Taming the Beast

For decades, small businesses have been constrained by outdated, obtuse, and overwhelming bureaucracy. Inc. proposes a smarter regulatory system in which entrepreneurs can thrive

ONE WHOLE DAY every month, Brian Leventhal, CEO of Brooklyn Winery, sits in his office filling out forms and writing checks. To Virginia: $4. To Illinois: $2.78. Each state has different requirements. New Jersey, one of the neediest, demands detailed information on every shipment made to one of its residents. “I am writing that this person bought four-tenths of a gallon of wine,” says Leventhal. “I am writing their address. I am writing their name.”

That is hardly the best use of time for the leader of a $5 million, 40-employee business. But Leventhal has no choice. “It’s so complicated that I’m the only person who understands it,” he says. “Even if you get zero sales, you still have to send your slip in saying you did zero sales or you start getting threatening letters back from the states.”

Philip K. Howard is sitting across a conference room table listening to Leventhal with sympathy, disgust, and a certain perverse glee. Howard is founder of Common Good, a nonprofit that uses research and advocacy to promote ideas aimed at whittling away bureaucracy with the blade of common sense. He’s spent

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