Canadian Milk Producers Seek Regulatory Help to Defeat American Competition

The video below, from the Journal Sentinel, describes how Canadian dairy farmers, unable to compete in the market with Wisconsin & New York dairies, have sought regulatory help from the Canadian government because they cannot manage the volume of American milk production. (Rather than concede their own competitive inferiority, they’ve predictably blamed American dairies for producing too much.)

For every Wisconsin business that’s argued for a regulatory, protectionist advantage – this is what it feels like when foreign businesses plot with their regulators against a free market, to our disadvantage:

See, also, Dozens of Wisconsin dairy farms could be forced out of business because of trade dispute:

About 75 farms in Wisconsin have already been told that, in less than 30 days, Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood will no longer buy their milk – leaving the farms without a place to ship their product in an already oversupplied market.

At issue is a U.S-Canada trade dispute over what’s called “ultra-filtered milk,” a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese. Grassland said it lost its Canadian business when Canada changed its dairy policies to favor domestic milk over a supply from the U.S.

On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017)

At its website, the Whitewater Area League of Women Voters has posted a questionnaire for the upcoming local election. For all the good work that the League does (and the national organization does admirable work in many communities), the questionnaire reveals an unsupported, narrow view of Whitewater’s local economy.

Consider the 7th question in the survey (

Q7. As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing. What can be done to encourage more development of single-family homes and therefore an increase in that population?

A few remarks:

1. An assumption of negative effects. The question simply assumes a “chilling effect,” without even the slightest proof of one. (One can leave aside the misplaced use of chilling effect, normally a legal term applied to actions that stifle speech or lawful exercise of one’s rights.) If there should be a deterring effect in this case, can anyone at the Whitewater Area League quantify that effect? If not, then what makes this supposed effect more than any number of unfounded claims (e.g., four-leaf clovers, laetrile, Carrot Top as actually funny).

2. Whitewater’s economy. The questionnaire assumes, necessarily, the demand for rental housing makes single-family housing scarce. That’s most certainly not true of all college towns, many of which have large, well-cared-for single family residences. In those communities, single-family homes are desirable near a university (and so more of them are built). If there is no necessary connection, then the League has claimed one without evidence, and neglected other causes for the lack (in their minds) of single-family housing.

This is the key issue for Whitewater: When will policymakers stop blaming student housing for a lack of single-family housing, and start considering other causes for a (in their minds) a weak single-family housing market? (One could include among those other causes weak community relations – a lack of real engagement before enforcement)

3. Why only a negative effects? The questionnaire states effects in only one direction: negative, from student residents to non-student single-family home buyers. Even if one assumes some negative effects (and there’s no quantification of this), is there anyone who thinks that effects run only one way (that is, anyone outside of the League representative who drafted this questionnaire)? If so, those others have a paltry grasp of economic effects.

4. Why pick sides? An organization’s self-focused membership might assume that what they want is what (1) all others want or (2) what the community should have. These are market decisions among freely selling and purchasing adults, and those voluntary transactions prove that this community – in whole – wants and needs a robust student rental market.

5. Poor formation. The League’s seventh question isn’t even formulated correctly:  “As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing” (my emphasis). No, a properly-formulated claim would not be about students moving into available housing rentals, it would be about single-family homes being converted into rentals.

6. Not a politician’s job. Why is it the task – as the League questionnaire assumes – that Whitewater’s common council should intervene in the housing market to advance an outcome that some (but not most actual buyers & sellers) prefer?

If government feels the need to act, it would do better to improve community-based enforcement, make basic municipal repairs, or care for the neediest members of the community: all these projects would be better than trying to rig the local housing market.

The most unfortunate aspect of the League’s question is that, for too many among this town’s policymakers, the Question 7 actually seems reasonable, indeed, obvious.

It’s nothing of the kind.

Who Runs the Economy?

Consider this Twitter exchange between liberty-oriented Republican Justin Amash and a Trump supporter, over the suitability of Trump’s cabinet appointments:

The Trump supporter thinks that the credentials of a cabinet nominee justify the appointment; Rep. Amash rightly sees that credentials do not define the scope of legitimate state action.

