L&L-10-12- Why Crony Capitalism Doesn't Work
As the smell of garbage still lingers across Seattle following this summer’s strike by garbage and recycling drivers, 220,000 homeowners in the area learned the hard way that protecting multibillion-dollar corporations from competition is, unfortunately, our government’s highest priority. But this is a lesson many should have already learned. After all, four years ago, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Seattle could ban competition and reserve exclusively for two large, out-of-state corporations the right to haul construction, demolition and land-clearing waste. But as the debris piled up and cooked in the summer heat, it came as a surprise to many that we were in this mess because the government thought it was for our own good.
How right they were.
Examples of this “unholy alliance” abound. Take the case of Institute for Justice client Hector Ricketts, who wished to operate a commuter van in New York City. At the behest of the public transportation union, the New York City Council vetoed virtually all new commuter van licenses. And for the lucky few with licenses, arbitrary regulations forbade vans from providing timely and convenient service. When faced, however, with a massive public transit strike in the early 1980s and then with a taxicab strike in the late 1990s, commuter vans like Hector’s mobilized to rescue the city’s transportation system from grinding to a halt. Thanks to IJ litigation, Hector and other operators at last had their day in court and vindicated their right to earn an honest living. But other similar arbitrary, government-imposed-and-enforced monopolies remain to this day to the detriment of would-be entrepreneurs and consumers alike.
When courts fail to enforce constitutional limits on government power, we are left to rely on the self-restraint of public officials. But experience has shown that this is no restraint at all and it leads to the inevitable loss of freedom and the proliferation of laws that protect the politically connected.
In Seattle, as waste haulers walked out on strike and all other service providers were banned, the public was right to question how this system of crony capitalism advances anyone’s health or safety. Something definitely stinks—and this time it’s not just the garbage.
Jeanette Petersen is an IJ Washington Chapter attorney.