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Pro-Business May Be Good Politics, But It’s Bad Governance

When I hear a politician describe him or herself as “pro-business”  it sets off my alarm bells.  It indicates that he or she doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care to understand, the proper relationship between the government and the business sector in a free society (we still do want a free society, don’t we?)

The term pro-business is used as cover for the commission of all sorts of political shenanigans that may help certain businesses, but are detrimental to the interests of consumers, taxpayers, other businesses and even neighbors of the businesses they are helping.

Subsidizers, who use force to substitute their economic judgement for that of a market made up of millions of intelligent people waste $billions on various economic turkeys from electric cars and wind farms to unneeded industrial parks and even new casinos.  Included in this group are the proponents of tax cuts that are targeted towards certain favored business sectors.  I’m sure if you asked them, these folks would say they were doing these things because they are pro-business.

Then there are the protectionists who use the force of law to shield certain favored businesses from the rigors of competition.  This can be done by the national government with regulations that favor their friends and with tariffs and import duties.   State and local governments do it with zoning and land-use laws, licensing requirements and various local regulations.  There’s little doubt that they would describe all these actions that stifle competition and raise costs to consumers as being pro-business as long as one business is helped.

Also in my hall of shame are those like our county Republicans who use taxpayer resources to provide free services such as market research and mailing lists to businesses in the county and to those considering locating here.  They may be helping those businesses, but what about the businesses that traditionally provided those services?  I guess they’ll be going out of business.  Again, I am sure these bad actors consider themselves to be pro-business.

Worst are those who I would characterize as “players”.  They use their political power to steer regulation and development in ways that benefit themselves, their cronies and their patrons.  Even they call themselves pro-business.

Now the reason given by the practitioners of all these forms of mal-governance is that business brings jobs and tax revenues.  But these practices destroy more wealth than they create and while they certainly help some people they harm many more people.  The only kind of jobs worth creating are productive jobs and the fact that government action was required to create them is a strong indication that the job created destroys more wealth than it creates.  And businesses don’t exist to create jobs or to pay taxes.  Businesses exist to make their owners happy.

I’m for business in the same way that I’m for bowling, smoking or stamp collecting.  It makes people happy.  And we have a right to engage, unmolested, in activities that make us happy as long as we don’t impose ourselves on other people.  If activities like businesses tangentially provide some benefits to employees, customers and local tax collectors that’s fine.  But it’s not an excuse for involvement and manipulation by the government.  It’s also not why I am for staying out of the way of business.  I don’t want the government to be in anyone’s way.  Not businesses, bowlers, stamp collectors or even smokers.


  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    I have never been very pragmatic about the relationship between business and government. I do subscribe to the simple theory that government should not get in business’ way, and government should not itself be in any kind of business.
    About 25 years ago I expanded by business to include a shop in the community where I lived, Brielle, NJ. Prior to establishing this second location I had not thought very much about the relationship the town of Brielle had with it s business community. Or, better said, in that instance, lack of relationship.
    I quickly learned first hand, and with discussions with other local business people, that business in Brielle viewed the local government as being non supportive, almost an antognist. In that case, the local authorities did not engage in supportive or negative public conversation about local business, they just did little to promote and or cooperate with the local business’.
    If someone inquired or attempted to start a new business they would be confronted with all the hoops that can be thrown by local planning and zoning boards. It was not an environment that encouraged more that keeping a status-quo.
    Now, those of you who know me know that I welcome a challenge, especially if it involves a conflict with my principals and values. In this case, free enterprise.
    So, working within the system, I approached the local Chamber of Commerce to discuss these matters. I quickly learned that time and persistent road blocks had eroded the beneficial effect that chamber had once had. In short, they had let the town dictate their conditions of being in and staying in business.

    Short version, my enthusiasm and spirit soon got me elected President of the Brille Chamber. We expanded the membership over two fold and used our resources to do community projects to support the town. Over the period of the next two or three years, the relationship between the borough and its business’ dramatically improved, and each side valued and respected the other. I am proud to say, it remains that way to this day.
    My point is: Business and government need to find a way to work together without getting into each others way or interference with each others goals. Words do not make it happen, saying you support business is just that, Words. Actions and commitments
    from both sides is whats needed.

    Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink
  2. Tom Burke wrote:

    Oh yes, one additional comment. Please do consider the Administrator of this blog’s request for financial assistance to two fine candidates for our local borough council….Oh wait, that is he and I !! Oh well, please help if you believe in onr vision of “Moving Belmar forward……together.”

    Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink
  3. guest wrote:

    Over a year ago Belmar paid to repave the parking lot behind Pyanoe Plaza. There was supposedly a hand-shake deal that once the lot was repaved the owner would be able to attract a grocery store or something to go into the vacant ACME storefront. I think there was also some tax relief granted as well. What ever happened to that deal and if elected, would you push the owner to make good on his promise?

    Monday, July 15, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink
  4. admin wrote:

    The only promise we got in return for not only re-paving it, but also committing to maintain it as a parking lot for the next 50 years was that the guy would drop two years of tax appeals he had filed. That’s it.
    I wrote about it back then. If you want to see what I wrote at the time, here is the link:

    Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  5. Tom Burke wrote:

    My feeling is that the Belmar government should only be a bit player in the owner efforts at attracting new tenants for the old Acme space. I think for anyone to really think a supermarket of any note would be interested in this location would be almost unrealistic. The owner and Belmar would be better off if the space were split and other types of business’ sought.It does seem that this parking lot gets a lot of use and is a much needed asset to the business community.

    My solution, let free enterprise take its course. If the business’ we have prosper, then Belmar will become more attractive to’ other business’.

    I am personally more concerned about finding tenants for the multiple vacant store fronts on Main Street.

    Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

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