Are Voters Dumb?

Over at the left wing FBIHOP blog, we at the Rio Grande Foundation are accused of believing that voters are “dumb” for voting, albeit narrowly, to raise the gross receipts tax to fund the Rail Runner. Of course, I never said that voters in New Mexico or elsewhere are dumb, rather, I simply argued in a recent Albuquerque Journal column that government should not be able to use taxpayer money to fund campaigns in support of ballot measures. FBIHOP apparently interprets this as my saying that voters are dumb.
Nonetheless, lets not let the facts get in the way of a perfectly interesting discussion. Are voters really informed when it comes to voting on the issues? If anyone watched the JayWalking or other “man-on-the-street” segments about the presidential candidates it seems pretty obvious that voters are not always well informed.
While it is easy to criticize ignorance, as Reason Magazine writer Bryan Caplan wrote voters tend to make boneheaded decisions on basic economic issues when they go to the polls. This is not a sign that they are inherently “dumb,” rather it is a sign of rational ignorance in which people concern themselves with their jobs and succeeding in their daily lives rather than keeping track of politicians and policy issues.
While overcoming rational ignorance is difficult, it would seem that at the very least policymakers should stop government bureaucrats from using taxpayer money to sway voters to vote for bigger government.

Infrastructure: the Next Bailout

Nick Gillespie over at the Reason blog points out that with the automakers’ bailout practically a done-deal, the states and cities are using infrastructure investment to get their own “bailout.”
Among the infrastructure items funding is hoped for:

* a proposed “O’Malley Road Reconstruction” in Anchorage, Alaska, that will cost $30 million but provide 300 (count ’em!) jobs;
* a Gadsen, Alabama “Hoke Street Sidewalk Construction to serve new Department of Human Resources facility” that’s a real steal at $150,000 but will take almost surviving members of the Allman Brothers Band off the public dole (at last!);
* Police Facility Solar Panels for Lake Havasu City, Arizona, for only $400,000 and 75 jobs;
* Stormwater Settlement Ponds for Beloit, Wisconsin for $1,428 million and five whole jobs, which will feed a family of four in the Badger State, especially if they only eat government cheese;

Bastiat disproved the idea that government can improve our economic situation by wasting money on worthless projects. Unfortunately, if Congress and the White House cave to the governors and mayors we’ll be pushing off any economic recovery and making us all poorer.

Pro Rio Grande Foundation Letter in ABQ Journal

It is good to have fans. Check this letter out from yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal:

I FIND THAT the blatant bias of Leslie Linthicum’s (columns) is becoming more and more intolerable. Her editorial comments do not belong on the front page where a portrait of the (columnist) becomes more noticeable than the actual content. …
“Run on Guns,” was full of tongue-in-cheek gloating. She selected to scold the fringe of conservative thought such as religious bigotry and gun loving. She does not take into account the heart of conservatism that has been broken by people who “just don’t get it.”
Then she closed by preaching to us worried conservatives to stop wasting our time by being sore losers, closing with the admonition for us all to get along. Who selected her to be the conscious of the public?
I know she once said she could do as well as Sarah Palin, but I would like to see her credentials before I take her front-page grandstanding seriously.
I humbly recommend that you either put her on the editorial page where she belongs or you give equal front page time to Paul Gessing, who is one of the most thoughtful expositors of conservative thought that I have read in your newspaper.
SONJA BAUM Albuquerque

The Albuquerque Journal has apparently been receiving feedback to the effect that they have been carrying too much of our work. I’d like nothing more — and I think it would be great for the paper — if we did regular pro/con pieces with leftist organizations. Until then, keep those pro-RGF letters coming!

Privatization Works: Just ask the US Senate

By and large, left-wing Democrats dislike privatization. After all, nothing illustrates the superiority of free markets and limited government like comparing the ability of free markets and the government to provide particular services. Government is so incompetent, however, that sometimes even those who are philosophically opposed to letting the free market work are forced to do so.
Consider the case of the US Senate’s dining services. According to the Washington Post, “the U.S. Senate’s network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money — more than $18 million since 1993…Come lunchtime, many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the basement cafeteria on the House side,” (a 15 minute walk, yet, “House staffers almost never cross the Capitol to eat in the Senate cafeterias.” (The House cafeterias have been privatized for many years)
Because the situation had gotten so bad, the Senate recently voted to let a private company manage its food services. While a majority of both parties supported the decision (albeit quietly), some on the hard left dissented. In typical left-wing fashion, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), speaking for the group of senators who opposed privatizing the restaurants, said that “you cannot stand on the Senate floor and condemn the privatization of workers, and then turn around and privatize the workers here in the Senate and leave them out on their own.”
Jonah Goldberg, writing in National Review Online, who will be speaking at Rio Grande Foundation events in Albuquerque and Santa Fe on September 19, covered the story recently as well.

Film Subsidies Paying Off in Good Publicity

Last week I blogged an article I wrote for the Tribune about the generous subsidies being given to the film industry for them to set up shop in New Mexico. Now, I’m sure that part of the reason our political leaders have targeted the film industry is to burnish New Mexico’s credentials as a tourist destination and remind people that we really are part of the good ole’ US of A.
Needless to say, it was quite a shock to the system when I picked up today’s Albuquerque Journal and read that not one, but two Hollywood stars ripped into Albuquerque after having filmed here. Jessica Alba, the star of a new film called The Eye said in a recent interview: “In Albuquerque there’s really only one restaurant that’s pretty good. You can only take Applebee’s and Chili’s so much. Our big day was hanging out at Walmart for five hours. It was like, “Yeah, Walmart!”
Adding insult to injury, Tommy Lee Jones, the star of not one but two films that were shot in Albuquerque, dissed the town, saying “Albuquerque is a really hard place to work. It’s very noisy. There are crows there, planes, trucks, people working on their cars. It’s just a noisy place to shoot.”
As if scary aliens weren’t a big enough reason to stay away from the Land of Enchantment, now Alba and Jones make Albuquerque out to be a noisy little hick town with nothing but Wal Mart’s and Chilis. Publicity like that is priceless. Me, I’d rather save our tax money and let entrepreneurs decide what our city and state should be known for.

Announcing the New Mexico Outrageous Law Contest

The Rio Grande Foundation, along with the New Mexico Alliance for Legal Reform, is offering cash rewards for anyone who “turns in” the craziest laws whether they be statewide or city/county here in New Mexico. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is the honorary chair of the contest.
More information including instructions for submitting your entries is available here. Check out this listing of crazy laws in other states for ideas on what to look for.