May 03. 2013 12:43AM

Economic shaping: Enough with the industrial policy


Well-meaning politicians of both major parties continue to act as though business owners and executives have never considered investing in worker training and education. If only the government would subsidize such investments, they say, we could get this economy going. Don't they know that businesses do this all the time, and have for generations.

Take Annie Kuster, member of Congress from New Hampshire's 2nd District. Kuster last month introduced what she calls the "Workforce Development Investment Act." It would "provide tax credits to employers who collaborate with educational institutions to equip students with the skills they need to compete for well-paying jobs," as her office describes it.

The bill would give businesses annual tax credits of up to $10,000 for things like "(h)elping develop curriculum" and "(p)roviding internships, apprenticeships, or other hands-on educational opportunities for students."

Provide an internship, get a tax credit. Help develop a curriculum that trains people to work at your company (so you don't have to spend money training them yourself), get a tax credit.

Never mind that the New Hampshire Community College System already forges these kinds of partnerships (some of them funded, alas, by a federal grant).

Not to be outdone, Reps. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, and David Borden, D-New Castle, advocate developing a state industrial policy to both attract and develop high-tech manufacturing businesses.

These are only the latest in the endless series of proposals to use the heavy hand of the state to shape the economy in the way politicians think it ought to be shaped. The economy would do much better if politicians would stop grabbing and pulling and tugging at it and would just leave the people free to reinvent it in ways no politician will ever imagine.