By Bradley Harrington
“You can’t push something that’s going faster than you are.” — Byron Harrington, “Social Discussions,” 1975 —
Look, people, I’m not trying to beat up on Wyoming’s ENDOW bureaucrats, I promise you that; I’m really not, OK?
But it’s really hard to resist, especially when their reports keep saying stuff like this:
“Ten recommendations represent a mix of legislative and executive actions … Of the 10 proposals, four have funding requests … Improve and expand Wyoming’s commercial air service ($15 million); improve access to broadband and technology ($10.35 million); establish a Wyoming research and innovation fund ($6 million); and build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming ($5 million).” (“Air service rises to top of ENDOW recommendations for economic diversification in Wyoming,” WTE, Jan. 3.)
And just what, exactly, is an “entrepreneurial ecosystem”? The story doesn’t say, and ENDOW’s report fails to define it as well. It’s quite clear from ENDOW’s “investment” recommendations that they’re out to spend a good chunk of taxpayer dollars to manage it, however, so let’s take a look:
■ “Commercial air service ($15 million)”: Now how is spending $15 million going to result in air travel? By paying an airline that money to fly here? If so, then we’re going to need to keep paying them, year after year — and what we’ll end up with is a bigger, more intricate version of what we have right here in Cheyenne right now: An “airline,” Great Lakes Aviation, that receives $50 million a year from the Feds but can’t pay their lease payments or fly out of town more than once a week.
■ “Improve access to broadband and technology ($10.35 million)”: Here, the ENDOW report states that “The Executive Council believes deployment of broadband is best achieved by the private sector,” but that doesn’t stop ENDOW from meddling anyway, establishing a “Broadband Advisory Council” whose “focus will insure that broadband development will be at the forefront of the state’s economic diversification efforts.”
So, after paying for this make-work “council,” what’s the rest of the $10 million for? To get an ISP to set up service here that doesn’t exist already, or to subsidize an Internet connection for every Wyomingite who’s chosen to live on the side of a mountain out in the hinterlands? Some of both: A proposed “Wyoming broadband grant fund” will be established which will “facilitate direct investment in broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural areas without adequate access.”
■ “Establish a Wyoming research and innovation fund ($6 million)”: Which ENDOW bureaucrats will be deciding what “research” consists of, or of how “innovation” will be defined? And how will this money be spent, other than in funding more ENDOW bureaucrats to figure it all out? On a “Wyoming Research and Innovation Fund” intended “to build Wyoming’s research and development base and to attract additional federal research and development funds.” A guaranteed corporate soup-line in the making, as contenders will soon be vying with one another as “innovators” in order to receive the “free” state and federal dollars. Whether they’ll actually be producing anything worthwhile is in doubt; otherwise, they’d be producing it already.
And, finally, we’re going to:
■ “Build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming ($5 million)”: Contending that “Wyoming’s innovation economy is limited by the absence of a statewide startup ecosystem,” ENDOW intends to create “a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming to provide capital access funds for startups.” ENDOW, obviously, perceives itself as ready and competent to move into the arena of business development — and it intends, through “Startup: Wyoming,” to pick the winners and losers.
What’s the one thing all of these ENDOW bureaucrats continue to miss, report after report, that even the dullest student of “ecosystems” could tell them?
That an “ecosystem” is determined not just by the natures of its members, but also by the interrelationships of those members to all other members. An alteration in, say, the population levels of mussels on a particular area of the California coast, for instance, will have multiple cascading impacts on other life forms in that area as well.
Yet these bureaucrats, and with some very smart and well-educated people among them too, never bother to examine the impacts of their spending and their participation: Namely, that their plunder has to be forcibly ripped out of the wider “ecosystem” first, thereby creating huge holes in the entire Wyoming production spectrum that would not have existed in the absence of such plunder.
Failure to pay attention to such details would get a real ecologist fired; with the ENDOW Gravy Train, however, it’s simply “business” as usual, and the train keeps rolling on …
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 7, 2018.