It seems to me, an excellent illustration of political favor at work, the type of political favor that is destroying our economy… is the scuffle between Tesla Motor Cars and the Dealerships in New Jersey. Everyone agrees it is about politics and we also tacitly agree the question will come down to which side has the most political favor. Free market consideration is not made at all. This small set to, between the dealerships and Tesla over whether Tesla can sell it’s cars directly to consumers, is all about stopping the free market from innovating and to protect the profits of politically connected dealerships. The best interests of the consumer is not even at question! No one in the media cares if the consumer is hurt or helped by direct sales, only which side has sufficient political favor to push their argument through the New Jersey legislature, because that is all that really counts. This is very damaging to our economy, because the interest of the people is not even a factor, simply the will of the political elite. This shows how far from free market principles we have strayed. Your job, wages, benefits and standard of living are in the balance, but bear no weight on how it turns out.
Tesla wants to sell it’s cars directly to the consumer, bypassing the traditional dealership network. The dealerships have asked a court to force Tesla to sell their cars through dealerships and as a result Tesla doesn’t sell cars in New Jersey. Tesla has gone to the New Jersey legislature to get a law passed allowing them to sell their cars direct to consumers. Of course, politics came into it as soon as the smell of money wafted around, and justified by the fact Tesla wanted to do something different then is traditionally done. Because, as Milton Friedman said… when a firm faces competition that sells it’s products at a lower price and better quality, the firm can increase it’s quality and lower prices, or it can go to the government to force the competition closed. That is exactly what the car dealerships have done, they went to government to force Tesla to use them, to protect their profits.
The problem is that this strategy always results in stifling innovation, which has a profoundly negative effect on present, and especially future GDP growth, due to the compounding effect of past growth, or lack of it. Schumpeter coined the term, “Creative Destruction” to explain the cycle of growth under the capitalist mode of production. He explained that, as a new idea is implemented, units of production are drawn into realizing that new idea. This results in GDP growth, as more labor, productive facilities and ingenuity are utilized. As the innovation matures, the old systems that are rendered redundant go bust. They go out of business and the recession part of the cycle comes in. As the cost of the units of production become cheaper due to the recessionary pressures, a new idea becomes possible to implement, starting the virtuous cycle again… unless it is short circuited by well meaning but pernicious government programs to protect older more established firms from competition, (like is done in Japan…).
The best way would be to let the free market sort it all out. If Tesla’s plan results in angry customers then Tesla will retreat to the traditional strategy of using dealerships to sell it’s cars. Considering the recalls recently on Tesla cars, this might have proven the dealerships argument, without having gone to court and enriching lawyers for nothing. We’ll have to wait and see how the consumer reaction is to how the recalls are handled. If Tesla’s plan does work however, it will have staked out new ground undermining the market reason for dealerships to exist, which would incentivize other companies to stop using dealerships. Either way the market will show the efficiency of the present system or the potential innovative efficiency that could result in creative destruction. With the oceans of paperwork, regulations and political favor that is needed to cross before an innovation can be implemented, the innovative part of the business cycle is drowned.
As government policies smother innovation creative destruction is stymied. Lower present GDP growth can be expected, and will be magnified over time due to the effect of compounded growth. That damage to the innovation process by government derails the creative part of the creative destruction by protecting the firms that would face destruction, and so to keep the old inefficient crony capitalism going government destroys the very mechanism of growth of the capitalist system, and by doing that, they lower everyone’s standard of living… but the political Elite get a ton of money and power by doing it.