Suds Buster. Editorial Board, HoustonChronicle.com ($$$)
Texas allows wineries, distilleries and brewpubs to sell their products directly to the consumer for off-premise consumption. Yet brewery visitors must drink any beer they buy before they leave.Forgetting for a moment just how patently unfair this law is, or that there are other aspects to the law (forcing local breweries to give away [without compensation] their local distribution rights) which are downright ridiculous, this speaks to a big problem with the business regulatory environment in Texas.
And I'm not talking just about beer.
Automobiles, for example, and the laws that establish, and prop-up, the dealership system, are antiquated and discourage growth in the Internet age. While I'm no fan of Tesla, that Elon Musk cannot sell his cars in Texas, without providing a percentage to a middle man, runs counter to the so-called 'business-friendly' climate the State likes to promote.
The fact is that Texas supports business as long as it's the 'right kind' of business. 'Right kind' being defined as those with pockets deep enough to hire lobbyists and pump large amounts of money into re-election accounts. And yes, I'm including in this group not only the wind-energy industry, but the Oil and Gas industry itself, which receives huge tax incentives which allow it to produce at below-market cost structures.
Texas also lags when it comes to the so-called "gig" economy. From local politicians who are beholden to the hotel and taxicab lobby, stunting the growth of Uber, AirBnB and others, to State and National elected officials who rely on these influential groups to bank-roll their Millions in campaign funds.
In Texas cities routinely try to stifle anti-establishment operations such as food trucks, jitneys and other emerging businesses with little chance of victory for the new businesses. The entrenched order is both well funded, and provided with better access than their newer opponents.
This doesn't mean that successes don't happen. From time to time public outcry leads to common sense prevailing. But too often it doesn't. That's why Houston watched the demise of GoRevGo with some sadness and why workers in several cities don't have the option of hopping over to a local food truck for a quick bite.
In Texas, despite the protestations of our elected officials, the free market is not free. There is an increasingly high barrier to entry. Once you get in, mind you, the perks are legion. More and more municipalities are picking winners and losers through public-private partnerships and, unless you're Amazon, it is relatively easy to develop a business plan that dovetails with a local politician's agenda, which can earn you a tax abatement if you try hard enough.
We are bombarded with stories regarding how the Texas Government, under the leadership of those mean old Republicans, are killing the business climate within the State by refusing to raise taxes to pay for increased Government services. We hear that our future is at stake because we won't take Federal money loaded with an expiration date which will eventually create a huge budget hole to expand Medicare, and we're given the guilt trip that people are coming to this State in an effort to "feed their families" and we won't hold out our entitlement filled hands to them.
What we don't hear enough of is how politicians of all ideological stripes are stifling the ability of everyone to improve economically by rigging the game toward established players. While the free market is not an ends in and of itself the expansion of it's freedom is one part of an overall strategy to help those in need.
Groups like the Chronicle Editorial Board understand that concept when it comes to beer. It's amazing to me that they fail to apply that to the rest of the economy. It would be of benefit to all Texans if they did.