Monday, August 16, 2010

The Local Oligarchies

One of our more laughable but enduring national political narratives is that political beliefs are somehow either "pro-government" OR "pro-business." As if the two are somehow mutually exclusive. This gross oversimplification glosses over serious policy-based conflicts of interest, where government agencies AND the business community collude to restrict freedom.

Three issues locally have brought this into clearer focus recently:

In Louisiana, if you want to make wooden boxes that people get buried in, the law says you have to be a liscenced funeral director. Not only that, but the state board charged with enforcing this ordinance is filled with people who make their living directing funerals and selling boxes that people get buried in. I wonder how many of our tax dollars the state is paying this board to maintain their oligarchy.

In New Orleans, city officials are finally enforcing a series of local ordinances to the letter. This is causing some major headaches, as many of our ordinances are not exactly "user friendly" as written. One wonders if this Byzantine system of permits, ordinances and application processes is one of the reasons this city isn't considered "business friendly?" (I mean, look at how many supermarkets we have to serve our population! Look at where they're located, too.)

Because I'm sure the businesses that worked (or navigated in some other way) their way through the process aren't going to try and advocate for this process to be any easier for their future competition, right?

The third was the You Kids Stop Playing Jazz on My Street Corner ordinance we all found out about earlier this year. Of course, incredible citizen activism has pushed this ordinance into the revision stage.

So it doesn't take much to convince me that the deeper we look into the laws that govern us, the more progress-resistant items will be found, hampering innovation and freedom for someone else's direct monetary benefit. While New Orleans will likely have a number of these, that is one of the things that makes the Crescent City just like every other location in this country.

It is high time people pay as much attention to their local governments and business communities as they do to the national telenovela we hear about every day from Washington, D.C. Because where the President and his family vacation is far less important to me than being able to buy my groceries.

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