Chamber Should Advocate for Business and Commerce

Why is the Montana Chamber of Commerce supporting "growing government" bills?

By Rick Jore

One would think that the Montana Chamber of Commerce, as an advocate for business and commerce, would be inclined toward free market principles and less taxation and regulation by state government in its lobbying efforts in Helena. One would be wrong in that assumption.

The chamber’s “top overall priority” (their words), HB 473, was the largest tax increase in the last session (approximately $56 million in this biennium and more in the next as the tax on motor fuels continues to increase).

Other “growing government” bills the chamber supported included SB 367 (almost $100 million in spending, mostly by authorizing state debt via bonding), HB 270 ($3.7 million increase in spending for certain K-12 programs), HB 185 (establishing a “Montana Promise Grant Program” for certain qualified community college and tribal college students) and several “tax credit” and “tax abatement” bills that negate free market competition by allowing the state to use tax policy to control and manipulate business while granting “favored” status to those who meet the state’s criteria.

Theodore Forstmann had it right in a classic essay he wrote over 20 years ago. He called it The Paradox of the Statist Businessman:

“The statist businessman is, by definition, a lobbyist. Having made his peace with 20th-century collectivism, he is fundamentally concerned with “who gets what” from government’s redistributive powers. He seeks subsidies for himself and penalties and regulations for his competitors. He is the miserable figure Ronald Reagan described as the fellow who hoped the crocodile would eat him last.”

“Lobbyists give a bad name to the things they lobby for. The NEA gives a bad name to education. The AMA gives a bad name to medicine. But the statist businessman does not give a bad name to statism; he gives a bad name to capitalism!”

Rick Jore

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