Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"One company should not have the power to" . . . defend itself?

The San Diego City Council recently demonstrated good sense in repealing its prior ordinance that by many accounts would have essentially banned the construction of new Walmarts within city limits.

Walmart responded to the initial ordinance by funding a massive signature-gathering campaign to place the issue before the voters in a special election. The 7-1 majority favoring the repeal largely cited the hefty $3.4 million the cash-strapped City would need to provide in order to fund the election.

Price tag aside, the repeal is good news because government has no business picking economic winners and losers.

Well, Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) doesn't see it this way. He intends to introduce a bill before the state legislature imposing the same regulations as the repealed San Diego ordinance. Vargas was motivated in large part by Walmart's decision to defend itself:

What I did not like was that one company and one company alone had the power to scare the City Council into changing its mind and that is what happened. That's not right. That's not the way government should work. One company should not have the power to do that.

Excuse me? The City deliberately targets Walmart, and Vargas is stunned when Walmart defends itself?

This extends well beyond the Walmart debate, and questions the proper role of government in economic affairs. Free marketeers like me believe the government should act as an impartial referee by upholding contracts and protecting private property rights. Unfortunately, others believe the government should prefer "the little guy" over "the rich and powerful," and then take from or otherwise hinder "the rich and powerful" for the benefit of "the little guy." And government routinely does so.

And then, folks like Vargas are appalled that "the rich and powerful" defend themselves.

It's also utterly naive to believe "the little guy" is impoverished, since in this situation he is actually the labor unions who inject millions of dollars into the political process. No surprise that Vargas neglects to criticize them, however.

Look—if you don't like the proliferation of private capital in electoral politics, then examine the underlying motive: a government mindset that prefers some economic actors over others. Remove this element from governance, and there will be no motive to inject money into the political process. Until then, don't be surprised to see these economic actors—"the rich and powerful" (i.e., Walmart) and "the little guy" (i.e., the labor unions)—spend fortunes trying to influence politics.

Hat tip to San Diego News Room contributor Michael M. Rosen.

1 comment:

  1. The city ban was called the "Small Business and Neighborhood Store Protection Act." Was it?

    The day the SD city council repealed its ill-advised DE FACTO Walmart ban, there were over 20 of us speaking against the ban (well, against the anti-choice law) and maybe 60 who favored the ban. But of the 60 pro-ban speakers, not ONE owned (or worked in) a small business! Almost ALL were labor union members.

    And not just members -- it was shop stewards and higher union officials from a variety of supporting unions. And almost all spoke about the evils of Walmart -- not the evils of big box stores.

    It became painfully clear that this was a labor union measure. The cc vote was 7-1 for the repeal, after it initially was passed by a 6-2 margin.

    The frisky part of me wanted it to go to the ballot. We would have won by a 2-1 margin -- or better.