Freedom Updates: July 7, 2006
by Ari Armstrong
Independence Day in Las Vegas
On Independence Day, my wife and I enjoyed the day in Las Vegas, then flew back to Denver in time to see the surrounding fireworks from I-70.
Not only can you smoke on privately owned property (with owner permission) where we were, but venders walk around with cigarettes and cigars for sale. There's gambling, drinking, smoking, and even prostitution, all legal, yet, somehow, that doesn't cause the mass of the population to go crazy. Indeed, I've never felt safer than when on the Strip, despite the seas of people and omnipresent "sin." (Moderate gambling and drinking aren't actually sins, cigarette smoking is a personal vice, and prostitution is morally problematic but unpopular.)
[July 8 update: One reader writes, "While prostitution is prevalent in Las Vegas, I assure you that it's illegal there. Apparently the Vegas casinos don't want the competition for the entertainment dollars. Prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada, but not in Las Vegas." I appreciate the clarification. I had in mind that it's legal in the general area (I don't know how far away), but I was unclear. A search of the statutes of the state turns up 201.354: "It is unlawful for any person to engage in prostitution or solicitation therefor, except in a licensed house of prostitution;" and 244.345(8): "In a county whose population is 400,000 or more, the license board shall not grant any license to a petitioner for the purpose of operating a house of ill fame or repute or any other business employing any person for the purpose of prostitution."]
Sure, some people irresponsibly gamble away more money than they can comfortably lose. But at least it's their own money, not the money of their neighbors. As Jay Leno put the matter: "The Census Bureau revealed [recently] that Las Vegas is about to pass Washington, D.C. in population. The big difference between Las Vegas and D.C., of course, is that in Las Vegas people gamble with their own money."
What are extraordinary are the gigantic, extravagant buildings. We stayed in the Luxor, the giant black pyramid. I chuckled at the note in the room asking visitors to turn of the lights upon leaving for purposes of environmental friendliness. Of course, the hotel shoots an ultra-bright beam of light into the sky, all night long, just because it looks cool. I don't know how many cubic feet of buildings are air conditioned on the Strip or in the city, out in this baking desert, but it's a lot. And it is glorious.
Unlike the original pyramids, erected by mass slave labor for the ruler-gods, the Luxor was erected by free enterprise solely for pleasure of the public.
Meanwhile, in Atlantic City...
The AP reported on June 5: " New Jersey's casinos ushered the last of the gamblers away from slot machines and tables Wednesday, and janitors locked the doors behind them as a state government shutdown claimed its latest victims... But with no state budget, New Jersey can't pay its state employees, meaning the casino inspectors who keep tabs on the money and whose presence is required at casinos are off the job and the casinos can't operate."
The obvious solution seems to have eluded New Jersey's politicians: fire the state inspectors and stop holding businesses hostage to political extortion.
[July 8 update: The AP reports, "Gov. Jon S. Corzine issued an executive order early Saturday that ended a weeklong state government shutdown, bringing slot machine bells noisily to life as Atlantic City casinos reopened."]
Denver Democrat Strikes Again
Even after The Denver Post's claims about the alleged benefits of spending taxes to promote tourism were discredited, the paper repeated its bogus claims.
The Post's editorial writers claim on June 30 that Referendum C's "passage also allowed the state to earmark $19 million this year to promote tourism, up from $5.5 million last year. That's a prudent investment to buttress our tourism business."
Prudence would be for the Post to stop pontificating about the make-believe virtues of corporate welfare.
In the same editorial, the Post pretends, "Spurred by a resurgence of business confidence following passage of Referendum C last fall, the state is finally realizing the fruits of recovery from the 2001-02 recession."
What is the evidence for the Post's claim? The economy is doing better following passage of Referendum C. On this point, as I've argued, the Post simply confuses chronology with causality. The economy was already expected to pick up before the passage of Referendum C. As I wrote, "So the case for Referendum C depended on the expectation of economic growth, and, now that Referendum C has passed, it is credited for the economic growth."
Taking more money out of the market economy hampers economic growth.
The Post claims, "Investors' spirits rose when they saw Referendum C would avoid the need to cut $365 million from higher education and human service programs vital to business growth. Equally important, C's passage allowed Colorado to pour $298 million into supplemental funding for transportation projects in the 2006-07 budget and put another $40 million into other construction needs, especially in higher education."
It so happens that investors' spirits rise when the economy comes out of recession. But that obvious answer doesn't fit the Post's agenda. Increased welfare spending is a clear drain on the economy, despite the Post's claims. There's little reason to think that increased tax spending on higher education -- which is mostly privately funded -- will result in a better-educated work force. Ben DeGrow wrote a report for the Independence Institute smashing the Post's assumptions about K-12 spending. Yet tax dollars have allowed schools like Cherry Creek High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder to fund the propagation of racism.
The state spends money on education and transportation, but it also spends money on counterproductive bureaucracy, corporate welfare, and special interest projects. When it comes to transportation, whatever happened to the gasoline tax? If the state is going to be involved in transportation, at least it should arrange for users to pay for their own use as closely as possible. (Toll roads also accomplish this.) Specific transportation taxes that reflect use shouldn't be supplemented with general taxes. But of course Referendum C is not just about transportation, the main concern of many of the voters who supported it. Instead, Referendum C is a special-interest grab-bag that will divert untold millions of dollars from the free economy to private interests without even a veneer of "public" benefit.
In its July 5 editorial, the Post ridiculously claims, "Initiative 88 is a Jon Caldara campaign to reverse the impact of Referendum C, the budget reform program approved last fall by Colorado voters." The initiative would not "reverse the impact of Referendum C." It would instead limit the net tax hike to the amount originally predicted, rather than leave it free floating. The criticism is that the initiative would result in a one-time "cut" relative to newly-scheduled increases. But Referendum C raises net taxes forever, not just for a year. Even if the legislature were unable to find a clever way to even out the year-to-year increases, the thought of the legislature modestly restraining its spending of other people's money for a single year somehow fails to invoke in me a feeling of dread.