“Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.” —Milton Friedman
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” —Rahm Emanuel
Brown’s Promotion of Scarcity
As Governor of California, Jerry Brown does little or nothing to expand the freedom of Californians. Brown, like Obama, has championed a steady erosion of citizens’ rights in favor of state-regulated privileges. The severe drought conditions, touted by Brown as his raison d’être for extreme water regulation, have been problematic for half a decade, yet Brown has done nothing to alleviate shortages, instead proposing oppressive state-regulation of water privileges. Free-market solutions have been eschewed, in favor of a statist approach to crisis management.
The Proper Use of Taxes
The State of California has had a reputation, over the years, for commercial innovation and economic growth, including the talent for solving such problems as the current water situation presents. But California’s wasteful and lavish welfare system has, in the past, been overshadowed by an economy that has generated enough wealth to support such excess.
But a more positive use of the wealth which has been overused on social programs would have been to lower taxes to expand the economy. Ultimately, the creation of more and better-paying jobs would have reduced the need for welfare and increased the amount of tax collections available for application towards the general welfare, such as improvements to the state’s infrastructure of dams, reservoirs, and water-processing facilities. Today, 32 percent of all US welfare cases are in California, although California represents only 12 percent of the total population.
Voter Bribery and Water Scarcity
A larger class of government dependents means there are more people to vote for Democrats, the very patrons of dependency. Government welfare is largely a system for bribing voters. It is how California Democrats promote equal things at the expense of equal rights, bringing the state less abundance and less freedom to problem-solve with every election cycle. This loss of productivity also means there is less capacity for solving problems—including those involving water.
Making Life Hard for Producers
Economic restrictions in California raise energy costs. And California continues to increase fuel taxes. The result is gasoline at the pump that costs a dollar more than it does in low-tax states. The inflated fuel prices work to drive up the costs of infrastructure improvements which are needed to cause new businesses to want to open and old businesses to decide to stay in California. The expense of doing business in California, as well as problem-solving, has become quite high. And middle-class consumers and taxpayers are being driven out-of-state, since productive people are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Government policies are to blame, yet Governor Brown insists on exercising dictatorial water policies that are bound to drive even more people from California, along with their industry and know-how. California’s dependents are wont to stay on, since they likely will not be targeted for Brown’s $500 fines for water overuse. (After all, what is the point of handing out bribes, only to make the voters give them back?)
Scarcity Means Power
Where is the advantage in running the hardest-working laborers and the best wealth-producing companies out of California? Why make the state apparatus bigger, more expensive, and more regulatory in nature? For those who believe in freedom and the abundance it brings, there is no advantage. But for those who believe in shrinking the economic pie through over taxation and overregulation—thereby creating scarcity, and thus the need for rationing and government emergency measures—Jerry Brown’s can’t-do problem-solving constraints are ideal.
Management by Crisis
Statists like Brown and Obama are happy to rein in economic growth, thus decreasing opportunity, and increasing dependence. When companies move out-of-state or out-of-country, and deprive the government of revenue, it leads to crisis management and the rationing of funds and resources, giving politicians more control in the running of people’s lives. Instead of freedom and abundance, there is set into place an ethic of managed scarcity. This anti-freedom agenda means that the people must live according to the values of central planners, since the economic pie is not being allowed to grow. It is the government’s vision of how people should live that wins the day. And the state slowly assumes the power of turning rights into privileges, which the state can give away or take back, as rewards and punishments. People become servants of the same government which used to serve them.
Economic freedom is about generating material abundance and empowering every kind of commercial activity that makes people more free and independent. California—if it would ease regulatory rules—could allow speedy development of new dams, reservoirs, and desalination plants to provide an abundance of potable water that would satisfy the water needs of the people of California far into the future. In fact, an overabundance of drinkable water could be produced that would allow large quantities to be supplied to out-of-state customers, generating income to the state. This process could be fast-tracked by the state to happen inside a calendar year, which would be timely, considering NASA’s prediction that California should be out of water in twelve months’ time. The speed with which infrastructure was repaired and recreated, in the wake of the Northridge Earthquake, was the result of a fast-track process that included generous bonuses for quick completion of project goals. State leaders with a love of the California people—above and beyond their own dreams of power—would institute such high-energy plans again today.
Using the Environment to Justify Scarcity
Brown’s argument in favor of scarcity is his belief that a new dam or reservoir might harm the environment. But Brown and the Democrats are environmental extremists who do not view humankind as a legitimate part of the environment with just as much right to build a dam as a beaver has to do the same.
In fact, Jerry Brown’s elitist environmental extremism not only prevents California from erecting new dams; it means the destruction of dams already in existence, to the tune of forty-four billion gallons of water storage that will be allowed to vanish from use, creating greater scarcity of water than before—and right in the middle of severe water-shortage conditions. Using the environment as justification for actively creating more human misery lacks compassion for real people.
It’s About Trade-Offs
The truth is that economics is about trade-offs. If we insisted on having absolutely no pollution from cars, we could ban automobiles, but that would mean the sacrifice of huge numbers of human lives daily, since there would be no ambulance service fast enough to provide timely, life-saving transportation to emergency rooms. It would also mean our country could not survive, since fuel-burning vehicles, planes, and ships must be utilized for military defense. Most people believe that these trade-offs, as well as others we have made as a free people, are acceptable and appropriate.
The truth is that balance is necessary for human civilization to exist. The environmental footprint of a few more dams and reservoirs would not present much of a problem in the big picture. And the argument can be made that an abundance of water could also be used for the benefit of animals and plants. So this intentional creation of scarcity runs counter to the well-being of not only people, but potentially of other flora and fauna in the state. Using water scarcity to promote government power is detrimental, on balance, to the entire ecology of the state. And that is a trade-off that free-thinking and productive Californians have a hard time accepting.
Is It a Shortage of Water or a Shortage of Infrastructure?
There is, in truth, no shortage of water in California, which has been blessed with 840 miles of coastline! A desalination plant is already being constructed in Carlsbad, California. And others are in the planning stages. California could benefit from building ten or twenty desalination plants up and down the coast, each one having a relatively insignificant environmental impact. The state government should hasten the construction of these plants.
But while California’s political master-planners continue to strive for a smaller economic and infrastructural pie, along with a larger system of regulatory power, the everyday working people of the state desire economic freedom and personal choice. And a bountiful water supply is integral to the realization of those goals. California is at a tipping point, with respect to its continuance as a free republic, and the state’s water crisis might just be the issue that causes voters to reassess the path California has too long been following—the path to peonage and the loss of liberty.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com