by Becki Gray
Former Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
NC Spin has a new weekly online feature, a segment called “After Spin” where the panelists are asked to disclose after the taped discussion, what they wished they’d said.
I was asked to fill in for John Hood last night. It is always an honor and quite humbling to join the NC Spin discussion with the wide array of very accomplished panelists, the staff and crew and of course the well-known and respected host. Last night’s show was no exception with Phil Kirk (to name all of his accomplishments would take up the entire 30 minutes of the show), Dan Blue III (He’s got his dad’s brains and his mom’s grace – he’s like the perfect Blue!), my buddy Chris Fitzsimon (who I hear does public policy work too) led by host and good friend, Tim Campbell.
One of the topics we discussed was the Department Commerce reorganization with a public private partnership. The question to me was a review of problems and challenges former Secretaries of Commerce have faced in making NC’s economic development efforts nimble, responsive and collaborative. What was different now? I said Sec. Decker found the current system difficult and cumbersome and believed that the PPP would make it work better and faster.
After thinking about it, here’s what I wish I’d said:
After decades of economic development and marketing efforts not working and many ideas being tried by really smart people, maybe government should not be in the economic development business at all. Maybe the sales and marketing function is better served by the private market, by the state and local Chambers of Commerce, and by coalitions of business groups. Maybe the government’s job is to provide a low, evenly applied tax burden, regulations that are reasonable and consistently applied, an infrastructure of roads, bridges and ports that are safe, efficient and well maintained and a well skilled workforce. Then get out of the way and let the free market work.
As Rep. Tom Murry argued during debate on HB 1031, government is not really very good at marketing, which is why he believes the private part of the public private partnership is needed. I would take that one step further. Let’s let government do what it’s good at and let the private market do what it’s good at. The goal should be economic growth. More than 800 academic studies over three decades tell us low taxes spur economic growth. As Phil Kirk pointed out, Chambers of Commerce and businesses have done a pretty good job on economic development.
There have been concerns, and rightfully so about transparency, salaries, contracts and potential “slush” funds. Public money requires public disclosure and transparency of how tax money is spent. Private money does not. Instead of trying to keep the two separate with a partnership within state government, why not actually keep the two separate? Again let government do it’s job. And allow the private market to do it’s. Free markets have worked before, let’s give it a shot.
So that’s what I wish I’d said. I’ve never left a taping of NC Spin without feeling like I missed making a point or after considering the discussion further, had another thought or question. I think most of us who watch the show, are left with lingering thoughts, questions, points we would have made or wished had been made. Which after all, is what NC Spin is all about. Bringing important issues up, giving us the opportunity to listen, to make our points, to think about it and to discuss, question and think some more. Public policy in North Carolina is better because we keep talking. Thank you NC Spin for keeping the conversation going.