Monday, June 17, 2024
Consumer ProductsPoliticsTech

DeSantis, 1: Florida Law Enforcement: $200 Million In The Hole

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ever on the move to try and upstage the former president of the United States before the latter goes to prison, has been on a tear lately, trying to fight against the woke agenda (whatever that is), battling one of the largest employers (and the largest tourism destination) in his state for them being too progressive as a company, and, most recently, placing a bunch of restrictions on technology for public agencies in the name of fighting those reds in China. The latest victim in this? Surveillance drones, particularly those by law enforcement. Why? Well, they’re made in China, of course! And everything from China must be stopped.

Fighting The Communists By Intervening In The Free Market

Republicans these days are obsessed with little other than culture wars (fighting against the evil transes [sic]!), book bans (defunding whole libraries), and fighting the “woke agenda,” whatever that is. One popular target these days is the “China Communist Party,” or “CCP.” A colleague explained this to me: calling it the “People’s Republic of China” would emphasize elements of humanity and Republicanism, both of which might make the pseudocommunist superpower either seem too human or too close to, well, Republicans. Referring to the “Chinese” would humanize the party by using the demonym, the same as how Republicans refer to the “Democrat Party” instead of the “Democratic Party.”

Thus the terminology has morphed into referring to the “China Communist Party” to try and rally support against “Communism Bad.”

Drones are a good target because they’re, well, often made in China, along with other consumer electronics. Most estimates suggest that somewhere in the realm of two thirds of all consumer electronics do in fact come from the country, including the likes of the Apple iPhone, of which China produces a couple hundred million each year. Republicans have lamented the offshoring of jobs– largely through policies they themselves facilitated in pushing the “race to the bottom”- and now folks like DeSantis, desperate for some airtime on the national stage, is prepared to go to extreme lengths to fight back. Or to fight, well, something.

Buy American Drones (That Don’t Really Exist)

The ban on Chinese-made drones means that law enforcement agencies have to, well, buy new drones. And those drones must be American-made. How many drones are American-made? Well, very few, and the ones that do exist? Not super popular with the police folk, according to one department that cited a far higher rate of failures and defects since they were forced to make the switch. The rate of failures has nothing to do with the country of origin in this case per se– DJI is a hi-tech, mature company with hi-tech quality control and world class technology, as, I’m sure, are many American manufacturers- but rather everything to do with a product line from a company that’s not suited to deal with the same demands.

Especially all of a sudden. There is a little thing that helps companies figure this out called a “market” (you may have heard of it)– the venue through which products are sold, and through which information is exchanged alongside money, to guide product development and refinement, and so on. Markets typically do not respond well to being pushed aggressively. Or, you know, to the State swooping in and saying, “hey, companies, I know the market demands that you do this one thing, but we’d like you to do something completely different!”

Thus is the lesson of why free market capitalism is more efficient at allocating resources than are centrally planned or “command” economies! In this case, the centrally planned economy is the People’s Peninsular Republic of Florida. Because Ron DeSantis doesn’t like the Chinese and thinks the grandstanding of pretending any Chinese company is in bed with central Party leadership might be good for his stumbling political career, Florida law enforcement agencies are now going to have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to replace their drone fleets, which are used for a variety of activities including reconnaissance, surveillance, crowd control, and more. But hey, beating the libs costs some money, right?!

Unpopular, Anti-Market Moves

It’s not a popular move for the Florida governor, who has been looking to challenge Donald Trump as the former president pushes for a 2024 presidential run by maintaining a platform even farther to the right of the candidate that a clever pundit once called a “junior varsity fascist.” One news source reported on plenty of pushback, even among Florida Republicans, who say that the justification was weak to nonexistent:

[Florida State Senator Tom] Wright said DeSantis didn’t provide much — if any — evidence that DJI drones pose a security risk. He sponsored a bill this session to push back the state’s deadline and give police more time to replace their Chinese-made drones, but it hasn’t received a hearing.

DJI, for its part, had provided a lengthy statement indicating that If you could go back to the Republicans of the Reagan era and tell them that the hallmark of one of the 2024 presidential frontrunners in their own party was that he waged a successful campaign to intervene in the free market to force law enforcement agencies to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money with no justification, they might have assumed you were nuts. Describing the scenario myself, I wonder if I am as well. Ours is a bizarre timeline. Maybe it’d be the right time to try and get a good deal on a DJI Mavic Pro, though!

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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