Missoula has “No Compelling Economic Argument for Public Ownership,” says Famed Economist
One of the most prominent economists alive was in Missoula today, March 30, testifying in the Mountain Water Condemnation trial. Economist Arthur Laffer, whose name became a household reference during the 80s with the “Laffer Curve” and supply side economics, offered up this analysis on the Mountain Water case.
Q: "Were you asked to consider whether public utility ownership of water utilities, in this case, specific to Mounatin Water, is more necessary or more advantageous than city ownership?
Laffer: "Yes, I was asked that."
Q: "And what was your conclusion?"
Laffer: "Honestly, there is no compelling economic argument for public ownership of the water facility here, it's just not more necessary than private ownership."
Laffer went on to explain why he thinks Mountain Water Company should not be put in city control through condemnation.
"The company, Mountain Water, has done an excellent job in my opinion. It has served the community for a long, long time without major glitches and, you know, when something works, it's not time to change it. My view is the old latin phrase, 'primum non nocere'... 'First of all do no harm,' common slang would be, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Later during cross examination, Laffer admitted to being paid $1,500 per hour to testify in the trial, he also said that he would be a supporter of condemnation if Missoula were dealing with circumstances similar to the Butte-Anaconda water system in the 80's.