Note: This blog post was taken from our Friday newsletter, The Broadside. You can sign up for The Broadside on the bottom of our home page.

This newsletter is an unapologetic champion of the greatest state motto of all time, “Live free or die.” New Hampshire’s motto matters. Powerful and uplifting, it has ingrained itself in culture. Children here grow up believing that freedom is the preeminent civic ideal. Newcomers learn quickly that even though we don’t all agree on how to define freedom, Granite Staters self-identify as lovers of liberty. Because of the motto, to be a Granite Stater is to commit one’s self to the idea that freedom is an end in itself, one to be cherished and protected.

The motto is so powerful that it shaped the inaugural speech of James Dean, the new president of the University of New Hampshire. It also helped shape the culture that produced a young Granite Stater who grew up to be a national leader in the movement for individual liberty, and who just won a prestigious award for his service to the cause. (More about him in a moment.)

President Dean commits UNH to promoting freedom

“I wonder if you know these slogans? Heart of Dixie…World Famous Potatoes…America’s Dairyland…Greatest Snow on Earth?” Dean began.

“Until recently, Live Free or Die was, to me, just another charming license plate slogan. But after only a few months in New Hampshire, I am beginning to appreciate its profound resonance among the state’s citizens.”

The whole speech is worth reading here or watching here.

In an era when college students routinely pressure administrators to silence voices that challenge their own preconceptions, it is notable and praiseworthy that UNH’s new president committed himself in his inaugural speech to upholding freedom of speech and of religion.

President Dean based most of his speech on FDR’s famous Four Freedoms, which is not the foundation on which we would build any talk about freedom. FDR’s revision of our founding principles was a political ploy to revive a dying New Deal and prepare the country for a more energetic U.S. role in foreign affairs. That it is now treated as the touchstone for discussions about American liberty is unfortunate.

Nevertheless, President Dean’s speech was encouraging. If we’re all talking about how to secure, protect and advance freedom, those who are passionately dedicated to weakening, diminishing and shrinking it will consistently find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

Granite State kid wins Thomas Roe Award

Last week, John Kramer, vice president for communications at the Institute for Justice, won this year’s Thomas Roe Award, given by the State Policy Network for achievements in advancing free-market ideas. Kramer started his moving acceptance speech with a story from his days growing up in Sunapee, N.H.

Kramer is called by a lot of people the PR man for liberty. He is a phenomenal communicator who has won numerous PR industry awards and has helped untold numbers of Americans better understand the importance of free markets and individual liberty.

His speech is moving and inspiring. With permission, we publish it here on our blog. We think you’ll find it uplifting, and we encourage you to share it with any young people you know who might have doubts about their ability to overcome whatever challenges life throws in their way.

It reminds us that another Granite Stater is similarly inspiring for challenging conventional wisdom, questioning authority, and finding his own way in the world despite lacking at first the connections, wealth and social standing that made so many of his contemporary leaders famous.

He was Josiah Bartlett, this think tank’s namesake. The New England Historical Society offers a nice summary of how he saved his own life and became a leader in the American Revolution by thinking for himself and pursuing his ideal of personal freedom.

As the days grow colder, we offer you these thoughts on freedom to read and mull over with a cup of cider before a roaring fire.

Also, today is the anniversary of Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. So let’s all raise a glass to freedom tonight.

Enjoy.

Editor’s note: John Kramer, vice president for communications at the Institute for Justice, won this year’s Thomas Roe Award, the highest award given by the State Policy Network for achievements in advancing free-market ideas. Kramer is from Sunapee, N.H. With his permission, we share his moving acceptance speech in the hope that it inspires others to challenge themselves, to overcome their fears and anxieties, and to learn and achieve more than they might think possible.

 

Chain of Inspiration

by John Kramer

 

In a tiny church in a tiny New Hampshire town, a Christian missionary from Africa delivered a plea for assistance.

“If we only had $200 for a row boat,” he said, “My mission could row across the lake where we live and we could bring the Word of God to those on the other shore—to the natives who have never heard the Gospel.”

In the congregation of that tiny church was a widow. She had been left with 9 children and no inheritance to speak of. She supported her family as a part-time public school teacher, helping kids with learning disabilities.

She had received her paycheck—an actual paper check back in those days—but she got it too late to deposit it. Back then, there were also these things called “banker’s hours.”

As the missionary concluded his talk, the ushers took up the collection. This widow opened her purse. Her kids looked over to see if she would direct a dollar their way to drop in the basket. Instead, she did something remarkable.

