New Hampshire is scrambling to find enough staffed hospital beds to handle the current surge in COVID-19 patients. Suddenly, politicians on the left and the right are deeply concerned about the low number of hospital beds in the state. Which is kind of maddening because they’re the ones who created the shortage in the first place.

For decades, state laws have severely restricted the state’s hospital capacity. They still do. 

Before 2016, New Hampshire was one of many states with a Certificate of Need (CON) law that essentially required businesses to prove that a large medical equipment or facility investment was needed before it could be approved by the state. That law suppressed investment in new facilities and services. 

In 2016, the CON law was repealed, but it was replaced with laws that created additional restrictions on hospital capacity. Senate Bill 481, passed that year, added three major requirements into state law that restrict hospital competition. 

  1. RSA 151:2-g mandates that every hospital “shall operate an emergency department offering emergency services to all individuals regardless of ability to pay 24 hours every day, 7 days a week.” This law prohibits the creation of any competing hospital services that don’t also include a 24/7 emergency room. Conveniently, this law “shall not apply to any hospital licensed and operating prior to July 1, 2016, which does not operate an emergency department.” Incumbent hospitals are protected from this anti-competitive law. 
  2. RSA 151:4-a prohibits the establishment of any “ambulatory surgical center, emergency medical care center, hospital, birthing center, drop-in or walk-in care center, dialysis center, or special health care service” within 15 miles of an existing critical access hospital if the new facility “will have a material adverse impact” on the incumbent hospital. That is, if it would hurt the hospital’s business, it is prohibited from state licensure. A 15-mile radius might sound small, but it equals 706.9 square miles. 
  3. RSA 151:2-f mandates that every hospital, infirmary, “outpatient rehabilitation clinic, ambulatory surgical center, hospice, emergency medical care center, drop-in or walk-in care center, dialysis center, birthing center, or other entity where health care associated with illness, injury, deformity, infirmity, or other physical disability is provided” accept all forms of payment. This law mandates that medical facilities accept Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance — which means that it bans any facility designed to cut costs by accepting only cash payment. This inflates the cost of services and eliminates competition. 

In addition, RSA 151:2 VI (a.) imposes a moratorium on new beds for nursing and rehab facilities. It states that “there shall be no increase in licensed capacity of, any nursing home, skilled nursing facility, intermediate care facility, or rehabilitation facility, including rehabilitation hospitals and facilities offering comprehensive rehabilitation services.”

State laws ensure that it is much easier for incumbent hospitals and other medical facilities to expand than for new competitors to enter the New Hampshire market. The results are exactly what one would expect. 

Since 1980, New Hampshire’s population has increased by 49.6%. But in that time, only one new acute care hospital, Parkland Medical Center in Derry, has been built, Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity-NH has pointed out.

The current COVID-induced crunch on hospital capacity has many causes. The media have reported, accurately, that a surge in patients combined with a staffing shortage has put severe strain on the system. 

But that system entered the COVID-19 pandemic with a capacity already artificially constrained by anti-competitive state laws. Going forward, politicians who insist that New Hampshire needs to improve its hospital bed capacity can start by removing unnecessary barriers that make it extremely difficult for new competitors to enter the New Hampshire market. 

A week after New Hampshire placed first in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom in North America report, the state scored a first place finish in another prestigious freedom ranking, the Cato Institute’s 2021 Freedom in the 50 States report. 

In Cato’s report (written by Will Ruger and Jason Sorens), New Hampshire ranked third in economic freedom, second in personal freedom, and first in overall freedom. 

In economic freedom, New Hampshire ranked in the top five in state tax burden, government consumption and lawsuit freedom, but was far behind in numerous other metrics, including local tax burden (43), land use freedom (40), labor market freedom (27), health insurance freedom (19), cable and telecommunications freedom (20), and state and local assets (43).

In overall regulatory freedom, New Hampshire placed near the middle of the states at 23rd, showing that the “Live free or die” state has areas where government imposes significant economic constraints on citizens. 

In personal freedom, New Hampshire performed better than in economic freedom, ranking second in gun rights, fifth in education freedom, and fourth in asset forfeiture. The state finished in the top ten in travel freedom, mala prohibita (acts that are crimes in statute but not common law, such as firework and raw milk bans), and incarcerations and arrests for victimless crimes. 

