Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Bad Idea for the Dome

One idea being floated for the renovation of the Astrodome is a public-private "partnership". Such "partnerships" have grown more popular in recent years, as governments seek to provide "public" goods without taxing citizens into oblivion. But these "partnerships" are a bad idea.

Consider the nature of the "partnership". One side--the government--holds a gun. It can, at any time, force its "partner" to concede to its demands, or else. And we know what "or else" means when government is involved. Such deals might seem good to a business, and they might be profitable in the short-term. Paying protection money to the local street gang might also seem like a good deal, but in the end the "partner" with the gun can demand more. And the business must pay, or else.

Consider also the nature of the projects proposed for public-private "partnerships". These invariably involve activities that are outside of government's proper functions, such as roads, parks, and sports stadiums. If these alleged "public" goods truly are a proper function of government, then why is it necessary or even desirable for private companies to be involved?

The fact is, such "partnerships" are an attempt by government and businesses to have their cake and eat it too. Government can provide "public" goods while gaining greater control over a private business. And the business can invest in an asset without bearing the full cost. Government uses the "partnership" to encourage investments into projects it can't afford; businesses get to rape the taxpayers who subsidize the project. Government can "encourage" investments in "public" goods; businesses get to profit while being backed by government coercion.

If these goods are truly desired by the public, and businesses can truly profit by providing them, then they should be provided entirely by the private sector. If they are not desired (or individuals are not willing to voluntarily pay for them) then government is simply wasting taxpayer money. If profits can be made, then businesses should be willing to pony up the investment without relying on taxpayer subsidies.

The Astrodome has the potential to become many things, all of which are expensive and risky. I do not care to invest my money in such endeavors, and I should not be forced to do so through my tax dollars. Those who are willing to take that risk should do so, and they should benefit accordingly. But government should not be involved.


Gusf said...

I vote for parking lot.

Brian Phillips said...

If it were private property, as it should be, the only vote that would matter would be the owner's.