Missouri House Bill 1124, filed earlier this legislative session, to allow off-highway utility vehicles to be marginally increased in width and weight, has morphed into an intervention in the market place that will, if it becomes law, increase the number of roadblocks to Economic Freedom and reduce prosperity for Missouri citizens.
How did this happen?
After the non-controversial bill passed out of the House on a 139 to 9 vote, it was sent to the Senate. The measure cleared the Senate Transportation Committee following a public hearing and was sent to the Senate Floor with minimal changes.
Then the mischief began.
On May 7th the bill was taken up for debate in the Senate. At this juncture, Senator Wasson, a member of the Transportation Committee which is chaired by Senator Kehoe, a Jefferson City automobile dealer until 2011, offered a Senate Substitute at Senator Kehoe’s urging, as reported in the Springfield News Leader. This Senate Substitute bill contained a change to Chapter 407, Merchandising Practices, making it illegal for any automobile manufacturer to own or operate a new motor vehicle dealership in Missouri. It also makes it illegal for a manufacturer simply to sell a car to an individual purchaser.
While the existing law is in no small way in conflict with free market principles, still only manufacturers which had franchised dealers in the state were prevented from owning dealerships.
This new provision, which never received a public hearing, has been sent to the House for final passage, is not only blatant protectionism for dealerships, like the one previously owned by the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. This chills innovation in the manufacturing, marketing and delivery of automobiles, all to the detriment of consumers and the reduction of prosperity for all Missourians.
How, you ask?
First, the effect of the law will be to reduce choice and potentially better and more economical choice for consumers.
Second, it reduces Economic Freedom, the right of individuals to pursue their interest through voluntary exchanges of private property, by substituting the government’s judgment, via the force of law, for an individual’s free choice on exchanges of private property and it limits the voluntary application of the private property of automobile manufacturers as they see fit.
Economic studies reveal a high correlation between the level of Economic Freedom in a state and the amount of prosperity enjoyed by its citizens. The study conducted by the Fraser Institute places Missouri at 38th among the combined US States and Canadian Providences on its Economic Freedom index of North America, and finds that the higher a state or providence is on the index ,the higher its level of prosperity.
Missouri legislators should be urged to remove roadblocks to Economic Freedom, not erect new barriers to prosperity. To stop this barrier, call your Missouri Representative and ask him or her to oppose this economic rot when it is brought up in the House.