Low rankings in personal freedom included gambling freedom (41), tobacco freedom (21), alcohol freedom (38), and campaign finance (45). 

As in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom in North America, New Hampshire holds its top ranking by a narrow margin. 

The top five states for overall freedom:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Florida
  3. Nevada
  4. Tennessee
  5. South Dakota

The difference between New Hampshire’s and Florida’s scores was just four hundredths of a percentage point (0.592 vs 0.552). 

In the Fraser Institute report, New Hampshire held its top place by one one-hundredth of a point (7.83 vs. 7.82). 

The top fives states for economic freedom in Fraser’s rankings:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Tennessee
  3. Florida
  4. Texas
  5. Virginia

The Cato report shows how rapidly other states have been gaining on New Hampshire. Since Cato’s last ranking for 2018-19, New Hampshire ranked No. 8 for growth in overall freedom, but many of the states with which it now competes for population growth and business location posted similar or larger gains. 

Tennessee and North Carolina ranked 11th and 13th in overall freedom growth since the last report, while Kentucky ranked sixth, Connecticut fifth, Michigan fourth, Florida second and South Dakota first. 

The data are more concerning for New Hampshire when looking back at the last 20 years. Since 2000, the top fives states for freedom growth were:

  1. Florida
  2. Michigan
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia

New Hampshire ranked 29th, well behind states that have been aggressively cutting taxes and deregulating, such as North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona. 

As a state that already ranked high on overall freedom, New Hampshire has set an example with policies that have been copied by other states. But as both reports show, there are areas where New Hampshire can make significant improvements to increase personal and economic freedom. 

Making those improvements would accomplish the primary goal of maximizing individual autonomy for Granite Staters, thus living up to New Hampshire’s promise of being the “Live free or die” state. It also would improve the conditions for economic growth, which would gradually raise New Hampshire’s standard of living. 

While these back-to-back reports give Granite Staters cause to boast about our relatively high level of economic and personal freedom, they also offer a warning that this position is threatened and will not be maintained without a continued effort to remove barriers to freedom that exist at the state and local levels. 

School districts that offered less in-person instruction last year saw fewer students pass end-of-year standardized tests, a new academic study of student performance in 12 states has found. 

Pass rates declined across the board compared to prior years, but “these declines were larger in districts with less in-person instruction,” conclude researchers from Brown University, M.I.T., and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. 

During the 2020-21 school year, passing rates in math declined by 14.2 percentage points on average, and passing rates in English Language Arts declined by 6.3 percentage points on average, in the 12 studied states (which included Massachusetts, but not New Hampshire).

However, “offering full in-person instruction rather than fully hybrid or virtual instruction reduces test score losses in math by 10.1 percentage points (on the base of 14.2 percentage points). In ELA, the loss is reduced in fully in-person settings by 3.2 percentage points.”

Moreover, academic losses in English Language Arts were more pronounced in districts with larger populations of minority students.

“Specifically, among districts with a larger share of Black and Hispanic students, districts with less in-person schooling saw a greater decline in ELA test scores than those with more in-person schooling. Although the impact of schooling mode on ELA is fairly small for districts which are majority white, it is large for those districts with a majority of students of color. Meanwhile, the impact of access to in-person learning had a similar effect on math scores for all districts, regardless of their racial composition.”

The results support the conclusion that in-person instruction produces larger learning gains, on average, than hybrid and remote instruction, the authors write.

“…our analyses demonstrate that virtual or distanced schooling modes cannot support student learning in the same way as in-person schooling. As such, educational impacts of schooling mode on students’ learning outcomes should be a critical factor in policy responses to future pandemics or other large-scale schooling disruptions,” they conclude.

The authors are Emily Oster and Clare Halloran of Brown University, James Okun of M.I.T., and Rebecca jack of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

The study is not the first to find that remote and hybrid instruction produced large drops in academic performance. 

One from the Netherlands in April found that “students made little or no progress while learning from home.”

A meta-analysis this fall of 11 studies of COVID-related school closures on student performance found “a negative effect of school closures on student achievement, specifically in younger students and students from families with low socioeconomic status.”

These findings suggest that school closures probably were a significant factor in the drop in student test scores in New Hampshire last year. New Hampshire scores in math and reading dropped by percentages similar to those in other states. 

