Editor, The Beacon:

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years, there’d be a shortage of sand.” — Milton Friedman

This observation by the recipient of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences has been a guiding principle for the hands-off approach that governs conservative political and economic thought.

Although there are, of course, exceptions to every rule, the aim of conservative governance is to allow the free market to work its magic largely free of interference by government. It was the driving force behind the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District to allow Disney to oversee land use, and assume responsibilities for waste treatment, utilities, roads, bridges, fire protection, emergency-medical services and environmental services on the land where the Disney World Resort is located. It also helped that it saved Disney billions in taxes through the years.

This was all thrown out the window by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his lackeys, when they decided it made sense to punish Disney for the company’s reluctance to line up with the governor’s approach to legislation on how gender and sexuality should be taught in school.

The punishment? Get rid of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. But there are problems. Huge problems. The legislation failed to address the question of who is responsible for paying back the estimated $1 billion in municipal debt carried by the taxing district.

Now what? No one knows, because no one bothered to tackle these issues before trying to feather their nests politically by supporting a very incomplete and regressive piece of legislation.

In fact, the situation is so incredibly screwed up that one of the bill’s sponsors is considering re-establishing a watered-down version of Reedy Creek to unwind this mess.

Putting the confusion of the bond payment aside, the taxpayers in surrounding counties are looking at a potential tax increase of more than $2,000 per family to cover the costs for public services currently paid for by Reedy Creek.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has said that taking over those responsibilities would be “catastrophic” for his county’s budget.

Back to Milton Friedman and sand. Gov. DeSantis is a poster boy for Friedman’s observation about the dangers of injecting government into the workings of the free enterprise system.

In this case, it isn’t sand that would disappear. DeSantis’ sloppily written and regressive legislation threatens the 80,000 jobs Disney provides, and the estimated $18.2 billion a year in economic activity generated by the company.

And that ain’t hay.

John Bethel



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