If you want to buy a brand new iPhone, you have options. You can go to the Apple website, or to an Apple retail store. You can also get it from a carrier, like Verizon or AT&T, either at their location or on their website.
If you want to get plane tickets, you have options. You can go to the airline’s website, or their ticket counter at the airport. Or you can use a travel agent or a booking service like Expedia.
If you want to buy a brand new car, however, you must go to a dealership. You can’t buy it online from the manufacturer. Nor do any of them have retail stores. Nor are there other companies you can go to. New car? Go to dealership. That’s it.
This does not make sense. But it is a good analogy to help explain why our nation feels like a mess. We have a “free country” where anybody can do what they want, but we also have laws that limit who can sell particular goods and services.
The reason for this for car buying is that the car dealerships have powerful, well-funded lobbyists. And in 48 of 50 states, there are laws that ensure only dealerships can sell new cars to the public.
These laws go back generations. Advocates say they help protect local jobs and small businesses, as well as consumers. Opponents are opposed to regulation on principle . If these rules were changed, it’s hard to say what would happen. Maybe a lot; maybe almost nothing.
The reason I picked this example is partially because you probably don’t care about vertical integration in the consumer automotive business. Also, it’s mainly handled by state legislatures, which means even if I elected it I couldn’t do much about it.
I chose it because this is exactly the kind of obscure peculiarity of government that is absolutely everywhere. We are inundated by paperwork, regulatory process, and official policies. And it’s hard to say which ones are helping or hurting, or even how they work.
Running for Congress is asking you to trust me to look into this minutiae and to report back on what I find. It’s asking you to trust me to use my best judgment when you don’t have time to give me your opinion.
Because if you trust me, that doesn’t mean I’m always going to do exactly what you would do. But trusting me also means you believe I will be conscientious, take time to explain myself, and to listen.
And that’s the controversy. Why does it feel like our elected representatives aren’t doing any of that? Why does it seem like no one is doing a balanced, careful review of both new and long-standing policies?
Maybe it’s because most elected officials aren’t working for us. I think it’s time that changed. Do you?