A ‘vision’ of extortion and control

Stakeholder group is a threat to taxpayers

By Geoffrey Lawrence
  • Tuesday, November 3, 2009

State lawmakers will soon convene a gaggle of tax-eaters assigned to prescribe what your quality of life should be over the next 20 years — and how much the state should soak you in order to fulfill their vision. 

It's called a "visioning" process and no, it's not a New Age cult. Or maybe it is. At any rate, the Nevada Legislature's Interim Finance Committee (IFC) will soon determine which of these unelected galoots will craft this overbearing government scheme.

A working group from the Interim Finance Committee recently decided that they want as many as 19 aspiring social engineers on their new "Nevada Vision Stakeholders Group," or NVSG.

Of course, who will be represented on the panel is a subject of ongoing debate. It is clear from a recently released list of prospective candidates that the group will be dominated by special-interest groups. Of the 72 candidates currently under consideration, the majority are professional lobbyists, while others include elected officials and local-jurisdiction bureaucrats. 

All are positioned to get state funds channeled their way. In fact, that's the entire point of applying to be on the NVSG, as the group's primary assignment is to develop a wish list for taxpayers to fund. Moreover, this is why the "visioning" process is explicitly tied to a so-called study of Nevada's tax structure. If you're a politician out to get more of other people's money to play with, you need a "vision" from the officious elite on the NVSG.

This money dynamic will undoubtedly make the selection process highly politicized. Yet the final composition of the NVSG will simply be the result of an arbitrary decision by the professional pols on the Interim Finance Committee as to which special interests they would like to see benefit from taxpayer dollars. Doubtlessly some lawmakers, in deciding who will be represented, have already begun to consider how many of those taxpayer dollars will flow back into their own coffers as campaign contributions.

Debate among IFC members already shows they know it will be impossible for their "vision" group to accurately represent the interests of all Nevadans. Indeed, if it were the intention of lawmakers to allow individuals to decide for themselves what should constitute their quality of life, there would be no need for a "visioning" process — that's a function that in the real world is performed every day through free exchange in the marketplace. 

Therefore, the selection process will simply be about picking winners and losers — who will get the expropriated largesse after the next new round of expropriation.

Lawmakers' creation of the NVSG reveals their disdain for the right of people to freely choose what to spend their money on — in other words, disdain for the very existence of free markets. It is an authoritarian attempt to force individuals into the socialist lifestyles conceived for them by tiresome, rent-seeking, ivory-tower elites. Yet, the fact that a few special interests stand to benefit at everyone else's expense has resulted in a bevy of lobbyists lining up to participate in the scheme.

The underlying presumption made by IFC members becomes evident when one considers that they have tied Nevada's "quality of life" specifically to the five major areas of government spending. In so doing, these pols are implicitly claiming that only the public sector is capable of improving Nevadans' quality of life.

It appears that they are oblivious to the fact that improvements in living standards historically have been driven by private-sector innovation. In fact, many of the functions currently performed by state or local government can be accomplished more efficiently through private-sector involvement.

Research has demonstrated conclusively that allowing for greater private competition for the provision of public services such as education can vastly improve performance. Yet, the union interests and aspiring rent-seekers on the NVSG are likely to recommend that legislators channel more taxpayer money into their government-protected pockets. While this may be good news for public employee unions — already salivating over the monopoly rents they will be able to extract from taxpayers — it is extremely bad news for Nevadans who are actually in need of quality services.

This "visioning" process being set up by the Interim Finance Committee amounts only to a combination of authoritarian central planning and taxpayer extortion.

Far from "visionary," it is something Friedrich Hayek would have called "The Road to Serfdom."

Geoffrey Lawrence is a fiscal policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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