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Brian Jones: Liberals dole out more corporate welfare

The good news is that the hens have finished molting and are once again laying eggs after a barren four-week hiatus, an irritating annual rite of spring the little buggers innately obey without caring how close their obstinance takes them to the sharp edge of a hatchet.

The bad news is that the provincial government has handed over another $750,000 of taxpayers’ money to a private corporation.

Among the many signs of how twisted modern politics has become — bullying, harassment, Trump, leftists cheering on anti-Semites and so on — is the ease with which governments give public money to businesses.

Not only do governments give it, they boast about it.

A government news release this week had the heading, “Premier Ball announces investment in innovative software company.”

A naive citizen could be forgiven for declaring, “Great! How many shares did we buy?”

Such is not what governments mean, of course, when they employ the euphemism “investment.”

Governments use that word because it is more acceptable to the public than is the truthful phrase, “distributed more corporate welfare.”

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Tuesday’s news release states Premier Dwight Ball “announced an investment of $750,000 to help support the development and growth of Quorum Information Systems.”

Also: “Through the Investment Attraction Fund, Quorum Information Systems will receive a $500,000 forgivable loan to improve efficiencies and prepare for expected future growth. This loan will create a minimum of 20 new full-time positions at its St. John’s office…”

An additional $250,000 from a government outfit called the N.L. Innovation Council will create four more jobs.

Professors of Economics 101 could use this, even with this small amount of information, for an instructive, real-life assignment: “In a short essay, name and describe the rules and theorems of the free-enterprise economic system that are ignored and broken by this latest instance of governmental ‘investment.’”

One student has a hand up.

“But professor, hasn’t government largesse in favour of business been an accepted component of capitalism since the late 20th-century?”

Another hand is up.

“Will bonus points be awarded if we can explain what ‘improve efficiencies’ means?”

Driving force

The company also sent around a news release. Apparently, Quorum does quite well in the stock market, “and in 2016 was selected to the TSX Venture 50, an annual ranking of the strongest-performing companies on the TSX Venture Exchange.”

Newfoundlanders earning the $11.15 minimum wage will undoubtedly be glad they could be of assistance.

Quorum developed a widget it calls the XSellerator, a “mobile-enabled technology” it sells to car dealerships. The XSellerator allows them “to complete the entire end-to-end automobile sales process from any supported mobile device.” According to both news releases, the system is used “in over 341 dealerships all over North America.”

You start to see how government intervention — beyond setting regulations and laws — can warp an economy.

There are almost 341 car dealerships on Kenmount Road alone. What about the thousands of others — here and across the continent — that either do not yet use or will not use Quorum’s system? Will they be put at a disadvantage because their competitors do use Quorum’s system? If so, what will they think about the $750,000 Dwight Ball rolled out for Quorum?

The repercussions will be even worse for Quorum’s direct competitors. Surely it has competitors, although neither the company nor the government mentioned them.

A basic aspect of capitalism is that a good idea and a needed product will attract a multitude of producers. Look what happened with the wheel. Try to count the car brands using all your fingers and toes twice over.

If Quorum’s XSellerator is successful, surely producers of similar products will enter the market. Again, the economy becomes unnaturally and unfairly skewed if Ball and his buddies don’t dish out $750,000 to each of them.

Of course, the Liberals would be happy to. They could make more proud announcements about their “investments.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.

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