LOOKING BACK AT A BOTCHED BID TO FIX STATE GOVERNMENT
A little more than eight years ago, our founding editor Will Folks drafted a comprehensive reform blueprint for the Palmetto State entitled “South Carolina’s 95 Theses.”
A sweeping manifesto, this document encompassed structural reform, economic development, state spending, education, government openness and accountability, government efficiency, immigration and the environment, among other items.
In the intervening years, this website’s views on government have grown much more “radical.”
Why? Well, one reason is government has grown much more corrupt. Its size and scope has also expanded by leaps and bounds – even though the economy has gone through a recession and a period of anemic “recovery.”
In South Carolina, government growth has become downright obscene … although most people aren’t aware of it because politicians and media elites refuse to tell them the truth about it.
The mindless expansion, shameless self-service and habitual dishonesty of government at all levels in the Palmetto State has molded us into an angrier, more aggressive voice. It’s also fundamentally shifted our ideological compass.
For example, we used to believe there were situations in which government ought to be permitted to invest in the private sector. Conditions for such investment were even spelled out in the “95 Theses” (No. 24, for those of you keeping score).
Any incentive package offered by the State of South Carolina to a corporate entity seeking to locate or relocate within our borders shall be tied directly to the number of jobs which are to be created. All incentive packages shall be made public immediately following the corporate entity’s announcement of its site selection.
Today we obviously know there is absolutely no situation in which government should be permitted to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Beyond the potential for corruption in such deals, there is always a loser – taxpayers.
Similarly, we outlined a number of different reforms for government-run institutions of higher learning eight years ago. Today we know there is only one acceptable reform: Privatizing the entire system.
Our general goal in offering the “95 Theses” was to consolidate and clean up state government. Now we know the current structure cannot be fixed.
It is just too badly broken. Too inherently corrupt.
Were any of our founding editor’s “95 Theses” actually passed? Yes … sort of. A few of the structural reforms we proposed have been partially enacted – although in many cases lawmakers merely offered up the appearance of change.
Remember: In addition to being home to rampant joblessness, poverty and ignorance, the Palmetto State is also home to “reform in name only.”
The vast majority of the “95 Theses” were ignored. The only real “reform” lawmakers can claim to have enacted over the past decade is this: They have spent billions of dollars on bigger government.
Confronted with the failure of this massive investment, lawmakers’ only “solution” has been to double down. They have committed to spending (even borrowing) billions more in a desperate bid to prop up our rotten ship of state.
It’s embarrassing …
Making matters worse? The Palmetto State has gone through four (soon to be five) election cycles since we wrote our manifesto and there has been absolutely no change in the direction of our all-powerful S.C. General Assembly.
This year is shaping up to be another missed opportunity. Part of that is obviously the electoral system currently in place – i.e. the way South Carolina legislative districts are drawn – but it’s also due to the failure of “reformers” to advance a meaningful agenda.
Gone is genuine debate – discussion over competing tax plans or education agendas. In its place? Petty politics. Pointless rhetoric. “Gotcha” leaks of incriminating information that are intended to savage opponents – not solve problems.
And the objective is always obtaining power. It’s never about the people.
Are we complicit in this? Maybe. Our coverage obviously has a role to play in the debate in this state … and we need to remember it’s about advancing ideas and not just “getting clicks.” We have an obligation … and we need to keep that obligation in mind.
Anyway, next week we will find out if Haley and her out-of-state allies were successful in ousting a handful of liberal “Republican” incumbents and replacing them with GOP politicians of the governor’s ilk.
Does it matter who wins these races? Not really. “Republicans” took control of state government from Democrats two decades ago and they have changed absolutely nothing.
Do we really think an intra-party spitball fight is going to change anything?
No. What’s needed for South Carolina is a bigger, bolder vision. A new “95 Theses,” if you will.
Clearly it’s time for us to get back to work on that.