Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2019

Played for Chumps: The Waste and the Trap that Is MAPS 4

If you own a business and an employee constantly shows incompetence, are you likely to give that incompetent a raise, or promote him to a management position? Obviously, there’s no way. Yet, this is what Oklahoma City’s residents are being asked to do, by passing a 1-cent sales tax for a fourth round of Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS). These are projects that have a history of being seen, but not really making much of a positive difference in most Oklahoma City residents’ lives. Oklahoma City’s voters should politely decline the “opportunity.” Oklahoma City’s government often demonstrates incompetence in providing basic city services. Take traffic management, for example. There was a period of time when my own commute on Northwest Expressway was interrupted repeatedly – three times in one week at one point – by malfunctioning traffic lights. The flashing lights turned a controlled intersection into a 4-way stop and traffic on the Expressway backed up for almost a mile, unexpecte

Measure Government Success by Effectiveness and Efficiency, not Effort

If Oklahoma wants to be a top 10 state , it is critical that its goals be clearly defined. Metrics used to measure that status must be selected carefully, and reasonably calculated to measure those things that actually make a state a good place to live. A state might pride itself on being first in the nation in hummingbirds per capita, but that is unlikely to appeal to any but the most avid birdwatchers. It is also important for a government to focus on those things it can control. The waterfalls of Yosemite, the majesty of the Grand Canyon, and the sands of Daytona Beach all make their home states attractive, but the governments of those states have nothing to do with the appeal, other than making them accessible. The methods used must also be appropriate to the ends sought. Even being the healthiest state in the country would be unattractive, if it were accomplished through a rigid be-healthy-or-be-jailed regime.   Oklahoma should strive to maximize economic opportunity, cre

To Save the Oklahoma Judiciary, We Must Reform It

Last month, 1889 Institute published my study on the unfortunate state of the separation of powers in Oklahoma government, describing a state Supreme Court that too often acts as though it is a super legislature, in the business of enacting legislation rather than what it is supposed to do. The court should be a neutral arbiter, applying the laws passed by the actual Legislature to cases that come before it. Instead, the Court appears to first determine the policy result it seeks and then dream up the arbitrary legal reasoning necessary to justify that result. The Oklahoma Legislature is not required to sit idly while the Oklahoma Supreme Court usurps the Legislature’s constitutional authority. It can—and should—act to rein in the Supreme Court. In fact, legislators have a responsibility to jealously guard their own institutional power. After all, we sent them to the Capitol as our representatives. Legislators can no more shrink from their responsibility to exercise their cons

Why I Am Not Pro-Business

Most who consider themselves conservative, even many with libertarian leanings, are comfortable with describing themselves as pro-business. Not me. Don’t get me wrong. Just because I’m not pro-business doesn’t mean I’m anti-business. I’m pro-free enterprise, but that’s different from being pro-business. Chambers of Commerce across the nation are pro-business. They are established to represent their various business members, with large corporations usually the most influential amongst their numbers. Chambers of Commerce almost always favor measures that subsidize businesses, give special tax breaks to businesses, or exempt businesses from regulation, even when these measures favor only specific industries. Here is one example. Pro-business interests favor special discretionary funds at the state and local levels that are used to pay businesses to locate within the government’s jurisdiction. Often called “closing funds,” they allow the ruling class to take credit for cr

The Problem of Diffuse Costs and Concentrated Benefits

Do you ever find yourself observing a seemingly illogical government program , spending decision, or other strange practice and ask “how is it that no one has fixed that?” If you are like me, you encounter this phenomenon regularly. This often takes the form of a curious headline (Save Federal Funding for the Cowboy Poets!) that most people see and can’t believe is real. I would like to suggest that this phenomenon often results from the problem of diffuse costs and concentrated benefits. To understand this concept, consider a hypothetical law that assessed a $1 tax on everyone in the United States with the proceeds to be given to one individual for unrestricted use as he sees fit. The people harmed by such a law—the individual taxpayers—will not be very motivated to spend the time and effort to convince Congress to change the law. They might resent the dollar taken from them for a silly cause they don’t support, but the lost dollar isn’t worth the trouble of doing something about i

Spending It Like They Stole It

When does government have the right to spend taxpayer money? Or perhaps, more pressingly, when should the government be forbidden from spending taxpayer money?   1889 Institute has previously written on the issue - developing five questions that should be asked before any government entity spends a single dime. These questions are:   1. Is a program or agency consistent with the mission of Oklahoma’s state government? This purpose was spelled out in our state constitution : “Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Secure and perpetuate liberty (notice this is the first order of business). Secure just and rightful government (not any government, not the domino of the majority over the minority - just and rightful). Promote (not provide, ordain or e

School Teachers Begging for Basics

What if a hospital’s administrators regularly told surgeons to make do without bandages, with dull scalpels, and little to no anesthetic while claiming tight finances? With all the money hospitals have , there would be questions about the administrators’ competence and possibly audits to look for malfeasance. Something like this needs to happen at Oklahoma City Public Schools. My wife is a teacher working in the Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) system. Last year, she came home telling me how there was no paper available for the notoriously few and regularly broken, undersupplied duplicating machines at her school. What’s more, there was no plan for the district to provide any. In the past, she was told, a parent had donated paper to that particular campus, but that parent had transferred his child to a private school. The school had surplus paper from previous years, but that was gone. There were no plans for the district to provide more. Now, I am well aware that educatio

A Waste of Talent; A Loss of Opportunity: Mandating Excessive Credentials

Governor Stitt recently had a second candidate he wanted to appoint to an administrative position hit a statutory road block . His candidate to head the Oklahoma State Department of Health doesn’t have at least a master’s degree in science. This, and another a mandate requiring an advanced degree for anybody acting as secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, were placed in law by the legislature (and, of course, a governor signed the law). Governor Stitt’s candidates for these offices are well-qualified in experience and temperament, but the law dismisses them outright. Thus, the question to ask is not why Governor Stitt isn’t finding people with advanced degrees to head agencies. The right question is, “Why did a law with degree requirements get passed in the first place?” The answer is that we, as a society, have come to think university-granted degrees are far more valuable than they actually are. The consequence is that college degrees are often demanded in order t