She took out that paycheck and endorsed it over to the church so this missionary could have the boat he needed to spread the Gospel.

Each of her kids panicked in the face of this act of charity—charity not given out of surplus, but out of genuine need.

How would they pay for food?

How would they pay for oil to heat their home with winter fast approaching?

Everyone in that family knew the daily hardships they already faced. They lived paycheck to paycheck. And here was their Mother giving away an entire paycheck—as an act of faith.

That woman—that widow—was my Mother, Therese Kramer.

I was her youngest. I want you to know that we did not go hungry. And we did not go cold.

The missionary left our church with the funds he needed for his boat—thanks to the widow’s mite.

But the story doesn’t end there. A couple from our parish—the Quinlans—learned about my Mother’s act of charity. They secretly paid for our entire heating bill that winter—an enormous sum compared to what my Mother had contributed. Because they wanted to remain anonymous, it took me 30 years to finally confirm it was the Quinlans who saved our family that winter.

So why do I donate paintings to worthy causes like State Policy Network or Christ House? Or work to build up those around me? Because I saw the example of my Mother. I saw the example of the Quinlans. Why has Shirley Roe created this award to honor her late husband? Because she saw Tom in action. She saw his values and his spirit, and she wanted Tom to inspire others for generations to come.

And that’s what I’d like to talk with you about tonight: The importance of that chain of instructive inspiration.

As I mentioned, I lost my father when I was very young. I was two-and-a-half. I never really knew him. But my Mother gave me a great piece of advice in the context of that loss. She said, “You may not have a father, but you have many father figures around you.  Study them.  Emulate them. Make their best traits your best traits.”

And that became a lifetime obsession for me. From my uncles, I learned the importance of a work ethic and always keeping your word. From my teachers, I learned the importance of studying history and civics and writing. From Chip Mellor—IJ’s first president—I learned by example the importance of staying true to your values and your vision.

From Clint Bolick—IJ’s other co-founder—I learned the importance of facing challenges with a joy-filled heart.

One day we faced an infuriating problem, and Clint told me, “Hey, we can solve these problems and be happy or we can solve this problem and be angry. I choose to be happy.”

What an instructive bit of inspiration for us all.  You can choose to face your challenge—any challenge—with a happy heart. It is no wonder that Chip and Clint are each Roe Award Winners. I am truly honored to join their ranks.

When we challenge ourselves to take on the best qualities of others, we are harnessing a life-changing force. That ability . . . that willingness . . . to change is the secret to a rewarding life.

Think for a moment about the happy and successful people you know. Likewise, think about those who are chronically miserable and failing. Have you pieced together yet what separates those two groups of people? Nearly all of the difference is found in how you handle the fear of the unknown. It is the people who embrace that fear . . .who grow and learn and improve . . .who become better-equipped to take on whatever life throws at them.

The more you welcome that challenge to improve—drawing inspiration from others—the more you’ll experience the world around you. And the more you experience, the more you’ll think. And the more you think, the more you’ll learn. And the more you’ll learn, the fewer frustrations you’ll feel and the braver you will become.

It all starts with embracing that chain of inspiration—of recognizing in others the qualities you want in yourself, and then making them part of who you are. Happiness is found in learning; and learning—real and deep and true learning—can only come from action.

So keep the faith, and keep at it. Because it matters. Because your work matters.

Seek out inspiration from those around you. And live in such a way that you inspire others. We can’t all be the missionary rowing across that lake. Nor should we be. We each have our own critical role to play in this movement.

Whether we’re marketers or attorneys or administrators or policy analyst or any other role in the Free Market Movement, we can ensure those around us have the resources and support and example they need to succeed, to spread the word of freedom.

Now let’s go get ’em!

The election is 25 days away and the nation’s greatest political minds are dutifully disgorging rivers of commentary on the two most important topics of 2018: A couple of dudes named Kanye and Beto.

Weeks before the election, America’s Great Explainers think that what the country really needs are 2,000-word think pieces and cable TV arguments about a rapper’s deep emotional reasons for choosing a particular piece of headwear and the fundraising prowess and THS (Total Hipness Score) of a U.S. Senate candidate who still isn’t polling above his rival despite having been in a rock band when a younger lad.

