Oct 19, 2007

No good reason to leave New Jersey? [LINK]

The editorial board of the New York Times now has a blog. If this post offers a fair sample, it may well become the biggest "kick me" sign in all the Internet.

This post concerns the large number of New Jersey residents who, in a poll, expressed a strong desire to leave, one of the big reasons apparently being New Jersey's high tax rates. But the editorialists think they should stay put:

[T]here is a flaw in the grass-is-greener thinking. As more and more people needing more and more government services head to less populated areas, over-development, and congestion, and taxes are likely to increase there as well.

Adhering to this logic, I can scarcely think of any good reason to leave New Jersey. If I want to leave because, say, the air is polluted, the response would essentially be that wherever you're moving to is likely to also become polluted eventually as a result of the influx. So whatever you do, don't move!

Key word is "eventually", since if it becomes unbearable there, you have the option to move yet again. There may also be good reason to believe that the place you're moving to won't become nearly as polluted -- maybe New Jersey is unusually polluted.

Same for the tax issue. If other states provide basic services for much less, then the sooner you leave, the sooner you can enjoy those low rates. Even if taxes there eventually do rise (i.e., to build new schools and subdivisions), they may still be able to keep overall costs lower than New Jersey's presumably over-market rates. After all, low tax rates are not necessarily a function of low population.

Note the overwrought, imprecise language: "As more and more people needing more and more government services head to less populated areas..." Yes, "more and more" people are leaving, but they do not need "more and more" services than they did in New Jersey. The opposite may well be the case: they may be happier with a smaller set of services. (I understand: the places they're moving to need to provide more services.)

Another paragraph states:

There's an irony here. If more and more relatively high-income residents leave New Jersey, the tax situation will only get worse. The reason: many of the costs, such as local schools and debt, will remain the same, but there will be fewer people to share the burden.

There's no "irony" at all. Saying "the tax situation will only get worse" for those who remain assumes there's absolutely no way to lower the cost of government to keep New Jersey competitive, and at any rate is irrelevant to those who decide to leave.

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