to show for it.

Then there is the foreign-performer problem. Carson & Barnes employs about 80 Latin Americans a year, and tangles for months with immigration officials to get papers for them. Last year, temporary-visa applications for the Chimals, a Mexican family of acrobats, got lost in the bureaucracy, say circus officials. The up-shot: For 10 days, the circus performed with an empty ring.

Certain towns make it harder on Carson & Barnes than others. 'The fire marshal from hell is here today', reads the general manager's entry for Ojai, Calif. The fireman was concerned, among other things, that the insprector's ID number wasn't printed on fire extinguishers. The hang-up forced the gathering afternoon audience to wait in the hot sun while circus officials jumped through hoops. Finally, at showtime, the fireman was willing to let the show go on if one fire extinguisher could be shown to function properly. One was tested, it worked, and the circus started half-an-hour lateâ?¦

Is too much regulation exerted upon the circus? Is all the regulation necessary? From what body of laws do fire marshals have the authority to "stop the presses" at a circus? Is it different in each town?

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According to the excerpt there is a tremendous amount of regulation exerted upon the circus, but it is not an undue amount of regulation. A circus is a tremendously complicated event, with a myriad of different ...

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