Economic Gunslingers – When Research No Longer Matters

It’s easy to take the generic, non-committal, lack of detail approach in economics and public policy. I especially enjoy the many people shooting from the hip and paying tribute to what makes the economy tick by saying it’s simple and we just need more tax cuts, more spending on infrastructure, more spending on education, fewer regulations, etc.

This truly profound list of things to do offers no insight into implementation. Public policy requires details because this “stuff” will need to become a bill at some point. Stuff also costs money in one way or another. We should be more thoughtful with our analyses. Tax policy matters and changes are needed if they are not competitive in important areas. Spending on intellectual or physical infrastructure boosts economic activity if carefully designed, if we can afford it, and if the opportunity cost of taking money from hard working citizens can be minimized. Only regulatory reform has the potential of few to no opportunity costs, if done responsibly.

It’s not just the “big ticket” items above. I am seeing a lack of analysis in local economic development decisions and in the review of bills at the state capitol. In fact, many gun-slinging lobbyists are getting bills through committee, even though they are shooting blanks when it comes to facts, by simply matching wits with their opponents.

My point is that it’s NOT simple, there are tradeoffs, and we have limited resources. I remain bullish about my home state of Arizona. However, funding will remain tight for a while longer and we need to be more thoughtful when we tax and spend.

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