Four hundred years ago, Puritan settlers and their Wampanoag dining companions endured hardships it would be difficult for 21st Century children to imagine. This Thanksgiving, as you share a meal with your family, it would be worth a moment to thank human ingenuity and free-market capitalism for making a Thanksgiving 2021 so much more comfortable than Thanksgiving 1621.

Here are just a few innovations that make this year’s Thanksgiving so much better than the one 400 years ago.

  • Electric power. In 1621, settlers and Native Americans had one source of heat and light: fire. Experiments from the 1740s to the 1880s led eventually to Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station in New York City, the first coal-fired central power station. Developments since have allowed us to heat and light our homes with the flick of a switch, something the original Thanksgiving diners might have attributed to witchcraft. 
  • An unprecedented bounty of cheap food. In 1621, settlers had to hunt and grow everything. The first Thanksgiving meal was venison, wild fowl, corn and other sustenance that could be obtained close by. Today, your local supermarket has more food, and of a greater variety, than was available to the greatest monarchs the Pilgrims had ever heard of. This is the direct product of trade and commerce in a market economy. As late as 1989, Soviet member of Parliament Boris Yeltsin was dazzled by the variety he saw in a Texas grocery store. And trade has reduced prices. Wheat in England cost 446 pounds (the currency) per tonne in 1621, according to Our World in Data. By 1996, it was 128 pounds per tonne. 
  • Gas and electric ovens. How will you cook all of that food? In 1621, settlers and Wampanoags cooked the same way primitive hunter-gatherers did: with open fires. Two centuries later, the first coal and gas ovens were invented. Today, families can cook huge feasts indoors in a fraction of the time it would take to make the same feasts over a campfire. And there’s no risk of falling into the fire reaching for a potato.  
  • Fast, comfortable travel. In 1621, you were getting to Thanksgiving dinner by foot. Today, you can get over the river and through the woods via car, train or plane. Only about 20% of Americans don’t travel during Thanksgiving weekend, and of those who travel, more than 60% travel by car. In 1800, a trip from New York City to Detroit would take four weeks by wagon. By 1830, it would take two weeks by train. By 2013, it would take just over nine hours by car or 1.5 hours by plane. Your family gathers relatively effortlessly thanks to huge transportation innovations.

Human life is infinitely better in 2021 than it was in 1621. The Enlightenment brought a revolution in thought, which led to a revolution in progress. Family, faith, and community are enduring institutions that have provided humanity with much comfort and protection. But the great material wealth we enjoy was the product of post-Enlightenment capitalism. We should remember to give thanks for that as well as for the rest. 

New Hampshire has once again retained its status as the most economically-free state in North America in this year’s Economic Freedom in North America report published by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think tank.

In both the continental and in-country rankings, New Hampshire finished first. Within the United States, Tennessee leapt past Florida to pull within a fraction of a point of the Granite State, showing how vulnerable New Hampshire’s position has become.

New Hampshire scored 7.83 out of 10 in this year’s report (down from 7.84 last year), beating out second-place Tennessee (7.82).

Economic freedom — the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions about what to buy, where to work and whether to start a business — is fundamental to prosperity.

“When governments allow markets to decide what’s produced, how it’s produced and how much is produced, citizens enjoy greater levels of economic freedom,” said Fred McMahon, the Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute and co-author of this year’s Economic Freedom of North America report, which measures government spending, taxation and labor market restrictions using data from 2019, the latest year of available comparable data.

“New Hampshire ranks as the freest state in the union again this year, but just barely,” Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy President Andrew Cline said. “As other states aggressively liberalize their economies, New Hampshire risks falling behind.”

Tennessee, ranked the 5th most economically free U.S. state in last year’s report, shot to within one one-hundredth of a point of tying New Hampshire for first place this year, Cline pointed out. The rankings are based on 2019 data. Tennessee’s interest and dividends tax was eliminated on Jan. 1 of this year, which will give it an advantage over New Hampshire in upcoming rankings, as our I&D tax lingers for five years until fully phased out.

Though New Hampshire leads all of its New England neighbors in economic freedom, Southern states are catching up by cutting taxes, spending and regulations. Rounding out the top five freest states are Florida (3rd), Texas (4th) and Virginia (5th).

