Sunday, October 26, 2014

Government doing what it does best: What it's supposed to not do

The mayor of Cedar City is among those who are touting the clubhouse renovations being done at the city golf course. One of her fans added, "What a great tourism and economic simulator in our beautiful city". They presume that no economic stimulus comes by leaving those funds in the pockets of taxpayers so they can spend the money in a way that best benefits them.

These anti-free-market sentiments are typical of the we-must-have-government-take-care-of-us mentality that infects modern American society.

People seem to believe that only government spending can create prosperity or stimulate an economy. They presume that private spending is not the highest use of money and other resources. Instead, they think that only government spending is well-directed. Of course, politicians and bureaucrats are eager to exploit such beliefs. Presidential-wannabe Hillary Clinton even went so far as to proclaim, "Don't let anybody tell you it's corporations and businesses that create jobs." She must have had an extremely low estimate of the intelligence and rationality of her audience. And that low estimate was apparently correct.

Why must it be the government that provides a place where golfers (a tiny portion of the community) can chase balls? The same question can be asked of almost everything we allow or ask government to do for us: dog parks, swimming pools, basket ball courts, baseball fields, recreation centers, farmers' markets, libraries and bookmobiles (Has anyone besides me ever asked how much a library costs per book lent?), theater production companies, senior centers, theaters, stadiums for professional athletes, as well as swimming, dance, and exercise classes, etc. Too many presume that none of these recreational activities can be met by private enterprise or by individuals on their own.

A few years ago, Cedar City sold its swimming pool to the local college. Soon, that pool was demolished and converted to student parking. The value of that land was, apparently, greater as a parking lot than as a public swimming pool. The cities' politicians were quick to dream up ways to replace that old pool at taxpayer expense rather than leave the decision up to free enterprise. I was one of a tiny handful of taxpayers who asked the question, "Why must any new swimming pool be owned and operated by the city? Can't private enterprise satisfy that need?" My questions were ignored and the city built a $4.7 million 4-pool aquatics complex that reportedly goes into the red to the tune of at least $800,000 per year.

Cedar City has at least 4 fitness gyms that could, and would, add a swimming pool to their facilities. Why haven't they? Because those entrepreneurs, unlike politicians, are smart enough to know that they cannot possibly compete against the deep pockets of a taxing entity such as Cedar City that can afford to lose money on an aquatics center and simply pass the red ink on to the taxpayers. When governments take upon themselves to do what private enterprise and individuals should do, it always drives private enterprise out of the market.

Why do so many think that government can better allocate resources (land, labor, energy, knowledge, time, equipment, materials, etc.) than can a free market? A free market exists when producers of goods and services satisfy the needs of the consumers and consumers are free to buy from, or not buy from those producers. There are many who believe that only government (politicians, bureaucrats, and, sometimes judges) are smart and wise enough to allocate resources.

For example, if a golf course is the best use of a particular piece of land, an entrepreneur (eg land developer) will buy that land and convert it to a golf course with all of the expenses covered by himself and other investors. Consumers (eg golfers) will support the golf course as the best use of that land by paying fees to the entrepreneur so that he/she can earn a profit from his/her risk of creating a golf course. If the golf course is unusually profitable, other investors will create additional golf courses as necessary to satisfy consumer demand. On the other hand, when governments create and run golf courses, they do so without regard to whether a golf course is the best use for that land and without regard to whether the golf course will ever make a profit, let alone not be a money-pit burden on non-golfing taxpayers.

Nearly all that governments do at all levels (local, state, national) is to buy votes from special interests with money extracted from people who will never benefit from that government spending.

So, who are the special interests? Probably you.

If you want government to build and operate a golf course for your recreation, you are a special interest preying on taxpayers who do not golf.

If you want government to build and operate a swimming pool for your recreation, you are a special interest preying on taxpayers who do not swim.

If you want government to build and operate a baseball or soccer field for your recreation, you are a special interest preying on taxpayers who do not play those games.

If you want government to give you a rebate for your purchase of a hybrid or electric car, you are a special interest preying on taxpayers who do not play those games.

Yes, I am a special interest too. I'm the guy that expects you to pay your own bills rather than to ask government to tax me to pay for your golf course, swimming pool, dance lessons, dog park, etc.
"Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal program if it meant never having to pay income tax again?" -- Harry Browne

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