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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Get a grip

Posted: 01/14/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Economist James Buchanan never lived here, but, if he had, he would have discovered a motherlode of evidence for his view that politicians and bureaucrats are always trying to start new programs and spend more money for reasons of personal self-interest rather than the common good.

Buchanan, who died recently in the United States, was one of the founders of the so-called public choice theory, which argued that politicians tend to promote their personal interests above others, leading to more spending on programs. The goal of getting re-elected is rarely, if ever, an act of romantic selflessness, he said, but merely an attempt to promote self-interest, even at the expense of everyone else.

A few examples of this were apparent following the release of the city's budget last week. A tax increase was described as unavoidable, even though it is partially linked to a relentless increase in emergency services, which occurred without anyone asking if it was necessary or if taxpayers wanted to pay more for it.

And while the city now seems to realize it failed to ensure voters were getting value for money, some officials are simultaneously advancing new spending programs, including one proposal to spend more on transit-safety measures, including putting police cadets on buses. Some councillors want more money for advertising and staff.

There is a tendency at the provincial level, too, to spend more and avoid raising taxes -- political choices divorced from economic reality.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2013 A10

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