At the other end of the index, New York (50th) is once again the least-free state followed by California (49th), Vermont (48th), West Virginia (47th) and New Mexico (46th). New York ranked last in the report for the seventh year in a row.

The other New England states are ranked as follows: Massachusetts (19th), Connecticut (21st), Rhode Island (41st), Maine (43rd), and Vermont (48th).

Across North America, the least-free quartile of jurisdictions had an average per- capita income 1.0 percent below the national average compared to 7.5 percent above the national average for the most-free quartile.

“Hundreds of independent studies have produced overwhelming evidence that higher levels of economic freedom are associated with more opportunity, more prosperity, greater economic growth, more investment and more jobs,” said Dean Stansel, report co-author and economist at Southern Methodist University.

The report measures the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions by ranking states on 10 variables in three areas: 1. Government Spending; 2. Taxes; and 3. Labor Market Regulation.

The Economic Freedom of North America report (also co-authored by José Torra, the head of research at the Mexico City-based Caminos de la Libertad) is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of more than a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars, including three Nobel laureates.

Detailed tables for each country and subnational jurisdiction can be found at www.fraserinstitute.org.

Or you can read the full report here: EFNA-2021-US-POST

Academic and behavioral outcomes among traditional public school students improve as their schools face greater competition from school choice, an analysis of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program shows.

As New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts program takes off this fall, this research from Florida’s much older scholarship program shows how the competition created by school choice benefits students who remain in traditional public schools, not just students who take the scholarships.

“We find evidence that as public schools are more exposed to private school choice, their students experience increasing benefits as the program scales up,” the authors write. “In particular, higher levels of private school choice exposure are associated with lower rates of suspensions and absences, and with higher standardized test scores in reading and in math.”

Specifically, “a doubling in the number of students participating in the voucher program increases test scores by 3 to 7 percent of a standard deviation and reduces behavioral problems by 6 to 9 percent” for students who remain in traditional public schools.

And the effects are strongest for lower-income students.

The authors found that “public school students who are most positively affected come from comparatively lower socioeconomic background….”

They found smaller, but statistically significant, gains for higher-income students “who are very unlikely to be targeted by vouchers themselves, suggesting that benefits may come partially through generalized school improvements rather than through improvements targeted solely at voucher-eligible students.”

The study, titled “Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students,” was conducted by professors David Figlio of Northwestern University, Cassandra Hart of the University of California at Davis, and Krzysztof Karbownik of Emory University.

Previous studies have shown similar benefits for traditional public school students from the creation of school choice programs, but those typically focused on the first few years of the choice program. The authors wanted to see whether those findings would hold as choice programs expanded over many years.

The authors examined student achievement in Florida for the first 16 years of the tax credit scholarship, which began in the 2002-03 school year. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program “provides dollar-for-dollar tax credits to corporations that contribute to nonprofit Scholarship Funding Organizations.”

At the start of the program, students with a household income below 185 percent of the federal poverty line ($33,485 for a family of four) were eligible for up to $3,500 in scholarships. Now the scholarships are an average of $6,815 per student and families that earn up to 260 percent of the FPL ($68,900 for a family of four) are eligible.

Figlio, Hart, and Karbownik looked specifically at students Florida-born students between grades 3 and 8 because of consistently available standardized test scores.

The authors summarized their results in an essay for Education Next, where they listed the following findings:

  • “As the scholarship program scaled up, academic and behavioral outcomes improved for students attending traditional public schools.”
  • “Students attending schools with more competitive pressure made larger gains as program enrollment grew statewide than did students at schools with less market competition.”
  • As the number of students using scholarships increases, test scores for public school students increased in reading and math. The number of students being suspended declines and “the proportion of days that students were absent falls.”
  • “Reading and math scores at schools in markets with more competitive pressure increase by about 14.5 percent of a standard deviation by 2014, as compared to schools facing less competition.”
  • Schools that later faced greater competition from school choice programs started with lower outcomes than other public schools. The competition from school choice programs raised student outcomes in those schools, narrowing the achievement gap between the lower-performing and higher-performing schools.
  • Positive impacts were greater for lower income students, but also affected more affluent students.

More students using scholarships to attend private schools would increase competition for public schools and result in higher academic and behavioral outcomes and positive behavioral outcomes for non-scholarship students, the authors conclude.

