House Tax and Revenue Committee Kills Transparency Effort

Despite New Mexico’s status as one of the most corrupt and scandal-plagued in the nation, the Legislature appears likely to miss out on an opportunity to give citizens a chance to see where there taxpayer dollars are going.
The House Tax and Revenue Committee tabled SB 159 yesterday which would have made available to the public an easily accessible, searchable budget database on the Department of Finance and Administration’s website. SB 159 passed the Senate floor unanimously.
“SB 159 was a common sense proposal that would have provided much needed budget awareness of how state government spends a nearly $6 billion operating budget. This transparency is essential to ensuring the people retain confidence in their government. Equally important, budget transparency helps prevent waste, fraud and abuse,” stated Tax and Revenue Committee member Rep. James Strickler (R-San Juan-2).
Last week, the Rio Grande Foundation hosted Robert Wood with the Texas Comptroller’s office for a series of meetings on government openness and transparency with New Mexico legislators and elected officials. During his meetings, he explained Texas’ excellent websites Texas OpenBook and Where the Money Goes which includes state contracts, vendor information, and salary information for public officials in Texas.
New Mexico could and should join Texas and the dozens of other states that are using technology to give citizens and taxpayers more information on how their money is used. Unfortunately, the House Taxation and Revenue Committee apparently doesn’t want New Mexicans to have this information.

Happy Birthday Milton Friedman

You may not be aware that today would be the 96th birthday of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman. Israel Teitelbaum of has an excellent article on Friedman’s legacy of free choice and individual liberty as it applies to education.
The Rio Grande Foundation is taking part in the celebration of Friedman’s legacy by hosting a school choice event in Albuquerque this evening. Seats are still available!
Happy Birthday and thank you Dr. Friedman!

Farewell ABQ Trib

Today, the last issue of the found a buyer and thus been able to continue.
From a purely greedy perspective, the loss of Albuquerque’s second newspaper is the loss of another media outlet that was willing to help spread the Foundation’s message. As I point out in today’s final issue of the paper, the Rio Grande Foundation is able to produce more work than the newspapers are able to run. Another voice lost is another tool taken from our arsenal.
For a number of reasons, some selfish and others altruistic, we will miss the Tribune.

A Sad Day for Taxpayers

No, this particular sad day for taxpayers is not due to the fact that tax hikes for the Rail Runner (subscription required) may be on the way…we’ll save discussion of that for another day. This is genuine sadness brought on by the premature passing of one of the greatest taxpayer advocates in the entire nation. I had the privilege of working at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union for more than six years and during that time John Berthoud was my boss. He was also one of the greatest, most principled advocates for taxpayers one could conceive of and he is now dead at the age of 47.
Most New Mexicans never had the chance to meet John and none had the chance to work with him and grow to respect and befriend him as I did, but I can assure you all that his voice on behalf of taxpayers will be sorely missed.

Legacy of Liberty II

Bruce Bartlett summarizes how Milton and Rose Friedman influenced my life. I am so grateful to them. Free to Choose (coauthored with Rose) should be read by all.

Friedman’s most influential publication was the slender volume, Capitalism and Freedom, based on lectures given in 1956 but not published until 1962. In that book, he put forward one of the most powerful cases for the free market ever written. Its greatest virtues were the clarity and vigor of Friedman’s exposition. It had enormous impact in making free market economics respectable once again, after being falsely blamed for the Great Depression. In his Monetary History of the United States, Friedman put principal blame for that disaster on the Federal Reserve, which allowed the money stock to shrink by one third, bringing on a massive deflation.
In 1976, Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and stabilization policy. The following year, Friedman retired from active teaching and took up residence at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Although retired, he continued working until the very end. In 1980, Friedman probably achieved his greatest renown with the best-selling book and PBS television series, “Free To Choose,” which explained to average people why free markets work best.
A key reason for Friedman’s enormous output and influence is that he was blessed with a gifted partner, his wife Rose. A distinguished economist in her own right, she contributed heavily to her husband’s thinking, most evident in their co-written memoir, Two Lucky People, published in 1998.

Legacy of Liberty — Milton Friedman

I am sad to say that my hero Milton Friedman died today. Here is my favorite quote from Capitalism and Freedom. It pretty much sums up the outlook of our Foundation.

…conditions have changed. We now have several decades of experience with government intervention. It is no longer necessary to compare the market as it actually operates and government intervention as it ideally might operate. We can compare the actual to the actual. If we do so, it is clear that the difference between the actual operation of the market and its ideal operation – great though it undoubtedly is – is as nothing compared to the difference between the actual effects of government intervention and their intended effects.

BTW, if you did not guess who Fenwick was, now you know.

