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New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Many think of crony capitalism as the source of all problems we face as a nation. They are not entirely wrong.

Take the domestic aluminum industry for instance. Despite the taxpayer investment, producers are losing their share of the market. Without freedom to compete, members of the industry take part in political games, using their influence with state governments and Washington politicians to beg for privileges that no other aluminum producers enjoy. The result? Major trouble for the consumer, employer, and worker.

Aluminum

In America, there are three companies that produce primary aluminum. Alcoa is the largest producer, operating multiple primary plants in New York, Washington, Indiana, and Texas.

In early November 2015, Alcoa announced that it would have to permanently close its Massena West smelter in New York. At the time, town supervisor Joe Gray said that the jobs Alcoa would take away if the smelter closed would be “next to impossible to replace,” considering the aluminum giant has been the major employer in the region for quite some time.

By late November, however, a deal was reached and the upstate New York smelting plant was saved. What happened? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a $69 million incentive package that benefited Alcoa. At least 600 jobs were saved.

The plan was backed by Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made the announcement at the Alcoa plant in Massena. As union bosses celebrated the special relationship between the New York government and industry leaders, the incentives weren’t widely criticized, mainly because tax incentives aren’t seen as handouts by many. Instead, people often believe that tax incentives are good.

During the announcement event, Cuomo claimed that the incentives plan “is the state’s way of stepping up.” Yet none of those present were able to criticize the existing red tape that makes it so hard for companies to function in America in the first place.

If the cost of doing business in the country was not an obstacle, more competitors would fill up the gap, and cheap aluminum coming from China would have a hard time staying relevant. Instead of working to remove red tape and help all entrepreneurs and existing businesses to flourish, the state decided to give one group access to privileges that others in the same industry simply do not enjoy.

But as Alcoa enjoys the $30 million it got from the New York incentive package, things continue to look bad for the aluminum producers and its employees. Except now, the issue is not New York, it’s Indiana.

According to IndyStar.com, southwestern Indiana residents are now concerned that the Alcoa smelter in their state will shut down, shedding 600 jobs in the process. Early in January 2016, Alcoa announced it would be closing its Warrick Operations smelter by the end of March. This is a “major economic event,” said Warrick County Chamber of Commerce director Shari Sherman. But to Alcoa, the shutdown makes sense because the Indiana facility is not “competitive.” Meaning the cost of keeping it open is a burden.

The facility has been operating in Indiana for the past 55 years. As the smelter closes, multiple families brace for the impact. As workers struggle, so do companies that are finding it much harder to compete. The issue? They have a hard time covering the costs of doing business in America.

If workers and consumers are serious about seeing fewer job losses in their states and more prosperity, they’d be urging lawmakers to cut the red tape, not backroom deals.

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Can I force you to learn something?
The Young Statesman (then 12): No. You can not.
Me: So, if I sat you down and did chemistry lessons with you and threatened to….
You can't force someone to learnYS: Take something away?
Me: Yes. Take something away. If I threaten to take something away if you don’t do well on a chemistry test I give you will that make you learn it?
YS: I’ll learn it, I’ll spit it out, and then I’ll forget it.
Me: Isn’t that learning?
YS: No. That isn’t learning. That’s wasting time.
Me: What if I gave you an incentive to do well on a chemistry test. Will that make you learn it?
YS: If I don’t want to learn it, I won’t learn it. I’ll just memorize it, spit it back out at you, and forget it.
Me: What about subjects that are important?
YS: Important to whom?
Me: To many adults.
YS: Does that mean it’s important to me? If I don’t want to learn it, I will not learn it.
Me: Some people say if you don’t learn a thing when you’re young then that field will be closed to you when you’re older.
YS: Like what?
Me: We could say science. If you aren’t exposed to science when you’re young….
YS: You won’t be exposed to it again? You weren’t exposed to libertarian thought and Austrian economics when you were young and look at you. You’re running a page with over 25 thousand likes.
Me: What you’re saying is that I’m teaching people about liberty and Austrian economics and I wasn’t exposed to it as a child.
YS: Right. You were never exposed to that when you were little. Just because you weren’t exposed to it then doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it later.
Me: You’ve watched me teach myself, haven’t you?
YS: I have. I’ve watched you teach yourself a lot. I’ve watched you teach other people, too.
Me: You’ve watched me tutor. You’ve been in the room with me when I’ve tutored. What have you learned by watching students struggle with subjects they’ve been told are “important” but aren’t aren’t important to them?
YS: They want to make their teachers happy but the subjects aren’t important to them so they aren’t going to excel. Daisy was an artist. They were trying to cram all sorts of other stuff into her.
Me: What did that do to her?
YS: You had to re-school her.
Me: What do you think was the most important thing for her?
YS: Art. She was a wonderful artist. You let her focus on that.
Me: Someone had told her it was more important that she be a mediocre, miserable student than a fantastic artist. One would have to be blind to miss that she was an artist.
YS: She was told doing what she was good at wasn’t as important as what the teachers thought was important.
Me: And what did the teachers think was important?
YS: Everyone being the same was important. Following the curriculum was important. Art wasn’t important.
Me: It’s like a factory isn’t it? It makes one product.
YS: No variations. All the same thing.
Me: Does that work with people? Who does it reward?
YS: The state gets a nice new batch of uniform people.
Me: What happens to people like Daisy who are brilliant in something the school doesn’t value?
YS: Their talent gets squashed. I’ve noticed that you tutor the brilliant people. It’s the creative people who don’t do well in the school system.
Me: I would say that every child I’ve tutored had a burning passion that was being neglected or misdirected or devalued. I don’t think there’s one child I’ve worked with who wasn’t obviously being sold short. Can you imagine being a fantastic artist and having to sit in classes that bored you, that you weren’t interested in, that you actively hated and that you were failing every day of your life?
YS: I can not imagine how bad that would be. That would basically be the first eighteen years of your life thrown away.
Me: It would be worse than wasting it. It would be eighteen years of being told that you weren’t good enough. It would be a daily attack. We were talking about whether or not you can force a person to learn something.
YS: You can’t force a person to learn something.
Me: I was required to teach Daisy certain subjects. Do you think they stuck?
YS: No. She probably forgot them. It was probably a big waste of her time and your time.
Me: What do you think she remembered?
YS: That you let her do what she loved to do. That you understood what her talent was.
Me: I wish we had spent more time on art with her.
YS: She was a lot happier here than in school.