For more information on New Hampshire’s Tax Credit Scholarship and Education Freedom Account programs, visit Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, which administers the programs.

To read our study on the new Education Freedom Account program, go here.

Previous studies that have also found improved public school outcomes after the introduction of school choice programs can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As education policy moved to the forefront of our national political discourse this fall, support for school choice programs increased in October, Morning Consult’s monthly school choice tracking poll for EdChoice shows.

Far from being “controversial,” school choice programs remain strongly popular nationwide and gained popularity as the debate over the role of parents in education intensified.

Nationally, 80 percent of parents with school age children expressed support for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in October.  Seventy-six percent support voucher programs and 75 percent support charter schools.

Among adults, strong majorities also supported school choice programs, with 70 percent supporting ESAs, 64 percent supporting vouchers, and 67 percent supporting charter schools.

Support for ESAs in New Hampshire remains high, with support from 71 percent of parents and 67 percent of the public favoring them, according to the poll.

This fall, New Hampshire launched a new Education Savings Account program, called Education Freedom Accounts. With an Education Freedom Account, a family can use a state grant to pay for the educational services they choose. That can be tuition at another public or private school, home-education materials, tutoring, community college courses, online classes, special education services, or other approved educational services.

You cam learn more about EFAs, and how to apply, at the Children’s Scholarship Fund.

For more information about school choice in New Hampshire, including EFAs, see the Education section of our website.

For more details on the Morning Consult Polling, visit https://edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com/

A college degree is a major investment in a better economic future, high school students are constantly told. But that isn’t always true. More than a quarter of college majors produce a negative return on investment, according to a study by Preston Cooper at the Foundation for Research on Economic Opportunity. 

A lot of studies have shown that STEM and business degrees pay better over a career than degrees such as psychology and education. (Here’s one Georgetown University did a few years ago.) 

Cooper’s study adds real value to the debate by ranking degrees based on the financial return on the student’s investment, not just lifetime earnings. Many studies simply point out that earning a degree leads to X average lifetime earnings. But getting the degree is costly, and that includes opportunity costs (foregone earnings while in school and in a career that didn’t require a college degree). Those costs have to be subtracted from the future earnings to get an accurate understanding of a degree’s value. 

Cooper also creates a searchable database that lets students compare nearly 30,000 degree programs at 1,775 colleges and universities. There’s a real difference in value not just among degrees, but among the same degree at different institutions, and this study explores that in detail. 

“The analysis reveals that a student’s choice of program is perhaps the most important financial decision he or she will ever make,” Cooper writes. “Most bachelor’s degree programs in engineering, computer science, economics, and nursing increase lifetime earnings by $500,000 or more, even after subtracting the costs of college. But most programs in fields such as art, music, philosophy, religion, and psychology leave students financially worse off than if they had never gone to college at all.”

Among the findings: 

  • For students who graduate on time, the median bachelor’s degree has a net ROI of $306,000. But some degrees are worth millions of dollars, while others have no net financial value at all.
  • After accounting for the risk of dropping out, ROI for the median bachelor’s degree drops to $129,000. Over a quarter of programs have negative ROI.
  • College rankings like the U.S. News and World Report emphasize choice of institution. But from a financial perspective, choice of major is the more important consideration. Major alone explains nearly half the variation in ROI. Students will have a much greater chance of financial success if they study engineering, computer science, nursing, or economics, rather than art, music, religion, psychology, or education.
  • Thirty-seven percent of programs do not deliver a financial return when adjusting for spending and completion. Another 32% have a lifetime ROI below $250,000.
  • Assuming students graduate in four years, 16% of college degrees have a negative return on investment. But many students take five or six years to graduate. Adjusting for actual completion times, 28% of degrees are found to have a negative return.
  • Programs at the most expensive schools (those with net tuition above $12,700) have a median completion-adjusted ROI of $198,000, compared to $129,000 for all programs. On average, the higher payoff from more expensive schools is enough to make the heftier tuition bill worth it.
  • Though elite colleges dominate the list of top programs in the country, attending an elite school is no golden ticket. Over 100 programs at colleges with an acceptance rate below 20% have negative ROI. Several U.S. News juggernauts such as Harvard, Penn, and Chicago all offer at least one program that leaves its students financially worse off.
  • At Harvard University, students who major in ethnic and gender studies can expect an ROI of negative $47,000. The film and photographic arts program at the University of Pennsylvania has an ROI of negative $140,000. Seventeen different programs at New York University have negative ROI, with the worst among them (music) leaving students over $500,000 in the hole.

