Sunday, August 10, 2014

The American Dream is Alive and Well in Williston, North Dakota

What follows is my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel.  If you are a rapid environmentalist your comments are not welcome...


This summer marks five years since the "Great Recession" officially ended.
For millions of Americans, it probably does not seem possible that our economy has grown for that long. After all, by historical standards, the current recovery is anemic, if not borderline invisible.
Sixty months after the last recession ended, the unemployment rate is still well above the 4 percent to 5 percent range we would see in past recoveries. The gross domestic product continues to slog along at a 1 percent to 2 percent growth clip. Nearly half of all Americans are receiving some form of social-welfare income from taxpayers, and the labor-force participation rate — the percentage of Americans working or seeking work — is at a three-decade low.
For young people, the news is even worse, with far greater rates of unemployment or total disconnection to the labor force or to a job that matches their education.
This latter reality is why this fall I am going to show my students where Williston, N.D., is located; 2,188 miles from Orlando, Williston is a modern-day boomtown that is providing jobs, high incomes and hope to people all over the world.
While driving through North Dakota this summer with my family I decided we would spend a few hours looking around and talking to people who have poured into this remote locale.
What I found was Saudi Arabia of the North American plains. Stunning to behold, I looked out upon hundreds of oil wells as far as the eye could see. My family and I saw billboards advertising new-home subdivisions and ads on newly constructed buildings that offered employment to truck drivers, carpenters, electricians and more. Everywhere we looked were new businesses ranging from hotels to restaurants, heavy-equipment dealers, car dealerships and everything else a booming town would need.
At the local Wal-Mart, we saw and heard workers of all races and ethnicities. The young man who bagged our items was a young immigrant from Africa. His starting pay? $17.10 per hour. If he offered to work the night shift, he would make $19 per hour.
The girl at the window of a fast-food restaurant was from Russia. Starting pay for her? $15 per hour.
What, in the name of supply and demand, can possibly lead to two teenagers earning several dollars more than the $10.10 minimum wage that Barack Obama and Charlie Crist desire?
It is simple.
North Dakota decided years ago that the vast oil reserves under the ground and accessible only by technology called fracking would be fair game to the oil companies willing to come in and get it.
Not only did North Dakota decide to allow massive drilling and extraction to take place, but it did so without adding thousands of pages of burdensome, incentive-killing regulations and without hammering property owners and oil companies with Jimmy Carter-era "windfall-profits taxes."
Instead, North Dakota adopted a free-market, private-property-respecting mentality that told the world it was open for business.
Today, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. at only 2.6 percent. With chronic shortages of skilled — and unskilled — labor, the supply-demand equation is greatly in favor of those willing to supply their labor services to the oil fields, Wal-Mart and the other businesses in this town.
Even without a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, businesses have to pay the going rate or face labor shortages. Without any law, regulation or mandate, the natural forces of supply and demand have led to compensation levels far beyond what many college graduates are pulling down in other places around America.
Without any central planning from Washington, D.C., the natural allure of profit has led to all of these entrepreneurs entering a region that has brutally cold winters and few entertainment options.
Friedrich Hayek taught the world decades ago that all that is needed for a nation to prosper is for government to allow people to pursue their self-interest, so long as that pursuit does not violate the life, liberty or property of another person.
This system is based on the concept of spontaneous order, which means it does not require intelligent busybodies in far-away political capitals to plan and organize and coordinate economic activities. All that is needed is for those we elect to get out of the way by regulating and taxing human beings less, and we will see more Willistons emerge.
I hope I can convince some of my students to rent a moving van and chase a realistic American dream.

1 comment:

  1. What invaluable lessons you are teaching your boys. Exposing them to the way other states in the country operate their economies and letting them talk to people living in those states so that they can make informed decisions for their futures, is a wonderful gift that I'm sure they appreciate. Mixing fun with education is a great thing. I remember growing up as a young girl in Southern California, my parents took us on the same trip every year. Every single year (no lie) we went camping (I hate camping......always have) to the Sequoia National Park. Beautiful place, but every year?? I wish I would have had the experiences you are giving your kids. This article and this city are proof of many of the lessons you taught me in your classes. I hope you tell your students about this place in N.D. (and I know you will) so that they can see that Florida is not the best or only place to pursue the most profitable, comfortable future for themselves. I won't be moving there at this point, but had I known what I know today, largely due to you, I might pack my own bags. On a side note, how is Jake doing in his new home??? I trust he's one of the most pampered and spoiled dogs on the planet!!! On another side note, I don't know how many of you know, but Prof. Chambless has written another book that just came out. I'm sure if you like his Op Ed's, you would really enjoy his extensive knowledge with respect to the economy and viewpoints on "Liberty". I think you can buy it any number of places, starting with the publisher. Sorry Prof. Chambless, but I hope you don't mind (if you need to, you can delete this part of my comment). I'm not sure if the book is supposed to just be for college, or if anyone can buy it, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. And, once again.....thanks so much for my copy. I'll treasure it! :) In Liberty...Terri