This is the first of what I hope will be a series of discussions between those of us who support Ballot Measure No. 1 and those who oppose it. This is an extremely important question, and I sincerely hope that the debate focuses on the substance of the issue and not a collection of red herrings designed to distract and deceive.
Ballot Measure No. 1, titled The Anti-Corruption Act by the lieutenant governor, was created and is being promoted by Clean Team Alaska, an organization of which I am the chairman. I got involved because I am concerned, as are many of my friends both in Alaska and across America, about what is happening across our state and our nation. The economic and governance systems are being corrupted by a concentration of money and power in the public sector and a decline in what we still refer to as the private sector. An elaboration on this subject will have to await a separate discussion.
My purpose here is an attempt to define and clarify what we mean by corruption. Let me be abundantly clear that for the most part we are not talking about dishonest or corrupt individuals. There are a few of those, but laws are dealing at least in part with that. What we are trying to illuminate and correct is the corruption of the system.
What do we mean by that? Let me start by quoting Nobel Prize laureate Milton Friedman. He said about Alaska, more than 30 years ago: “Alaskans are living in the closest thing we have to a socialistic state in America — the government owns almost everything.” Remember, this quote was made more than 30 years ago, before the damage of the last 30 years had occurred.
Mr. Friedman and many other world-class economists went on to warn us about the negative effects of the concentration of money and power in the control of the political-public sector. They advised us more than 30 years ago to do everything possible to reduce this unhealthy influence to a minimum and to concentrate on finding ways to return money, power and control to individual Alaskans. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
What has been the effect of this? In a nutshell, the private-sector economy has declined and the growth of government has accelerated. It is growing topsy-turvy, and if you want to succeed, you better know how to play their game — or better yet, join it. Success in Alaska today depends on how well you know how to manipulate the political, bureaucratic, nonproductive, self-serving system they have created. There are winners and losers not based on merit, intelligence, ambition, ingenuity or integrity. Success in Alaska today depends more on which politicians you have helped and how much time and effort you spend wining and dining powerful government officials.
Government in America was never intended to be the provider of all things to all people. Government has a proper role and an improper role. When, like any machine or system, it fails in its proper role and functions improperly, it has become corrupted and needs to be repaired or replaced.
Alaska’s economy is indisputably dominated by government spending — both state and federal. This money trickles down through a well-connected system of special interests to companies and individuals that work hard at staying close to the trough. This is the cause of the corruption and the alienation of other, less well-connected Alaskans.
Since billions of dollars of oil money began to flow into Alaska, there has developed a symbiotic relationship between government, which controls the money; business and a proliferation of organizations, which want the money; and unions, particularly public employee unions — which are first in line and growing rapidly. The leadership of these organizations, but not always the membership, will protest loudly to protect their privileged positions.
It is the intent and purpose of Ballot Measure No. 1 to reduce the influence of special interest groups and increase the influence of individual Alaskans. It will level the playing field and allow individuals more equal access to their government and their resources without the corrupting influence of who scratches whose back.
The corrupt political system that has evolved in Alaska has spent tens of billions of dollars with almost nothing of sustainability to show for it. With declining oil production and the potential for lower oil prices, our future is tenuous. Let us pass Ballot Measure No. 1 and start the correction.
Dick Randolph, a Fairbanks insurance agent, was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives as a Republican in 1970 and 1972 and as a Libertarian in 1978 and 1980. He helped organize voter initiatives that pressured the Legislature to repeal the state income tax in 1980 and retain the Permanent Fund Dividend in 1984.