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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Republicans love free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit — right up until they hate it

Slate: From the state that brought you the nation’s first ban on climate science comes another legislative gem: a bill that would prohibit automakers from selling their cars in the state.

The proposal, which the Raleigh News & Observer reports was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, would apply to all car manufacturers, but the intended target is clear. It’s aimed at Tesla, the only U.S. automaker whose business model relies on selling cars directly to consumers, rather than through a network of third-party dealerships.

The bill is being pushed by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group representing the state’s franchised dealerships. Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition”—something Republicans are typically inclined to favor—is not entirely clear. After all, North Carolina doesn’t seem to have a problem with Apple selling its computers online or via its own Apple Stores.

Still, it’s easy to understand why some car dealers might feel a little threatened: Tesla’s Model S outsold the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8 last quarter without any help from them. If its business model were to catch on, consumers might find that they don’t need the middle-men as much as they thought.
According to the report, “Apodaca received $8,000 in campaign contributions from the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association last year, the maximum amount allowed by state law.” He has not responded to a request for comment.

Ironically, this sort of thing is almost exactly what Ayn Rand complained about in her novel Atlas Shrugged — a business group and the government were forcing an industrialist to share his process for producing a new alloy, using “unfair competition” as their reasoning. I suppose it hadn’t occurred to her that they could ban it for the same reason.

The GOP has taken to praising Rand in recent years — especially post-Tea Party. Like so much else Republicans say, that praise is obviously horseshit.

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