Regulation is a frequent topic on this blog, and one of the points I try to make over and over is that most supposedly pro-consumer regulation is in fact put in place to protect incumbents from competition and new entrants. It's worth repeating this Milton Friedman quote:
The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.
Apparently, the NY Times has discovered the phenomenon, and argues that it is accelerating under the Bush administration. I have no evidence to refute this claim, though I note that the NY Times offers no evidence in support of it either.
Never-the-less, it certainly is a feature of most governments to try to protect politically powerful businesses against competitors, foreign and domestic. Basically, the entire German and French economy is built on this practice, which is why the top corporations in these countries in 1960 are still the top companies today, whereas the list has completely turned over in the US. Our economy thrives because of entrepreneurship. New entrants replace senescent competitors, or at least keep the pressure on them so they stay sharp and focused.
This is an enormous issue in my business. My industry is characterized by about 4-5 larger companies that operate many recreation facilities, of which we are one, and hundreds or perhaps thousands of individual operators. Over the last five years, the US and state governments have passes a myriad of rules and regulations that are making it virtually impossible for smaller companies to compete. I don't know if these are being suggested by any of the larger players (they certainly aren't coming from me) but these regulations are serving the purpose of strangling smaller competitors and making it nearly impossible for new entrants to compete.