Economic freedom from a consumer’s perspective is all about consumer choice. When thousands or millions come together to demand certain products at a certain price, suppliers are at the mercy of those consumers.
If businesses don’t supply what the buying public wants, they go bankrupt. The problem is when government regulators come in and reduce consumer choice by substituting their opinions for the decisions of consumers.
When government gets involved it means higher prices, less accessibility, and more inefficiency in the market.
Here in Texas we find evidence of government meddling in consumer markets in all corners of life. With one of the largest agricultural sectors in the country, it might be surprising to learn that raw milk products are strictly forbidden from being sold in grocery stores and in farmer’s markets. Instead, any purchases must be made directly. Producers must also obtain permission from the state, and regularly renew their licenses.
In 2013, Miller Dairy Farm, located just southwest of San Antonio, was forced to dump 700 gallons of perfectly good milk when the Texas Department of State Health Services got wind of the farm’s unlicensed milk delivery service. A bill aimed at removing unnecessary barriers to the sale of raw milk and its products was introduced in the 84th session by State Rep. Dan Flynn (R–Van) but died in committee.
Similarly, while most of the Texas blue laws (governing alcohol sales) have been repealed, liquor stores are still prohibited from doing business on Sundays. Other state laws dictate what may be sold, when it is sold, and virtually every aspect pertaining to the production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol.
Minor steps to allow responsible purchase and consumption by Texans have met with success in recent years, like State Rep. John Keumpel’s (R–Seguin) House Bill 824, allowing closing-time sales, but much more is left to be done.
More nanny-state central planning is never more than a heartbeat away, as evidenced by several attempts by one legislator who believes he knows how to make Texas healthy again. In past sessions, State Rep. Eddie Lucio (D–Brownsville) introduced bills that dictated choices in vending machines, and sought to tax sweetened beverages. Misguided attempts like these which negatively impact consumer choice ignore unintended consequences such as consumers switching to other calorie-rich beverages.
Texas’ economic freedom ranking remains one of the highest in the country, thanks in large part to the expansive consumer freedom that Texans enjoy. However, these unique benefits that all Texans enjoy will quickly fall away if we allow do-gooders to use the power of government to limit consumer choice.
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