This is why it’s always better to spend October in the hills and mountains of New Hampshire. This year, the colors are spectacular and they could hang on through Election Day. But don’t let the dazzling oranges, reds and yellows distract you from the need to pile up firewood and collect dragonglass. For winter is coming. And when it gets here it’s is going to punch you in the face.

Not all of you, though. Just those who heat with oil.

On Wednesday the U.S. Energy Information Agency released its annual Winter Fuels Outlook. If you heat with propane or natural gas, you’ll be fine. If you heat with oil, you probably should buy more blankets. Or an alpaca.

The EIA predicted average price changes this winter of -1 percent for propane, 3 percent for electricity, 5 percent for natural gas and 20 percent for home heating oil.

Now would be a good time to switch from oil to natural gas. Alas, you can’t just go down to the general store and pick up some Mountain Dew, a couple of pumpkin whoopie pies and a month’s supply of natural gas. You need to have it piped directly to your home. (The gas, not the Mountain Dew, although Pepsi should really get on that.)

But you might not be able to switch to natural gas because most of New Hampshire lacks the infrastructure for home natural gas service even though demand for natural gas is extremely high.

Gas utilities say they’d love to build lines to more homes. One, Liberty Utilities, has proposed doing that for communities along Route 101 from Portsmouth to Manchester. But to bring that residential service, utilities say they need more access to supply, which means more pipelines.

Although some new pipelines have been built or are under construction in New England, many large projects in recent years have been killed by anti-pipeline activists.

Liberty Utilities projects that its Granite Bridge project along Route 101 would save customers $950 million over 20 years. But, of course, activists are trying to prevent its construction. There must be no new pipelines of any kind anywhere anytime.

If that anti-consumer, anti-progress mindset continues to prevail in New England, it will condemn Granite Staters and other New Englanders to harder, more expensive winters for decades to come. Wind and solar cannot heat your home during a long, cold winter. Natural gas burns more cleanly, more efficiently, and less expensively than wood or oil. Yet if you live outside of Keene, Berlin, the Portsmouth area or the I-93 corridor up to Gilford, the activists are working hard to prevent you from having this home heating option.

For families, the financial impact of this obstructionism is huge. The EIA projects an average cost this winter of $595 to heat a home with natural gas vs. $1,646 to heat with oil. Restricting the supply of natural gas in New England by blocking pipeline construction has a direct and large negative impact on Granite Staters.

In “Game of Thrones,” winter is always coming, and that’s always bad. For low-income New England families who heat with oil, winter can bring the same foreboding. States should stop preventing them from accessing a more affordable, cleaner-burning fuel.

“I can tell you with confidence that Governor Sununu has yet to tell us no on an important issue of ours.”

– Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire President Bill McQuillen

The quote above was the most interesting statement in New Hampshire politics this week.

(We know what you’re thinking. What about Sen. Jeff Woodburn’s Thursday claim, released incredibly during a live national television broadcast of U.S. senators hearing testimony on allegations of sexual assault? Well, the senator’s claim was filed in court papers and not made in a statement.)

McQuillen’s statement accompanied the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire’s endorsement of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu for re-election. The union hasn’t endorsed a Republican for governor since Gov. Craig Benson ran for re-election in 2004.

That 14-year gap between PFFNH endorsements of a Republican candidate for governor was noteworthy. But what made this endorsement extraordinary was McQuillen’s statement, for it came just a year after the state’s public-sector unions vigorously opposed Gov. Sununu’s first major legislative initiative: a right-to-work bill.

Right to work’s defeat last year largely neutralized it as a general election issue this year. (It played a role in Republican primary races). It’s near disappearance from the 2018 general election has made it easy to forget how big a topic it was in 2016 and early 2017.

Then-Executive Councilor Sununu made it a signature campaign issue. It was for a while the top political issue in New Hampshire, causing State House protests and prompting the state Republican Party to build a separate fund-raising campaign around it.

Just a year later, three public-sector unions have endorsed the governor who led the campaign for a right-to-work law. And the head of one of those unions seemed to suggest that right to work was not an important issue for the organization.

The N.H. Troopers Association hasn’t endorsed a Republican for governor since 2000. The N.H. Police Association endorsed Sununu in June, which is the earliest it’s ever endorsed a candidate for governor. These weren’t lukewarm endorsements. All three unions made them with enthusiasm. There were no caveats, no mention of right to work.

The State Employees Association (Service Employees International Union Local 1984) pointedly mentioned right to work in the union’s endorsement of Democratic candidate for governor Molly Kelly on Wednesday. But for the law enforcement and firefighters unions, right to work clearly is not at the top of the priority list.

