Letting the Private Sector Go Where It Needs to Go


Those of us here in the corner of Rhode Island that’s like a beachhead into Massachusetts are watching the south end of Fall River reverse its seemingly inevitable decline and revive.  A Herald News editorial spots a lesson:

If this rapid movement teaches us anything, it’s that the free market is stubborn. It goes where it wants to go, not where it is told to go.

For decades, Fall River has been trying to “revitalize” downtown. Results have been mixed, but we certainly haven’t seen the rapid movement downtown that we’re seeing in the South End, despite repeated promises from mayor after mayor and a snow drift of studies paid for by the taxpayer.

We’ve seen this in Tiverton, with the town’s would-be planners longing for an active downtown in the north end of town while blocking any kind of development elsewhere.  And we see it in the entire economic development philosophy of Rhode Island.  Rather than announcing that the state is changing its control-your-life ways and letting the economy flourish where there is opportunity, officials announce that there is taxpayer money on offer for anybody who is willing to play ball with insiders.

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On the local level, one can understand (even while disagreeing) why folks who live in a relatively small town would work to preserve the scenery, even if their only benefit is driving by it from time to time.  Rhode Island goes well beyond that sort of preservation, however, to the point of insisting that only a future that meets with the central planners’ approval is worth having. The end result is more likely to be that they don’t get what they want (because it’s fantasy), while those who know how to game the system thrive.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have always wondered how the idea arose that if you live in a town you somehow acquire a right to control development beyond your property lines. I will spare you the ridiculous “discussions” I have gotten into with Planning Board Agents. Unfortunately they are not elected. Worse, the elected members tend to defer to the agent because he “is a professional”. That means he controls the votes of the elected board. I was once chided by an agent for not being an engineer. I asked if he was one, knowing he was not. My chances of that proposal ever passing evaporated. Twenty years later, he still glares at me.

    I am thinking of a Cumberland Farms c-store/gas station that I avoid. Although it meets all of the planning/zoning requirements, it is quite simply treacherous to navigate thorough the parking lot.