Looking for a political panacea will only lead to bitter disappointment for many

January 10, 2018

 

Polls indicate there is great dissatisfaction by many citizens with their government and one reason is that too many people are conditioned to believe that government intervention in any sector of life is always a panacea. 

 

The reason for this attitude is not only educational, but also in entertainment.

 

Growing up, Star Trek The Next Generation was "must-see TV," but there was something always troubling about it. The show featured the starship Enterprise exploring space, fighting the cybernetic Borg and getting into trouble with other aliens. There'd be episodes where the crew encountered a new disease or found an issue with their technology.

 

No matter what the odds, the isolated crew of the "only ship in the quadrant" would devise some cure or escape scheme by the end of the hour-long episode that not even the finest scientific minds in the countless worlds of the Federation could imagine.

 

That's not the way the real world works. The argument over the College Football Playoff and whether to expand it from its four-team format to eight or even 16 teams is a classic case of the panacea effect. Advocates say that teams such as Ohio State and Central Florida were unfairly left out by the selection committee and that the resultant championship is tainted. 

 

What isn't discussed is what happens if the playoff expands in the future and there aren't 16 teams worthy of a spot? Or what if there is one year where there are 17 teams with a worthy résumé?

 

That is no different than expecting that complex problems always have a fix-all solution waiting under the state capitol's dome.

 

One example is the possibility of a lottery in Mississippi. The state's constitution was changed decades ago to prevent it, but a strange alliance of church groups and the state's casino industry have exercised enough influence in the Legislature to prevent it from becoming a reality.

 

Advocates say it'd be perfect to add money to education or fund infrastructure improvements. As ESPN personality Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend.'

 

A state lottery might add between $82.6 million and $93 million to the state's general fund, according to the Institutions of Higher Education research. That would also come with the price of a decrease in state economic activity, according to the IHL. That would be some, but not a great deal of help for K-12 education (more than $2.4 billion in general fund money) or roads and bridges ($1.1 billion in state and federal funds).

 

On the subject of the state's population shift, there's little government can do to stem the outflow out of the state except to improve economic and social conditions. Those solutions include a more reasonable tax code that funds vital services while not providing too much of a pinch in the wallet and an educational system that provides every child with a chance at success.

 

We could also eliminate obstacles to business creation by phasing out a lot of the occupational licensing boards that are nothing more than cartels to protect those already in business. According to the Institute for Justice, Mississippi licenses 55 occupations, which is 45th worst in the nation,.

 

The decline of rural America is not a problem unique to the Magnolia State and isn't something that policymakers can tackle completely with a tax credit or other policy instrument. If younger people want to live in urban areas and the state only has one, the population will decline no matter what is done in Jackson.

 

Governmental intervention has its limits and in the end, who wants a government that can do all? The cost of such a system in terms of economic liberty would more than any sane person would be willing to bear. A government that can do all things can just as easily take liberties away.

 

There's no panacea solution from government that will bring us a step closer to utopia. All we can ask is from our policymakers is to institute policies that can create an environment for people to succeed and others to want to move to our state to join that success. 

 

Anything more than that is a empty promise.

 

Steve Wilson covers state and local government for the Mississippi Independent News Service. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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MississippiMatters is a news blog of cooperative writers, videographers and podcasters published by  The Well Writers Guild, a 501c3 devoted to mentoring Mississippi writers and to addressing uncovered or under-covered topics.  MississippiMatters focuses on offering creative "takes" on our state's culture, ideas, events and more.