Posted By Jeff Fletcher on August 2, 2011 11:51 am
Somehow I got myself entangled in this twitter debate last night — and into this morning — over the merits of publicly financed ballparks. I believe it all started as an offshoot of the vote on the Islanders’ new arena in New York.
I’m going to refrain from any more twitter repartee, because my point is sorta hard to make in 140-character chunks. So I’m going to make it here, then be done with it, because probably most people don’t care.
For starters, I understand that new ballparks are not really profitable for the municipalities that build them. I get that they don’t really generate enough money to the local economy to make up for the cost.
My point is that every dime the government spends doesn’t have to be in the interest of turning a profit. Governments spend their money to serve the people. They do this by building roads and schools and police departments and other things that people need, but they also do this by building things that people don’t need, but want.
People like going to shiny new ballparks. They like having a team in their city, rather than having their team go somewhere else. Whether that team makes a profit for the city is not relevant. The citizens want it there.
Whether the ballpark just ends up creating more profit for the owners of the team is also not relevant, to me. The benefit to the people is having the opportunity to go to the ballpark and see the team. Period.
If publicly elected officials and voters both agree to spend money on a new park, good for them. If they decide not to, that’s also their right and I have no issue with that. The people should decide.
I just don’t think economists or other Ivy League types should wave a critical finger at these citizens and say: “You people are idiots! Don’t you know that you’re getting fleeced!”
Maybe they know they’re getting fleeced and they don’t care. Maybe they just want to go see their team in a new ballpark, and don’t mind spending a little extra money to do so.
Should they be spending their money on schools instead of ballparks? Sure. But they also should be paying the teachers a lot more than they pay the politcians. They also shouldn’t be eating at McDonald’s. It’s a free country. People do what they want with their money.
By the way, I think the most brilliant ballpark construction scheme of all was the one in Arizona, and frankly I don’t understand why more places don’t use it. They tax hotels and rental cars. As long as the tax is on all hotels and rental cars, it’s not really hurting the individual businesses. If people want to come to Arizona, they have to pay. Period. I doubt people are cancelling trips to Arizona just because they don’t want to pay the tax. So people who don’t live there, and who never had a chance to vote on the tax, have to pay it. Brilliant!