Two hundred and thirty one years ago our founding fathers dissolved their political bands with the British Crown and gave us the gift of self-government. A government governed of the people, for the people and by the people. They declared it “self-evident” that all men are created equal and bestowed by our creator with inalienable rights; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness among them.
A land of limited government where laws would govern all and afford no one special rights or treatment. Yet, everyday government does create special laws due to pressure-group action seeking to make the government impose regulations, restrictions, and expenses on citizens that the group has been unable to persuade an individual to do on their own. Just as often, industries demand to be regulated because it will create scarcity and raise prices.
Numerous examples of attempts to direct the will of others abound. The question is, how jealous are we of our rights and of the rights of our brothers? How much are we willing to allow government, our self-government, to take from us and impose on us?
Regulation theory states a need for the government to regulate industries that have immediate health, safety or supply concerns for the public or market. However, legislatures often go much further than this. It seems that public action upon commerce has been replaced by public action at the legislature to promote or ban anything an interest group decides it does or does not like. The danger is, regardless of liberty and freedom, once legislators fear the constituency in favor of action has grown too large the legislature will take action.
The “Fairness Doctrine,” or forcing radio to grant equal time to both sides of a political point of view, has been resurrected. Sure radio with its limited bandwidth rightly receives some government regulation. Without it competing stations might be chaotically broadcasting over each other.
Apart from its supply concerns, regulators discovered that radio also has an ability to aid the public interest by immediately broadcasting important information such as news, weather or emergency notices. Radio also cannot incite riot or panic, express gross indecency, or perpetuate fraud because these things can affect immediate health, safety or supply concerns too. Other than such general concerns, the business of radio should be left free to creatively produce programming that will sell and generate the highest rates determined by listenership.
I personally think its going to be great to go into restaurants in Tennessee and not have to smell smoke. I don’t like smoke. Although I didn’t vote to ban smoking in restaurants because restaurant owners have always been free to ban smoking any time they wanted; it’s their restaurant. Further, studies state that second hand smoke concerns are overblown, and the body recovers completely from such casual exposure.
But just as important, why haven’t patrons simply refused to patronize restaurants if they don’t like the environment and force owners to change instead of legislatively forcing their will upon their brother at his establishment?
Commerce does work. When a local newspaper recently posted a list of handgun carry permit holders on their Web site readers immediately responded with their intense disapproval. The link was removed within hours. No legislative action was required to make this happen, and the public can still make legitimate requests for information should they need it.
What about minimum wage? We know several things; we know most minimum wage earners are students, retired or part-time and supported by other income sources; these workers actually have the ability to earn more if they choose. We know the majority of the ‘poor’ already make more than minimum wage. We know that the young and unskilled lose out on on-the-job training opportunities due to the artificial wage. We know that in a free market economy prices must be subjective - related to employers' needs. So wages must be allowed to rise and fall as supply and demand dictates – that includes the price of labor. So why do we legislate a minimum wage? Plainly, pressure groups make us feel guilty for our own wage. However, shouldn’t we just let willing buyers and willing sellers deal with each other?
Our own legislature has an endless list of pressure group regulation. This year the legislature and the Governor ignored a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice on a piece of legislation stating that it would cause “significant harm to consumers” by disallowing certain discounts because the industry doesn’t want them: this bill became law.
One tender idea mandated title lenders give discounts to military veterans and their families. It is true that veterans have sacrificed for all of us, and title lenders don’t win many popularity contests. But the fact is, these are legal private businesses. If any business owner wants to give discounts to veterans on their own that is noble. For a legislator to force such discounts is just plain voter patronage. At least the federal government allows a tax break for charitable contributions. With my cherished son in the military, I didn’t have to worry about being accused of being against our veterans – but other legislators certainly did worry.
And then some legislation is designed to feed business to other industries. One new law change mandates that certain would-be licensees serve three years in apprenticeship instead of one, and that they pay for a designated number of post high school class hours instead of home study before taking the licensing exam. Sure more experience and formal education is always good but there was no proof of any harm that’s been done without it. By the way, there is only one school in the state that licensees can attend, no curriculum for this idea, the board couldn’t state what licensees need to learn, nor could the school tell us how much the course will cost – the bill passed.
This year interior designers desired to be licensed. Designers wrote tons of emails to legislators attempting to convince us of the necessity to license their occupation. It is difficult to detect any immediate health, safety or supply concerns...the bill was taken off notice.
When a group of geologists came to us this year wanting increased regulation of their licensure they accidentally revealed their real compliant when they stated that geologists from other states were doing business in Tennessee. Still, they got what they were hoping for.
Government shouldn’t be attempting to aid businesses by boosting their sales, prices or wages – this hurts you, the consumer. Government shouldn't create unnecessary entry barriers to occupations; hindering opportunity and competition. Government should allow you unfettered participation in business and activities that don't have immediate health, safety or supply concerns. And each of us should exercise our economic power and freedom upon commerce instead of running to government.
This July 4th as we celebrate freedom, let us recommit ourselves to freedom and be ever vigilant to demand that government allow us to live freely.