Progressives in California, more than elsewhere, forget the history and inspiration behind the founding of the United States. Over every system of government – with divided powers among the three branches of government – reflects an effort to ensure that political power never becomes consolidated in one person or institution.
The same is true with respect to the federal government’s relationship to the states. Again, the national government is (or was intended to be) a government of limited constitutional powers, and powers not specifically enumerated in the Constitution were reserved to the respective states. And capping it all off was a Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
If it isn’t obvious by now, it should be. The primary function of government in America, either at the national level or by the states, is to preserve liberty. But to progressives, this simple statement sounds as foreign as ancient Greek. To them, the primary function of government is to redistribute wealth and expand government into all aspects of our lives. They possess the false belief that decisions by elites who control our public institutions are superior to the decisions made by ordinary citizens.
This “government is better” thinking reflected in several of the new laws that took effect on January 1, 2019. For example, the controversial Assembly Bill 5, which severely restricts the use of “independent contractors”, is inflicting real damage to California’s gig economy as companies are no longer able to contract with individuals who seek part-time or seasonal work in a way that provides people with flexibility over where and when they work. Two more new laws that restrict freedom include a mandated increase in California’s minimum wage which forces employers to pay more to their employees than the market would otherwise require and a new rent control law prohibiting owners of rental housing from raising rents more than a certain amount annually.
Here’s the real irony. What all three bills have in common, besides restricting freedom, is that each will produce outcomes exactly opposite of that intended by progressives.
AB 5 means less flexibility for gig workers, including Uber and Lyft drivers, freelance writers, photographers and a legion of other jobs that provide good revenue to those who perform them. It also means loss of employment. Even before AB 5 went into effect, dozens of freelance writers were told that their contracts would not be renewed. [This initiative was on the ballot in the 2020 California elections as Proposition 22, and passed on November 3rd, 2020, paving the way once again for the classification of rideshare and delivery drivers as independent contractors.]
Loss of jobs is also an inevitable result of California’s mandatory increase in the minimum wage. Even with the strong economy, there has been a huge increase in restaurant closures throughout California due to this law. This may explain why, over the last year, Texas has increased its total employment by an amount more than 10 times that of California.
The imposition of rent control has likewise resulted in a “petard hoisting” for California. Even before the law took effect, landlords, fearful of future unanticipated costs, increased their rents to the maximum amount allowed – and will continue to do so indefinitely – resulting in potential higher rents than a free market would dictate. Similarly, investors will now have to access the risks associated with the California housing market, which already has a questionable reputation, before putting their cash on the table.
Unfortunately, it is doubtful that California’s elected leadership will soon experience an epiphany about the damage that flows from their policies. It is even less likely they will ever grasp what the protesters in Hong Kong, Tehran and Caracas already know; that humans, by their nature, are better off when government interferes in their lives as little as possible.
Rights, properly understood, are restrictions on government actions, not an entitlement to free stuff. We have a “right” to speak, to assemble and to practice our religious beliefs. We have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and yes, a right to bear arms. This is why we have a Bill of Rights, not a Bill of Freebies.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. For more information, visit www.hjta.org.