So as economists, politicians, civic leaders and economic developers wring their hands in concern about the “eco-system” for entrepreneurs and what to do to encourage them, there comes a typical example of what the state does to destroy them. The Public Service Commission comes out with an announcement of a decision in which they denied a permit to a company that wants to haul garbage in Missoula. This follows the approval of one in Roundup a couple weeks prior.

The question has to be asked, “why?” Why should the state government be picking winners and losers?  Why should they be protecting private sector investment from markets and coercing consumers as to with whom they must do business?
The press release actually states that part of their consideration is the negative impact the competition may have on existing carriers who sit in a monopolistic position.  
Wouldn’t it be great for all businesses, if we were able to have a government board around to screen out the competition?
Actually – no, it would not. Every business out there, that actually deals with competitors, is better for it. But the more important consideration is, so are the consumers. And, that’s who government should serve….the consumers … the citizens! Not to pick favorites among special interest groups.
But, this is one of the greatest sins committed by Montana state government in dealing with entrepreneurship. The state has a long list of laws on the book, the primary purpose of which is to protect established businesses or professionals from competition – that means by definition “killing entrepreneurship.” That has been the mission of many politicians in Montana for a very long time.
In order for taxi services like Uber to enter the state to do business, as they were all over the rest of the country, a company had to file a law suit in Montana. And, fortunately, the court decided in favor of the plaintiff – in favor of consumers – in favor of free markets. In fact, it directed that the state Legislature had to change the law. The legislature tweaked the law, but only minimally so – they left in place as much as possible all the rest of the law that requires the Public Service Commission to protect a host of all kinds of businesses.
Years ago in Billings, an entrepreneur with very limited resources was trying to lift himself up the ladder, by starting a courier service. He told about the huge barrier he faced by having to get permitted by the PSC. Weighing in against him was the established taxi company.
But it isn’t just the PSC and utility and transportation business. The medical business in the state is even more heavily regulated and controlled and much of it is aimed at protecting the status quo. Many kinds of health care businesses must get permission – they must prove “need” — the specific point of which is to make sure they do not compete with established businesses. Any entrepreneurs in these fields will undoubtedly face attorneys representing the prospective competitors testifying to state regulators asking that the application be denied. It has even happened that administrators of government- provided health services testify against allowing the private sector to compete against them. That means that when the private sector wants to provide a service and relieve taxpayers of a burden, government steps in to prohibit them.
And, it doesn’t end there. There is a long, long list of licensing and certification and permitting requirements on all kinds of professions, and service industries which are specifically designed to curb competition, which means to curb entrepreneurship. It is meant to block new businesses, hold back the next generation, deny consumers choice and halt innovation.
Yep. If there is really a desire to advance entrepreneurship in Montana, there is no end to points at which to begin.