by Harvey E. Yates, Jr.
A version of this was printed in the Espanola Rio Grande Sun, the Las Cruces Sun News, the Santa Fe New Mexican and was published on the Searchlite website.
The number of people living in extreme poverty in the world has been markedly reduced in the last couple of decades. This wonderful result has arisen, in large part, from unleashing the entrepreneurial drive and the work ethic of millions of individuals by beefing-up their property rights, by lessening regulatory restraints, and by diminishing the legal insecurity which arises from political and regulatory capriciousness. As poverty declined in much of the world, the well-being of millions of children improved.
Though New Mexico has not known the depths of poverty suffered in much of the world, still, recently, when on the average poverty diminished and child well-being improved worldwide, the same did not happen in New Mexico. Here poverty increased and child well-being seems to have declined. Why?
There is a virus in New Mexico’s programming. Our plan seems to be to leash rather than unleash entrepreneurial drive and to stifle work ethic rather than to promote it. Here, property rights have been diminished and legal insecurity has risen as political and regulatory capriciousness are too often the norm.
New Mexico’s programming for failure is not new. Upon the conquest of the Southwest the US pledged in the Treaty of Guadalupe to honor the Spanish and Mexican land grants. In other areas, such as California, perhaps it did that, but in New Mexico its commitment to the treaty was wobbly. Here, confirmation of a significant portion of the land grants lingered until land was dispossessed to make it available for federal purposes such as National Forests. This action warmed the hearts of Progressives such as Teddy Roosevelt, who felt they had a national vision which justified the political capriciousness which led to the land takings. But, for the land-grant families the dispossession too often meant impoverishment and dependency. Of course, the well-being of children was affected.
Though the ownership of the land had changed, many families continued to make their living from the forests. Then a new Progressive initiative arrived – the Endangered Species Act. Under the act thousands of acres were set aside for the Mexican Spotted Owl which caused dozens of sawmills to close, companies to fold and thousands of workers to lose their jobs both in northern NM and elsewhere.
Great Society Programs melded well with these circumstances. The capriciousness which resulted in the Land-Grant takings and then the Endangered Species Act, moved families away from self sufficiency toward dependency and there waiting were the welfare programs. Boys who used to learn a trade – logging, farming, ranching or a related trade – from their fathers, now had little opportunity to do this. The government edged in on the father. It too often became the family supporter with the consequent effect on the family.
A child who has learned to work is on the way to success. On the other hand idle children are particularly susceptible to the drug culture. It should have been no surprise to us that Rio Arriba County became one of the nation’s heroin overdose capitals.
Progressive initiatives haven’t ended. Soon we will sacrifice hundreds of Navajo coal jobs to the god of Global Warming. The expansion of the oil and gas industry outside of the traditional oil basins has been stopped. A significant gas discovery in Otero County still sits idle two decades after its discovery. Progressive driven hysteria has killed drilling in southern Sandoval County. No new mine over 10 acres in size has been permitted in the state since the passage of Progressive’s mining act, so with closure of the molybdenum mine many miners will move to another state or be driven to dependency.*
Much more can be written about the decline of child-wellbeing in New Mexico. We put patches on the problem. In the meantime child well-being, on the average, improves in the world because political and regulatory capriciousness has declined. In New Mexico an increase in such capriciousness has led to the opposite result.
Harvey Yates Jr. is the national committeeman for the Republican Party of New Mexico and a Board Member of Adelante Now.