December 21, 2012

Rhode Island's Poor Entrepreneurial Performance

Justin Katz

The word "entrepreneur" has been thrown around Rhode Island a lot in recent months and years. To most people, one suspects, concepts like economic development, entrepreneurialism, knowledge economy, twenty-first century workforce, and skills gap blur into a mosaic of sounds-good promises. The idea is that "they" (the folks in positions to modify public policy) are trying to do something, and this stuff has a feel of the future... whatever it might look like and however "they" might bring it about.

The first problem with chasing this star is that, largely thanks to "them," the fundamentals do not exist in Rhode Island for real economic growth to take hold. The rules that the state's various governments impose are stringent; they are constantly in indecisive flux; and as evidenced in the judges call for mediation of a statute, the folks who hold power are far too prepared to disregard the rules in the name of simply doing what they deem to be necessary or right.

The second, much more important, problem with the attitude described above is that economic growth is not something that "they" accomplish by sparking action by some class of people with ideas and insights beyond normal imagining. Economic growth is something that we accomplish — the Rhode Islanders who are already here, supporting their families and building their lives.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

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Rhode Island, like any two-bit banana republic, operates on the discretion of its central planners, forsaking the rules of general applicability of legitimate states that allow businesses to plan and compete on equal footing. Every year sees radical fluctuation in tax policy, legal policy, and economic policy - new winners and losers - based on the whims and backroom dealings of its special interests and power players in response to the crisis du jour. The most noxious market pollution billows from the mercenary smokestacks of its economic development corporations, which funnel millions in tax dollars each year to politically attractive businesses on the guesses and rationalizations of politically-appointed board members. Why any legitimate business would select such a fundamentally unstable and corruptable environment for its operations is a question answered by Rhode Island's bottom-tier stagnation in nearly every census and economic indicator we have.

Posted by: Dan at December 21, 2012 9:33 AM

I haven't seen any mention of population decline over on RIF since now the Census supports it. I also haven't seen this over their either:

Breaking News:
Census numbers show income is leaving Rhode Island faster than people are


Posted by: Max D at December 21, 2012 2:00 PM

"Census numbers show income is leaving Rhode Island faster than people are"

Thanks, Max D (and ProJo). Justin has been saying something very similar for a couple of years now.

Posted by: Monique at December 21, 2012 5:53 PM


Sadly, it's been five years:

I guess the Projo had to catch up eventually.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 21, 2012 6:08 PM

What a shock, Max. College students don't earn much money! I didn't know that.

*** quote ***
-- Moving to Rhode Island from another state: 26,769 people, $11,317 median income. (Many moving in are college freshmen, a low-income group.)

-- Rhode Islanders moving to another state: 31,065 people, $22,794.
*** end ***

Almost 23k in median income? That's hardly supportive of the "flight of the earls" myth so in vogue over here (and despite yet another number to the contrary).

Posted by: Russ at December 26, 2012 1:44 PM

Russ, Russ, Russ, when will you stop obfuscating the truth by regurgitating the 'flight of the earls' crap? Do you really think we're the only state that has an influx of college freshmen? Are you saying that justifies the income exodus?

Posted by: Max D at December 26, 2012 9:10 PM

Read that again... the median income of Rhode Islanders moving to another state is $22,794. If the wealthy or even the upper middleclass were leaving in droves, that number would be much, much higher.

Projo tacks on a salacious headline (possible only because college students earn poverty level wages) and you folks jump on cue. Note that the comments in parentheses above were inserted by the reporter, not me.

Posted by: Russ at December 27, 2012 9:05 AM

Russ conveniently ignores everything I've been writing about this issue for years.

Sure, the Census median is low, because it's all people, including many with zero income. The people in my family of five, for instance, have a median income of $0. I don't know how we pay the bills!

After years of looking at the migration data from tax returns of people who actually have income, I can tell you that the actual average is much higher... in the high $40s.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 27, 2012 9:22 PM
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