Firefighters, for example, were far more interested in legislation granting them the legal presumption that a firefighter’s cancer was contracted on the job and is therefore covered under workman’s compensation. Gov. Sununu signed that bill into law in July.

Recent history suggests that right to work is not of zero concern to these unions. But the fact that it’s such a low priority suggests one of two calculations were made. 1.) These union leaders consider right to work dead and therefore not a threat in the next legislative session. 2.) These union leaders have reasoned that their members value the delivery of tangible benefits much more highly than they value the political clout that is the primary product of both a single-party political alliance and the absence of a right-to-work law.

They may also understand that political power is enhanced when loyalty is not taken for granted.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling doesn’t appear to be a major factor, though it’s possible that the changed environment for public-sector unions post-Janus could have been a contributing factor in the firefighters and troopers endorsements. (The police endorsed days before the ruling.)

As the Josiah Bartlett Center discovered through a right-to-know request this summer (and this newsletter was first to report), the agency fees which Janus outlawed were not a significant source of revenue for law enforcement unions. They made up a substantial portion of the SEA’s revenue, however.

Regardless of what influence the Janus ruling might have had, the big takeaway here is that a Republican governor who strongly supports right-to-work legislation won the endorsement of three public-sector unions the year after leading a big right-to-work push. That’s a most noteworthy development that hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

As of July, the average hourly wage for private employment in New Hampshire was $26.22, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In February, New Hampshire recorded its highest average hourly wage on record, $26.89. (The Federal Reserve data show New Hampshire wages regularly peaking in winter, dropping a bit in summer.)

Even counting for inflation, New Hampshire’s real per capita personal income is up more than $4,000 since the recession.

Hillsborough County was in the top ten counties in the country for wage growth last year, and New Hampshire was among the top five states, according to Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in August.

Amid all of this good news, activists and some politicians are telling everyone that things are bad for the simple reason that state law doesn’t mandate a higher entry-level wage.

This fixation on government mandates rather than the actual economy is a really telling difference in the way some people view the world. On one side, people look around and say, “things are good!” On the other, people bury their heads in statute books and say, “things are terrible!”

The “things are terrible” crowd is pushing again to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. As always, the central assertion is that $7.25 an hour (New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the federal minimum) is not a ‘living wage.”

This is where the gap between the actual economy and economic notions expressed in law grows very wide.

The state Labor Market Information Bureau has compiled U.S. Census estimates for the number of people working at or below the minimum wage in New Hampshire. (Tipped jobs can pay below the minimum.) The data (based on surveys) show only 8,004 Granite Staters working at the minimum-wage or less in 2017.

That’s really low. In fact, it’s a 48 percent decline from the 15,284 Granite Staters estimated to have worked a minimum wage job in 2016. (The number for 2015 was 15,845.)

Why the drop? We don’t know yet. And because of the small sample sizes, it’s possible that a sizable chunk of the decline is a measurement error. Next year’s data will help fill out the picture. But even if 50 percent of the drop is a reporting error, New Hampshire would still have only about 11,600 people working at or below the minimum wage. That’s out of a working-age population of around 913,000, according to Census figures.

At the current estimate of 8,004 people, less than 1 percent of New Hampshire’s working-age population makes the minimum wage or less.

The data further show that 73.5 percent of Granite Staters making the minimum wage or less work in “food preparation and serving-related occupations.”

Tips, commissions and overtime pay are not included in the minimum wage figures, so the actual take-home pay of about three-fourths of New Hampshire employees who are classified as minimum-wage workers will be considerably higher than the minimum wage.

The Census estimates also show that 3,951 people, or 49.4 percent, of Granite Staters who make the minimum wage or less are between the ages of 16-24. These are high school and college-age employees with fewer skills and limited experience.

And experience, as in axe throwing or being Jose Canseco, is a key factor. Looking at the lowest-paying sector, food preparation and serving-related occupations, we see an entry-level wage of $8.36 an hour, a mean wage of $10.55 an hour, and an experienced wage of $13.76 an hour —just $1.24 an hour less than the $15 an hour wage some activists and politicians are demanding.

This tells us that wages are not a measure of a person’s moral worth or dignity, but of economic value. Employers pay inexperienced teens less than experienced adults for reasons that ought to be obvious to anyone who’s ever had a job or waited in line at a McDonald’s. And they pay higher wages to attract better employees.

