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Blanco legacy attempt: silk purses out of sows' ears

With one week to go with the lamentable term of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, her comments about that tenure reveal that she doesn’t really need to pen a political autobiography to explain all. One aphorism describing her and one statement she made really sums it all up. They are, in order, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” and that she should have spent (state) money on a public relations campaign to change perceptions of her in the wake of the 2005 hurricane disasters.

The two link to explain why she was utterly the wrong choice to lead the state and did so poorly. In her heart, Blanco loves big government. She thinks its purpose is to do things, to correct problems real and imagined, the latter of which obviously don’t need government arrogation of power from the people in order to intervene into, and the former of which in most cases government does less efficiently and effectively than if individuals are left to their own devices to grapple.

This view of hers entirely misunderstands the human condition and human nature. Government should exist to enable individuals to pursue their own ends, interfering as little as possible with human lives because in the end down this path almost everybody in society is better off both in terms of autonomy and in accrual of resources. Simply, minimal government involvement to redistribute power and wealth for most people optimizes their individual abilities to accrue these on their own in an efficient way most beneficial to society as a whole, while for a small bunch of people they are no worse off than under alternative, increased levels of government intervention.

An excellent example concerns one issue Blanco wishes remembrance for and asserts she did good things with, economic development. She acted as if a big game hunter, trying to use the resources of government to bag hefty trophies. For the rest of her life, airlines, hotels, headwaiters, and the like will send her an avalanche of Christmas cards for all the business she brought them as she traipsed around on taxpayers’ money believing she could talk businesses, while dangling baubles such as special incentives in front of it, into coming to the state.

Meanwhile, existing business in the state was contracting for the very reasons Blanco was almost always unconvincing in her arguments to these presumed economic saviors who time and again refused to come to the state as non-government job growth stagnated: Louisiana has an unfriendly business climate because it taxes too much, regulates too much, educates inefficiently, and plays too fast and loose with governmental ethics. These problems were caused by too much and too much acquiescence to big government: you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear — no matter how much PR through government largesse you apply.

From Blanco we did not get meaningful tax cuts (just a small one for some businesses followed by a huge health care tax hike that she had to get repealed) and/or reductions in government spending (spending continued to increase even as population declined). Instead, we got Blanco blaming all sorts of imaginary forces and concepts – storms, FEMA, Bush, Republicans, Nagin, partisanship – for her lack of progress in economic development and in a host of other policy areas. Who she really needed to blame was herself for her flawed political ideology but since she had neither the intelligence nor wisdom to understand the theoretical bankruptcy of her liberalism, she had to find excuses instead.

Throughout her gubernatorial career Blanco has believed PR could solve her problems (within a day of Katrina-triggered floods she was communicating with staffers about what actions she should take to make herself look better). With her book plans, it appears that attitude will continue. If so, do not expect it to explicate the central insight that she should draw from her four years as the state’s chief executive – her worldview that promoted big government preordained her to failure, something that no amount of PR can change.

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