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ACRE Coverage of Issue 3 in Arkansas

WATERHOUSE_Ulises_y_las_SirenasAccording to a recent poll, 35% of Arkansas voters are still undecided on Issue 3. This ballot issue is a major change to Arkansas’s Constitution, and it is crucial that Arkansas voters are well informed when they head to the polls. To assist with this process, ACRE policy analysts and scholars have produced several written summaries and one video summarizing the arguments.

The most in-depth and important analysis is a policy brief written by Jacob Bundrick and Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl. You can read the full analysis in “Economic Development or Risky Business? A Citizen’s Guide to Issue 3, 2016.” Here are their concluding thoughts:

In 1798 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.” On November 8, voters in Arkansas will decide whether they prefer the chains of the constitution or confidence in the men and women of the legislature to restrain themselves in issuing debt.

The idea to use Jefferson’s metaphor of “the chains of the constitution” came to the authors when listening to proponents of Issue 3, such as its main sponsor Sen. Jon Woods who said “our hands are tied” with regard to economic development. Similar language was recently used by Randy Zook and Jay Chesshir, representatives of two of the largest chambers of commerce in Arkansas. Bundrick and Horpedahl agree that this metaphor is apt, but also wanted to point out that the main purpose of a constitution is to tie the hands of governments. Otherwise we could leave everything up to a simple majority vote.

In addition to the policy brief, there are several shorter analyses of Issue 3 that ACRE has produced or contributed to in recent weeks:

Along with Jefferson’s “chains of the constitution” quotation, the image the authors chose to represent the issue is the famous painting Ulysses and the Sirens. Economists have often used this story from The Odyssey to explain the main function of constitutions, whereby governments “tie their own hands” to prevent being tempted in the future. Will the voters be tempted by the siren song of economic development? Or can the legislature (and future legislatures) restrain themselves even without the Arkansas Constitution formally tying their hands?