Know Their Love for Innovation by Their Actions


Rhode Island politicians like to give lip service to making the state a hub for technology companies, but they seem to think that means encouraging interactions between groups that can only survive with government subsidies, mainly because of (and by means of) government’s imposition of high barriers to entry and costs of doing business.  The secret to generating new industries in Rhode Island is to lower costs so all variety of businesses can afford experiment (without government approval, as expressed through the subsidies) and reduce restrictions on what they’re permitted to do.

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse and Taxpayer Protection Alliance Senior Scholar Drew Johnson highlight a great example in today’s Providence Journal:

Fortunately, the free market recently developed a way to bypass the optometrists’ office. New technology — known as “ocular telemedicine” — allows consumers to accurately measure their prescription strength on a smartphone or computer screen from the comfort of their own homes. A board-certified ophthalmologist then emails a vision prescription based on the results.

Patients can then use that e-prescription to purchase lenses or glasses wherever they choose, typically at much lower prices. With this technology, healthy adults only need to visit a brick-and-mortar eye doctor once every two years for a full eye health exam (as recommended by the American Optometric Association) instead of every time a lens refill is needed.

Naturally, entrenched interests have pushed for legislation to halt (or at least slow down) such innovations, and of course, some Rhode Island legislators are answering the call… no doubt with entirely selfless reasons.  It’s funny how protecting people from themselves so often seems to profit somebody else, at least when it comes to regulations.

Can we stop that sort of behavior, please?  Why not just let people figure out how to provide other people what they want?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Nothing new here. review the sate laws of the various states concerning licensing of various types of health professionals. If not actually identical,you will be struck by the similarity. Could that be happenstance?
    There is a name in economics for those who seek economic gain by lobbying the government for advantageous regulation, they are called “rent seekers”.

  • Honesty Broker

    Entrenched interests trying to halt innovation? Sounds like the the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, and the libertarian agenda in general.

    Maybe you should take a look at money=speech, Citizen’s United, and McCutcheon if you really wanted to address the issue. If there is money in politics then there is NO free market.

    But I guess it’s easier to whine and nitpick about these things at the local level while your friends do the exact same thing but at a much grander scale across the country.

    (BTW – I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your piece – just pointing the cherry-picking going on here while the real issues are conveniently avoided…)

    • Justin Katz

      You’re halfway there. To the extent there is government in the market, there is no free market, and the money in politics is only there to the extent that it can affect the market. Blocking people acting as corporations from publishing their political views is the shortcut to tyranny, even if you might not like the initial groups targeted for censorship.

      To respond to your petty insult: I focus local because I think one can have more effect locally. That’s another thing that serves the entrenched interests: getting us all to be a disorganized mob attacking big organizations at the federal level rather than acting locally where we actually have a shot of counterbalancing the powerful.