Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oregon Election Results

With the passage of Measure 49 it seems to me that Oregon voters have learned a lesson in externalities and public good and have found that individual rights should not always be advanced at the expense of social objectives. That, in fact, in a market based economy the government has a large role to play to balance the needs of society as a whole and the rights of individuals. It is never an easy line to draw and voters spoke loudly when Measure 37 passed that government had exercised too little restraint. But they also spoke loudly yesterday when they decided that Measure 37 constrained government too much. Perhaps we have found balance, only time will tell. I hope, though, that this can serve as a moment in which most Oregonians can learn to appreciate the delicate balancing act that a democratic government must perform in a market-based economy.

Measure 50 is, for me as an amateur spectator of politics, an extremely interesting litmus test. I have made it clear in an earlier post that I disliked the populist twist of Measure 50 - a sort-of Rube Goldberg device to make it appealing by punishing bad behavior to help kids. I applaud both goals however (trying to reduce smoking and providing health care for uninsured kids) as I think both smoiking and uninsured kids impose heavy costs on society that are born by all of us. However I cannot lament the failure of Measure 50, it just smacked too much of politics and populism. I am also afraid of special taxes that have earmarks, as these do not allow government the flexibility to respond to changing conditions. The real answer is wholesale tax reform in Oregon, a great resetting of government fiscal policy and powers to stop the madness of measure-driven politics and return to representative democracy. I am saddened that the governor has backed away from this just because revenues are up...but I'll leave that for another post.


Jeff Alworth said...

With the passage of Measure 49 it seems to me that Oregon voters have learned a lesson in externalities....

You are a generous watcher of human nature. Others might draw different conclusions.

Patrick Emerson said...

I have heard the no on 49 people claiming that it passed only because people were fooled. I find this condescending and insulting as an Oregon voter. I do believe that voters often make decisions with very little informaion, but this is a case where the affects of M37 have been in the papers for a couple of years and have shown up locally in communities across Oregon where specific parcels have been subject to M37 claims. I believe voters saw this and were uncomfortable with what they saw. They may not have understood the nuances of M49 but understood that it was a restriction on the rights bestowed upon private property owners by M37. So, in this case I think voters had a lot of information to use when heading to the polls (um, the mailbox).

In economics we assume people are rational and arguments that they do stupid things because they are dumb don't get very far. A vast and varied empirical literature supports the notion that individual behavior is actually very consistent with the rational hypothesis.