Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously wrote that “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” And it’s true—taxes are a necessary evil. Taxes are the means by which the government builds roads, employs policemen, and hires teachers. Taxes pay the salaries of our judges, of our game wardens, and of our social workers. Taxes are the lifeblood of government, and like it or not—taxes (and government) aren’t going away.
And that’s ok. It is right and proper for government to enact policies and programs designed to promote public health and public safety. Don’t get me wrong—I think there is plenty of fat across the welfare state that should be cut—but I am for small government, I am not anti-government. Voters have, time and again asked for an administrative state and a welfare state, and for a government that provides economic assistance to both workers and employers.
When government tends to drift away from this basic mission, though, it often does more harm than good, and can even act in ways that run clearly against the public interest. Regulations and special licensing requirements, perhaps benign when viewed in isolation, collectively have a pernicious and real effect on Wisconsin’s economy. What is most troubling is that many seem designed to do little more than fence-out competitors and protect existing businesses.
That is not a proper function of government and it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Government should not take sides in what amount to commercial fights between businesses and various trade groups; we should work to implement pro-market policies.
This is why I am pleased that Speaker-elect Robin Vos has pledged to perform a top-down review of rules and regulations. Far too many occupations and industries are protected by rules that seem to have dubious value and make little economic sense.
The 101st legislature will undoubtedly have a busy calendar, but I am hopeful that we will spend an appropriate amount of time and energy on this important issue. Entrepreneurs across the state deserve to know they will enter into their chosen field on an equal footing. Only then can we truly say Wisconsin is Open for Business.
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