Where Local Elected Leaders Always Go Wrong
(Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News via AP)
Where Local Elected Leaders Always Go Wrong
(Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News via AP)
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I like my councilwoman. 

In the Facebook videos I’ve seen, and firsthand in the candidate forums we’ve participated in, she seems like a genuinely nice lady.

It’s what she does within city council chambers that gives me pause.  We have some fundamental, philosophical differences of opinion.

First and foremost was the government’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.  Some would say overreaction, and I count myself amongst them.

Without question, the pandemic threw everyone for a loop.  Elected officials could almost be forgiven for taking as drastic measures as they did.  Almost.

Leaders should be the cooler heads in the room.  They should set an example, provide guidance.  What they shouldn’t do, is wield such power that dictates a person’s movements, or who they associate with.

Occasionally when I take that stance, I get accused of “putting profits over lives.”  But that’s a shortsighted view that misses the point.

In the short-run, profits aren’t what puts food on the table for your children.  They’re not what keeps a roof over their head, or a light on for them to read.  Simple employment does, and too much of that was needlessly swept away with the lockdown orders.

Instead of pushing back against the governor, in deference to San Antonians’ autonomy, the city routinely appealed for the ability to tighten further.  It was misguided at best, unforgivable at worst. 

For what it’s worth, profits foster widespread prosperity.  They also however, instill in politicians and bureaucrats’ delusions of grandeur that they can create, with the subsequent tax revenue, market goods like so-called “affordable housing.”

City council voted in February, almost unanimously, to put before voters a change to the city charter to expand what they can do with borrowed funds. 

There are indeed larger forces at work when it comes to the price of housing.  One of them is a weak dollar policy set forth from Washington D.C. 

When Uncle Sam fiddles with the value of the dollar, peddling the false notion that it confers a strongtrade position, investors tend to shift their capital into established assets.  We’ve seen the bubbles that subsequently materialize in the oil market, for instance.  Housing is another example. 

When that house of cards inevitably comes crashing down, as we saw a dozen years ago, recession is more likely to ensue.  Not only do public balance sheets turn red (or redder), but the clamor for government to “do something” grows.

It’s a vicious cycle, and politicians, either out of simple ignorance or a thirst for power, seize the opportunity to be seen as the savior.  They end up compounding matters, sometimes by coercing private business to “offer” more entitlements, like paid sick leave (PSL).

When I started on the labor ladder, I was grateful for the opportunity to earn some money when my marketable skill base was low.  It never occurred to me to demand more than I was offered. 

Had such a diktat been in place back then, my first day of employment might very well have been pushed into the future, due to being too expensive to hire.

As the great Thomas Sowell once said, the “real minimum wage is always zero.”

My councilwoman claimed that her “constituents wanted it.”  Fair enough.  It’s important to have your finger on the pulse of the community, especially when you live amongst them. 

Issues like these however, are unique.

The Founding Fathers set up a republic where the rights (the real ones, not the ones pulled out of thin air on a seemingly daily basis) of the minority are protected against the will of the majority.

This is why I would like to see the city charter amended to put citizens’ and entities’ duly-earned, or acquired, resources and property out of the reach of those who want to vote themselves a portion of it.

A local elected official must be attentive to constituent concerns.  Potholes should be filled.  Sidewalks should be smooth.  Public spaces should be maintained, etc.

Some humility is in order though.

They must realize that their forays into the private sector distort the free, efficient flow of goods, services, and information.  Such incursions are also highly likely to be counterproductive.

The last thing public “servants” should be doing is restricting or violating the liberties of their constituents.  The only person that serves is oneself.

Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute of Objective Policy Assessment, and is a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society.  He can be reached via email or Facebook

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