By Bradley Harrington
“When plunder becomes a way of life, men create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” — Frederic Bastiat, “Economic Sophisms,” 1848 —
“Economic development” is the new buzz phrase for all and sundry in Wyoming these days — and why not? After all, as growth, who could be against it but the most uncultured, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal?
Local politicians of every stripe and in every race all seem to support it. Local groups, from Cheyenne LEADS to the Cheyenne Greater Chamber of Commerce to Visit Cheyenne, all state their plans to bring it about.
And, of course, most crucially, local government bodies, from the Wyoming Business Council to the county commissions to the City Councils to Cheyenne’s own Downtown Development Authority, all trip over themselves in their willingness to hand out tax dollars to fund it.
To bad for everybody that the entire sham, on every shoddy level, is nothing more than a scam and none of it will ever result in even one copper penny’s worth of true economic development.
And the key to understanding how so many people can be so wrong? To realize that when “economic development” proponents utter that phrase, they do not mean the same thing we think of when we hear it.
When we hear “economic development” we think of things like increased production, more wealth and a better standard of living. Indeed, the very definition of “economic development” is: “An increase in the amount of goods and services produced per capita over time.” (“Webster’s Dictionary.”)
So, if Mr. Smith, for example, decides to invest his surplus earnings into a business adventure that ends up turning a profit, “economic development” has been achieved because there are now more goods, services and wealth available in the economy than existed prior to Mr. Smith’s investment.
So far, so good … But, is the “economic development” being pushed by organizations such as the Wyoming Business Council or the DDA of that nature?
Hardly. Whereas Mr. Smith’s voluntary investments produce new wealth, what these bodies do is simply steal the money they need from some people, at the point of a gun, and give it to people or groups they deem worthy instead.
In the marketplace, it is the choices of the consumers that determine who succeeds, who fails and what products are available for purchase and consumption. In this kind of government-sponsored “economic development” fiasco, however, market forces are overridden in favor of … political cronyism. What a surprise.
But here’s the rub: Since those dollars were extracted forcefully, the most they can ever do is fill the original hole created by their confiscation. The recipients of those plundered dollars are forever being touted in glitzy press releases as “creating jobs” … But, what about the jobs lost by the act of theft itself? You know, in the sectors of the economy where that wealth would have been spent if it had been left alone?
This means, of course, that no matter what “economic development” proponents decide to spend their loot on, their net contribution to the economy will always be: Zero. (It is, in fact, a net loss, as plundered dollars will never generate the wealth they would have created if they would have been left in place to seek their best rates of return.)
So, armed with the facts, we are now in a position to be able to state that as long as the “economic development” plans of our “leaders” are rooted in taxation, they can never do anything other than kill production and growth.
What, then, just out of curiosity, would be the way to actually achieve the desired ends?
As a clue, remember that true economic development is rooted in the existence and employment of individual surplus wealth, not immediately needed for consumption, as it is applied to investment.
Remember, also, that wealth-creation is an individual affair, and occurs naturally in the absence of impediments to production.
It is government policies of taxation, wealth-redistribution and regulation, therefore — proven obstacles to wealth-accumulation — that are the root of the problem, and your desired level of economic development will take place just as fast as those shackles are removed.
So, the question bears asking: Where do these “economic development” scammers get off, stuttering about their plans for “growth,” when it can be easily demonstrated that such plans, when enacted, invariably result in decreased production, less wealth and a lower standard of living?
That’s easy enough … They are counting on your ignorance, confusion and apathy. Particularly your ignorance. And that’s something you can change any time you feel like it.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on July 15, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.