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Libertarians… We are certainly a different breed.

We may look the same. We may use the same language. We put our pants on one leg at a time… Most of us, anyway.

We certainly have a unique way of thinking though.

Of course, our first instinct is not to suggest that “there ought to be a law.” That is the beginning of how we differ from non-libertarians.

The basis of not defaulting to government intervention lies a bit deeper than instinct. We want a lot of the same results: a well-educated society, an end to homelessness, peace with our neighbors, and the freedom to live our lives.

unintended consequencesWe also like to point out unintended consequences of policy decisions. Inevitably, every government policy idea devised sought to solve a problem, but not everyone follows where that policy idea takes us beyond the policymaker’s intent.

Libertarians recognize intent for what it is. We recognize that someone, somewhere intended their idea to fix an existing problem, prevent a future problem, or make lives better. We also see past intent to look at what happens when this intended solution gets implemented. We see whether it, or something similar, worked in the past. We also examine what we describe as unintended consequences that are likely to occur if the policymakers enact the proposed solution.

We focus on outcome.

We look at policies beyond intent, by focusing looking deeper than the surface, talking points, and smooth sales pitches. We look at people individually, rather than as statistics and metrics that can be manipulated. We examine individual decisions on their own, rather than as part of the aggregate. Put simply, we are looking out for the smallest minority there is… The individual.

Central planners will never be able to do so, because people are just data points. To them, they believe that they can predict what MOST of us will do when faced with a specific decision. The rest do not matter. Those individuals are statistically insignificant.

Are you insignificant?

Libertarians do not believe that you are, and we look at the unintended consequences, incentives, and individual decision-making to fully examine the outcome of a proposed policy or idea, rather than sweeping you, the individual, aside because you do not fit the model they prepared.

Today, ideas are judged by their intent, rather than their outcome. All too often, that means that the “solution” makes a larger or different problem.

To whom is that insignificant?

How Free Enterprise Saved the Pilgrims: A Thanksgiving Story

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Thanksgiving Day is a great time to remember, and share with others, the too-Pilgrimslittle-known story of how the Pilgrims discovered and embraced the power of individual incentives and private property — and how doing this saved them from looming starvation and death.

This story has been told in many different forms over the years, and some critics have challenged versions of it. Our thanks to the Cato Institute’s Daniel Griswold for sharing a definitive version of the story, from the work of one of America’s most respected and honored historians.

Historian Nathaniel Philbrick has won numerous prestigious awards for his books. His acclaimed 2007 book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and was named one of the ten “Best Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review.

A passage from that book succinctly tells the story of how free enterprise principles and incentives saved the Pilgrims.

Writes Philbrick:

“The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth’s debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally — the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.

“In April, [Plymouth Colony governor William] Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew.

“The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home.

“‘The women now went willingly into the field,’ Bradford wrote, ‘and took their little ones with them to set corn.’”

Concludes Philbrick:

“The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.”

Governor Bradford tells the story himself in his book History of Plymouth Plantation, taken from his journals kept between 1630 and 1651, and recognized today as an American classic. Bradford describes the problems of the communal system (spelling has been modernized):

“For this community [of food and property] . . . was found to breed much confusion and discontentment, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort . . .

“For the young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong . . . had no more in division . . . than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes, etc . . . thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.”

Bradford then describes the dramatic results of the shift to private plots and individual incentives:

“This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we should remember that our great abundance today is based upon our system of private property rights and free enterprise. Principles that the Pilgrims discovered for themselves, in rudimentary form, and began putting into practice nearly four hundred years ago.

Those principles saved their lives. Eventually, they made America the freest and most abundant country in human history. Today they offer the promise of still greater blessings to come.

And that’s something to be very thankful for — this and every Thanksgiving.