“Managed Growth” Is A Term That Ought To Send A Chill Down The Spine Of North Dakotans
We are at a turning point in North Dakotoa’s oil boom. Ron Ness of the North Dakota Petroleum Council “told legislators that as industry shifts from an exploration phase to a development phase, the state is at a critical time to invest in infrastructure,” reports the Jamestown Sun. Ness is calling for another $5 billion in spending in western North Dakota on top of the $1 billion appropriated during the last legislative session.
The Bismarck Tribune, too, is talking about transition in an editorial today. “The vision of oil development and production laid out at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference sets the stage for redefining western North Dakota. Production (and population) numbers unveiled at the conference have generated calls of ‘managed growth.’”
On the face of it, the idea of bringing more management to the admittedly wild growth of the oil boom seems like good one. Who can be against planning, right? The problem, of course, is that managed economies don’t work that well, and the North Dakota government in particular has a really bad track record when it comes to economic management.
Whether it was the 130% increase in taxes on oil production passed through an initiated measure written by then-Tax Commissioner Byron Dorgan back in the 1980′s (the state saw a precipitous decline in oil production not so long after) or more recent state/local economic developments which, up until the oil boom brought a surge in activity, had left the state’s landscape littered with the detritus of failed marginal businesses lured here by economic development deals only to leave once those deals ended, the idea of the state managing growth in the oil patch ought to scare us.
“[C]ommunities need significant resources to do long-range planning, but the state’s grant program for those areas is only helping them react,” the Jamestown Sun reports, but I’m not so sure reaction isn’t preferable to planning.
The oil industry is, historically, one of the most volatile industries in the world. The idea that our political leaders can plan for what oil in North Dakota will do next is, frankly, laughable.
Spending in the west is needed. You can’t see the sort of growth in population and economic activity we have out there without needing more roads, more cops, more sewer and water lines, etc., etc. But managing the growth of the oil boom?
No thanks. Economies shouldn’t be managed, and the politicians aren’t that good at it to begin with.Tags: bakken, North Dakota News, north dakota petroleum council, oil, ron ness