“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help,” President Reagan said in 1986.
Given the rise in politicians calling for bigger government, it’s worth revisiting Reagan’s iconic line that expresses our nation’s unique principles of limited government and free enterprise. These foundational values, however, have begun to crumble under the weight of increased government interference in our daily lives and in the economy—and now lawmakers are trying to expand government’s footprint into private industry.
In many cases, their laws, which sound good on paper, have had adverse effects, causing job losses and slowing innovation. One such example is the so-called “right to repair” laws, which would unnecessarily insert the government into the relationship between farmers, equipment dealers, and manufacturers.
Advocates for “right to repair” legislation, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), would force manufacturers to give away proprietary information under the false notion that farmers need it to fix their equipment. Not only is disclosing this information unnecessary for farmers to fix their equipment, but it undermines and threatens local dealers, most of which are small businesses and job creators for local communities.
Overly broad “right to repair” bills would also allow regulators to force companies to hand over its patented, proprietary technology. The high cost of innovation is a risk companies shoulder to recuperate their investment and to create better, more efficient equipment that requires far fewer repairs.
Without being able to protect their investments, there is no incentive for companies and entrepreneurs to develop and manufacture cutting-edge technology that improves farming operations. In other words, innovation in farming technology has a good chance of slowing down, which hurts the farming industry.
To be clear, we’re not talking about changing a tire on a tractor. Nowadays, tractors have become a farmer’s Tesla, powered by sophisticated technology. A recent New York Times report highlights the need for better farming equipment: “The drive to increase productivity is urgent in all phases of agriculture. Feeding a world population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 faces dire challenges, according to the summary of a United Nations report released in August.”
Naturally, however, the free market has provided a solution when there was a need. As farming technology gets more complex, farmers can rely on highly trained and authorized repair shops to help fix their increasingly high-tech equipment. Or they can fix it themselves, or even use an older tractor or combine – the choice is theirs.
We should be hesitant in supporting laws that expand the scope of bureaucrats and lawmakers, especially under the guise of “helping” one part of the industry at the expense of another. “Right to repair” legislation would give the government more power over the agriculture equipment supply chain and would stifle innovation in farming technology. Instead of passing harmful and unnecessary new regulations, Congress should instead protect and preserve the industry that feeds it.
Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.