Friday night football is a tradition in the state of Texas, with high school games often drawing very large crowds. Today I came across some news stories that suggest this cultural tradition has an indirect impact on public policy.
Bloomberg has a story about Governor Abbott’s attempt to expand school choice in Texas. He faces predictable opposition from the Democratic Party, which tends to support teachers’ unions. But Democrats are in the minority in Texas, and Abbott also faces opposition from rural Republicans:
The efforts have been met with stiff opposition not only from Democrats — traditional allies of public education — but also from rural Republicans who fear that more parents pulling their children out of local schools will decimate funding for institutions that serve as community centers and a source of regional pride. An additional factor for many GOP lawmakers outside of cities is that their sparsely populated districts often lack private schools, limiting the usefulness of the [education saving] accounts for those who do not want to homeschool their children.
Perhaps government monopolies seem less oppressive in small towns where citizens have more influence over public policy. For example, I suspect rural school boards in Texas are less likely to mandate “wakeful” approaches to teaching. If the local football team is a “source of regional pride,” then the choice of school seems less appealing than in a big city like Dallas or Houston.
A post written by Matt Yglesias looked at a very different industry, but came to a similar conclusion:
There is a widespread misperception that the biggest corporations have the most clout in politics, when in reality, highly fragmented industries like car dealerships have more clout as a collective. Just a small example is that when Congress was enacting the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul, Elizabeth Warren rolled over the entire financial services industry and created her Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But to muster the votes in Congress, she had to swallow an exemption from CFPB oversight for auto loans because auto dealers had the power to demand it.
The key to a dealership’s strength is that there is a dealership owner (or several) in each district, and is rooted in the local community – often involved in the sponsorship of sports teams, visible to local TV news and usually playing a major role as a local. influencer. People feel sentimental about local businesses. Republicans love free markets, but they to like businessmen, so if businessmen want to support anti-market politics, Republicans are inclined to agree. Democrats are more skeptical of businessmen but less enthusiastic about markets, so it lands in the same place.
In California, the Democratic Party is much stronger than in Texas, and the prospects for education reform are therefore much bleaker. Indeed, Abbott may succeed in the end despite rural opposition. But California is more market-friendly in terms of auto retail, with new manufacturers such as Tesla able to sell directly to consumers. (This does not apply to manufacturers with existing dealer franchises.)
Many people on both the left and the right assume that the United States is a free market economy, although they may differ as to whether this state of affairs is desirable. In fact, the automotive retail industry is fairly typical; there are hundreds of similar examples. Most American industries are heavily regulated, and regulations generally favor producers over consumers. We have a big pro-business political party and a big pro-bureaucrat political party. We do not have a pro-market political party.