When Government Gets In The Way Of Prosperity


Former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer, writing for Human Events, makes an interesting comparison between the energy industries in California and North Dakota.

Often, when I talk about the positive economic measurements of my state’s economy, someone will say, “sure, but that that’s because you have the oil.” That’s true, but we’re not the only state that is blessed with plentiful energy reserves. The difference is that North Dakota utilizes our resources to better our economy and improve people’s lives.

Let’s compare California, whose citizens suffer a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, more than $20 billion in budget deficits and a crushing $600 billion debt.

The Golden State is paralyzed by excessive taxes and virtually every aspect of its economy, including energy, is restricted by a maze of unnecessary and incomprehensible regulations. California’s misguided policies have caused a “reverse Gold Rush” that has forced 3.4 million Californians to abandon the state over the past two decades. Even now, California continues to lose more than 2,000 high wage earners every week.

Unlike North Dakota, California has refused to take full advantage of the massive economic potential right under the feet of its over-taxed citizens.

California is home to 5 of the nation’s top 12 oil fields and has billions of barrels of oil and gas in reserve. Yet California’s restrictive energy policies have caused production to lag, a leading reason its citizens pay the highest electricity rates and gasoline prices in the country.

I’m often critical of North Dakota’s political leadership, pointing out that they keep taxes too high, spend too much and are far too fond of government-managed economic development schemes. But it’s worth pointing out that they deserve some credit for North Dakota’s energy industry success. No, they didn’t point the oil and gas under North Dakota’s ground, but the state is doing a lot better in California because, unlike California’s leaders, North Dakota’s leadership has largely resisted taxes and regulations crippling to developing those resources.

North Dakota could always do better – they could start by flattening the state’s variable tax on oil extraction – but let’s be glad we aren’t California.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Robert Portly

    Of course we would not want to compare North Dakota to Alaska where every citizen got a check for $1,200 last year from oil revenue. Our goal in North Dakota is to make sure only a small portion of the state gets to win from oil. Like good Republicans we will try to make sure that the rich get the first shot at oil money. In a state where 24,000 children live below the poverty line and thousands do without health insurance we do not spend the oil revenue to help everyone. No, we make sure that we can first provide tax relief for the rich. We like to follow the national Republicans that refuse to move the country forward until we are assured the rich get more than their share. Republicans driven wild by greed have forgotten the working man and the poor. The boot lickers like Rob just want to side up with the bullies hoping the rich will toss them a farthing. Very sad indeed.

    • Lianne

      That would be like comparing apples and oranges because, unlike Alaska where the oil fields are on the wide open space of PUBLIC land; the oil fields here in ND are, for the most part, on PRIVATE land and are PRIVATELY owned. Your greed is boiling over. You have no right to that oil revenue, unless you own mineral rights, of course.

      • tw

        Yes, those PRIVATE people who use PUBLIC services deserve everything. The nurse or cop that support those oil workers and can no longer afford their rent or childcare in the oil basin deserve to get kicked out of their rental unit. The elder person who had worked and lived in the community their whole life deserves to get displaced because their family doesn’t have oil. Your greed is boiling over.

  • Roy_Bean

    So why is it that we seem to only hire new university presidents and university system chancellors from California. The whole state is a mess, why would we want anyone who had a leadership position in anything there?

  • philipgray

    Does anyone else get sick of lickspittle,philgay,portly and those basement bloggers saying the same lie day after day…..
    Can you say ONE MORE DAY>>>>>>>>>

  • Harold

    Got family in California and now there voting on raising the income/and sales tax’s out there. Jerry Brown doesn’t think they are taxed enough. 600 billion in debt and their leaders spend money they don’t have. The state of the truely insane leaders.