Surveying Government Planners Won’t Help

The State of Oregon is sending a survey to economic and community development “practitioners,” including city managers, county executives, elected officials, and local business owners. It asks what economic development projects the state should take on.

A state spokesman says, “We want stories and experiences and recommendations on how to get better.” Given that “free money” is always welcome, the inevitable huge response surely will be taken as a sign that finally the state can make the proper decisions about how to invest other people’s money, namely the taxpayers’.

Milton Friedman once said: “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” When it’s your money, you make the best decisions you can because you not only reap the rewards, but you bear the losses when things don’t work out. However, when government officials spend taxpayer money, they simply don’t have the same incentives. They may have every intention of doing a good job, but whether they do or not they don’t personally earn the profits or suffer the losses. They simply send out another survey and try again some other time.

The best way to improve the economy of our state is to remove government planners from our personal and business lives. Then watch as our own freely made decisions in a self-organizing society and free-market economy do what they always do—cause our economy to flourish, grow, and create the kinds of progress central planners can never achieve.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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