The business case for Texas does not speak for itself. It may be a great place to be a big oil or petrochemical company, or a politically favored large corporation able to wring out tax concessions. Its state laws are also hostile to unions, and its wage levels are generally lower than in much of the rest of the country. But for the vast majority of businesses, which are small and not politically connected, Texas doesn’t offer any tax advantages and is in many ways a harder place to do business. This is consistent with Census Bureau data showing that a smaller share of people in Texas own their own business than in all but four other states.
Before the 1980s, Texas followed a long, populist tradition that tried to protect family farmers and other small-scale businesses and consumers. Under its 1876 constitution, for example, Texas enacted consumer protections against predatory mortgage lending, with provisions that ironically helped to hold down foreclosures in Texas during the Great Recession. In 1889, Texas became the second state in the country to enact an antitrust law. Two years later, it further pioneered government regulation of big business by establishing the Texas Railroad Commission, which went on to protect wildcatters and other small-scale oil producers by regulating the oil industry in ways that kept outside Goliaths like Standard Oil at bay. But since the 1980s, “pro business” in Texas has more and more come to mean just pro Big Business.