Tuesday, November 3, 2015

More and Less

A few ideas to make Virginia even better

Virginia is a pretty great place to live, and so is America (in a not-so-subtle poke at you-know-who). But we can always get better. So here, on this Election Day, are some humble suggestions for your consideration.

More participation. Virginia is one of only 5 states to hold gubernatorial elections on odd-numbered years. That means a Primary and a General election every year. As a result, voters get weary and participation suffers. We need to move elections to even-numbered years, voting for Governor and State Senators in between U.S. presidential elections. And to throw the incumbents a bone, give 'em an extra year in office to transition to the new, saner cycle.

Less partisanship. We need to rid the Commonwealth's Constitution and the Code of Virginia of all references to political parties. There aren't any references in the U.S. Constitution, why are there any in Virginia's? Because the two major parties are large and in charge and want to limit challenges to their duopoly, that's why. The major parties have codified their dominance such that the State Board of Elections recognizes only them. Is "racketeering" too strong a word?

More opportunity. Business, professional, and occupational licensing (BPOL) is a way for government to regulate and tax businesses. It's also a way for entrenched interests to raise barriers for newcomers. Nationwide in the 1950s, about 5 percent of jobs required a license of the job holder; now 25 percent do. We need to look at all occupational licensing in the Commonwealth to discern which are needed for consumer safety and which merely increase consumer prices and reduce consumer choice.

Less favoritism. No tax breaks for anyone or anything. Article I, Section 3 of Virginia's Constitution says "That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit"; Article I, Section 4 says "That no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community". Tax breaks favor individuals and groups at the expense of the common benefit. Period.

More choices. The common benefit is increased when consumers have greater choice in the goods and services offered them. By contrast, producers benefit unfairly when there are fewer choices so that they can raise prices. We need to ensure that Virginians have the widest array of choices possible in all the things they seek.

Less intervention. The Commonwealth needs to get out of the liquor business and all business functions where the private sector can do it more efficiently for the benefit of consumers. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control raises consumer prices and adds opportunity costs by making consumers travel to a dedicated store. It also adds another layer of law enforcement as it has its own Bureau of Law Enforcement. Tax alcoholic beverages if you must, but close shop.

And if you haven't already ... go vote! Polls are open until 7pm.