Even in the fast food industry, competition for good employees is driving up wages so that the minimums in many paces are $10 an hour or higher.

More than doubling the minimum wage to $15 an hour would have a relatively small effect on the pay of experienced employees even in the lowest-paid industries. But it would have a big effect on entry-level positions, effectively pricing younger, less-experienced people out of those jobs.

In an economy in which employers are voluntarily raising wages, we are being told that the government must mandate a very high wage floor, which gets us back to the point about markets vs. laws.

Laws are expressions of moral values. Markets are expressions of economic values (mostly). Even when markets are pushing pay rates higher, people who view the world a certain way find this unacceptable precisely because it does not come from a moral directive.

For the conspicuously virtuous, everything all the time has to be an expression of moral values. Markets don’t operate that way. They consider tradeoffs, which the conspicuously virtuous rarely do. Everything is black and white, good or bad.

So even if markets are driving wages higher, society must act collectively to mandate that wages never fall below whatever the virtuous wage floor of the moment is. Refusal to pass such a mandate is considered a society-wide moral failure.

Or to put it in the contemporary vernacular, minimum wages are virtue signaling.

Every time you pay your electricity or heating bill, you’re lighting your money on fire. That is, you’re trading money for the energy released by burning some combustible material — natural gas, home heating oil, wood pellets, etc. So in effect, you’re burning your money.

That’s OK, it’s how a market economy works. You don’t make your own clothes or slaughter your own food or build your own home by hand, you pay other people to do those things. (Excepting some of you in the North Country.) When you trade money for energy, you’re basically burning money. The priority, then, is to burn as little of it as possible.

In New Hampshire, politicians keep preventing you from doing that. In fact, they continue to force you to burn more money for electricity than you would otherwise choose to burn.

On Thursday, legislators overrode Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of Senate Bill 365. The bill forces electric utility companies to buy power at above-market rates from the state’s six biomass power plants and municipal solid waste incinerators.

The bill’s own fiscal note projected that it would cause electricity rates to rise by between $15 million and $20 million a year. So legislators knew exactly what they were doing. They knowingly voted to make you burn more of your money than necessary when buying electricity.

They’re very practiced at this. Over the years, legislators have passed one law after another to prohibit electric utilities from buying power at the lowest available price.

All of these costs add up. Here are just two examples.

A 2015 study by the Beacon Hill Institute found that New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standards would raise electricity prices by 3.7 percent by 2025, for a total impact of $70 million.

A previous biomass subsidy bill passed just last year, SB 129, also forced utilities to buy additional power from biomass plants. Its costs were estimated at around $75 million to $100 million.

To understand how these mandates make electricity more expensive, imagine you’re a cave man who needs to build a fire. Og is willing to offer you a bundle of wood he chopped himself for one rabbit pelt. Unk is offering you a bundle of organic, cured, and deodorized buffalo chips for one rabbit pelt and a handful of arrow heads.

You just need a fire. You’ve got a fresh squirrel in your deer-skin sack, you’re hungry, and you’ve got to make a new spear to replace the one you lost when that mammoth ran off with it dangling from its side. (WHY WON”T THOSE THINGS JUST DIE??) So you turn to Og.

At that moment, the clan’s code enforcement officer strides up to remind you of the clan leader’s decree that everyone has to use organic buffalo chips as a fuel source once a week. (Unk is the clan leader’s cousin.) You used wood every day this week. You’ve got to buy the dung.

You give Unk your worst arrow heads, naturally, but now you’re out all those arrow heads and will have to make more. You’re no warmer than you were before. The fire didn’t cook your meat any better. It just cost more because someone with power ordered you to support the organic dung industry.

There are other ways politicians and regulators force prices higher. They can even be politicians and regulators in neighboring states.

Across the country, electricity prices have fallen thanks to the natural gas boom. But the prices fall faster and farther in places where politicians don’t block pipeline construction. In New England (and New York), politicians and regulators have made it extremely difficult to build new pipelines.

As ISO New England has pointed out, though natural gas power generation has grown tremendously in in the last 20 years, “the natural gas pipelines that deliver low-cost shale gas into the region have not been expanded at a commensurate pace.”

Public policy is a major reason why New Hampshire has the fifth-highest electric rates in the country.

Politicians could immediately lower those rates by repealing laws and withdrawing regulations that prohibit utilities from buying power at the lowest available market price.

Instead, legislators continue to add new laws that push prices ever higher.

