In my five months in the General Assembly, it seems to me that the most interesting dramas occur when long-time business-as-usual collides head-on with new technology that reshapes our economic markets. Rules and policies designed in the 1950s completely miss the finer points of a society built on high technology- kind of a Mad Men meets Amazon story.
Recently, a little known California electric car maker happened to, oddly enough, land squarely in the middle of such a political brawl in the State Legislature.
Tesla Motors makes a product that you could just as accurately call a computer on wheels as an automobile. However you label them, after they sold eighty electric cars in North Carolina over the Internet, the Automobile Dealers Association strolled over to the State Senate and asked its friends to pass a bill saying cars can only be sold through car dealerships.
That left Senators, like Majority Leader Harry Brown, who’s a car dealer, facing a tough question: Do I stand up for my free market ideals – or stand with my friends?
The temptation of helping their friends proved irresistible – free market ideals lost and, in the blink of an eye, the Senate passed a bill to stop Tesla Motors dead in its tracks.
Now the bill (and the Automobile Dealers lobbyists) is headed to the State House to find out how State Representatives respond to temptation.