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Does the British Columbia Washington Border Region Coalition have a purpose?

As is the case of the Washington British Columbia Border Region Coalition, it is encouraging when good people get involved and pursue tax transfers from government with purpose to better the social, economic and ecological conditions in the community in which they live.  It is good when government grants such tax transfers to different interest groups for purposes that meet the standard for government intervention in the allocation and pricing mechanism -- the allocation of resources into economic production of product and services in the economy.

The problem is when government fails in its monitoring and intervening task, and tax transfers and government intervention does not meet the standard.  In a democratic governed mixed economic system such as the US and Canada, Government’s fundamental task is to be the “air traffic control” and monitor the allocation and pricing mechanism, and intervene before problems escalate into adversity. That which is not and can never be private sector’s task.  

It is unclear if the Border Region Coalition meets the standard for government intervention in the US and Canadian systems. In the overall scheme of things, the tax and public resources involved in the Border Region Coalition is small and therefore who should care?  However, the good people involved in the Coalition want to expand, and resources whether government or private, can only be used in one direction at the expense of other aims in the community. What is small today could be a large organization facilitating significant tax transfers and membership fees in the future.  Wouldn’t it be prudent to analyze whether the Coalition meets the standard for government intervention and does in fact benefit the communities on both sides of the border?  What are the opportunity costs and forgone alternatives, and will the coalition leave nobody in the communities worse-off as a result of tax transfers?  

The opinion that, because the Coalition has been formed it should continue and inevitably entertain more tax transfers, must certainly be an affront to many business owners and taxpayers. One hopes that there is some concern whether or not the resources and tax transfers absorbed by the Coalition will be of value to the communities it is deemed to support.  

Unsolved problems in the allocation mechanisms and intervention that do not meet the standard will inevitably erode the socioeconomic conditions in the economy.  As is the case in the British Columbia forest sector where government failed in its monitoring and intervening accountability to society.  Decades of unsolved problems in the allocation and pricing mechanism and tax transfers to industry and special interest groups that did not meet the standard in a mixed economy, were allowed to hamper investment in added value and to escalate causing irreparable harm to society -- including the softwood lumber dispute, where people in both countries are sadly losing. As a footnote, the problem in the BC forest sectors is still unsolved. Hopefully the light will come on, and discussion between Washington DC and Victoria BC, will solve the problem.       

Another example where government failed in its monitoring and intervening accountability is the malfeasance in the equity market: WorldCom, Enron, etc. Psychopaths in the financial industry and corporations were allowed to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary people’s savings and pensions causing misallocation of resources. Savings and resources that could have been better employed, including in small and midsize business in Washington and British Columbia that need financing. The opportunity cost for society is high.  

More investment and entrepreneurial activities across the border benefit both BC, and Washington and the Canadian and US economies. The question: Is a tax and membership funded non-profit Border Coalition needed?  Nothing prevents direct talk between governments in Washington and British Columbia in these issues and on how to stimulate economic production, social satisfaction and quality of life.  In today’s open economic conditions never before in the history has good government that meets its task in the economy been more important. These are issues that the voters in both British Columbia and Washington have the opportunity to consider in upcoming elections.     

The questions people on both side of the border between the Washington and British Columbian economy should ask is: does the non-profit Border Region Coalition meet the standard for government intervention in the economy and is that what is needed.  Ultimately, if it does, the Coalition deserves support. If not, the community must trust that the people involved will let the Coalition wither on the vine and consider other alternatives.  

OISD October 2002