Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Answer to Republican Messaging

The Republican Party, wisely, has a platform of smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation. Unwisely, however, lowering taxes is it’s first priority by reducing social programs, and, naturally, the people dependent on those programs are not supportive of cutting them. The reasons people are dependent on social programs vary, but the most critical one is simple: the regulatory state actively prohibits poor people from trying to help themselves.

Bob Evans, the restaurant chain, was started on the farm of Bob Evans the founder. His home was located on a major thoroughfare for trucking, so he opened his kitchen as a restaurant, stocked from his farm. Today, Evans would be shut down for health code and structural violations, including not having redundant sinks or providing calorie counts (which have to be evaluated with expensive testing). Or any of a hundred different reasons from dozens of regulatory agencies.

So Bob Evans the restaurant chain is a national success, no one is permitted to take the same route to success today. The sign over the road reads “Closed by order of anonymous bureaucrats.”

Years ago, to start a taxi service, you needed a car. Now, in nearly all areas where taxis are profitable, you need a government permission to operate a taxi. Often, these permits are capped at a specific number, and the costs to obtain one are so high that they are simply traded between wealthy, connected companies. It is possible to have a very good income in some cities without owning a single car or driving a single passenger simply by virtue of owning and renting out the permits to be a taxi. Poor people cannot use their existing assets to earn an income, they have to join a system that often forces them, in addition to renting the license, to rent the car as well. It is possible for a taxi driver to lose money driving a taxi, while the owners make a risk-free income, simply by virtue of owning a government license.

So while the taxi market is easier to enter than ever, regulatory trade barriers close that market to all but the well-connected and rich.

The same is true of any industry. Powdered lemonade stands run by eight year-olds will be shut down because “regulations”, enforcing at an early age the idea that they are not free to try something on their own. Hair-braiding shops, often run by poor immigrants, are shut down because the immigrants aren’t licensed stylists. They’re not stylists, but that doesn’t matter to the agencies. What matters is that they are poor and largely unable to fight back.

Helplessness and despair infest poor communities because they lack the formal, paper credentials to join established organizations as more than unskilled labor, and government regulations prohibit them from setting out on their own.

The slang word in poor communities for hard work is “hustle”. It’s not just related to criminal activity, but the fact that most independent honest work is illegal diverts people into criminal pursuits. If everything is illegal, why not do the things that make the most money?
Remove the regulatory barriers and poor people will develop skills and build on-paper credentials. There’s a joke that, in Europe, having a failed business means you’re a failure, but in the US it means you are experienced. As these people succeed and gain experience, they will build both business and reputations to further advance their success.

And as they succeed, they will need less and less assistance. Public assistance programs will, in part, wither on the vine. The programs’ expenses will be reduced naturally, and more people will be open to cut them further.

This is the message that will appeal to nearly everyone but those committed to government. It will reduce the size of government first by freeing people from regulatory control, and then reduce government further by reducing the amount of social services consumed.

And by focusing on what is actually keeping people down, this is a message that can go into poor communities and find reception.

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