According to Council On State Taxation (COST) New Mexico ranks 46th lowest (see Table 4, page 8) out of the 51 (states and DC) for effective tax rate on business in FY04. Since the GRT rate has gone up substantially over the past year, our business friendliness is likely to erode even further. So much for being open for business in NM.
Check out this study just released by the Manhattan Institute.
According to the press release:
“A new study by Manhattan Institute scholars Jay P. Greene and Marcus A.
Winters finds that decreasing the size of a state’s school districts
leads to substantial improvements in its public high school graduation
rate. Conversely, consolidating school districts into fewer, larger
units decreases a state’s public high school graduation rate.
The results of the analysis indicate that decreasing the average size of
a state’s school districts by 200 square miles would lead to an increase
of about 1.7 percentage points in its graduation rate. This finding is
particularly important for New Mexico, which has the nation’s 6th largest
school districts. If New Mexico decreased the size of its school
districts to the national median, it would increase its graduation rate
by about 9 percentage points, improving it from 65% to about 74%.”
My take: While there are obvious difficulties in reducing district size in New Mexico’s rural areas, the overall move toward more centralization (while calling it “reform”)is counterproductive. Smaller districts mean that it is less costly for parents to move their child from a bad school to a better one, creating an element of choice and competition.
What we need is reform that works.
As usual, NM does things differently. Based on a survey of 120,464 people, here is a map showing what words people use when referring to soft-drinks. Casual observation seems to show the Land of the Enchantment is also the land of diversity. In fact, we seem to be the least-homogeneous of all the states. No sheep here!
Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.
Like the Founding Fathers, I have never been extremely enamored of democracy. Usually, when I tell people this, they jump to the assumption that I must prefer autocracy or one of its variants. But you see it’s not the “demos” (people) part of democracy to which I object. Rather, it is the “kratia” (rule) part.
I think the happiest places on earth are those where individual rights reign supreme, and no one–not king, council or even a popular majority–is permitted to invade certain inalienable rights of the individual. To ensure these rights, strong (explicit or implicit) constraints on those in possession of political power are necessary.
In the US, an important aspect of that constraint is, of course, the Constitution. Expressing a common belief of the founders, the chief architect of that document, James Madison, noted that, “…democracies have ever been incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” He went on to argue, “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.” (See Federalist 10)
In other words, representative government is one way to keep the majority from running roughshod over the minority. That is why Madison and company gave us, in Franklin’s words, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
In many ways we haven’t. Over the last 100 years, the United States has seen an explosion in direct democracy. In 1897, South Dakota became the first state to adopt the popular initiative and referendum. The former allowed citizens to introduce their own legislation and the latter allowed them to vote on issues originating in the legislature. Over the next 20 years, half of the other states in the union adopted similar measures.
As a (small ‘r’!) republican, I have tended to regard this change as unfortunate. By empowering the majority to make whichever laws it sees fit, I worry that the states have slowly eroded the rights and freedoms individuals.
Despite, these misgivings, I must admit that the empirical evidence appears to be against me. The economist, John Matsusaka, of the University of Southern California, for example has found that while initiatives do “not have a consistent effect on the overall size of state and local government” they do “systematically lead to more decentralized government,” which is generally considered by public choice economists to be more efficient than centralized government. Matsusaka has a forthcoming article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives which declares “Direct Democracy Works.” He has also begun an Institute dedicated to promoting direct democracy.
Other scholars have found similar results. The European economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer studied direct democracy in Switzerland where citizens in some cantons have greater access to instruments of direct democracy than citizens in other cantons. They found that it “systematically and sizably raise[d] self-reported individual well-being.” As an aside, they also found that local autonomy appears to increase happiness.
As an unabashed fan of limited government, I also can’t help but be impressed with initiatives like California’s Prop 13 or Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill or Rights. Perhaps New Mexican’s should consider direct democracy as well?
The BEA has just released per capita personal income statistics for 2004. The bad news: New Mexico still ranks 47th among all states and the District of Columbia. The good news is that we are growing faster than in the past. Our growth of per capita personal income over 10 years ranks 32nd (no longer at or near last).
Why the improvement? Some of it is just plain luck. Our energy sector is enjoying high prices. We have a large government component that is resistant to the national downturn over the past four years.
Former Governor Gary Johnson probably deserves some credit. He mananged to hold the line on taxing and spending for 8 of the 10 years while most other states were not so fortunate. They are coming down to meet us. Unfortunately, that will probably not last because of our current spending binge.
We now have suffered from 3 sessions of out of control spending. Here is a quick “back of the envelope” calculation of Big Bill’s spending problem. Adjusted for population growth and inflation, at the current rate of increase real spending will have increased by almost $400 million (in 2005 dollars) by the end of his first term. Contrast that with the increase during two terms for Governor Johnson: $360 million (in 2005 dollars). Our governor has managed to squander the opportunity to provide the needed tax relief that will lead NM to prosperity.
Check out this great post by Michael Munger at Division of Labour. He describes how gas prices have behaved over time in real (inflation adjusted) terms.
Another way to look gasoline prices is to ask: how much gasoline will an hour of my labor purchase? In 1981 the average New Mexican could obtain 5.2 gallons of gasoline for one hour of labor. This year she could obtain 7.4 gallons of gasoline for one hour of labor, 42% more than in 1981(nominal price data from DOE, nominal wage data from BEA).
We never like it when the price of gasoline, or anything else, rises. The average New Mexican would be much happier being able to purchase 10 gallons of gasoline for one hour of labor, as was the case less than one year ago. But let’s put the price of gasoline in perspective; this is not the end of civilization as we know it.
BTW, government itself is responsible for keeping gasoline prices higher than necessary.