Bernard Siegan: Property Rights and Prosperity

I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the death of legal scholar Bernard Siegan. Here is a tribute to him by Mark Brnovich compliments of the Goldwater Institute:

Bernard Siegan Remembered
The impact of a property rights champion
by Mark Brnovich
March 31, 2006
I met Professor Bernard Siegan during my first year of law school. He had been rejected for an appointment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the year before and his spirits were dampened. The toll of political fights often takes place off camera, but it can be tremendous. Judge Bork’s memory still looms large in the national debate, but people often forget how the godfather of property rights, Bernie Siegan, was “Borked” by the same group of Senators.
Professor Siegan’s small office was packed with books about constitutional law and economic theory, a field of study in which he had been a giant contributor. As a lowly 1L, I was awed to be sitting with the author of The Supreme Court’s Constitution, Other People’s Property, Economic Liberties and the Constitution, and Property and Freedom.
I told him that his writings had a tremendous impact on me and that I couldn’t wait to take his con law class the next year. Taking a long shot, I asked him if he needed a research assistant. He looked surprised and told me that he was a “falling star” and recommended attaching myself to another professor. But I pressed on and he reluctantly began a tutelage that has had an enormous impact on my life.
Professor Siegan’s groundbreaking work focused on the negative impact of zoning regulations. In Land Use Without Zoning, he explained how Houston thrived without restrictive zoning regulations. To him, government planned “solutions” often resulted in higher housing costs, with the poor and middle classes usually taking the hardest hits.
Professor Siegan often pointed out that it was little wonder that the Constitution contains so many direct and indirect references to the importance of protecting property. Article I, Sections 9 & 10, provide that no state shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contract. Respect for the supremacy of property can also be found in constitutional provisions prohibiting the quartering of soldiers in the 3rd amendment and the 4th Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. Of course, the 5th and 14th Amendments both explicitly provide that no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
The Framers—strongly influenced by the writings of John Locke, William Blackstone, and Edward Coke—had created a system designed to maximize human freedom by protecting the means to acquire and maintain property. Professor Siegan wrote extensively about this, highlighting the important role that property rights played in human liberty. He understood that attacks on property rights were a threat to political liberty.
Professor Siegan’s message wasn’t simply an academic exercise. His books Drafting a Constitution for a Nation or Republic Emerging Into Freedom and Adopting a Constitution to Protect Freedom and Provide Abundance were blueprints for countries emerging from communism. Copies of his books were available in Polish, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Spanish and many other languages. He was determined to see young nations recognize that economic growth was dependent on respecting property rights and establishing the rule of law.
A few months ago, I was in San Diego and met Professor Siegan for lunch. His body was tired, but his mind was still very sharp. We talked about his days at the University of Chicago and his work at the University of San Diego and the impact it would have on future students, lawyers, and judges. He wanted to talk about China and how impressed he was with their GDP and that they were moving to secure more property rights. He was trying to put together a conference to explore economic and property rights developments in China. If anyone could speed along China’s road to respecting economic and property rights, it would be him. Unfortunately, he ran out time.
Professor Siegan, always the gentlemen, insisted on paying for that lunch, pointing out that he was the professor and I was the assistant. Noting that conversation we had at our first meeting over 15 years earlier, I pointed out that his legal star had never fallen. To the contrary, his work serves as a guiding star for any serious scholar seeking to find the original intent of this nation’s founders.
Mark Brnovich is the former director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Studies.

Leland Thompson, Jr.

We at the Foundation are saddened to learn of the death of our good friend, supporter and champion of liberty.
Leland and his family moved to New Mexico from Midland,
TX around 1960. He had been a wildcatter in the Permian
Basin, an activity in which George H.W. Bush had also been
active, and they were (and remained) close friends. In
fact, Leland gave George W. Bush his first ride in a small
He was a first-rate businessman, and a valued director in a
number of New Mexico companies. He was also a wise
investor in real estate, owning outright or with others
in partnership perhaps 25,000 acres of undeveloped land
on the outskirts of Santa Fe. One such investment, Rancho
Viejo, is now home to Santa Fe Community College as the
result of an outright donation of its campus lands by Leland
and his partners. The Institute of American Indian Arts and
a large Catholic church have similarly located on land donated
by the Rancho Viejo Partnership.
Leland was also a founder of Santa Fe Preparatory School,
the premier independent school (grades 7-12) in Santa Fe,
and involved in a major way assisting establishment of
the Santa Fe campus of St. John’s College.
His widow is Evaline (nee Rife), and they have five grown
children. Three are married daughters with children who
live out-of-state. One is a son, Warren, who is married
with (I believe) two sons, is now chairman of the Santa Fe
Preparatory School board and is respected in the Santa Fe
business community. Another son lives in Taos.