Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Friday, January 30, 2004
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This one is mind-boggling. The Los Angeles City Council members have decided that they want to ban Wal-Mart from operating within the city limits. (It’s the work of the labor unions, who have been lobbying in order to put an end to their non-union competition.)

Here’s the LA Times:

A city ordinance can keep Wal-Mart from opening in Los Angeles, but it will not stop residents from shopping at Wal-Mart. If kept from locating in Los Angeles, Wal-Mart will consider locations in neighboring areas on the edges of the city. As Los Angeles residents shift their spending to Wal-Mart, city tax revenues will be reduced.

There is tremendous irony in this. Los Angeles, which for years has begged regional supermarkets to locate in areas such as South Central, would ban superstores in the very areas that need them the most. According to an aide to Garcetti, the concern is that a superstore would put existing retail economic development investments at risk. So, in a most bizarre turn of events, the economic development bureaucracy opposes economic development.

If the ordinance passes in February, as expected, it will deprive poor neighborhoods of convenient, low-price shopping and entry-level jobs. Poor communities would remain saddled with ineffective revitalization efforts rather than the market-driven redevelopment that would follow the opening of a Wal-Mart.

Once Wal-Mart has located its new stores elsewhere, it will be too late to do something about making up the lost revenue. Los Angeles, in particular, is giving up a tremendous opportunity to revitalize poor neighborhoods.

Why is the writer surprised that an “economic development bureaucracy opposes economic development?” That’s the job of a governmental bureaucracy: to inflict as much trouble, pain, poverty, inefficiency, and political coercion as it possibly can, within the marketplace, while empowering itself and its minions. Government makes poor people poorer while it enriches those who have secured the ultimate political power positions — in this case, unions. Imagine a bunch of bureaucrats purposefully destoying their own city’s retail markets and its participants, just so they can all enjoy some cozy power relationships, and one glorious, dictatorial sweep after another.

I just imagined. It was easy to do.

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