SB 4C isn't just about political punishment. It's about Floridian autonomy and stopping a wicked giant.
Finally, someone is willing to take on the Mouse. Disney long has loomed large in Florida and dictated what happens in the Sunshine State. In response to the culture war predations by Disney, Floridian Republicans have finally said 'enough is enough' and successfully pushed through legislation to end Disney’s 55-year-old self-governing powers, in which it rules its humongous Florida properties like an all-powerful baron.
While critics have rightly pointed out that the legislation amounts to political punishment, there are freedom reasons to support this change. Whether it's Disney’s support for authoritarian monsters or their terrible damage to legacy franchises, ensuring Floridian voters’ autonomy and curtailing the Mouse's influence in Florida is a welcome change for everyone but Disney. With Senate Bill 4C, Governor Ron DeSantis has done what would have been seen as impossible even a year ago. Florida managed to tame the Mouse.
For the last half-century, Disney has ruled the roost in the Sunshine State. This cozy relationship began in 1965 when Walt began paying millions for thousands of acres of what was then worthless swampland in the middle of nowhere. Back then, Florida was a fourth the size in population it is now. Today Orange County is huge, with almost 1.5 million people. Still, back then, it barely rose above 250,000, with Osceola County only reaching 19,000. There wasn't the political and technical infrastructure to support a giant amusement park.
This is entirely the point; Disney wanted land and power and wanted it cheap. As outlined in the original 1966 announcement: Walt’s grand ambition wasn't just for another theme park but for the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” or EPCOT, an innovative imagineered community where people would live, work, and play under the auspices of the Walt Disney Corporation.
So, it made sense a year later when Florida gave Disney special autonomy with the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, a kind of unique designation Florida sometimes provides new communities, allowing Disney to run its own police, fire department, and sanitation--plus the tax benefits--but without any of the political oversight.
Once Upon a Time:
For Florida, this Faustian bargain at first looked excellent. Disney is by far the largest employer in the state, annually contributing $75 billion in positive economic impact and almost a billion in tax revenue. Nevertheless, this financial benefit comes at a considerable liberty cost. Florida is basically Disney's plaything. If Disney doesn't want something to happen politically, it doesn't.
Usually, the company plays behind the scenes with its legion of lobbyists, but look at even the hot political issues on which Disney has publicly stuck its nose out in the last decade. Whether it was against expanding spending for disability, allowing gambling, covid restrictions on theme parks, getting cheap labor, or the infamous “textgate” scandal, in which Disney was caught trying to squash the most lukewarm of requirements for employee sick leave, Disney lived according to the ancient proverb: he who pays the piper calls the tune. And the Mouse always called the tune.
Legitimate Criticism and Chesterton Fences:
Brilliant writers like journalist Brad Polumbo or National Review's C.W. Cooke rightfully point out that what is happening here in Florida is political punishment. This behavior mirrors what the Left did with Chick-fil-A and the Georgia heartbeat bills. Cooke claims this is an issue of conservatives taking out Chesterton's fence, meaning removing a political inconvenience without understanding why it was there in the first place. This change sticks in the craw of the spirit of the First Amendment and, as Polumbo writes, might not hold up in court.
I, too, am against the State making broad pronouncements against private actors. However, these thinkers are missing the point. Besides being a punch in the nose to warn other conglomerates from attempting to dictate social policy, Senate Bill 4C enables the genuine libertarian goal of undoing the company's damage to Florida's political autonomy. We know why the fence is there, Disney promised to make a town, and they didn’t hold up their side of the agreement. Furthermore, as conservative Ben Shapiro points out, it’s not like the Right started this fight. But they sure will be the ones to finish it.
Villains Night Out!
In so many ways, the Mouse is a hateful and morally bankrupt corporation.
Over the last 20 years, Disney has sided repeatedly with nasty authoritarian nightmares that rule places like China while attacking and undermining their customers in western democracies. The Mouse supports and censors their content for nations that stone LGBTQ+ people to death. Yet, it dares to claim anyone agreeing with the Parental Rights in Education Bill, a law that says schools shouldn’t teach sex and gender identity concepts to 9-year old's--a view supported by a majority of Democrats--is the worst sort of bigots and homophobes. While Disney held mandatory all-hands conferences about diversity and equity, they put out films like Mulan that thanked the purveyors of concentration camps.
When Disney isn't trying to create content to indoctrinate children for whatever is the progressive message de jour, they are putting out a defective product that is artistically and creatively hollow. Under CEO Bob Iger, Disney hoovered up as much intellectual property as possible, only to release worse versions of those projects.
The Mouse has also majorly screwed up US copyright law and routinely stands in the way of positive reforms on social issues. The Left needs to rethink its support for Disney immediately. Disney claims to support "Black Lives Matter," but that doesn't stop them from opposing criminal justice reform while removing original African American culture from their rides and films. As you can tell, this is a company that will do whatever it takes to make another buck. They have lost their moral authority. So, Floridians and Governor Ron DeSantis think it’s time to stop dancing to the Mouse’s tune.
Well, this change couldn’t have come soon enough.