Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 4 of 6


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

“4. Is Rhode Island moving toward or away from the right balance between consumption vs. investment spending?”

This is essentially a restatement of point number 1, but it’s worth highlighting the increased emphasis on the notion of a brain trust managing the state.  Here’s Renn talking about maybe shifting spending from some of our higher-than-elsewhere social service spending to deal with such things as our worse-than-elsewhere infrastructure:

… whatever your take, you should come up with a point of view on the right balance, and evaluate policies based on how they adjust the dials towards or away from that target balance.

I certainly wouldn’t argue with the suggestion that more of the resources already collected by state and local governments should be devoted to things that are more immediately within their appropriate role (that is, roads rather than subsidies), but even Renn’s examples illustrate the pick-and-choose nature of competing priorities.  He pits “human services” against “infrastructure” and “higher education.”  Surely, entrepreneurial types might replace “higher education” with “economic development,” and “human services” can be broken out more granularly.

The key question, however, is who the “you” is who decides.  Who gets to define the “target balance”?

I’d argue that taking the principle of a “right balance” seriously would require us to admit that it’s up to the people of Rhode Island to determine that balance.  Bob Plain likes to taunt me on NBC 10 Wingmen by declaring that Rhode Islanders don’t agree with me on things like social services, but if that’s the case, why does the state government have to act as a confiscatory middleman between us and all of the good things that we want to do?

There’s evidently an exclusionary layer of “yous” whose “point of view” defines the “right balance.”

[Read part 5, here.]

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