Another blow to the argument for “free college” 

The study’s findings can be added to the list of reasons why “free college” for all is a bad idea. 

First, most degrees pay for themselves many times over, so there’s no need for the government to subsidize them. 

One might argue that the government should subsidize degrees such as psychology and education that produce a low or even negative financial return because they are valuable to society as a whole. 

But that assumes that the content of those programs is inherently valuable, when it might be the case that the programs struggle to produce larger returns because they are poor programs. 

The study finds that some education and psychology degrees produce large returns, though the median program produces poor returns. That suggests that some programs are of much higher quality than others. Subsidizing all degrees in a particular field would provide taxpayer support for mediocre and poor programs, preventing market incentives from improving those programs.

A better option would be to provide prospective students with data on long-term earnings for various programs. Over time, that would lead to improvements in the lower-performing programs, whereas government subsidies would provide those programs with steady cashflows regardless of their performance. 

A quick look at UNH

How does the University of New Hampshire stack up? Here’s a look at two majors, Animal Sciences and Business Administration. UNH generally ranks well on longer-term earnings vs. other public universities in the region. 

The median earnings for an Animal Sciences major at age 45 are $64,076 at UNH, $54,423 at the University of Connecticut, $53,112 at the University of Rhode Island, $54,643 at the University of Vermont, $61,251 at the University of Maine, and $55,160 at UMass-Amherst. (But they’re $88,314 at Auburn University.)

The median earnings for a Business Administration major at age 45 are $101,903 at UNH, $124,785 at Boston University, $88,364 at Granite State College, $74,587 at Keene State College, $77,070 at New England College, $112,671 at New England College of Business and Finance, $100,237 at New England Institute of Technology, $131,372 at Northeastern University, $74,488 at Plymouth State University, $97,549 at Southern New Hampshire University, $85,514 at Suffolk University, $101,943 at the University of Connecticut, $72,660 at the University of Maine, $78,154 at the University of Hartford, $108,619 at UMass-Amherst, $73,692 at the University of New England, $95,622 at the University of Rhode Island, and $92,148 at the University of Vermont.

Below are the earnings at ages 25, 35, and 45 for all UNH majors covered in the study. 

You can search the database here (about halfway down the page). 

 

University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Agricultural Production Operations. $27,322 $36,157 $40,217
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Animal Sciences. $30,783 $53,826 $64,076
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Anthropology. $26,498 $45,574 $50,798
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology. $44,520 $91,483 $106,677
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Other. $36,109 $65,240 $69,686
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Biology, General. $39,139 $79,726 $90,553
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Business Administration, Management and Operations. $53,050 $90,855 $101,903
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Chemical Engineering. $66,348 $96,549 $119,263
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Chemistry. $43,960 $79,179 $93,577
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Civil Engineering. $58,541 $93,959 $110,601
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Communication and Media Studies. $43,363 $80,693 $86,509
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Communication Disorders Sciences and Services. $20,388 $28,216 $31,515
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Computer and Information Sciences, General. $73,098 $118,834 $138,388
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Computer Engineering. $71,595 $122,339 $132,446
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Criminology. $36,490 $59,905 $66,479
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Drama/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft. $27,227 $47,367 $54,268
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Economics. $49,684 $83,330 $89,508
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering. $69,454 $112,119 $132,842
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus English Language and Literature, General. $30,296 $51,041 $56,630
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering. $52,699 $82,893 $109,012
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Ethnic, Cultural Minority, Gender, and Group Studies. $27,826 $48,179 $49,207
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Fine and Studio Arts. $24,571 $38,649 $40,419
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Genetics. $44,431 $86,481 $99,976
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Geography and Cartography. $28,950 $46,774 $51,320
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Health and Medical Administrative Services. $50,711 $77,632 $93,663

Our era of extreme political polarization fuels contempt for anything labeled “compromise.” Neither side wants to give an inch to the other, on any issue, even though everyone compromises every day in countless ways. 

