Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Priceless Politics

As always, Thomas Sowell has a great column.
In this column he addresses how the poor are used as a means to maintain and expand the welfare state. The amount of money it would take to raise every poor person above the poverty line would be much less than the government spends on welfare.

Sowell then takes on politicians for using the poor as an excuse to do such things as maintain municipal golf courses, which poor people don't regularly utilize. Like Sowell, I fail to see how golf courses fall under the banner of the public interest. The last two paragraphs of the column are outstanding:
"The great allure of government programs in general for many people is that these programs allow decisions to be made without having to worry about the constraints of prices, which confront people at every turn in a free market.
They see prices as just obstacles or nuisances, instead of seeing them as messages conveying underlying realities that are there, whether or not prices are allowed to function. What prices are telling San Francisco is that municipal golf courses cost more than they are worth -- not in my opinion, but in the actions of people who are spending their own hard-earned money."

This is a classic example of rent seeking and free riding. In this case golfers rent seek in the form of voting for politicians who will subsidize golf courses and thus free ride in the sense that the golfers themselves get the benefits of the course without having to pay all the costs the course incurs.

No comments: