As Rhode Islanders hear about the latest ideas for economic development percolating among their elected and appointed officials, whether minor-league baseball parks or big bucks for a Commerce Czar, Kevin Williamson looks to Maine for an important reminder:
When some lobbyists for a business interest—any interest group, really—come to the state capitol and tell you that they have a tremendous new idea that will create jobs-jobs-jobs-jobs-jobs, grow the tax base and get voters off the backs of citizen-legislators, listen carefully to see if the next sentence is: “All you have to do is to give us a tremendous amount of money.”
As the poker players say: If you don’t know who the sucker at the table is . . .
Perhaps Maine’s legislators were thinking to themselves: “Financiers and their lobbyists are well-known for their selflessness and their sense of public duty—surely they would not lead us astray!”
If so, they should stop thinking that.
In Maine, as Williamson says, “legislators put millions of dollars into a deal that they did not understand.” Rhode Island is a leading example of legislators attempting to micromanage an economy that they don’t understand — that it is actually impossible for anybody to understand well enough to direct.