APPEL: NOLA.com’s Tipping Points And The Primacy Of Economics

In response to the flurry of editorials questioning whether there is long-term value for young people to make Louisiana and New Orleans their permanent home, NOLA.com is now starting a series on what they call the “tipping point.”

The idea of a tipping point fits many situations and relates to a point of no return. It can be positive or negative but in either case it infers a certain momentum that, by any short term measure of time, drives a particular outcome.

In my worldview most life decisions ultimately come down to being grounded in economic fundamentals.

A Bohemian lifestyle, great entertainment, a historical context, and even interesting food are all measures that our leaders promote as reasons that our region should be attractive to young families but in truth these are very shallow criteria and reflect upon a very short term view of a potential resident’s life plans.

In the end it will always be economic metrics alone that are the main criteria upon which most people, especially young people just starting out, make their residency choices.

The most obvious economic metric is a person’s ability to achieve the income that they believe that they are worth and that they need to sustain their family. Beyond that there are many other such measures; does their place of residence provide a quality public education so that they would not have to pay to send kids to private schools; does their community provide high quality fundamental services such as public safety and drainage, so that they don’t worry about the effects of crime or natural disaster; do they live where insurance rates are reasonable because there is a fair civil justice system; are taxes so high that there is little left to spend. All of these metrics are different but they all have the common thread that they are based in economics. As an aside these types of measures are the very same ones that business looks to when making location decisions.

I do not know what NOLA.com has in mind but if I were doing this series I would start with the economic history of New Orleans in the later 20th century; a strong growth period in which the Big Easy beckoned to thousands of in-migrants through the great prosperity of the post World War II period. Following that I would then enter into a review of how all that prosperity was allowed to blow away on the winds of liberalism, being buoyed by thoughtless and corrupt leadership, the very characteristics that have distinguished our part of the world during the last forty years. Finally I would explore the misery caused by the failures of those four decades, failures which have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of productive out-migrants and have left a surviving population that has become mired in poverty and all sorts of social ills.

Based upon NOLA.com’s political leanings my suspicions are that they will steer clear of this history of failed liberalism and focus instead upon all of the currently popular notions of political correctness; inspiring to the left but always undefined talking points like equity, opportunity, diversity, fairness. These liberal catch-words are given stature by today’s media, but they have no real validity in a world driven by harsh economic realities.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against the concept of opportunity for all of our people to have an equal chance at success. In fact my lifelong personal commitment is to just that very notion. However I am against those that under the guise of some undefined concept of fairness promote political policies that actually destroy economic opportunity. I am against the actions of leaders that subsume proven economic principles in order to pander to voters with mythical promises that defy reality. I am against policies founded in ignorance, fear, or envy but are as hollow as the people who propose them.

I am against these things because, as we can see in our own time and place, when such misguided logic has been applied the result has been a greatly diminished economic environment in which life-changing opportunities for improvement simply relocate to more accepting communities and states.

Either our political system and leaders serve to create an economic climate in which all have a fair chance to prosper or we remain stuck as a second-tier region and our people end up fighting over crumbs. Anyone who doesn’t understand that economic conditions of the past forty years were shaped by failed policies and weak leaders is relying upon pure folly.

What am I for? I am for the concept that government cannot unilaterally create a better life for anyone; government’s role must be as innocuous as possible to create a climate in which citizens can grow and prosper by benefiting from their own labors and initiative. I am for government policies that serve to attract business in order to create jobs that in turn create wealth and happiness, instead of as we see in our state and region just sending negative messages to business that it is not welcome. I am for leaders who actually know how economics work and who are managers and visionaries and not just politicians whose turn it is to lead.

So to NOLA.com here is a politically incorrect definition of tipping point that highlights very real danger to any republican form of government. Simply put it is the cold hard reality that in democratically elected political subdivisions a vigorous economy cannot exist when those that are dependent upon government support and largesse greatly outnumber those who by their own initiative contribute to the underlying economy and who depend upon a strong free market economy for their success.

When an electoral mismatch of this nature exists, self interests of the majority result in government policies and practices that end up being contrary to the goal of economic opportunities for all citizens. In the end the inertia from such an unhealthy complexity is difficult or impossible to overcome.

In modern democracies economic prosperity is only possible when there is leadership that is first capable of grasping economic realities, and second, courageous enough to be able to develop a long term strategy to benefit all the people and then communicate it to the people so that the people can understand and support it.

Remnants of the late twentieth century, great American cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis, and even New Orleans are population-diminished examples of the failure brought on when reality clashes against socialism. In all these cities as the people accepted the false promise of government dependency, they ran afoul of basic economic principles. The outcomes have been decline in the quality of life and the inevitable outmigration of those mobile enough to respond to attractive economic metrics offered elsewhere. In simple terms businesses and productive people just fled in the face of a hopeless political structure and took with them the jobs that could have helped create a better life for all the people.

So my message to NOLA.com is I am glad that you are looking at the concept of the tipping point, but you must drill down to the root causes of our problems and not be so concerned with their outcomes. Do not be blind to history or economic reality because of what modern culture has led you to believe or because of what others may want you to believe.

You must understand that modern economic principles have developed over the millennia and when forced into conflict with artificial government interference the result is decline and misery. Need proof, just look at our last forty year history of economic outcomes.

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