Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 2 of 6

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[Following up on the first post responding to Aaron Renn’s “toolkit” for Rhode Island policy.]

“2. Is Rhode Island continuously improving at a rate faster than its competitors on a long term, sustainable basis?”

Here, again, the question is generic enough to have some application, but the moment Renn begins to explain, he lapses into a bad metaphor:

A second factor to consider is that it took a long time to get into this situation, and it will take a long time to get out. It’s just like losing weight. There is no silver bullet. There is no quick fix. There is no magic pill. We need to make lifestyle changes over the long term to get us where we want and need to be. As local consultant Kevin Hively once put it, “Rhode Island needs to change its diet, not take a shot of 5hr Energy.” And that’s dead on.

Rhode Island isn’t an organism (no matter how much a central planner and progressive might be inclined to see “it” as one).  Rhode Island is a geography that is home to around one million human beings.  To see how false the analogy is consider that an individual actually does have a quick fix and magic pill to Rhode Island’s problems: to move away.  When it comes to the political hang-ups that keep Rhode Island lashed to the bottom of the barrel, a wave election could completely change the circumstances of the state.  No gradual shift of habits necessary.

That isn’t to say that such a wave would be easy or that any particular wave would necessarily be for the better.  The point is that there are things that could change very quickly, in Rhode Island, that aren’t akin to slowly working off excess fat.  To stick with my two policy examples, a child could have a better educational experience this fall, if his or her parents are empowered to change the educational environment, and shoppers could change their habits and keep more of their money today, if the sales tax were eliminated.

The state is not a person; it doesn’t have a lifestyle that some organic brain must accustom itself to changing.  It has residents who would eagerly change their lifestyles if given the opportunity (perhaps renewing lifestyles that the powers who be have made impossible for them).  The only reason to emphasize gradual change as a general principle is if the first concern isn’t to help the people of the state, but to retain the central planner’s vision of a ruling elite as such an organic brain.

[Read part 3, here.]



  • Mike

    Again. REALISM. Look at the GA. Look at the voting records for the past 50-75 years. Gradual change is so much more likely and something to work for than a radical shift. RI is not going to wake up one day a red state. Impossible. But baby steps? Maybe.

    • _Andrew_

      Perhaps you could explain how cutting the sales tax to either 3% or 0%, is less "realistic" then coming up with some detailed package of tax-breaks and new laws and regulations that will create more "Quonsets" across the state of Rhode Island. Are you saying "realism" is providing opportunities for pols to let their friends in on some government action, as a requirement of getting the law changed? Apart from that consideration, proposals like a sales tax reduction or school choice mentioned in the post aren't any less "realistic" than most of what Aaron Renn has proposed.

      • Mike

        The idea of creating "Quonsets" is his worst idea. I agree that it is both unrealistic and very likely to be a waste of money/ source of corruption.

        But i also don't think it is realistic with this GA or any likely GA in the near future to think you will get any traction on dropping the sales tax to 0% or 3%. It would mean a huge revenue drop for the state, and this GA is just not going to vote for that. Also, it would not have a very large impact. There are already big retail areas in Attleboro, Seekonk, etc. There is not going to be IMMEDIATE interest in developing similar retail in East Providence, Woonsocket, etc. Over 10-20 years, yes, it would boost some border development of retail. But that is just retail which are not the best jobs anyway. And New Hampshire isn't New Hampshire because of no sales tax. They also have no income tax, and are much less generous on social programs, because they actually have a two party system, and more conservative local governments. I think Renn is trying to get closer to that model.

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