John Turpish for Georgia State House

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Free Market vs. Cronyism


The word “capitalism” gets thrown around a lot, but people mean different things by it.

Let’s set aside hyperbolic goofiness. There are very different groups of people who call themselves capitalist who want different things.

I consider myself a free-market capitalist. The “free-market” part is what I want in law: recognizing property rights, contracts, and respecting individual freedom. The “capitalist” part is about the kinds of organizations and contracts I prefer to interact with, personally. But it’s important the government not choose winners and losers – an entrepreneur selling fresh produce to his neighbors without bothering to tell the state about it should have the same treatment by the state as a corporation that can afford lobbyists.

There are also crony capitalists, or state capitalists, who want governments to intervene on behalf of the kinds of businesses that fit their mental model, which can start to look a lot like state socialism if they get carried away. If they can get you, the taxpayer, to fund “investment” that’s useful to them, great. If they can keep rewards private while pushing risk onto you, even better.

The Questionnaire

This difference is really brought into contrast in a candidate questionnaire I recently received that was supposed to help this organization decide whom to endorse. They’re not going to publish the individual responses, so I’ll give mine here. Really it’s your endorsement I’m after anyhow, not theirs.

Remember, the questions are not mine. The answers are.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development and local governments are currently authorized to offer targeted incentives to companies choosing to relocate or expand operations in Georgia. Do you support or oppose these types of job creating incentives?

Oppose. I’d be more than happy to push for broad-based tax cuts and deregulation, but having a government target individual companies? Choosing winners and losers? And doing it with your money? That’s the opposite of a free market. And by the way, “incentives” doesn’t always mean a tax cut, it can also mean spending tax money, handing over confiscated land, etc..

Do you support or oppose legislative initiatives such as those we’ve seen in other states that damage the state’s brand by perception or reality of discrimination?

Oppose? I don’t oppose social policy because it would be bad for business. However, it would be extremely difficult to create a perception of discrimination without doing something a legitimate government has no business doing. So to get rid of the question mark I’d want them to get explicit about which exact things they’d want me to oppose, but I strongly suspect I do oppose them if they’re talking about what I think they are. Just for different reasons.

Do you support or oppose policies and state investments that promote international trade into new markets abroad?

Oppose. First of all, the term “investment” almost never means investment when it comes to the government. The only way I would see it as such is if you have solid data showing it will increase future tax revenue relative to the counter-factual (what would’ve happened if you did not do this) by more than the cost, adjusted for inflation. It’s extremely unlikely that any such promotion would increase future revenues by more than what would’ve happened if you simply allowed people to keep their own money and invest it as they like.

Even if it were true, however, that the state government could invest your money better than you can, it’s simply not right to take someone’s money by force and give it to companies and/or industries you hand-select. And by the way, that hand-selection process is ripe with opportunities for corruption.

Do you support or oppose re-prioritizing state budget expenditures to create incentives for rural economic development and revitalization?

Expenditures? Probably oppose, but let me see specifics. I generally want to see expenditures trend downwards overall, and to be fair and prudent about them in the meantime.

There is an interesting case for special economic zones that have a different set of rules around taxation and regulation, since one could be comfortable pushing that further and faster than if you’re dealing with an entire state. Naturally you’d want the people who live there to approve it beforehand, but there are places with poor local economies where folks might welcome such experiments. And if it works out well for them, other locales might request similar treatment.

Would you support or oppose increasing opportunities to align K-12 curriculum with workforce needs to ensure students are prepared with the skills needed to compete in our 21st century workforce?

Support, but outside of literacy and numeracy the curriculum should really be up to the parents when they choose their school, homeschool, etc.. I suspect most parents would have an adequate desire to prepare their child for the workforce.

Competition is good in every market, even education.

Do you support or oppose allowing all Georgia high school graduates to access in-state tuition to Georgia colleges, including legal immigrants, to ensure our state attracts highly skilled workers, increasing our competitive advantage and ability to grow new jobs?

