Friday, 11 December 2009

Phew! And, was Alaska Worth it to the States?

I've finished my week long sprint to the finish line, yesterday, and I was so burnt out I loitered around drinking Moose Drool and doodling while watching TV for the rest of the day. A friend of mine told me I look like hell, which means I probably look positively monstrous to the public at large (since my friend is not exactly the `most polished` of people...). Still, it's done, which means I can go back to normal life for a week, before the holidays strike. :)

Enough about me! Was Alaska worth it? To the states, that is. Arctic Economics makes a great point:
An annual gross state product of over $40 billion is not the appropriate benefit measure.  That's gross, not net.  Moreover, $40 billion - or whatever the right benefit figure is - would have been heavily discounted in 1867.  Still more - Alaska costs a lot to maintain; the $7.2 million was a start; we had to defend it from the Japanese, rebuild it after the 1964 earthquake, and pay the heavy costs of governing in this large, remote, and often hostile environment.
Instead, they argue, you need to look at the differences between the outcomes if the US had bought Alaska (what we have today) and what would happen if it hadn't. It's hard to quantify things such as the benefit of having a military base near the far east (apparently it's at least worth Eielson Airforce Base's operational budget), but Dave Barker at the University of Iowa takes a crack at it.

Of course, the more ego-centric question is "Is Alaska better off having been bought by the US?" That's harder to quantify. If we were to assume Alaska would be bought by England (and ended up part of Canada), politically it would depend on whether Alaska ended up acquiring provincial status. Given the comparably large population of AK, I think it might have (~600k is larger than the population of Newfoundland and Labrador) - it's my gut feeling that Candian Provinces enjoy slightly greater autonomy than American States.  Definitely the Alaska would have better representation - Somewhat better than 3% representation, compared to our <<2% representation currently. While whether Eskimo have done better living under US law than their counterparts living under Canadian law is highly debatable (there's a Ph.D. dissertation for Rural Development somewhere in that topic!), the fact that NWT spun off Nunavut as a separate territory and Quebec is granting areal autonomy to Nunavik definitely speaks somewhat better of modern outcomes.

It would be very interesting to quantify each outcome, but it appears at least politically, Alaska drew the short straw!
I don't have an appropriate picture to go with this post, so here is a random fox:

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