For every significant social change there are winners and losers.

The genius of a democratic, free-enterprise based society is that innovative (and therefore disruptive) ideas have the opportunity to gain customers and win supporters based on a “potentially” greater social good that “might” be achieved in spite of the opposition of more powerful forces who oppose them at the beginning.

Twenty years ago, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Today it is the most valuable enterprise on the planet, having “thought differently” about computer operating systems, music listening and telephonic communication.

The world’s consumers have “won” billions of dollars of little victories because Apple was able to overcome the concerted efforts of far larger, far more powerful “losers” in the personal computer, music and telecommunications industry.

If each of Apple’s innovations had depended on getting approval from an investment-deciding Appropriations Committee whose process was dominated by a parade of highly paid lobbyists representing the powerful vested interests of what we now call “the losers” defending the importance of their big companies (with all the jobs they provide and all the taxes they pay), the innovations that are commonplace today would never have seen the light of day.

Nowhere has this critical social phenomenon been more evident than in the spectacle of scores of municipal officials flooding the State House last week to recite the disastrous results that would befall them and their local taxpayers should the governor’s proposal to abolish revenue sharing be approved.

Of course! It would be unnatural for them not to oppose a policy change that would eliminate one of their major revenue streams. The questions are, “Who supports this proposal? Where are the “winners?”

The answer, of course, is that the winners largely don’t even know who they are. The governor was largely derided for saying, “I don’t represent the towns; I represent the citizens and taxpayers in the towns.” But in that regard, he is exactly correct.

In any significant change, the “losers” are easily identified, well known, concentrated and powerful. The “winners” are not identified, even to themselves. They are widely scattered and, individually, virtually powerless.

For society as a whole, the small individual “wins” may far outweigh the selected “big” losses, but they will remain only a gleam in their visionary’s eye if they are not “politically correct.” And we are all ultimately the losers.

Maine suffers from the burden of too much government. Nothing wrong with what government does. But it can be done far more efficiently and effectively if we undertake the painful (for some) restructuring that is possible.

Virtually every major fiscal topic facing our legislators involves economies of scale – too many schools with too few students, same for health care, roads, public safety.

Our state is suffering from a demographic and geographic tsunami. We have to find ways to do our public business more efficiently. Before the state gives away the biggest carrot it has, it should find ways to “share revenue” that provide incentives to move along the path we all know we need to follow, but few of us are willing to trod first.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc. He can be reached at:

[email protected]