More Government Is Not More Freedom – Even in Pennsylvania

Does anyone remember Congressman Sweeney from upstate New York? Probably not. He resigned a few years ago. Rumors have it he had committed a crime of domestic violence (ahem!) and that he was intoxicated at the time. But, again, that might just be rumors. Anyway. I once met Congressman Sweeney (whose district was won by Kirsten Gillibrand, who later succeeded Hillary Clinton as a member of Harry Reid’s herd of Senate voting cattle) during a re-election campaign rally in Saratoga Springs. Every Republican I knew had told me that Sweeney was the most passionate friend that limited government had ever seen. I shook Sweeney’s hand and expressed appreciation for his dedication to limited government. That was stupid of course, as I had no first-hand knowledge of his record, because then the Congressman went up and gave a long, rambling speech about how he had fought so hard to get on the House Appropriations Committee so he could bring big loads of federal dollars home to his district.

There I stood, libertarian as I was, feeling like an idiot. Not that my input mattered that much to the Congressman – he probably didn’t even bother to hear my name – but the point in this story is that statists come in many different shapes and forms. I am reminded of this when I read the following story published by the Commonwealth Foundation, a think tank in Pennsylvania that allegedly wants limited government and more economic freedom:

On Monday, Gov. Corbett announced the administration is considering outsourcing the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery to a private company. Requests for Qualification (RFQs) are due May 1, and there are a lot of questions about what this means for the budget, revenues and the lottery’s more than 230 employees. Based on the experience of Illinois—the only other state lottery to completely privatize management operations—we can draw a couple conclusions.

Let’s keep in mind that the title of the article is “Lottery Contract Could Make Everyone a winner”.

Everyone? Don’t think so. This article is a perfect example of how alleged friends of economic freedom endorse the perpetuation of big government, but not only that: this article also lends credence to the use of addiction taxes to fund that same big government. Let’s listen some more:

The private sector can guarantee and secure revenues. Illinois awarded Northstar a lottery contract in fall 2010 guaranteeing $4.8 billion in revenues by 2016—a more than $1 billion increase over projected revenues under state management. Guaranteed revenues protect the state from risk in down years and guaranteed profit-sharing ensure favorable ratios in boom years. As long as the contracts are performance-based, including penalties for failing to raise revenues, the state benefits. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gave Corbett’s hunt for more funding a ringing endorsement.

In other words, the heralds of limited government in Pennsylvania are jubilant over the fact that the state government can rake in even more money than before. I would assume that the freedom fighters at the Commonwealth Foundation know by now that wherever a government gets its hand on another dollar, it spends it faster than a person with a gambling addiction can waste his hard-earned cash on a slot machine. So why do the Commonwealth’ers want their state government to have more money??

They try to pay lip service to limtied government…

But more important than finding more revenue is returning state government to its core functions. 

 Nonsense. As I have pointed out before, if the Pennsylvania government owns the lottery but leases operations to a private company, then the lottery is still a government function. Besides, the “core” criterion for government functions has to do with spending, not the revenue side. By appreciating the fact that their state government now can take in more money, the Commonwealth Foundation is not exactly helping the citizens of Pennsylvania downsize their governemnt to its core functions.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is the fact that the CF staff are willing to accept a government that relies more on addiction taxes to pay for its big, onerous, growth-stifling entitlement programs. Addiction taxes are a sign of serious moral decay among legislators in their desperate struggle to keep their welfare state intact.

Economic freedom does not benefit when government revenues go up. I recommend the liberty-minded people in Harrisburg to think again.