Republicans claim to be in favor of free markets, but their actions speak louder than their words. For example, in North Carolina a bill sponsored by Republican state senator Tom Apodaca was just approved by the senate commerce committee, and is now ready for a vote, which would prohibit electric car maker Tesla from selling cars in the state. Why? Because Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers, rather than going through car dealerships. The bill doesn’t specifically mention Tesla, even though it is clearly aimed at them. It instead prohibits any car maker from selling direct (Tesla is the only car maker who sells direct).
What North Carolina is trying to outlaw is disintermediation, better known as “cutting out the middleman”. Disintermediation is what stores like Costco and Sam’s Club do, selling wholesale direct to consumers instead of forcing them to buy retail. It is also what internet companies like Amazon, Priceline, Shutterfly, Petmed, and Flowers.com do.
Unsurprisingly, the bill is backed by the NC Automobile Dealers Association, who claim that dealers are necessary, saying “The whole point of the retail system is to protect the consumer.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt protected by car salesmen.
Texas (and other states) already has a law restricting Tesla’s business model. In that state, the showrooms that Tesla has set up to allow potential customers to see their electric cars are prohibited not only from actually selling the cars, but they cannot even discuss the price nor offer test drives. Instead, after seeing (but not driving in) the cars, the consumer must go home and order the car online. But if the NC bill becomes law, consumers would not even be allowed to do that, so there is no way they could buy a Tesla car in the state.
When businesses ship jobs overseas to increase profits, the GOP just says that’s a free market. But when a company like Tesla tries to bypass a powerful group with lobbyists, it is a completely different story. Unsurprisingly, the NC Automobile Dealers Association gave the maximum contribution allowed by NC law to senator Apodaca.
So maybe they don’t hate free markets. They just love campaign contributions more.