December 3, 2010
By Steve Blow
So far as I know, "Friendship" is still our state motto.
But it seems to have become a little more specific – "Business Friendly."
Everywhere I turn these days, I'm hearing how "business friendly" Texas is. Politicians endlessly touted it in recent campaigns. And it came up in a Wall Street Journal column last week on fastest-growing cities.
"The winners included business-friendly Texas cities and other Southern locales," it said.
As I read that, a basic question struck me: What exactly is business friendly?
Surely every state considers itself friendly to business. But in Texas, it's more like BFF.
So what makes a state and business Best Friends Forever?
To begin with, low taxes, says Michael Cox. He is a former chief economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and now is (deep breath) director of the William J. O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.
Very low taxes, in fact. Texas ranks 49th among the 50 states in state tax revenue per capita.
Low taxes translate into smaller government and less regulation. And then there are the right-to-work laws that undercut unions and hold down wages.
"We are fortunate to live in a state where economic freedom is allowed to prevail," Cox said. "We have lower unemployment rates than any other state because of that."
Most important of all, Cox said, may be the innate Texas attitude of openness.
"In other parts of the country, a protectionist mentality prevails. Old money, social status, union ties – they very much limit opportunity.
"We don't play that game down here," he said. "People move here because they are willing to participate in a meritocracy. How do you get ahead here? You get ahead through effort and creativity."
Well, he had my Texas patriotism running high. I was ready to defend the Alamo all over again.
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