Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Intentions and Boondoggles

The Chronicle reports that the Bayport Cruise Terminal sits idle 2 years after completion. (HT: blogHouston) Like many other boondoggles, the $81 million cruise terminal was hailed as an economic stimulus. And, like many other boondoggles, its obvious failure to deliver on those promises hasn't stopped its advocates from continuing to make optimistic predictions.
"I'm optimistic that we'll end up with a cruise line," Port of Houston Chairman James Edmonds said.
How is this to happen? Edmonds wants to spend more of your money to develop 40 acres around the terminal. In other words, rather than admit that he wasted your money, Edmonds wants to throw more money at the problem. 

This is what happens when a "visionary" has the coercive power of government at his disposal. He can propose virtually anything, make outlandishly optimistic predictions, and then take your money to create his vision. Undeterred by the actual facts, he can then dream up an even more preposterous scheme. After all, that is what "visionaries" do.

Sometimes Edmonds asks himself why the port got into the cruising business, and his answer is job creation. A weekly vessel departing from Houston would mean vendors could sell flowers, food, drink and other items to the cruise, he said.

"From that standpoint, I think there's a lot of justification for us to be in that kind of business," Edmonds said.
As Dr. Phil likes to say, "How is that working for you?" The fact that vendors are not selling flowers, food, and trinkets doesn't matter. The fact that the only jobs "created" were for the construction workers who built the terminal is irrelevant. Edmonds intention was to create jobs, and that is the important thing. His intention justifies the boondoggle. 

Armed with good intentions in one hand and the government's taxing authority in the other, Edmonds and his ilk can "justify" nearly anything. Keep that in mind the next time you hear some Metro official tell us how great light rail will be.

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