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.