The Local Economic Context of It All

localOver a generation, Whitewater’s big-ticket public spending (where big ticket means a million or more per project in a city of about fifteen-thousand) has come with two, often-contradictory justifications: (1) that residents needed to spend so much because Whitewater was the very center of things, or (2) that residents needed to spend so much to assure that Whitewater would keep up (something hardly necessary for a city that was already the very center of things).   Over the last thirty years’ time, the city’s residents have spent hundreds of millions on public projects.

(This tiny town might have saved up enough over the last thirty years to buy a gently-used B-2 bomber.  New ones go for $700 million each, but a used one would be less, and no one – no one – ignores a city with a genuine B-2.  Nearby towns like Palmyra or Fort Atkinson wouldn’t be laughing if Whitewater had its own strategic bomber.)

We also have a public university in town, supported with hundreds of millions in state funds spent to keep the campus going.  The claim that the state doesn’t reimburse the city for the full cost of services in a university town skirts the clear truth that the university brings more to the city than she costs.

One hears now from town officials what any reasonable person would have surmised years ago: that the City of Whitewater and Walworth County are low-growth communities (“we do not have a lot of growth like a lot of communities, like the those adjacent to Madison or Milwaukee”).    That’s disappointingly right – Whitewater is a low-growth community, as is Walworth County.

And yet, and yet, much of this spending was meant to spur growth, either to catapult Whitewater to new heights or assure her supposed position in the stratosphere.  Despite all that’s been spent, here Whitewater is – belatedly but admittedly – economically stagnant.

If proximity to Milwaukee or Madison were the key to success, and if (as is true) Whitewater’s still at the same place on the map as a generation ago, then why did anyone bother touting the city for all these years?

It’s because neither vast public spending for a small town nor proximity to Milwaukee & Madison were assurances of economic success.  It’s because public spending on whatever comes along accomplishes little, nothing, or worse than nothing (worse than nothing – that is, both stagnation and debt).   It’s because closeness to Milwaukee or Madison is not necessary for success.  (There was a time when policymakers insisted we would succeed precisely because we were relatively close to those bigger cities; now, when this town is obviously struggling, the same distance to the same destinations has become an excuse.)

We’ve reached – and we reached them long ago, really – the limits of public spending as a so-called catalyst for private growth.  It’s not impossible that such schemes might initially work elsewhere, but it’s next to impossible that more public money in a small town already saturated with public money will achieve solid, sustainable growth for residents.

American prosperity rests on private enterprise and initiative.   A useful project over the next few months will be to outline ways to liberalize Whitewater’s economy.

Small Towns in America Can Thrive

I posted recently about James Fallows’s Eleven Signs That a City Will Succeed.

(See, from FW, James Fallows on ‘Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed’ (Part 1) and an assessment of those signs for Whitewater, James Fallows on ‘Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed’ (Part 2).)

In the video below, James & Deborah Fallows talk about how (comparatively) smaller cities in different parts of the country are thriving. It’s a brief video, but from it one might be led to a deeper, if different, assessment of how a community can succeed.

Of this point one may be certain: it never was, and it never will, be true that boosterism brings lasting success to a community. 

I’m not convinced, absent more information, exactly why these towns are succeeding, but I’ve no doubt that America’s future is bright nationally, and can be bright locally, too.

The job market in the United States is constantly shifting—especially in small towns that were once totally reliant on large factories for jobs. While politicians focus on failing industries, things looks different from the local perspective. Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows and contributing writer Deborah Fallows travelled to Pennsylvania, California, and Kansas to understand what transformations were happening in various industries. “These perceived weaknesses are actually our strength,” says one young resident of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Via The Atlantic.

Immigration in America Is Not Broken

Immigration has proven to be one of the most divisive issues in the 2016 presidential race. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have expressed that the system is broken, but a consensus on any solution seems untenable. In this video, Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows and contributing writer Deborah Fallows ventured across the country to bridge the disconnect between national political rhetoric on immigration and the realities in migrant communities. They travelled to three American states—Pennsylvania, California, and Kansas—to understand the economic benefits that immigrants bring to the small towns they most often reside in.

This documentary was produced for American Futures, an ongoing reporting project from James and Deborah Fallows. The couple has spent three years exploring small town America by air, “taking seriously places that don’t usually get registered seriously.”

Via The Atlantic.

The Growth That Uplifts

In a recent interview, Ana Revenga, senior director of the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Group, talks about ending extreme poverty.  See, Ending Extreme Poverty: World Bank Economist Ana Revenga @ The Christian Century.

