Why are U.S. courts keeping entrepreneurs down? That’s the question one lawyer–who says economic liberty is a Constitutional right–is asking.

The lawyer, Clint Bolick, tells the story of an innovative man, Ego Brown, who wanted to start a small business in Washington DC–and did. Successfully, even. But, as Bolick notes, no good deed goes unpunished in our nation’s capital:

The battle to restore judicial protection for economic liberty began in earnest in the late 1980s with the case of Ego Brown, who I had the honor to represent. Brown had worked for the U.S. Navy, but like many desk-bound Americans, he yearned to build a business of his own. He discovered an opportunity in the thousands of scuffed shoes pounding the streets. Armed with an idea, the flamboyant Brown donned a trademark tuxedo and started shining shoes at the corner of 19th and M Streets in Washington, DC.

Business flourished. Before long, District of Columbia social workers began referring enterprising homeless men to Brown, who would clean them up, give them a tuxedo, a shoeshine stand, and a second chance at life.

But in our nation’s capital, no good deed goes unpunished. The local government dusted off an old Jim Crow law that forbade “bootblack” stands on public streets. They shut down Brown’s business, and soon he was destitute.

I brought a civil rights complaint on Brown’s behalf. Although we had little legal precedent to support us, the law was outrageous and the facts sympathetic….

And if you think Brown’s story is bad, wait until you read Cindy Vong’s. Vong fled Communist Vietnam as a young girl to make a better life for herself in the U.S. But her experience as an entrepreneur in America “left [her] to ponder how it is that former and ongoing authoritarian regimes seem to be learning the lessons of capitalism, while the nation that is capitalism’s cradle seems to be forgetting them.” How indeed.