Utilities want to sell us power for less money. They would if they could. But the state forbids it. This needs to stop. We shouldn’t allow our politicians to force us to light our own money on fire.

New Hampshire Public Radio reported this week on a study showing that rural New Englanders pay a higher percentage of their income on energy. This isn’t really new information. But it was a slow news week and the report’s recommended solutions seemed written to get NPR listeners to spill their morning coffees from their pledge drive mugs from all the vigorous head nodding.

The study concluded that Americans on average spend 3.3 percent of their income on energy, but for rural households the burden rises to 4.4 percent. In New England, rural households spend 5.1 percent.

The proposed solution? Energy efficiency projects. It’s probably a total coincidence that the report was released by a group called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

It’s true that making homes more energy efficient reduces energy use, thus reducing bills. ISO New England, the non-profit that runs New England’s energy grid, noted in this year’s Operational Fuel-Security Analysis that New England states have collectively spent more than $1 billion to improve energy efficiency, slightly tapering energy demand.

Since 2005, electricity demand in New England has fallen from a combination of the recession, milder weather, increased adoption of small-scale solar power, and energy efficiency investments, according to ISO New England.

Yet energy remains extremely expensive and the region remains at risk of rolling blackouts during periods of peak demand. Another billion dollars on energy efficiency could help shrink demand a little more, but it’s not going to solve the cost and supply problems.

To ensure enough capacity for peak demand times and to bring down prices for everyone — from low-income rural households to major manufacturers — we need more infrastructure and fewer rate-raising regulations like subsidies for politically favored power producers.

ISO New England projects a 4,600 megawatt reduction in power generation capacity by June of 2021. But states and communities are rejecting the construction the new infrastructure needed to replace those megawatts.

ISO New England figures show that in 2000, coal and oil generated 40% of New England’s electricity, and natural gas just 15%. By 2015, natural gas generated 49% and oil and coal just 3%.

Fracking fueled this change. Since 2009, natural gas has become much cheaper than coal and oil (and it produces fewer emissions). But we can’t tap it from maple trees (unfortunately, because flaming maples would be pretty great on Halloween).

We need pipelines to bring natural gas here. Without more pipelines, we’ll continue seeing high prices and more ships from Russia and other energy exporting countries docking in Boston.

In recent years, pipeline projects have been rejected throughout New England with such animosity that you’d think they were importing emerald ash borers or New York Yankees players. For proposing to bring enough fuel to ensure that Red Sox Nation survives winter, they’ve been run out of town. That’ll show ‘em.

We’ve artificially restricted our energy supply and raised rates by blocking construction and heavily regulating the sector. This has hurt rural and low-income residents.

And by the way, our housing policies have done the same thing.

Rural residents tend to live in older homes, and older homes are less energy efficient. The subsidized winterizing of old homes is always the recommended approach, but it is not going to address the underlying problem, which —like energy generation — is one of artificially restricted supply.

Home construction costs are at record highs because of rising labor costs, land costs, lumber costs, credit costs, and regulations. Every one of these costs is being driven higher by government policies — from immigration to tariffs to zoning to building codes to financial regulations. Regulatory costs account for 24 percent of the price of a new home, according to a National Association of Home Builders study.

If we scaled back housing, labor, land use, trade, and energy regulations, we would see energy and home construction prices rise less quickly or even fall. People of all income levels could better afford to buy, heat, and live in new homes.

But untangling those regulatory webs is difficult. It’s simpler to ask legislators to meddle in the markets by passing laws to shield lower-income residents from the consequences of the legislators’ past meddling.

How many lumberjacks live in New Hampshire?

Given the debate over Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes of two bills to further subsidize the state’s forest products industry, it’s an important question. No one seems to know the answer.

Supporters of the two bills, Senate Bills 365 and 446, say the subsidies would save 900 jobs. Sometimes they say 1,000 jobs. These figures are supposed to include people who depend on the forest products industry for their own livelihoods.

Maybe. But state data show only about 400 people employed in forestry and logging in New Hampshire. That’s down from the high 400s a decade ago.

Some of those good folks showed up in Concord on Thursday to demand that legislators override Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes and add even more subsidies to the already subsidized biomass and solar power industries. This is corporate welfare dressed in flannel.

Legislators know that a direct state subsidy of the state’s dwindling number of biomass plants, financed by tax increases, would be a non-starter. So they found another way to pay for this corporate giveaway: Hide the costs in everyone’s utility bills.

