The Outstater: Why not Import a Mayor?

May 20, 2016

by Craig Ladwig

The mayor of my city is an average fellow. That is said in a good way. He can relate to the regulars of any neighborhood tavern. And except for the occasional Republican challenger, he has a nice word for everyone. He is a man who clearly means well.

Our mayor’s previous jobs don’t fall into any neat occupational category. It is fair to say that he is a professional politician. Since election, though, he has been branching out, growing in office. He has mastered a sort of venture capitalism, giving our money to large businesses that succeed and taking money from small businesses that, hmm, fail.

More impressively, the mayor has become an epidemiologist. He knows that our town won’t suffer the same increase in infectious diseases as did other towns experiencing an influx of refugees. Indeed, the mayor is confident enough of his medical know-how to join other Indiana mayors in asking the Obama administration to send us more such individuals.

And it goes without saying that he is an expert in foreign policy and national security. He can assure us that the State Department, working with the relevant “friendly” governments, is capable of vetting Mideast émigrés so that we don’t end up with a neighbor converting his garage into a bomb factory.

Indeed, the mayor is convincing (we reelected him) that importing foreign nationals as prospective citizens is on its face a good idea. But that begs a question, a flippant one some might say: Why not import a mayor as well?

I have one in mind. He is Hernando de Soto Polar from Lima, Peru. He has a defined profession, is an actual expert in something, an economist known for his work in businesses creation and the effect of secure property rights. That all is expertise our town could use right now (along with street repair, sewage maintenance, fiscal management, transparent bookkeeping and other mundanities).

Señor De Soto spearheaded reform in Lima that reduced both the time and cost of buying a piece of property from six years on average (207 steps at 52 governmental offices) to 45 days (30 steps and four governmental offices). Costs of a property title dropped from $2,156 to $62. Overall, the bureaucratic costs of business were cut by 99 percent. His reforms lowered the cost of entering business from 300 days to just one day.

The result has been that his country experienced a 12-percent growth rate, among the highest in the world at the time. And he didn’t need crony capitalists or a governor’s $40-million Regional Cities campaign to do it. Quite the contrary. We will let De Soto explain the success:

“Businesses were channeling their natural competitive zeal into establishing close ties with the political and bureaucratic authorities instead of into a contest to serve consumers better. A legal system whose sole purpose is redistribution is one that benefits neither rich nor poor, but only those best organized to establish close ties wiIl ensure that the businesses that remain in the market are those which are most efficient politically, not economically.”

Just think what a mayor like that could do to fix pot holes.

Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review.

— Craig Ladwig



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