(The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 per person per day, and the article describes how they’ve arrived at that figure.)

Revenga is focused on Third World poverty, but her insights into poverty prevention are relevant even in less dire situations. 

Consider her answers to two questions from the interview:

What is the single most important contributor to the decline in world poverty?

The biggest driver of the success is economic growth—but not any kind of economic growth. What’s needed is economic growth that improves the income-generating opportunities of the poor. This kind of growth involves either raising the value of the agricultural products that the poor are producing or generating better jobs. Anywhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of the decline in poverty rates is due to this kind of economic growth….

Are there forms of economic growth that are not good for the poor?

Absolutely. You could have a country where all the growth comes from commodity extraction or from a pipeline. Those funds might generate income, but that money does not go back into the economy to improve the lives of farmers and is rarely invested in building further infrastructure….

Needless to say, Dr. Revenga is more than capable of setting the boundaries of her own views, yet it seems fair to infer that if not all growth should be valuable, then not all spending is valuable.

Whitewater’s conditions are milder than those Ana Revenga faces in her work, yet not so mild that some who experience them would describe them as mild at all.

This leaves us with a question: is it, can it be, a solution merely to buy capital, goods, or the means of their distribution at public expense?

The Art Market (in Four Parts): Auctions

The Art Market (in Four Parts): Auctions from Artsy on Vimeo.

How did the art auctions business become a multi-billion-dollar industry? The first film in a series about the art market explores this question, leading viewers through the complex history of auctions, with specific attention to the last 20 years. The film unpacks record-breaking sales, like last week’s epic Jean-Michel Basquiat painting Untitled (1982), hammering in at $51 million, and anomalies such as Ai Weiwei’s Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds) (2010), which pop up at auction in countless different quantities, making the connection between the auction price and market value of art. Interviews with auction-house specialists, financial analysts, and art-world influencers like Adam Lindemann, Xin Li, Sarah Thornton, Josh Baer, and Don Thompson add personal insight and shape the narrative.

Auctions launches a four-part documentary series, followed by Galleries, Patrons, and Art Fairs, released weekly through mid-June. Together, the four segments will tell a comprehensive story about the art market’s history and cultural influence, providing an approachable yet nuanced introduction to a extraordinary subject. Visit to watch all the films.

The series is produced in collaboration with UBS and directed by Oscar Boyson.

Having Nice Things in Whitewater

Some months ago, a community group, while embarking on a new project, began using the saying, ‘yes, we can have nice things in Whitewater.’ One supposes that they meant the saying as an expression of optimism about their chances for success, along the lines of we can do this. It’s also probable that they intended the expression as one of desire, along the lines of we deserve this.

It was not the first time that I’ve heard this said about Whitewater, and when an account of the expression’s recent use reached me, I knew immediately whence it came.

It’s a sentiment, generally and beyond any group’s particulars, with which I very much agree: we can have, and deserve, nice things in Whitewater.

Our challenge is that nice is not a fixed quality, sealed in amber, forever unchanging. Nor is nice a thing to be decided from on-high, from a few planners and politicians. The very use of the expression is confirmation that residents will no longer settle for accepting whatever comes their way.

Sometimes nice is a simple thing, overlooked until ordinary residents voice their hopes for more, different, and better.

Look back a decade, and what does one see? Too many leaders and insiders crowing that Whitewater was the pinnacle of all the world, that change would come from them, and that to dare raise any questions about local conditions was somehow an offense against the natural order. They wanted for others little more than a lemming’s life, albeit lemmings who would smile and applaud when asked.

Time takes her toll: most of the leaders from that time have slipped from Whitewater’s public scene (some tumbling more than slipping, if the truth of it be said).

Nice things are sometimes simple, plain things, changing by definition as generations pass, unplanned from above, and decided commonly by many rather than exclusively by a few.

It’s fair to say that a grocery store would be among the plain and simple things of value to Whitewater’s consumers; it’s encouraging that residents are willing to say as much.

Update, Wednesday afternoon : There will be more to write about a new grocery when possibilities become clearer.  One can confidently guess that my own position will favor private, local transactions between businesses and shoppers without government subsidy.