Oppose. “Attract” is an incredibly bizarre claim – are you expecting their parents to come here in the hopes that their children would get cheaper college later? You would make a much better claim if you said “foster” a highly-skilled workforce, since at least by your logic they’d be attracted here and then become highly-skilled (unless we’re willing to admit universities do a bad job of developing skills).

I’d much sooner put restrictions on existing tuition monies so that they incentivize choosing a career path that’s in-demand, perhaps with something like fund matching future-employment agreements.

As it is, too many people go to college and often for things where college doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Pushing even more money into it won’t make that any better. And further, all graduates? Even those who have given no indication, and certainly no objective indication, they have any intention of ever taking schooling seriously? That certainly doesn’t sound like a wise investment of taxes.

Would you support or oppose policies and funding measures that increase up-skilling and employment options for those traditionally excluded from the workforce to meet current and future labor demand?

I’m going to need some examples of specific policies. We spend more than enough on education currently, so a “funding” measure I would support would be about re-directing funds, not increasing overall spending.

I’m certainly interested in skill-development outside of existing schooling, since the latter seems to be failing us. And, in general, we should always enable experimentation, since even if our current system is deemed functional there may be something better.

Do you support or oppose expanding access to public charter schools, including but not limited to incentivizing creation of more charter schools and fully funding the state charter school facility grant, in order to better meet the needs of families across the state with more K-12 choices?

Oppose, kinda. I support backpack funding so parents can choose, not having the state pick and choose which facilities get welfare.

Do you support or oppose the state mandating what a private employer’s wage and benefit package (paid leave, minimum wage, new insurance mandates, etc.) should consist of?

Oppose. I oppose the state trying to figure out who your employer is.

Do you support or oppose Georgia’s status as a right-to-work state which protects a Georgia employee’s right to decide on participation in union organizations?

That is NOT what that legislation does. It prevents employers from making an agreement with the union that they will only hire unionized employees.

I don’t want to join a union, and I don’t recommend you do. I strongly oppose them having any special legal protections. And if course if they went back to violence and destruction that should be dealt with harshly.

But private unions in the US today are voluntary, and whom you hire is supposed to be up to you, so it would be wrong of me to try to use the force of law to make your decisions for you.

Public unions on the other hand are inherently corrupt because they’re not negotiating with the source of the money, and pervert electoral politics. We cannot and should not explicitly ban public-sector unions, but there are constitutional policies that could gut them and if there were any hope for that I’d pursue it.

Do you support or oppose state mandates, such as a renewable portfolio standard, that would require electric utilities to utilize certain types (solar, wind, etc.) of energy as part of their generation mix?

Support in general, but details matter. I’d rather push for consumer choice in electricity.

Companies that accept a state-enforced monopoly – that is where they’ve made competing with them on their turf illegal – have entered into a devil’s bargain. I don’t mind throwing restrictions on them almost as if they were a part of the state, since they kind of are. And that’s how we do electricity in Georgia today.

Do you support public and private efforts to advance statewide conservation and sustainability for an enhanced quality of life?

Yes. Usual hedging about details and property rights on the public side, of course.

Would you support or oppose reforming the existing state Medicaid program to include expanding the program to draw down increased federal funds to cover more at-risk Georgia citizens who are currently ineligible?

Oppose. Other states are stealing from us using healthcare as a front operation. The appropriate response to that is not to get in on the action, but to keep this in mind when voting for US House.

Do you support or oppose increasing incentives for healthcare providers serving economically challenged populations to encourage providers to practice in rural areas?

Oppose. “Incentives” coming from these folks probably means hand-outs, and I think you know where I stand on that by now.

But also, the government is shockingly bad at recognizing, much less predicting, innovative and useful business models and practices. If we were going to pick winners and losers when it comes to rural health care, the government is the last institution you’d want making that choice.

