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Anti-Tesla laws In AZ, MI, NJ, and TX nominated for 'Luddite Award'

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Rebecca Cook/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A Tesla S electric car is displayed during the second press day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The nominees for the 2014 ITIF Luddite Awards include four states that passed laws restricting or banning Tesla's showroom-and-online-sales model.

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Awards to dealerships and car-dealer groups are common, and often both appreciated and promoted by their recipients.

A new award nomination that recognizes the work of state dealer lobbyists, however, is not likely to get that appreciation or publicity--at least from dealers in those four states.

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Instead, it's likely to please Tesla owners and advocates, who do not have to buy or shop for their electric cars at a conventional franchised dealership.

That's because the award in question is called the "Luddite Award," after the 19th-century British artisans who protested against industrial progress and the increased use of automated machinery.

The term "Luddite" now generally refers to anyone who rejects progress and modernity, wishing instead to cling to the old ways.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation named 10 nominees for its 2014 ITIF Luddite Awards (PDF) this month, highlighting "a growing array of interests – some economic, some ideological – now stand resolutely in opposition to innovation."

Among them was the following, somewhat unwieldy entry: "Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas Take Action to Prevent Tesla From Opening Stores to Sell Cars Directly to Consumers."

Those are the four states that passed laws last year restricting or banning the showroom-and-online-sales model of electric-car maker Tesla Motors.

Among the other nominees are entries as disparate as France banning Amazon's offer of free shipping on books, the movement against utilities installing "smart meters," a crackdown on AirBnB by New York State, and efforts to curtail or ban ride-sharing by Nevada and Virginia.

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Many of the nominees take advantage of the commercial opportunities offered online and by smartphone apps, but disrupt conventional business models in the process.

Lobbyists for the established businesses are often behind efforts to constrain or ban the new business models.

AirBnB, for instance, lets individual or corporate owners and residents of apartments and homes rent out a place to sleep to strangers.

But it lets travelers circumvent the considerably more expensive, and far more regulated, hotel and motel industry.

Ride-sharing similarly cuts into the commercial taxi business, as does Uber, another disruptive business.

And that appears to be the concern of the lobbyists for state dealer groups: Any alternative to the franchised dealership model potentially threatens the now-legally-mandated insertion of a third-party business (the dealership) between a manufacturer (the carmaker) and a customer for its product (the car buyer).

ITIF writes in its nomination, "It is clear that these state laws are designed to protect franchise dealers at the expense [of] innovation and competition. State lawmakers should look out for the best interests of consumers and overall productivity, not protect the business model of auto dealers.

Any member of the public can vote for their choice of the single "most egregious anti-innovation action/proposal of the year."

The overall winner will be announced on February 5th.

The ITIF's report concludes: 

While we can’t stop the Luddites from engaging in their anti-progress, anti-innovation activities, we can recognize them for what they are: actions and ideas that are profoundly anti-progress, that if followed would mean our children will live lives as adults nowhere near as good as the lives they could live if we instead embraced, rather than fought, innovation.

Over to you for rebuttal, car-dealer lobbyists.