Institute for Justice Fights Anti-Competitive Ban on Baked Goods

Wisconsin is lousy with anti-competitive statutes, designed to protect incumbents from free-market competition. One would prefer that private parties did not have to file lawsuits to protect their economic rights.  Unfortunately, some laws (and some official actions) compel private citizens to seek redress from the courts to protect their liberties.  Fortunately, the Institute for Justice is willing to file suit to make Wisconsin’s markets a bit freer:

Anyone with an oven and a recipe should be able to have a baking business—but that is not the case in Wisconsin, where selling baked goods made in your home kitchen is punishable by up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jail. Wisconsin is one of only two states (the other being New Jersey) to ban the sale of home-baked goods.

Wisconsin’s home-baked-good ban has nothing to do with safety. The state bans home bakers from selling even food the government deems to be “not potentially hazardous” such as cookies, muffins and breads. The state also allows the sale of homemade foods like raw apple cider, maple syrup and popcorn, as well as canned goods such as jams and pickles. In addition, the state allows nonprofit organizations to sell any type of homemade food goods at events up to 12 days a year.

The ban is purely political. Commercial food producers like the Wisconsin Bakers Association are lobbying against a “Cookie Bill”—which would allow the limited sale of home baked goods—in order to protect themselves from competition. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who owns his own commercial food business, even refused to allow the Assembly to vote on a Cookie Bill last session, despite bipartisan support.

That’s why on January 13, 2016, three Wisconsin farmers joined with the Institute for Justice in filing a constitutional lawsuit in state court against Wisconsin’s State Department of Agriculture. The lawsuit will ask the court to strike down this arbitrary home-baked-good ban and allow home bakers to sell home-baked goods—like muffins, cookies and breads—directly to their friends, neighbors and other consumers.

Via Wisconsin Baked Goods Ban: Wisconsin Farmers Challenge State Ban on Selling Home-Baked Goods @ Institute for Justice.

See, also, a copy of the plaintiffs’ complaint, embedded below:

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Friday Poll: Preferred Shopping Times, 2015

The Friday FW poll asks about how you’ll shop over the weekend.  It’s third year that I’ve run this poll (versions of it ran in 2012 and 2013).  Let’s see how this year’s answers compare with those earlier versions.  (Multiple selections are possible for those who’ll shop in different ways.)

Shop Small on Saturday, November 28, 2015

If you’re out and about on Saturday, I hope you’ll shop at some of the many independent, small merchants of Whitewater. You’ll find a wide selection of items for purchase as gifts, and good restaurants at which to eat while shopping during the day.

Best wishes to all for a happy and prosperous season —


See, for more information, Small Business Saturday® on Facebook.

Boo! Scariest Things in Whitewater, 2015

Here’s the ninth annual FREE WHITEWATER list of the scariest things in Whitewater for 2015. The 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions are available for comparison.

The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to truly scary.

10. The Coming Ferret Invasion. Alternative title: The Unprepared Will Be Doomed.  Earlier this year, I predicted that Whitewater would experience a massive invasion of ferrets.  Why?  Because I correctly guessed that New York City would not lift its ban on ferret ownership in that city.  In consequence, the aggrieved, hidden ferrets of the Big Apple are sure to decamp for ferret another location.

Whitewater, of course.

In my estimation, they were supposed to be here by mid-October, but perhaps they’re walking more slowly than I’d calculated.

In any event, there’s a way to protect ordinary, decent residents from the rodent takeover.  (It’s mistaken to say that this website does not offer solutions to problems.  It often does.  I would also
remind officials of Whitewater that the easiest way to avoid problems is not to take actions that cause problems.)

Here’s how to protect Whitewater against thousands of invading ferrets.  First, find a city official who has time on his hands.  That’s the easy part. Second, station that official miles from Whitewater, in a rural location between here and the ferrets’ path.  Third, as these small, voracious mammals approach, it will be the official’s job to associate a picture with food, happiness, etc., in the ferrets’ minds. That way, they will seek the location in the picture, and avoid residents’ homes and businesses.  The entire advancing horde will congregate only at the location depicted in the photograph.

I’ve just the place in mind:


Problem solved.

9. Key People.  I heard a presentation recently where the presenter tried to reassure others that she would seek the input of key people.  There are no key people – at least not in a way that makes it worth using the term.  There are only key ideas.  All the rest is an attempt at flattery or an expression of insecurity.

A group of supposedly key people is no match for one ordinary man or woman with a key idea.

