Tesla, Car Dealers and Milton Friedman: The Problem of Protectionism and Cronyism
Last week at Forbes, I wrote about an attempt by Missouri car dealers to prevent electric car manufacturer Tesla from selling its cars directly to customers. Although the amendment in question quietly passed the state Senate, I do expect that free market advocates in the House will loudly reject this attempted protectionism and cronyism.
That said, it must be noted that although Tesla is being wronged by the proposed amendment, policymakers would do well not to proclaim the heavily-subsidized company to be some spirit animal of the free market. Indeed, many businesses are quick to proclaim their love of the market while simultaneously marshaling special protections and subsidies to themselves. Tesla fits that description to a T; hit up that last link for a list of examples.
The Tesla episode reminds me of an old video featuring famed economist Milton Friedman. Asked some decades ago about who can save the free market, Friedman framed his response this way:
You talk about preserving the free market system. Who has been destroying it? The business community must take a large share of the responsibility. … You must separate out being pro-free enterprise from being pro-business.
The short video, which I commend to all of our readers, is below:
There is a difference between being pro-business and being pro-market. Clearly the proposed legislation would be pro-dealers; it would not, however, be pro-Tesla or pro-consumer.