The economic term for compromise is “tradeoff.” In real life, no one is 100% ideologically pure. We make tradeoffs a gazillion times a day without giving them a single thought. 

Radical environmentalists don’t spread their messages via smoke signal or personal messenger. They don’t live off the grid, making all of their food, clothing, shelter and energy by hand. 

They live in homes heated by fossil fuels, drive cars made of mined metals in factories powered by fossil fuels, and use industrially manufactured computers to go onto the energy-guzzling internet to send instantaneous electronic messages denouncing billionaires, capitalism, Big Oil, etc. 

Anti-trade activists drive American cars, assembled with parts from all over the world, and daily enjoy low-cost conveniences made available and affordable by global trade, from bananas (Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala) to eyeglasses (Italy, France). 

In the market, everyone accepts less than their own imagined ideal, every day. It’s usually only in politics that we insist on achieving 100% purity.  

Maine just got a lesson in how this can go wrong.

In 2017, Maine legislators passed what environmentalists gleefully called the toughest anti-mining law in the country. Among other restrictions, it bans any open-pit mine larger than three acres. 

Mining has a long history in Maine (granite from Maine can be found in the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York State House, the Boston Custom House, Fenway Park, and the Washington Monument), but the law effectively brought that history to an end. Small quarries are allowed, but larger mines are all but impossible to build now.

Then-Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the bill, saying it went too far, but legislators overrode the veto.  

Now, even some of the law’s proponents are grudgingly, kinda-sorta acknowledging that, well, maybe it did go too far. 

That’s because, four years after the law passed, one of the world’s largest lithium deposits has just been discovered in Maine. 

Lithium is a light metal used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars as well as laptops, cell phones and digital cameras. Those batteries make the transition from gas to electric cars possible. 

You can’t make the batteries without mining lithium. And Maine’s anti-mining law has trapped a gigantic deposit of lithium — worth an estimated $1.5 billion — in the ground forever. 

Oops. 

When the law passed, National Resources Council of Maine staff scientist Rick Bennett praised it for being the strictest in the nation and said it “will protect our clean water and taxpayers into the future.” 

After the discovery of the lithium mine, Bennett acknowledged to The Maine Monitor that the law wasn’t written with lithium or manganese (used to make solar panels more efficient) in mind and said those metals ”very likely present a whole bunch of different issues. If those became something someone wanted to mine and process in Maine, I think we’d have to look at best available practices.”

Maine’s law was written to achieve an extreme goal: the elimination of large open-pit mining. Because it didn’t take into account tradeoffs, it likely prevents making a compromise on one environmental priority (reducing mining) to achieve another, higher priority (reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

Maine’s mining law is similar to state laws that ban fracking or pipeline construction. In a misguided effort to achieve some vague ideal of environmental purity, they prevent reaching a compromise that reduces emissions (by replacing coal and oil with natural gas) while we wait for the technology that would allow a larger-scale green alternative to be developed.

In life, people make these tradeoffs all the time, and for the most sensible of reasons. Given the limited array of choices in the real world, a less-than-ideal option usually is the most cost-effective, most convenient, or safest option available. 

That’s usually the case in politics too. But in politics, saturated as it is with aspirational, idealistic rhetoric, we often become blinded to the need for tradeoffs.

Note: The lithium mine story was broken by The Maine Monitor. Our original post cited the Bangor Daily News, which had reprinted the Monitor story with permission. 

On Oct 12, 2021, the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy and the Center for Ethics in Society at St. Anselm College released a first-of-its-kind study on how local land use regulations affect the supply and price of housing in New Hampshire. The event included a panel discussion on housing regulation with Sarah Marchant of the City of Nashua and Ben Frost of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

For those who couldn’t make the event, we’re offering the full video on our YouTube channel here.

The study and its findings are available here.

This study finds that residential land use regulations are associated with growing socioeconomic segregation and slowing population growth.

As housing becomes more expensive, fewer people are moving to New Hampshire, especially to those towns that are most expensive. Those who stay are disproportionately wealthy and college-educated, while middle- and lower-income families leave because they cannot find affordable housing.

Costly housing in towns with better schools also limits families’ access to educational opportunity. Finally, the sprawl caused by anti-density policies such as minimum lot sizes increases drive times and road maintenance costs and worsens air and water quality.