8. One’s Own Words.  They must be scary; one hears them so seldom.  There are a few who think that somehow they’re better off relying on poorly written and poorly read publications than speaking and writing on their own.   That’s a mistake.  Servile papers and websites will not prove enough, anymore; the readership dynamic in this city shifted irreversibly against their publications.

(Actual traffic measurements of various publications are nothing like how insiders or publishers want to portray them; realistic measurements show how far insiders’ publications have declined or stagnated, and how much others have gained.  One can be very confident about the future in this regard.)

Talented people – including many officials individually – are simply throwing away their opportunities when they rely on publications markedly inferior to their own abilities.

7. Potholes.  They must be scary, because we’re avoiding them, and spending more on big projects than we’d need for simple street repair.

6. Gaps.  The greatest republic in human history (ours) grew in liberty and prosperity though careful examination of projects and ideas.  We did not develop word-class technologies by believing ‘close is good enough’ on engineering or fiscal projects.  When, however, someone asks that American standards be applied to Whitewater’s projects, officials whine that identifying gaps is unfair, nitpicking, etc.

In what society do they think they live, for goodness’ sake?

America is great, in significant part, because she – unlike foul Third World autocracies, for example – expects high standards from her leaders and their proposals.

5. Open Government & Temporary Amnesia. Every public body has a website, on which they publish every big boast, but somehow these same officials can’t seem to remember how to post key public documents prominently.  They seem to forget, but only temporarily and selectively.

4. WEDC money.  Not just worthless – it is – but worse: a diversion of resources from far greater needs.  The many poor in this city get nothing from this money.



3. Data.  Presenting scores in a realistic context is harder for Whitewater’s school administrators than facing a pack of savage wargs.

2. Filth, Scum, and the Flimsy Scheme to Bring Them to the City.  I’ve a series about this, in WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN.  There’s a burn-the-village-to-save it quality to waste importation as a means of revenue.  (And yet, the sadness here is that the entire digester-energy project was unnecessary, and the obloquy it brings being wholly deserved for being unforced.)

1. The Ethical Indifference of Act Utilitarianism. Some of the large public institutions of this city show time and again that they care more about their reputations – and that means the reputations of their leaders – than the health and safety of their ordinary members.

The worst example of this has been the repeated downplaying of violent assaults against women on campus while touting accomplishments that cannot, ethically, matter as much as those injuries. These have been self-protective, morally empty, and ultimately futile attempts at diversion and subject-changing.

A climate like this has invited and will invite further tragedies; the worst of this, sadly, surely is not over.

Other officials who allow subject-changing are, themselves, culpable of a supportive wrong.  See, An Open Note to Leaders of the Municipal Government, the School District, and UW-Whitewater.  It’s right and fair that officials who aid in diversionary conversations should be called out directly & specifically when they make that attempt.

For it all, we’ll get to a better city, consigning these ways to the dustbin.

There’s the 2015 list.  We’re more than able to overcome these problems, for a stronger community.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Halloween.

If Market-Based Solutions Are Superior to Cronyism, Why Are There So Many Cronies?

Here’s a question, concerning even small towns like Whitewater, for which the Financial Times publishes an answer: If market-based solutions are superior to cronyism, why are there so many cronies?

First, there aren’t that many cronies (or insistent insiders) in Whitewater or elsewhere, but the few there are manipulate or intimidate weak reporters at local papers into representing their numbers as though they were all the community.  So they’ll commonly speak about how Whitewater does something, when the people acting are a few insiders in a room, for example.

(The truth of Whitewater is that the adult, non-student population in town is only about half the city’s total population, and by the time one accounts for natural differences in interest, outlook, and ideology, the number of big-business lobbyists in town is actually small.  Sometimes, it seems like it’s one person, and a guy who follows along beside him dutifully – if awkwardly – carrying signs or flyers.)

Why, then, does cronyism persist, despite the greater intellectual, practical, and ethical strengths of voluntary, unaided transactions in the marketplace?

Prof. Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago’s Booth School has the answer:

While everybody benefits from a competitive market system, nobody benefits enough to spend resources to lobby for it. Business has very powerful lobbies; competitive markets do not. The diffused constituency that is in favour of competitive markets has few incentives to mobilise in its defence.

This is where the media can play a crucial role. By gathering information on the nature and cost of cronyism and distributing it among the public at large, media outlets can reduce the power of vested interests. By exposing the distortions created by powerful incumbents, they can create the political demand for a competitive capitalism.

