The Hidden Message of the Music Box


Back before many people trusted the Internet as a medium through which to conduct consumer transactions — or even thought to use it for that purpose — I would periodically travel over the bridge from the University of Rhode Island to Newport to hit the Music Box, a record store on Thames Street.  When searching for recordings of the (sometimes relatively obscure) music I was studying for performance or theory, a trip of that distance was often unavoidable.

Now we’ve reached the point that almost any recording you might want to hear is available instantly on a portable device for a relatively inexpensive annual subscription.  It isn’t difficult to understand why the business model of stores like the Music Box has hollowed out.

As Scott Barrett reports, however, Rhode Island’s pitiless government didn’t make it any easier for the store — which just closed after extending its life by changing its product mix — to survive:

Jay added that operating a business in Rhode Island, and Newport specifically, is getting more and more difficult because of the mounting taxes.

Express, a clothing store located directly next to the Helly Hansen store, also had signs in the window Thursday announcing a going-out-of-business sale. An associate at Express told The Daily News the store will close at the end of the month. Across the street, a pair of stores — The Tourist Trap and Nautical & Nice — had signs on the door that read “Sorry, closed.”

Defenders of Rhode Island’s insider status quo sometimes assert things like, “Businesses don’t go under because the tax rate is a couple percentage points higher,” or, “People move south for the weather, not the tax savings.”  Such arguments, while they may be untrue because too simplistic, make valid points, but they miss the critical point.  Our government shouldn’t be laying sticks on the camel; it should be striving to accomplish what it needs to accomplish with the least amount of disruption possible.

Politicians are terrible at predicting and adequately considering the consequences of their policies.  Rhode Island officials frequently prove they can manage to provide targeted incentives so new businesses can overcome the artificial barriers, but they should be making business easier across the board so legacy businesses like the Music Box can keep humming despite the changing landscape.

  • Maisha Grinn

    “Politicians are terrible at predicting and adequately considering the consequences of their policies.” All, or just the ones who are not you? Please don’t try to say you’re not a politician, just because you are an ineffective one.

    • Justin Katz

      The policies for which I advocate tend to reduce the involvement of government and, therefore, politicians in things. Even while in office, I don’t want policies that would give me more authority to dictate things to other people.

      • Maisha Grinn

        Advocating for the elimination of government and taxes is demagoguery, not democracy. Libertarians are leeches, but noisier. And none of them seem to know how to find a bus station to get them to places which better suit them like TX or AL. (tbh, they can find FL)