Both bills force utilities to pay above-market rates for electricity, thus raising prices for consumers. Because the rate increases would be mandated by law, they’d have the same effect as a tax hike. But because they’d be hidden in your electricity bill, they wouldn’t show up on any list of new taxes.

Nice trick.

The state Public Utilities Commission estimated that SB 365 would cost the average commercial utility customer in New Hampshire an extra $5.15 a month, which comes to $75.60 a year. In total, the bill would cost ratepayers about $20 million annually.

Utility customers would get nothing in return for that extra $20 million. It’s just a mandatory price increase. Instead of buying electricity from the lowest-cost producer, utilities would have to buy some of it from the state’s biomass plants, which can’t produce electricity as cheaply as their competitors can.

SB 446 would further increase electricity rates (by an undetermined amount) by letting these biomass plants and other producers build large-scale solar systems — and then forcing utilities to buy that solar power at inflated prices.

These aren’t just subsidies. They’re laws that forbid utilities from buying power at the best rates.

It’s critical to understand that because these bills never became law, upholding the governor’s vetoes takes nothing away from the forest products industry in New Hampshire. It simply means that ratepayers aren’t forced to pay them tens of millions of dollars more each year for the exact same product — electricity — that can be purchased from other providers at a lower cost.

Supporters say the bills are needed to save jobs. But jobs are plentiful in New Hampshire right now. What they really mean is that they’d like everyone to pay more for electricity so about 400 people can keep very specific jobs.

The unemployment rate is 3.2 percent in Coos County, 2.3 percent in Carroll County and 2.1 percent in Grafton County. The economy is galloping like wildlife fleeing the booming steps of Paul Bunyon. The issue is not whether jobs are available in the most thickly forested parts of New Hampshire. They are.

The issue is whether the state should forcibly confiscate tens of millions of dollars a year from 1.3 million people in an attempt to preserve specific jobs for about 400 people.

At about $20 million a year, SB 365 alone would generate enough money to pay each person in the forestry and logging industry roughly $50,000. Tuition at Harvard University this fall is $46,340.

If legislators override the governor’s vetoes, they will force Granite Staters to pay enough money in utility overcharges to purchase a Harvard degree for every forest and logging industry worker in the state every four years.

But instead of buying Harvard degrees or any other form of education or training to enable folks in a struggling industry to better survive a changing labor market, Granite Staters will be freezing a few hundred jobs in time — as the world continues to move on. That’s not a good use of $80 million.

These bills also would hurt Granite Staters who are even worse off than the people in the forest products industry. Higher electricity rates will eat into the budgets of low-income residents as well as manufacturers and other businesses. At 7.3 percent, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country. But that still comes to about 95,000 Granite Staters living below the poverty level. To provide a handout to 400 employed people, these bills would take money from scores of thousands of low-income people, many of whom have worse employment prospects.

Subsidies can sound nice and compassionate. Most people want to help their fellow man. But subsidies aren’t just help. Unlike free trade, in which both parties win by getting something they want at an agreed-to price, subsidies help some by harming others. They do this because they force people against their will to pay for something they neither want nor need (in this case, high-priced electricity). That’s not compassion; that’s compulsion.

Labor Day weekend is a time for last trips to the beach, first trips to apple orchards, and getting into heated political arguments over the role organized labor in the 21st century.

Ah, autumn.

This is the first Labor Day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s famous June 27 Janus decisionin which the court held that “(t)he First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them.”

The media’s instant reaction was to predict huge financial losses for unions. That’s a reasonable short-term take. A Josiah Bartlett Center right-to-know request found this summer that unions representing New Hampshire state employees stand to lose $1 million a year in agency fees they had been confiscating from non-union employees.

But the Janus ruling also presents a growth opportunity for public-sector unions.

By devoting themselves so wholeheartedly to political activism, public-sector unions have alienated members of the public as well as many government employees who might otherwise be inclined to join.

In a state like New Hampshire, where state and local government employees are often registered Republicans (including the current and immediate past chairmen of the state Republican Party), partisan political activity can serve to suppress union membership.

Yet, as Josiah Bartlett Center President Andrew Cline writes in a column published in USA Today this weekend:

“Public sector unions can serve either their members or the Democratic Party, not both. On a Labor Day weekend more than two months after a stinging Supreme Court defeat, it isn’t clear that their leaders realize this yet.”

Union leaders don’t seem to realize something critical about the Janus ruling: It created a competitive marketplace for public-sector union representation.

