By Morton Marcus
Maurice Mitchell is a bore and a boor. We never meet without him saying, “You know, not only do we got the same initials, but we also got two names what can be either first or last names.”
To which I reply, “True, but so what? What, in fact, do you want this time?”
“You know,” he begins, “I was thinking it’s a shame kids move away from the people and community that raised them and paid for their schooling. It hurts Indiana probably more than other states. It’s sort of like stealing, immoral, if you know what I mean.”
“Maury,” I say, “it’s not immoral; it’s natural, perhaps even healthy. And do you think I can do something about it?”
“Well,” he stammers, “you could, you know, suggest something about incentives for these kids to stay home or at least come back after they graduate from college, if they do that.”
“You mean,” I say in my best imitation of Fred Allen, a deceased radio comedian, “you’d offer Hoosier natives monetary rewards to get them to return to the state as we do to lure companies to Indiana? Next you’d want to give bonuses to families who have children in Indiana just as we try to encourage existing firms to expand in the state.”
“I knew you could do it,” he exalts. “Yes, we need to treat families just like we do companies. After all, companies and families are just people and deserve to be treated, you know, alike.”
“That’s a very judicial twist on a twisted judicial doctrine,” I sneer.
Maury nods fervently, the clearest indication he has no idea what I am talking about.
“When kids leave,” he says, “they take our tax dollars with them because we paid to educate them. Why should Illinois, California, and other foreign places benefit from our tax dollars?”
“Who pays these taxes?” I ask.
“The parents and neighbors of the kids,” Maury answers.
“Right,” I reply. “And why do they do that?”
“Because,” he digs for an answer, “they want the kids to do well and hold good jobs and be good citizens, and, you know, all that future stuff.”
“Precisely,” I pounce. “They pay for education because they want those children to have good lives in the future, no matter where they live. The benefits accrue to the people who supported the education of those children.”
“That, you know, is silly,” Maury responds. “It’s the people living where the kids live in the future who, along with the kids, benefit from the education provided here.”
“I’m sad to hear,” I say, “that your mother is not proud of you, does not get joy from knowing about your success here in Indiana.”
“Well,” he says, “that is a different way of looking at it.”
“If we didn’t value the future of our children and our neighbors’ children,” I ask, “what kind of people would we be?”
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to email@example.com.