Duff O'Melia

Johnston Country to Own and Operate Convenience Stores

Our property taxes here in Johnston County were just raised by 32%. The reason? Officials have determined that we need more convenience stores in the county. This is the first time that the county will own and operate convenience stores. Officials are promising fair prices and they say they won’t engage in price “gouging” tactics long practiced by the greedy capitalists currently running stores such as Circle K.

Some are arguing that this policy is crazy. Some say we should let the market participants compete with each other to provide the best value to consumers. Some argue that there are a ton of folks who don’t even shop in convenience stores. Why should they have to subsidize those who shop there? Some say this will hurt existing stores since they won’t be subsidized. Others say that government involvement in an industry brings down the quality of the entire industry simply because it becomes less competitive.

The truth of the matter is that the policy is crazy. In fact, I made the whole thing up. There are no plans for Johnston County to run convenience stores. Why the ruse? Why make up such a story?

Well, did you think the policy was crazy? For all the reasons I brought up? One of the reasons it seems crazy is that the government has never been involved in the convenience store business. Once a government gets involved, people get used to it and it starts to seem normal. Before you know it, we can’t imagine a world where the government wasn’t performing that function.

The whole point is this – aren’t most government functions like this? Let’s take government schools. If government involvement in convenience stores brings down the quality of the entire convenience store industry, wouldn’t it do the same to schools? What about the folks with no children? Why do we think it’s acceptable to forcibly take their money to pay for a school system they’re not using? Doesn’t a competitive market provide the most value to consumers? Have we already gotten to the point where we can’t imagine a world without government schools?

I know what some are thinking – what about the children? Don’t you care about the children? Yes, I do. That’s why I think government schools shouldn’t exist. I think that a truly market driven non-subsidized school system would do the most good for the most children.