9. To Hell With Freedom, I Like Control
Many years ago, a friend of mine that had served on our local city council told me an interesting story. During one of the council’s open meetings, a young couple came to request an exemption to the zoning laws for their house. They wanted to start a new dog grooming business, but they couldn’t afford to rent a separate space to house the business. Thus, they were requesting that they be allowed to start their business in their home and, if successful, move to a storefront later. After their appeal, the council sent the couple out of the room so they could deliberate.
Several people were opposed to allowing the zoning waiver. Their biggest concern was the issue of customer parking. They didn’t want cars blocking the couple’s neighbor’s property. This was a valid concern, but some councilpersons pointed out that occasionally people in neighborhoods have parties where the guests are parking all around other people’s property, but it was a temporary condition. Besides, a dog grooming business wouldn’t have a bunch of people there at any given time. Most people would be dropping off their dog and returning later to pick it up. This convinced enough councilpersons, so a waiver was approved.
But when the chairperson acknowledged the approval of the waiver, she added that they should limit the number of dogs at their house at any given time to two. My friend thought about that for a bit and said, “Why would we want to limit them to two? I own more dogs than that and they’re at my house all the time.” Ultimately, the council granted the waiver with no limit on the number of dogs they could have at their house at any given time, with the understanding that if any issues came up, they could modify the waiver at a later date.
This story had a happy ending, but in many cases around the country that is not true. It just seems that when people gain any level of power, they suddenly believe they must exert it. In some cases, these people love the feeling of power and want to see others squirm under their thumb. In other cases, they simply believe they are not doing their jobs if they aren’t placing limits on their constituency.
I had a boss that was this way even with the limited power of a low-level manager. Once I planned a project and had the steps all laid out. He came in and made several changes to it. I told my supervisor, who was between the manager and me, that I could make those changes, but then the plan would not be correct. I was told the manager wanted them anyway. A couple of days later, the manager looked at my changes and requested some more. Upon seeing what he wanted, I realized that those changes would make the plan identical to the one I originally submitted. You see, he simply did not believe he was doing his job if he didn’t have some level of input into the process. Just saying to me initially, “Job well done,” was not being managerial. He HAD to DO something.
These examples are minor compared to how some politicians behave in office. In many cities, states, and in DC, the people’s elected leaders are screwing over their citizens without concern for their freedom and wellbeing. There have been many cases where people have had eminent domain used to take their property for something other than public use. In many cases, a city government turns the property over to a private business using the excuse that they will collect more tax dollars from it than from the original owners. Despicably, the government sometimes takes the property without any particular use in mind. They just want to have it in case they come up with something later. You’ve probably heard about the bureaucracy Uber and Lyft have had to deal with to be allowed to compete with local cab companies. Or how about the hair braiders that have been told they must spend many hours and many dollars to get cosmetology training which doesn’t even teach hair braiding. In these latter cases, it’s pure protectionism. The government gets hefty fees and taxes from businesses and in return the government essentially gives them monopoly status in their city or state.
All these actions by government, at any level, are deplorable. Politicians are all about promising more jobs, but then turn around and limit jobs by suppressing rising entrepreneurs. Fortunately, there are a number of not-for-profit organizations that are fighting these kinds of government abuse with great success. I support several personally. If you’d like to read up on what they are fighting or if you want to make a contribution, check out the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, and the Pacific Legal Foundation.