Imagine ferocious spending of your money

Patrick Gibbons

Brian Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, is one of 50 trustees of the Brookings Institute, a center-left think tank in Washington D.C.

On Sunday, a story on the front page of Greenspun's insert ballyhooed the arrival in town of a Brookings expert to lead an invitation-only "get-together" of 120 Southern Nevadans with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday.

Everyone's job? To "imagine what the region wants to be," said Mark Muro, director of Brookings' metro policy program.

"Now is not the time for this region to put its head in the sand," admonished Muro, "but to use this time well to imagine what the region wants to be, and to become ferocious and focused in seeking that."

To sum it up, here are their objectives:

  • Government investment in transportation including highways to connect Las Vegas and Phoenix and inner city light rail.
  • Government investment in biotech, medical research and renewable energies. G
  • Government investment in sustainability, including climate modeling, energy efficient buildings and a preference toward "cap and trade" environmental regulations.

It could also be summed up like this:

  • Government is going to spend your money on its pet projects.

Nevada , being short on cash, might have trouble financing these big spending projects. Even was that not the case, the Brookings schemes appear to rest upon some very basic errors in political economy:

1)      You can't have government subsidize water, energy and transportation – all of which artificially lower the cost of living out here in the desert – and also create manageably sustainable and environmentally friendly growth.

2)      Government only spends what it takes from others. Brookings will have difficulty proving that government investment will be better than private sector investment.

The Brookings Institute usually produces better value than this. This time they appear ready to start indulging make-believe about a world where government can solve all sorts of problems by spending your money better and more efficiently than you can.

The Brookings Institute and Brian Greenspun are merely spinning a new version of an old fable – the great fiction of government, in which everyone lives at everyone else's expense.