Friday, July 17, 2009

We Need Another Texas Revolution

The Economist has an article detailing the economic success of Texas and how it is weathering the recession. (HT: Houston Strategies) While the article paints a generally positive picture of the state, one paragraph is particularly interesting:
His [state senator Eliot Shapleigh] statistics are a lot less rosy. Texas has the highest proportion of people lacking health insurance of all 50 states; the third-highest poverty rate; the second-highest imprisonment rate; the highest teenage-birth rate; the lowest voter turnout; and the lowest proportion of high-school graduates. Mr. Shapleigh is not surprised that these figures are so terrible: Texas spends less on each of its citizens than does any other state. Being a low-tax, low-spend state has not made Texans rich, though they are not dirt-poor either; their median income ranks 37th among the 50 states.
Certainly, most of these statistics are nothing to brag about. But neither are they an indictment on the state government, as Mr. Shapleigh would have us believe. Health insurance, teenage pregnancies, and education are not proper concerns of government.

What caught my eye, and is worth bragging about, is the fact that Texas spends less on its citizens than any other state. In other words, Texas has not built a mammoth welfare state within its borders. Which means, more than other states, the state government is not in the business of redistributing wealth. While the article implies that this is a bad thing, this is a large part of the reason that the state's economy has done well. Texas is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state and its unemployment rate in May was 2.3% below the national average.

Businesses and individuals move to Texas because economic opportunities abound. With fewer regulations and no state income tax, individuals are free to pursue their dreams without begging for permission to the extent demanded in other states.

The quote cited above states that the median income in Texas ranks 37th in the nation. While this is an interesting statistic, it is very misleading because it says nothing about the purchasing power of that income. According to the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center, Texas ranks 8th in the nation for the lowest cost of living. Even though Texans earn less, their money goes much further.

To concretize this last point, according to an annual income of $50,000 in Houston is the equivalent of an income of $62,343 in Chicago, $68,385 in Seattle, $73,430 in Boston, and $81,133 in Los Angeles. While this is a city-to-city comparison, money clearly goes further in Houston than other major cities.

Despite the rather upbeat portrayal of Texas, the article concludes that the future may not be so positive:
A committee on education appointed by Mr. Perry [the governor] concluded in January that “Texas is not globally competitive” and gave warning that it “faces a downward spiral in both quality of life and economic competitiveness”.

The other, even more important, reason to expect change is internal. In 2004 Texas became one of only four states in America where whites are no longer in the majority. On recent trends, Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the state by 2015. Since they tend to vote Democratic, this has big implications for Texas’s political make-up and for national politics. And an increasingly assertive Hispanic caucus, in an increasingly Democratic state, also seems sure to demand better schools and health care for the people it represents...
This trend will take Texas in the direction of California--more social programs, more regulations, and higher taxes. It could spell the demise of Texas as an economic powerhouse. But this isn't a racial issue; it is an issue of individual rights. And individual rights apply to all individuals--white and black, Anglo and Hispanic, male and female, gay and straight, young and old.

More than most states, Texas has respected and protected individual rights, and this has served Texas well. It will continue to do so, but only if Texans demand that the government refrain from succumbing to the lure of trading votes for robbing the productive members of the state. To do that, Texans must reject the premise that they are their brother's keeper, that morality consists of service to others. If Texans wish to remain the envy of the nation, they must embark on a new revolution--a moral revolution. They must declare their moral right to their own life, their own liberty, their own property, and the pursuit of their own happiness. They must embrace rational egoism and all that it implies.

No comments: