Why Texas Matters
Erica Grieder's book Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas lays out an interesting case for why the Texas miracle of this young century is worth looking at.
Ms. Grieder's story digs deeper than just the past decade or the Perry era, deep into Texas history, showing that Perry's success goes beyond just his own policy. The first aspect that she discusses is Texas history, in which limited government became ingrained in most Texans DNA. From the beginning of the Texas story, most Texans were governed by incompetency. During rule under Mexican dictator Santa Anna, Texas's brief history with the confederacy and reconstruction after the Civil War, Texans saw government at its worst. Ms. Grieder makes the point that many Texans found themselves depending upon each other as opposed to a central government, and when given a chance to write their constitution, they restricted the power of their state government. Grieder makes her case that the constitution restricts Texas governance too much, but she presents a historical reason for the Constitution. Texans, when writing their constitution, were rebelling against the central federal government, but they also developed a culture of self-reliance on each other, since throughout their early history the central government did very little to aid Texas, including defending the states from Indians and criminals.
There is no doubt that the Texas model works and the data proves it. Texas has been the leading job creator in the United States in this century, income has increased nearly 30%, and the Bureau of Labor Statistic has shown that Texas unemployment has been lower than the national average for the past six years!
Texas was a poor and undeveloped part of the United States throughout the 19th century, and the Texas we see today was once considered more third-world than first-world. Two events began Texas' rise to the economic top; one being cattle drives that allowed cattle barons to provide meat to much of the United States, and the second being oil. While many critics, in particular on the left, wail at the prospect of Texas being a model of economics, the reality is that Texas has much to teach the rest of us.
The first is that Texas' ideal of limited government works and while many critics view the Texas miracle as a mirage, it is a fact. For every low-wage job earner created, a high-pay job earner has been created as well. The Texas job creation has increased jobs from the top to the bottom, showing the old adage: supply creates demand. As workers came to Texas for opportunities, they added to the economic strength of the State. So the idea that Texas is nothing but McJobs is false, as many high paying jobs have been created. If anything, Texas has done a better job of creating higher paying jobs than much of the United States, while Obamanomics has been doing a great job of creating temporary and minimum jobs. Many of Texas critics have been responsible for promoting an economic theory more responsible for the creation of McJobs than Texas.
Many would say that Texas oil is the key to development. They would be right, but not for the reason they state. The reason that oil has played a role in Texas economic development is because Texans love business and they love making money. They have chosen to develop their resources and they don’t feel guilty about it. States like Illinois and California have similar access to energy resources but they have failed to develop those resources for the benefit of their states.
Grieder makes a great point that one key to Texas development is that Texans view business being profitable a good thing, and since Texas has limited restraint on their government, they have appreciated the need for a vigorous private sector. Texans don’t expect much from government, and there is much private-public cooperation. While Texans do benefit from Federal matching funds, they contributed far more to the Federal government than they take out.
Grieder also notes that Texas has its share of crony capitalism and Rick Perry is skilled at rewarding his friends from the government purse. Texans may be inconsistent when it comes to using government to enhance certain businesses but Texans emphasis on private sector development has taken precedence over government industrial policy.
Texans may be viewed as bunch of right-wing extremists but as Grieder noted, there is a pragmatic nature to Texas politics. On immigration policy, most Texans including many Republicans have taken a more moderate approach toward immigration reform and there were times in the 2012 primary that Perry was attacked by immigration restrictionists. Texans never viewed the Arizona approach as one that won’t work for them.
Grieder does not view Texas as destined to being Red forever. She notes that it wasn’t that long ago that Texas was a solidly Democratic state, but many Democrats are far more moderate than the radical leftist impulse that has taken hold of the national Party. The strict limited constitution puts restraint on the progressives in the State, and most Texans are perfectly willing to vote Republicans for the simple reason that Republicans have been successful in governing.
Grieder does feel that Republicans can be undone by pragmatic economic conservatives fighting social conservatives for control of the Party along with Tea Party conservatives who are hard-edge economic conservatives. Grieder remarked that Rick Perry may be an evangelical, but he never made social conservatism as a center of his campaign and for Perry, his campaign has always been centered on the Texas economic miracle. Perry learned how to appeal to all sectors of the Republican Party, but Grieder observed that a fissure can be exploited if a less-gifted Texas Republican is allowed to lead the Party.
The real lesson that we can learn from Texas is that government should be limited, and, more importantly, that we should accept that for economic growth to happen, you have to respect the business class, not mock them. Grieder observes that one thing that a business operating in Texas knows, is that government is limited and the rules are consistent year in and year out. If you love your business class, you will have economic growth. By limiting government by fiat, Texans forced themselves to depend upon each other through their various civil societies such as Churches or local community organization. The Texas Rangers started out as an independent force, not really associated with the government but a quasi-paramilitary organization to enforce what laws that existed. The other aspect is that Texans learned not to depend upon government for their salvation, but instead allow their private sector to grow not just in the economic sphere but the civil sphere beyond the government. For Texans, government is but one actor in a greater society, as opposed to being the state. As the bureaucratic state collapses, the Texas ideals will be the prevalent idea to draw from.