The Luddites of Competition

By Bill Moore

Interview with Information Technology and Innovation Foundation president Rob Atkinson on the publication of a 10-signatories letter calling for an end to laws that restrict the sale of electric vehicles directly to consumers.

As more and more of the textile industry in Britain industrialized in the late 18th century, the skilled artisans who wove beautiful fabrics and knitted hosiery by hand saw their trade and family incomes fading away, replaced by bleak, low-wage factory jobs. By the early 1800s, angry workers where engaged in targeted acts of destruction, smashing machinery at various mills in the English Midlands, as a way to protest their increasingly harsh working conditions.

Over time, the term Luddite, the origin of which is uncertain, came to refer to anyone who supposedly objected to or resisted progress, especially in technology from the 19th century onward. Today, it is being applied to car dealership organizations and state legislatures, among others, who are using their economic and political clout to effectively protect their monopolies and, one could argue, campaign contributions. The organization making that claim is a Washington, D.C. think tank called the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, whose president is Rob Atkinson.

ITIF recently released a letter on behalf of 10 signatory organizations across the American political spectrum that calls for an end to laws that hamper commerce and stifle innovation by restricting manufacturers from the direct sale of automobiles to consumers. Here is a link to the full text of the letter, dated February 16, 2015. At the moment, the main target of these laws is Tesla Motors, which is currently limited on where it can sell or even show its award-winning electric cars to potential buyers. Quite a few states, includingTexas and Michiga, make it as hard as possible for potential buyers to acquire cars from the Silicon Valley EV maker.

As a result, these strange bedfellows, which include pro-business libertarians funded by the Koch Brothers and environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, collectively agreed that they…

"… oppose efforts by state legislatures or regulatory commissions to forbid car manufacturers from opening their own stores or service centers in order to deal directly with consumers. Such laws are unnecessary for consumer protection, interfere with competition and efficient distribution, increase costs to consumers, and mount barriers to the introduction of innovative and beneficial new technologies."

The signatory organizations include the following: American Antitrust Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (“C.A.R.S.”), Environment America, Institute for Justice, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Mackinac Center, Sierra Club – National.

The letter concludes:

"The diversity of perspectives represented in the coalition signing this letter reflects the importance of this issue on multiple fronts. We call on legislators, governors, and other public servants across the political spectrum to take a stand against laws that block direct automotive distribution to the detriment of innovation, the economy, consumers, and the environment."

After seeing the letter, the first question that came to mind is: How does one pull together such a politically diverse coalition? To find the answer to that question and a number of follow-up ones, EV World talked, via Skype, with Mr Atkinson from his office above K Street in Washington, D.c., the video of which is featured below in two segments. You can also read the foundation's 2014 Luddite Awards here.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Times Article Viewed: 4976
Originally published: 03 Mar 2015


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