By Ryan Houck
Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy
Only weeks after Florida voters tossed Amendment 4 into the dustbin of bad ideas, Jane Healy has managed to misread the most obvious of signals. In her column “Will Scott and Cannon play games with growth?” (Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 28), she calls for new growth controls in the midst of a devastating recession while neighboring states aggressively compete for Florida jobs. Only Healy could imagine that the 67-percent-to-33-percent defeat of Amendment 4 means that Floridians have an appetite for new regulation.
From an armchair seemingly stuck in the outdated attitudes of the 1980s, Healy calls on Gov.-elect Rick Scott to form yet another growth commission and urges the Legislature to extend the life of Florida’s renegade Department of Community Affairs – a bloated and predatory agency that aspires to centrally plan major sectors of our economy.
The overwhelming defeat of Amendment 4 suggests that a majority of Florida voters do not share Healy’s opinion that more regulation is the answer. Voters made that clear on Election Day by soundly dispatching Amendment 4 at the polls and handing antigrowth activists the most crushing defeat in recent memory.
In “The Road to Serfdom,” free-market philosopher Friedrich von Hayek wrote that “the more the state ‘plans,’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.” Hayek’s point is that government efforts to manipulate the free market through central planning – telling individuals what to produce and where to produce it – create uncertainty and higher costs. These economic hazards invite more central planning, creating an ever-growing, never-sufficient morass of regulation that worsens the problems it is intended to fix.
A legacy of that misguided approach, the DCA has long since strayed beyond its original planning purview and now meddles in issues outside its jurisdiction. Less of a growth guide and more of a growth nanny, DCA presides over a hopelessly byzantine planning process decipherable only to the agency’s technocrats and incomprehensible to most of the small businesses and local governments forced to navigate it.
Healy’s views and the DCA in its present form are relics of a “Tallahassee-knows-best” mindset – a Soviet-style regulation scheme that has no place in the highly competitive global economy of today. As local leaders work to diversify our economy, attract innovative industry and add high-paying jobs, it is past time to drop the 1980s mindset with its emphasis on planning Florida’s economy.
It’s time to cut red tape, not create more. Policymakers should abandon the DCA – at least in its current form – and let locals lead. Taxpayers will pocket the savings, and job-hunters will reap the rewards.
Ryan Houck of Orlando is the executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy.
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