If you just want to give an individual tax reduction to doctors and other medical professionals who work in less-serviced places, I might consider that. But I highly doubt that’s what they mean by “providers”.

Do you support or oppose legislation that would allow more types of lawsuits against businesses, leading to increased insurance and legal costs as well as increasing the costs of various consumer goods and services?

Support, but I’m going to need examples. Look, civil suits exist for a reason. If a company has wronged you, you should be able to hold them accountable. This is how we disincentivize bad behavior, since it carries a risk.

Legal costs for frivolous law suits are a valid concern, but if that’s what the question were after it would be phrased differently.

Do you support or oppose providing greater legal protections for Georgia companies who make every reasonable effort to protect consumer data from cyber-attacks?

Oppose. Show me any company in Georgia that has made every reasonable effort to secure their stuff.

I know it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to be perfect. But insurance for this stuff exists for a reason – and the premiums are the market telling you how risky you are. If this became a regular problem there would be companies willing to ensure you for less if you demonstrated to their satisfaction that you took every reasonable effort to avoid the problem.

Taking away that market for risk and simply pushing it on every-day Georgians who have no money for lobbyists? Not good policy.

Do you support or oppose efforts to protect landowners and lessees from lawsuits holding them primarily liable for crimes committed on their property without their knowledge?

Support, probably (details, of course). The criminal is of course the only one truly responsible. If you want to attempt a negligence claim you should have to demonstrate to the court that a reasonable, typical homeowner/lessee would have taken some specific action that would have prevented the crime and also that you could not have realistically accurately assessed the risk before coming onto their property.

Current state law gives exclusive authority over sales tax collections to the state. Do you support or oppose creating another level of governmental complexity by allowing counties and cities to each create their own system of collecting local sales tax revenue?

Oppose. There are too many forms and complexities to taxation as it is. Also, sales taxes have some real harms that make it worse than some other taxes like property tax.

Georgia is currently one of only a few states to possess AAA+ Bond rating from all three major credit agencies.
Would you support or oppose prioritizing maintenance of this rating in any potential tax reform package?

Support.

Do you support changing Georgia regulations and statutes to reform occupational and professional licensing laws to allow more entrepreneurship, multi-state licensure reciprocity, and reduce barriers to employment?

Enthusiastically support.

Do you support or oppose efforts to maintain Georgia’s film and entertainment industry tax incentives?

Oppose, which if you’ve read this far you should’ve guessed by now. It’s immoral to take people’s money against their will and give it to studios to make movies they would’ve made anyhow.

Do you support or oppose increasing funding for maintaining and expanding transportation infrastructure? (Example: gas tax, HOT lanes, toll roads, local T-SPLOST)

Both support & oppose. You’ve lumped together very different policies.

  • Increasing funding – well, if we’re paying for it by lowering funding for something else which is less productive, perhaps.
  • A gas tax might not be a bad idea of it’s supplanting a worse tax. But not just added onto all the existing taxes.
  • HOT lanes (high-occupancy and/or tolling) are mostly fine, in my opinion. Random fact: I have some professional background with these.
  • toll roads are probably fine, too. If we had a libertarian society the vast majority of roads would be privately-owned, and this would likely how they would pay for it. It does put the cost in the right place – the people who use it.

The Georgia Ports Authority continues to experience dramatic growth and projects the growth to continue. Do you support or oppose efforts to create more funding to invest in freight and logistics infrastructure to handle that growth?

Oppose. The government “creates funding” the way a baseball bat creates blood.

If there is “dramatic growth” in your business model and it’s projected to continue, that sounds like you should have no problem finding investors.

Do you support or oppose a state role in funding and governance for transit systems around the state?

Mostly oppose.

Do you support or oppose incentives for private companies to expand broadband infrastructure in under-served areas of the state?

Oppose. An ISP that takes such “incentives” is one that works for the government, not you, thus can’t be trusted.


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