Missouri State Parks Floating the Idea of Crowding Out Private Enterprise
Small business owners are used to competition. Most know who their main competitors are. They also know that if they do not continue to offer a great service or a great product, they will soon lose customers to their competition. What most small businesses don’t expect—or at least what they shouldn’t have to expect—is competition from their government. Yet, tax-supported competition is what canoe-rental companies in southern Missouri will likely be facing soon.
As the Associated Press reports, Missouri State Parks is planning to open a $52 million facility in Shannon County, and the parks department would like to provide canoe-rentals to park goers. The department purchased a piece of property formerly known as Camp Zoe. The campground was seized by the DEA in 2012 and later sold by the Department of Natural Resources to Missouri State Parks for $640,000.
Launching canoes into the river is not as simple as buying a piece of land at an auction. Businesses must have a permit for each canoe, and the number of canoes is limited. Therefore, the parks department will either have to purchase an existing canoe company and take over the company’s permits or attempt to wrestle permits away from an existing company. In either scenario, the government is poised to crowd out private enterprise with the financial backing of state taxpayers.
It is quite possible that the family-owned canoe rental place you love (Mine is Windy’s) could be put out of business by the good intentions of public servants. While parks and recreation may seem like a natural place for the state to offer services, it is important to realize that when the state takes on a larger role providing recreational activities, it crowds out private businesses that are already providing these services.