Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Make it in Massachusetts: Three Stories of Government Intervention

All courtesy of Today’s Boston Globe.

Massachusetts: Protecting Individual Rights, One Dog at a Time.
The bones of the dog racing business consists of dogs, bred to run after small game, set loose on a track to chase after electronic bait.  When not racing, the dogs are generally kept in cages and eventually put down if their owners determine that they are not successful as racers.  The profit in this venture comes from the spectators wagering on which dogs they think will cross the finish line first.  Luckily for dogs, the barbaric and simple-minded folks who take part in such sport (they probably even smoke!) have been stopped by the enlightened voters of Massachusetts.  Sure, approximately 1,300 people whose livelihoods revolved around the dog racing business in the state lost their jobs this year. The good news is that 745 greyhounds were adopted during that same time period, so let’s call that a success not only in the power of the tyranny of the majority, but in government interference as well.
Massachusetts: Flush With Environmental Protections
Elsewhere across the state, with the help of Department of Environmental Protection, campgrounds are closing down, not because no one is interested in camping anymore (that’s just me), but because the business owners can’t afford to comply with onerous septic system regulations.  Happily, the government is theoretically saving us from those potentially nasty pollutants which could possibly wash downstream if the unlikely event that the insanely oversized septic systems ever breached highly speculative design capacity. Chalk one up for environmental protection and simply ignore the 3-4% loss of income for the $16 billion tourism industry in the state.  Since the failed campgrounds will probably be more lucrative for the owners when sold for condo development, the citizens of this state ought to be proud of its tough stand on protecting its natural environment. 
Massachusetts: We’re So Green It’ll Make You Puce.
In more highly charged news, the state recently awarded a $5 million dollar loan (of whose money?) to a battery company in Watertown with the promise of the expansion of its clean energy green jobs for the future!  It all sounds so nice, and well, clean.  Proper. Forward-thinking. Right?  That is until one looks at the prospects for actually making money on the venture.  Cost-effective technology for alternative fuels just does not yet exist, and the market for less efficient and more expensive products will never exist!  No amount of government force is going to make that market a reality. Investors, finally realizing this, are pulling out of the state’s green projects in droves, leaving the companies a single source of secure capital: taxpayer dollars.  
So while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act shovels billions of tax dollars into businesses under the ludicrous assumption that we can spend our way out of an economic recession, less sexy, but real jobs are hammered by the heavy hand of government.
The government has no business claiming to create jobs, or, more generally, in the economy at all. None of its nudging or pounding can accomplish what free minds in a free market of voluntary business agreements can.  As one morning with one newspaper in one state shows, the force of government outside the protection of individual rights can contribute to some very real, very ugly consequences.

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