Great selection, low price; why discriminate against large stores?

The Sandy, Oregon, Planning Commission held a hearing last week on a proposal to ban large retail superstores. The Eugene City Council will be looking at a similar ordinance within the next few months. Hood River has already enacted such restrictions.

Why do politicians insist on trying to pick winners and losers in the economy? Usually it’s because they think regulations will protect smaller retailers already in the community. But 93% of Sandy residents who responded to a survey in February acknowledged shopping at a superstore within the past month. They will continue to do so with or without a local ban; they will just drive a little further.

These proposals establish dangerous precedents for the exercise of power. They take the responsibility for decision-making away from individuals and place it in the hands of political elites. It’s no different than having a book-burning party outside the public library. Most people wouldn’t tolerate such censorship in the literary arts, so why do we think it’s acceptable in commerce?

The freedom to exchange goods and services is the essence of the American dream. While it may be tempting to limit economic activities we don’t personally approve of, we must fight for the rights of others even when we disagree with them. Because otherwise, who will speak when the regulators come for us?

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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