Now that public-sector unions can no longer rely on forced financial support from unwilling government employees, they must behave as other organizations in competitive marketplaces do.

“To win new members,” Cline writes, “they have to prove that they offer public employees a valuable service at a great price. If they do that, the can not only survive, they can also grow.”

Please read the whole column online here as you’re taking that last stroll on some sandy shore or stuffing your mouth with delicious grilled meat. It’s the perfect way to show your friends and family that you’re dedicated to maintaining the true spirit of Labor Day as they try to get you to pay attention to them.

New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are so white that if a map of the United States were colored according to the skin pigmentation of its residents, Northern New England would look like a snow-covered peak. We could go as a ghost for Halloween without even dressing up. And that’s a potential problem.

Some New Hampshire business and civic leaders recently held a conference to discuss ways to make the state more diverse. This drew nationwide media coverage, including a story in The New York Times. And a lot of shouting. When it comes to anything that touches on race, people really like to shout.

Some of the hostile reactions were knee-jerk racism. Others were labeled racist unfairly. (NHPR summarizes many of the responses here.)

We suspect that had the forum been purely a community or business effort, it would have been little noticed. But once the state gets involved in a cultural initiative, residents have a sense of ownership over it. Government involvement instantly politicizes anything.

People hear that the state is pursuing a diversity initiative, and they read into that all kinds of things. First, they hear the word “race” instead of “diversity.” That’s because the left has conditioned people to think of the latter as a code word for the former.

And because “diversity” has become a political buzzword of the left, it would be easy to assume that the end result, if not the goal, of a diversity initiative would be to make New Hampshire more politically liberal by recruiting people who have a tendency to vote for liberal politicians.

Diversity also implies cultural changes, and that always generates concern that community values will be shifted.

But the message from the forum that generated all the yelling and name calling was decidedly uncontroversial. It’s a message New Hampshire has to take seriously because the state’s future depends on dealing with diversity, broadly defined.

New Hampshire’s economic growth is probably at a turning point. Our tax policy has given us the foundation for having a great economy, but our workforce shortage is threatening our economic future. Simply put, we don’t have enough people.

(People bring not just bodies, but ideas.)

As this newsletter has pointed out before, New Hampshire’s economic growth has for decades been driven not just by low taxes, but by in-migration fueled by those low taxes. That in-migration has slowed, and that’s a huge problem.

Our population is older, our young people prefer to spend early adulthood in more urban areas with higher concentrations of young adults. This is a universal human tendency.

To grow, we need new immigrants. As the nation’s population becomes less white, New Hampshire’s whiteness becomes a potential economic problem. If the state is seen as unwelcoming to non-white Americans, a shrinking percentage of the U.S. population will be interested in moving here.

New Hampshire is not “too white” in any abstract sense. There is no perfect racial or ethnic ratio by which government can judge a state’s population. But the fact that our state is remote, rural, and largely ethnically homogeneous does pose economic challenges.

The term “diversity” has been used for so long as a political weapon that many of us lose sight of its broader meaning. The historical truth is that places that are more open to people from different cultural backgrounds are places that enjoy greater prosperity and create more complex and vibrant cultures of their own.

Great civilizations grow from trade. But it’s not just the economic aspect of trade that benefits a city, state or nation. The exchange of ideas and cultures that comes from a mixing of diverse peoples stimulates new ideas and enterprises. It essentially incubates entrepreneurship and innovation.

This is why remote, mountainous regions of the world are generally less economically prosperous than port cities and communities built at the intersections of trade routes. It’s not just that it’s harder for wagons or ships or trucks to reach those places. It’s that they don’t get to drink from the cultural stew created in the melting pot coastal cities and crossroad communities.

It turns out that diversity itself is a driver of prosperity and growth.

Granite Staters can and should discuss (or shout about) the proper role of the state in pursuing “diversity,” however we choose to define that word. There’s a case to be made that the state shouldn’t try to manage the racial or ethnic makeup of its people in any way because even taking a few small steps down that path is dangerous.

But that doesn’t mean that Granite Staters shouldn’t be concerned about the perception other people have of our great state, and their willingness to move here. Just as New Hampshire’s economy depends on tourism, its economic future depends on the intellectual, cultural and economic exchanges that will or will not take place here in the years to come. Generally speaking, our economic future will be stronger if the people who participate in those exchanges come from a broadly diverse set of backgrounds.