Westminster Declares Mall Blighted

The Westminster Mall is nearly dead. That is obvious to anyone who’s visited it in the last year or two. So, obviously, breathing new life into it is the job of central economic planners who work for the city of Westminster. We couldn’t possibly leave individuals free to use their own resources to renovate the property; this is about maximizing tax revenues, after all.

Monte Whaley’s fawning article for the Denver Post, which includes not a single word of skepticism or criticism about the city’s plans, nevertheless offers some useful details.

Whaley notes that the city has formed “an urban renewal area created after the City Council declared the 32-year-old center blighted this month.”

Blighted? The mall is largely empty, but blighted? Here’s is the key bit of Whaley’s article:

The city hired Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group to assess the complex. Their findings showed substantial problems that led the city to put the blighted tag on the mall.

The problems included buildings without fire-suppression sprinklers, poor water availability to fight fires, deteriorating parking and sidewalks, unsanitary pools of standing water, poorly lit areas, unscreened trash and bad traffic circulation.

An urban renewal authority will allow the city to use tax increment financing for upgrades.

The authority will also have the option to use the power of eminent domain to seize ownership of some of the shops in the mall, McFall said.

Eminent domain? “Tax increment financing?” If the problem is that taxes are too high for businesses to succeed in Westminster, then why doesn’t the city simply reduce taxes across the board? That would never do: the purpose of the city is to maximize tax revenues, after all.

Did anyone doubt, going into the study, that Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group would find blight conditions? (How much were they paid to return those results?)

We all know that the city of Westminster will not possibly tolerate any exposed hazards, messy trash, or standing water:





My guess is that, if every property in Westminster were evaluated by similar standards, over half would be declared blighted. But everybody knows that declaring a property “blighted” has only a superficial relationship to the condition of the property. The point is to let the city threaten people with eminent domain. (This might be a move the mall’s owners would actually welcome, given the lack of business there, but I’m not sure because Whaley apparently didn’t consider contacting them, and I don’t have the time to do Whaley’s job for him.)

Here’s a thought: why doesn’t the city stop trying to plan the economy and instead create simple rules and low taxes that would benefit existing businesses and attract new ones? We all know the answer: then the politicians and bureaucrats wouldn’t get to doll out favors and take credit for other people’s work.

Brook: End Tax Social-Engineering

Tax season is now behind us. But it’s not. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute points out in an article for Forbes that, with 66,000 pages of tax code controlling our lives, tax day is every day.

After offering numerous examples of the way that the tax code skews incentives, Brook summarizes:

Tax policy works by attaching financial incentives to a long list of values deemed morally worthy. If you want to maximize your wealth come tax time–and who doesn’t?–you must look at the world through tax-colored glasses, “voluntarily” adjusting your behavior to suit social norms and thereby qualifying for tax breaks. In this way, the social engineers of tax policy preserve the impression that you’re exercising free choice, while they’re actually dispensing with your reason and your judgment.

Brook then briefly describes the proper alternative:

Government’s job is not to dictate your values but to protect them. In a free country, you choose values and then use your own money as a tool to achieve them. But a value-rigged tax policy reverses this cause and effect–it uses your money against you, bribing you with tax breaks that let you keep some of your earnings in exchange for abandoning your preferred values.

Brook’s entire article is worth perusal. Brook’s topic is delimited, so he does not touch upon all of the misincentives of the tax code. A huge problem is that high taxes reduce the incentive to produce. Taxes also reduce the division of labor. Work you do for money is taxed, while work you do for yourself is not taxed. Thus, rather than spend their time working in their field of speciality, many people divert some of their time to doing things they don’t especially enjoy and aren’t particularly good at, such as fixing the car or painting the house. But these are just two more examples of the way that taxes distort incentives. The combined effects are massive.