SeeA strong press is best defence against crony capitalism @ The Financial Times.

Needless to say, I don’t think that the traditional local press (Gazette, Daily Union, Register) or an imitation (Banner) plays this role.  On the contrary, those publications are defenders of town squires’ repeated errors.

No matter: a new informational order now arises in many small places that progressively, effectively, decisively eclipses insiders to the benefit of those towns’ broader communities.

Tomorrow: Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way).

Film: From Dishwasher to Award-Winning Restaurateur

I suppose that if I wanted to curry favor with others, I’d talk about the need for immigration restrictions, or at the least I’d avoid taking a contrary view (a restrictive position being so popular these days). That would seem to me a timid way to face the world, unfit for robust Americans. One should be direct in one’s views.

So, I’ll say what I do believe — in the ethical and practical value of free markets in capital, goods, and labor.

A major party that once embraced these views has turned away from them. We who are libertarian will not do the same. We are confident that an economic philosophy of free markets was right yesterday, is right today, and will be right tomorrow.

Hugo Ortega crossed over the Mexican border and arrived in Houston, Texas, without documents and without knowing any English. Over the next few years, he would become a citizen through President Reagan’s amnesty program and go from washing dishes to owning multiple restaurants. Now, he and his wife, Tracy Vaught—whom he met while working as a dishwasher in her restaurant in the 80’s—are the “reigning powerhouse couple of Houston’s competitive restaurant scene.”

In this documentary produced by Katherine Wells for The Atlantic‘s American Dreams series, Ortega reflects on his journey within the industry. “I have a great responsibility to represent the Mexican cuisine in a proper way,” he says. “It’s a magnificent cuisine.”

Conservatives Against WEDC

Only a generation ago (not long, really), most conservatives would have rejected something like the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s ineffectual, wasteful attempts to manipulate the economy for the benefit of a few insiders’ friends.

Today, communities across our state are beset with any number of unctuous men hawking a kind of big-government conservatism, with false promise after false promise about community development or job-creation. It’s junk economics, to be sure, but for every oily salesman there’s an obliging, oily toad among the press happy to flack these shams.

Fortunately, there many who see though this, including conservatives who have not descended into hucksterism. (I’m a libertarian, not a conservative, yet I well know that there are varieties of conservatives, and conservatives who have not abandoned the truth of economic uplift through markets free of state interference.)

Consider the men and women of Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute as a positive example:

According to an article in the May issue of State Legislatures Magazine, states offer billions of dollars in subsidies with little to show for it.

“Today, every state offers at least some sort of tax incentive for businesses,” according to the article by Jackson Brainerd, a research analyst for the National Council of State Legislatures. “Yet, despite lawmakers’ enthusiasm for corporation-specific incentives, many economists, experts and other observers, from the left to the right, doubt they are an efficient use of public money.”

Groups including the conservative Madison-based MacIver Institute question whether states should even be in the business of subsidizing business.

“We believe government does not have a role in this arena,” said Brett Healy, executive director of MacIver, which promotes a free-market approach. “Any time the government gets involved in this type of corporate welfare, picking winners and losers, all sorts of problems crop up.

“If we take a step back and be honest with ourselves, this is not a critical or core mission of state government,” Healy said.


Via What should Wisconsin do to boost business? @ State Journal.


Wisconsin on Pace for Most Layoff Notifications Since WEDC Created

WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Now I thought, as it’s what I have heard again, again, and again, that the WEDC was the Laser-Focused Semi-Private Job Creator of Wisconsin™. 

How odd, then, to read that since the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s inception, Wisconsin is on pace for more job layoffs than ever. 

What a shock: who would have imagined that the grand claims of cronyism would meet their refutation in actual human experience?

When the first round of WEDC funding hit Whitewater (it’s been many trips to the trough since), one heard how this was to be a grand and astonishing triumph for the city.

It was, instead, what anyone might have guessed: water on sand, negligible and of no benefit to the many thousands of this city. 

The P.R. men, 501(c)(6) big-business lobby, and sycophantic officials who peddle these shoddy goods will keep trying.

It is impossible, nonetheless, that dollops of money preferentially allocated will produce a meaningful, lasting result for Whitewater. 

That’s why I have described these white-collar welfare schemes as an expression of a gutter ideology – they are such, as they are both intellectually, ethically, and in practice inferior to alternative methods of allocation.  (See, along these lines, Local Crony Capitalism via the WEDC (and similar schemes).)

I have every confidence in allocation of capital, goods and labor through free markets. 

However, to be clear, almost any allocation to the poor would be vastly better on moral and practical grounds than a compulsory allocation through taxes to well-fed, avaricious, big-business leaders and their unctuous flacks.

Jobs, jobs, jobs?  Not through the WEDC.

The New (But Old) Zero-Sum Game

Over at Rock Netroots, Lou Kaye makes this accurate observation about how most local communities’ officials understand development:

For the most part, city leaders here [he’s referring to Janesville] and across Wisconsin not only believe that communities are in competition with one another, they vigorously support and fuel those concepts by carving out special slush accounts from modest local tax treasuries just for business “incentives.”

That’s very true, but I’d add this modification: that officials think that the competition they face is part of a zero-sum game, a fight over finite and fixed resources.  (That’s implicit, I think, in Kaye’s remarks, but it’s worth stating.)

For the most part, Wisconsin’s local officials, development gurus, marketing & PR men, and lobbyists have a narrow, pre-capitalist, finite view of economic possibilities. One man’s gain is another man’s loss; one town’s gain is another town’s loss. 

They’d fit right in with the mercantilists of three to five-hundred years ago.  It’s as though the profoundly transformative power of capitalism, market theory, and free markets had never happened – these men are the modern-day practitioners of a (profoundly) lesser way of economic life. 

These re-worked ideas of the past are inferior, and offer neither real nor lasting prosperity for the communities that fall under their sway.  It’s just battening on the worry and uncertainty of others. 

The men who tout these development schemes present themselves as community champions, as though they were demi-gods come among mere (and struggling) mortals. 

In this, I am reminded of Captain America’s reply to Natasha Romonoff, when facing men who displayed seemingly mythical powers —

Natasha Romanoff: I’d sit this one out, Cap.

Steve Rogers: I don’t see how I can.

Natasha Romanoff: These guys come from legend. They’re basically gods.

Steve Rogers: There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.

WEDC Afflicted with Internal Strife

Not long ago, Messrs. Telfer, Knight, and Clapper met in Whitewater with Reed Hall, so-called CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, to ‘celebrate’ another round of public money in the service of crony capitalism. These gentlemen must have thought – somehow – that all this would look grand and spectacular, that it would be met with local acclaim. They could not have been more wrong. Their supposed success is nothing of the kind; they’ve foolishly tried to promote a failed – yet still failing – agency.

Consider how things are going at the WEDC:

A high-ranking executive at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. tendered, then rescinded, his resignation late last month, but not before leveling a withering criticism of the agency’s second-in-command, a former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker.

Lee Swindall, vice president of business and industry development, in a resignation letter submitted Aug. 25, criticized his boss, WEDC chief operations officer Ryan Murray, as “lacking either the talent or experience” to function in his position and “causing deep and lasting harm” to the organization.

“Murray confuses rigid control with stability and sound management,” Swindall wrote to WEDC CEO Reed Hall.

“What he is producing instead is instability, opposition and resentment in WEDC,” Swindall wrote.

“This state of growing unrest,” he continued, “will corrode the ability of the agency to perform and reach goals, not secure it. Ryan Murray is too committed to his own consolidated power to either notice or care about the swelling discontent in WEDC. It will likely be his undoing, and I fear, WEDC will share this fate, as well.”

Via Top WEDC exec threatened resignation, says boss was ‘causing deep and lasting harm’ to agency @ Wisconsin State Journal.

Everything about the WEDC, actually, is a ‘deep and lasting harm.’

If Whitewater’s local notables thought – as a matter of policy – that the WEDC’s business and market manipulation was a good idea, then they’re ignorant of good policy, ignorant of sound economics, and in the sway of a low ideology.

If, instead, they thought that, regardless of policy, they’d hit upon a public-relations triumph, then they’re ignorant of how normal and reasonable people actually perceive the WEDC. It’s a deceptive and manipulative clown-show.

As with a carrier of tuberculosis, it’s best not to get too close to the WEDC. That these local gentlemen thought it might be a good idea to offer Reed Hall a passionate embrace, so to speak, isn’t merely their private risk; support of these schemes shows a lack of public judgment as policy or public-relations.

Previously at FW on the WEDC: