Achieving economic freedom is a subject of intense debate



When pollsters ask voters to list the issues that concern them most, economic concerns usually loom large on the list, even when unemployment rates are relatively low.

There is however a stolen base here. With a few exceptions, most people believe that a rapidly growing economy is of critical importance. They recognize that other social problems usually improve if jobs are plentiful and incomes increase.

Where voters differ is in how policymakers can most effectively drive growth. So including economic concerns on a list that also includes, say, education or tax breaks can mask what voters really value. Some will rank “the economy” as a priority issue, even as they reflect on specific policies that they believe will improve the economy.

In North Carolina, for many years we have witnessed a heated debate about how best to improve our economic competitiveness and growth rates. Republicans argue that the tax cuts and regulatory relief they enacted were wise investments in future economic growth, in part by increasing the likelihood of new or expanded business operations and professional ventures taking place in North Carolina. North.

Democrats argue that it would have been more pro-growth to forgo tax cuts in favor of higher spending on education and other services, as well as forgoing regulatory relief on the grounds that employers , entrepreneurs, professionals and workers would place a higher value on the expected benefits of environmental or safety regulation than on the lower costs that flow from its reform or elimination.

The two alternatives obviously represent fundamental philosophical differences. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t testable propositions. I will grade these tests in a moment.

First of all, however, I want to stress that while there is a gap between these two positions, it is not the ideological equivalent of the Grand Canyon. Republicans in North Carolina have enacted a series of state budgets that have spent tens of billions of dollars a year on education, infrastructure, and other government services. They have also implemented policy changes, such as performance pay for teachers and choice of school for parents, which they say will boost the academic success of North Carolina students.

I’m also assuming, while I’m open to evidence to the contrary, that Democrats in North Carolina don’t want to increase our tax and regulatory burdens to, say, New York – which ranks last in freedom. economic, according to indices published by the Institut Frasier and the Institut Cato.

Plus, it’s striking how many Democrats attack Republicans for slashing corporate taxes across the board while criticizing them for failing to give big enough tax breaks to privileged companies such as automakers or companies. to privileged industries such as film production. I guess taxes really matter sometimes.

Now for my newsletter. I keep a running account of all the peer-reviewed studies examining the relationships between state policy factors and growth measures such as gross state product (GSP), job creation, earnings income and business start-ups. My database currently contains nearly 1,000 of these studies published since 1990.

Based on empirical evidence, Republicans in North Carolina score an A. Most studies show that after adjusting for a range of control variables, states and localities with higher degrees of economic freedom – taxes lower, less regulation – have stronger economic performance than less – free jurisdictions do.

A new study, about to be published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, found that “a 10% increase in economic freedom is associated with a 5% increase in real GSP per capita.”

And the Democratic thesis? I’ll give it a D. Most studies show a correlation between conditions such as the level of education or the quality of infrastructure and the economic growth of the state. But they don’t find a connection to the expenses. Only a third of studies find that states with larger education budgets have, for example, better economic performance.

These findings suggest that policymakers should find ways to boost economic freedom while making their education and infrastructure systems more productive. North Carolina’s legislative leaders would say that’s precisely what they’ve done.

John Hood is Chairman of the John Locke Foundation and appears on UNC-TV’s “NC SPIN”.



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