Walter E. Williams

 When you vote for a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate, what should be your selection criteria? I'm all too afraid that most Americans, were they to be honest, would answer that they'd vote for the person who has pushed or will push for legislation that benefits them, their community, their city or their state. They couldn't care less about or completely disregard the harm that the legislation does to other Americans in other communities, cities or states.

 You say, "Hold it, Williams, that's a scurrilous charge to make about politicians and your fellow Americans." Let's look at one among hundreds of examples. Louisiana is a sugar-producing state. Government sugar subsidies, tariffs and quotas on foreign sugar permit Louisiana sugar producers to charge American consumers three to four times the world sugar price. There's no question that owners and workers in Louisiana's sugar industry benefit in terms of higher profits and wages, but what about the tens of millions of American consumers who must pay higher prices for sugar and products made with sugar? They are the losers.

 Mary Landrieu and John Breaux represent Louisiana in the Senate. What do you think Louisianians would do to them if they did not lobby and vote for government sugar subsidies and restrictions on sugar imports? With the help of the sugar industry, they'd be run out of town on a rail. Louisianians want their goodies. What happens to other Americans and foreign sugar producers who find our markets closed to them is of little concern. Sens. Landrieu and Breaux are by no means unique; they're singled out to make my example concrete.

 Completed just in time for the elections is the Economic Efficiency Score (Econ-E Score) (http://www.lerner.udel.edu/econ-e/). It was developed as a Ph.D. dissertation by University of Delaware student Martin Kennedy, now a professor of economics at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn. Professor Kennedy came up with an Econ-E Score for congressmen by investigating votes in the 106th and 107th Congresses on issues where economic efficiency was at stake. He analyzed votes on economic legislation that would yield nationwide benefits greater than costs and those that would have nationwide costs greater than benefits. The former were designated as efficiency enhancing and the latter efficiency diminishing.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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