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Compact Dispute Solution: End the Casino Monopoly

With Governor Stitt and Oklahoma’s tribes at loggerheads over the gaming compact, it seems like a good time to reconsider the tribes’ gambling monopoly altogether. While there is only one Las Vegas, Oklahoma is a casino state. And regardless of the dispute between the governor and the tribes or its outcome, Oklahoma will remain a casino state. The question we should ask ourselves is, why should the tribes be exclusively able to operate casinos?
As I understand the history, casino gambling exclusively allowed of tribes in other states arose out of a legitimate need for impoverished reservations to generate some cash flow. Reservations, in my opinion, are basically great big quasi-autonomous concentration camps. In Arizona, where I lived for nearly a decade, I found reservations to be sad, undeveloped, generally poverty-stricken places with a few poorly-exploited natural attractions that tourists could have attended in greater numbers if anybody had the incentive to promote them. It’s ea…

Want to Improve Public Education? Put the Governor at the Top of the Executive Branch.

Whatever your gripe about the state of public education in Oklahoma, don’t tell it to Kevin Stitt. He can do very little about it. That’s not because he doesn’t want to or because he doesn’t have good ideas about how to improve our schools. It’s because our governor lacks the most basic authority needed to shape state education policy: the power to oversee and direct the State Department of Education.

Ditto for a host of other executive branch functions, including law enforcement (Attorney General), regulation of the state’s largest industry (Corporation Commission), scrutiny of agency expenditures (Auditor), management of the public purse (Treasurer), oversight of insurance (Insurance Commissioner) and regulation of labor and employment issues (Labor Commissioner). Each of these executive branch agencies are siloed under separate elected officials who do not answer to the Governor.

Most organization charts display a neat hierarchy of accountable offices forming a chain of command. O…

A Minimum Wage Hike is Bad for Oklahomans - Especially Those at or Near Minimum Wage

Proposed minimum wage hikes have sprung up across the country, and Oklahoma is not immune. Here is why a minimum wage hike will hurt Oklahomans.
What happens when the price of something goes up? Take oil, for instance. As of this writing, the price of oil is just above $59 a barrel. Imagine the Oklahoma legislature set a minimum price for oil, and that number doubled. If gas went from $2.50 a gallon to $5 or more would it change your behavior? Would you drive less? I know I would. This is a basic illustration of the laws of supply and demand. As the price goes up, demand goes down. This is true for oil. People would still have to get to work, but they might rethink that summer road trip. Those who live near the border might drive farther to buy gas from a neighboring state. These same principles hold true for all commodities.
Why wouldn’t it apply just as much to labor? If you have to pay more for each employee-hour worked, wouldn’t you start to cut back on the number of hours you asked…

Is Effective Education Reform Even Possible? The Answer is “Yes.”

Education Reform. Every time a legislature meets in this country, education reform is a topic of discussion. It’s easy to see why. Our schools, especially when you consider the amount of money we spend, don’t do a very good job. It’s really not that hard to casually look around the internet and find that the U.S. ranks in the top five of all nations, year after year, in average per-student spending in public education. Unfortunately, that does not translate into results. Many nations that spend a fraction of what we do outperform us in international academic comparisons. China’s students outperform ours by four grade levels. Oklahoma’s performance is below the national average.
Anybody who knows one or more active public school teachers also knows that most of them work hard. Yes, they get longer holidays than most, and there are those relatively few who do the minimum, but there are the many who are conscientious. The problem is, they are swimming upstream in an institutional system…

Will the United States Supreme Court Stand Up For Lawyers’ First Amendment Rights?

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. Oklahoma law requires attorneys to join and pay dues to the Oklahoma Bar Association in order to practice their occupation. The folly of this this requirement lies not just in the financial burden imposed on lawyers, but in its affront to their First Amendment rights. This is because the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) routinely uses the money it receives in mandatory dues payments to support political causes. As a result, attorneys are forced to subsidize political activity and opinions they may disagree with.

Over the Christmas holiday I filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the United States Supreme Court to weigh in. You can read my brief here.

The case in question involves a North Dakota attorney, Arnold Fleck, who sued North Dakota’s mandatory bar association for using his mandatory dues to engage in the same type of activity the OBA e…

10 New Years Resolutions for Oklahoma

The new year brings with it the promise of new beginnings. A chance to reset. To do better. In that spirit, 1889 offers the following resolutions to policymakers across the state.

1. Reduce occupational licensing This originally read “End (or greatly reduce) occupational licensing ,” but let’s be a little more realistic. If Oklahoma would even start moving the right direction (that is, shrinking the number of occupations for which a license is required, instead of growing it), it would be a huge win for the state. It would improve the overall economy. It would allow more people to find a job they are good at. Government rarely gets a shot at such an obvious win-win.

2. Reduce the number of branches of government to a manageable number. We will follow John Adams ’ lead and suggest only three – legislative, executive, and judiciary – and recommend getting rid of the TSET, the Corporation Commission, and the host of other independent agencies with unelected oversight in Oklahoma. Agencies wi…

‘Tis the Season for Humility

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Christmas is almost here and, being a Christian, this time of year always gets me thinking about the religious aspects of the holiday. The 1889 Institute does not have a religious mission, and so it’s certainly not my purpose here to proselytize. There is an aspect of the larger story of Christmas, however, that all men of all creeds do well to remember and take heed. This is the concept of humility and what it really means.
Whether one considers it myth or historical truth, the Bible teaches that God humbled Himself and came to earth as a man, deigning to be born in a barn to a carpenter’s household and grow up to wear, not a crown of gold and jewels, but one of thorns for the occasion of a tortured, earthly, sacrificial death. Without going into the theological aspects of the story, it is plain that it is, if nothing else, a lesson in extreme humility. Humility is a lesson that has been taught from an…

Eat Your Vegetables: City Council Considers A Well-Disguised Sin Tax

The Oklahoma City Council is considering a well-disguised sin tax. They call it a Healthy Neighborhood Zoning Overlay, but the effect is the same. It limits new dollar stores in the specified neighborhood. The ostensible goal is to create a welcoming environment for grocery stores selling fresh meat and produce. But it accomplishes this goal by giving existing dollar stores a monopoly, which will raise prices, and punish residents for shopping at the purveyors of (allegedly nothing but) junk food, instead of subsisting on fresh, organic kale smoothies like good little citizens.
Why would the Council intentionally restrict the supply of stores where many of their residents buy basic household goods and food? Several possibilities present themselves, though none are sound.
A fundamental misunderstanding of the laws of supply and demand. Economists call the current state of the neighborhood a contestable market: dollar stores choose low prices because the mere potential of competition keeps…