September 27 2016
featuring Naomi Schaefer Riley
Big government — whether federal, state or local — wants to make sure you’re an economic dependent.
In a Wall Street Journal column last weekend, Naomi Schafer Riley of the Independent Women’s Forum detailed the harmful impacts the federal government’s paternalistic impulses are having on some of Utah’s native tribes.
Ground zero for her piece is the Bears Ears natural area, a 1.9-million acre tract of land in the southwestern portion of the state. Most of the real estate there is owned by the federal government, administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Today, Bears Ears holds both ceremonial and economic value for the tribes, as they’re able to employ the land for ceremonies, crop harvesting, livestock grazing, mining and even oil and gas drilling.
All that could change, if Washington, D.C., has its way. As it stands, the Obama administration is pushing to re-designate the area as a national monument, a move that could have wide-ranging effects. Per the usual, the motivation driving the government intervention is a misplaced sense of do-gooderism.
The problem that needs fixing? There have been reports of vandalism and rumored grave robbing in Bears Ears. Both bad things, we can all agree, yet the negative consequences of the monument campaign seem to outweigh the benefits of heightened protections against mischief. If successful, Native Americans could still use the land for grazing, but that would probably be the extent of its economic output. Many jobs once made off the land would disappear.
Local Navajo, Ute and Paiute tribes are fighting back against D.C. overreach, citing the detrimental impact President Bill Clinton’s 1996 dedication of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has had on South Central Utah tribes. The federal distinction pushed skilled labor out in favor of lower-paying service industry work, with the consequence that the local economy began a slow deterioration to the point that one county was forced to declare a “state of emergency” in 2015.
This is what happens when government plays daddy too adamantly: the paternalistic instinct let loose — even if well-intentioned — pushes people into a dependent existence.
This isn’t a reality fostered exclusively by the feds. As Rare’s Bonnie Kristian wrote last week, Missouri officials recently won a court case upholding the overly stringent requirement that African-style hair braiders complete 1,500 hours of training and become fully licensed cosmetologists.
Again, just to braid hair. EMTs, however, must finish a mere 100 schooling hours.
State occupational licensing boards often claim that extensive training — even if burdensome — is vital. Such education supposedly ensures the best practices (techniques, hygiene, etc.) are used for consumer benefit. At 1,500 hours, Missouri braiders are likely some of the most extensively practiced in the world. The problem, though, is those 1,500 hours are expensive, and their costs prohibit many prospective practitioners from joining the field. In order to protect consumers, the heavy hands of Missouri bureaucrats are limiting economic mobility for certain residents.
Local governments, too, have a knack for enacting laws that restrict an individual’s ability to thrive economically. The Nashville Metro government, long cozy with Music City hoteliers, is working hard to make it difficult for homeowners to list their properties as short-term rentals, a practice that’s become increasingly popular with the emergence of online sites like Airbnb and VRBO.
The council claims its short-term rental rules preserve the character of residential neighborhoods, while also ensuring home values stay high and helping travelers to better boarding options. All this, of course, comes at the expense of property rights.
When recently testifying before a state panel about Nashville’s hotel-friendly rental ordinance, one Metro councilwoman said this: “To me it is a privilege to be able to do this [rent out one’s property for extra income], not a right. The city of Nashville decided to grant that privilege.”
Get that? She believes it’s government’s job to “grant” property rights, an assertion that should make any freedom-loving American cringe. Good thing the Nashville rules are being challenged in court.
Whether it’s safeguarding sacred lands from vandalism, consumers from bad hairdos or travelers from underwhelming vacation stays, government (at all levels) has a hard time not acting like a helicopter parent. But this protective impulse regularly hurts more people than it helps, especially financially.
And when it routinely hits people’s pocket books, it increases economic dependence. Just the way big government wants it.