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Hassan and 'innovation': A new path for the governor

January 06. 2013 1:07AM

Gov. Maggie Hassan began her term with an inaugural address that emphasized two themes: cooperation and innovation. The cooperation part is boilerplate. Every politician pays homage to bipartisanship and togetherness, most while holding behind their backs the knife they intend to use on the other side (metaphorically, of course). Perhaps Hassan really means it. Innovation, now there is a theme for the times.

Hassan said she wanted to encourage both economic and governmental innovation. The state would pursue policies that would help businesses succeed through entrepreneurial experimentation, and in the meantime the state would focus on becoming more efficient and productive itself. Were Hassan to actually do this, she could leave a positive and lasting legacy. Her political career thus far, however, suggests she will have to do a political 180 to go in that direction.

Hassan has too often come down against innovation and experimentation, preferring instead to expand the power of the state and to burden businesses and individuals with binding regulations that constrain their options and thereby hamper their ability to innovate.

On health care and the environment, her record suggests a doctrinaire statism in which bureaucrats are empowered to limit the choices of individuals and businesses, and the state imposes dictates upon the people.

On education, Hassan supports public charter schools but opposes broader school choice. She said on Thursday, "We must also recognize that not every student chooses the same path, and that our community college system has developed innovative, nimble and cutting edge programs to educate our citizens." Nice, but she refuses to recognize the same when it comes to K-12 education, opposing school choice for parents whose children do poorly in government schools.

On taxation, her single proposal for promoting innovation is to expand the research and development tax credit, which will help only a fraction of New Hampshire businesses, and then only in the one area that she personally prefers to see expanded. Otherwise, her record is one of promoting more taxation and less flexibility.

In all, Hassan's record reflects the belief that government should use its power to steer individuals and businesses toward behaviors preferred by politicians and bureaucrats.

If she really believes in unleashing the power of Granite Staters to rekindle the economy through innovative thinking, she must acknowledge that creativity is born of freedom. Economic innovation will not be best encouraged by government policies that channel people's behaviors toward government-desired outcomes, but by removing the regulatory and financial obstacles that obstruct the free exercise of the mind as expressed via economic activity.

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