While solving problems is a noble goal for government, it should never intrude on free enterprise. President Reagan once said, “Government does not solve problems, it subsidizes them.”
Republicans were swept into power in 2010 largely as a result of the government’s overreach into private enterprise. Obamacare accompanied by intrusion into the auto industry, financial services, housing, student loans, and attempts at energy choice all contributed to the power shift in Washington.
In North Dakota, state senators are considering a bill that would put the government in direct competition with private enterprise by guaranteeing bonds to finance a pipeline project designed to deliver water to the oil industry. The proposal is called the Western Area Water Supply Project (HB 1206) and would pump water from the Missouri River to be sold to cities and oil companies. While the state may have a legitimate role in facilitating the delivery of potable water for human consumption, it has no business selling it to the oil industry when individual entrepreneurs are already doing it or building the infrastructure to do it better and more efficiently.
Proponents of the plan say it cannot go forward without a guarantee. They also say it is a rare opportunity to get a water project paid for by private industry. If the oil industry is certain to pay the project off, why does it require a guarantee from taxpayers?
Private pipeline companies are already building projects to deliver water from Lake Sakakawea to the oil patch for hydraulic fracturing. The price they are offering is less than the WAWSP needs in order to pay off the state debt. That means either the government project will not be price competitive and taxpayers will be on the hook for a failed business, or the government will undercut the private sector, sending the entrepreneurs packing until the state has a monopoly on water sales in the oil patch. After which the government can charge whatever it wants or needs to cover the debt.
Our entire system of freedom was founded by skeptics of government intrusion. Thomas Jefferson said, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
I encourage our senators to approach this issue with caution and resist the temptation to take care of things already being taken care of.