Friday, September 22, 2006

Belfast, Maine and Economic Planning

Belfast, Maine's Retail Review Committee is like a textbook case in why economic planning by governments doesn't work, except to the detriment of the average citizen and to the benefit of the politically connected. VillageSoup reports:

Councilor Cathy Heberer, a committee member, asked the group to retain the 75,000-square-foot cap now in effect for new stores unless a suitable proposal for a larger store is made. If that store "fits the needs of Belfast for more choice and affordability in food and clothing," the committee would recommend the city consider adjusting the cap upward.

In other words, if someone we like wants to have the rules changed, we'll do it. Wal-Mart need not apply, even with cheaper prescriptions. We like our prices high. Always.

Jon Cheston has reinforced his alignment with economic tyranny:

The group made 10 recommendations to the council on Aug. 1, and Jon Cheston said progress has been made in "exploring" five of them. They include a buy-local campaign, production of a shopping guide and map, having the Chamber of Commerce work with stores to fill "gaps" in items not available here, transportation to local stores and meetings to educate residents about Internet shopping.

The remaining recommendations are creating more festivals and events to draw people downtown, improvement in recreational and entertainment facilities, adding facilities for visual and performing arts, supporting the downtown/waterfront Tax Increment Financing District, and finding a substitute for the successful BearFest.

Buy Local. That's a good campaign idea, if the merchants want to fund it on their own. It would be ethically reprehensible to forcibly take money from citizens' pockets via taxation in order to try and convince them to spend what little they have left on a narrow selection of higher-priced local goods.

Shopping Guide and Map. Ditto the above. If there were anything approaching a free and vibrant economy in Belfast, the map would be changing quickly.

Chamber of Commerce as Economic Planners. Why the Chamber of Commerce would do anything for the city is beyond me, since the proposed city budget zeroes out the CoC in 2006-2007. And why entrepreneurial business owners haven't been able to perceive the needs and desires of the area's inhabitants is almost beyond my comprehension. It must have something to do with the fact that they're engaging in oligopolistic rent-seeking behavior, and using the force of government to keep competition out. And if there are businesses that do, indeed, offer products and services that most area residents feel they need to go elsewhere to find, why don't they do their own advertising?

Internet Shopping. I'm unclear on the concept here. If the problem is that people are going out of town to buy stuff, rather than shopping in Belfast, won't showing them the wealth of cheap stuff available on the internet only contribute to the problem? If Belfastians really got into internet shopping, most of the merchants in the city would really be in a world of hurt.

Tax Increment Financing. Ah yes, the latest favorite of economic planners. A very efficient way of taking money from the poor and politically unconnected and transferring it to the rich and powerful.

Ersatz Bearfest. Anything but birdhouses!



Linking to the following blogs with open trackback posts: Publius Rendezvous, Pirate's Cove, Dan Mancini, Woman Honor Thyself, MacBros' Place, Dumb Ox News, Cao's Blog

Tagged as: