"[T]he burden of government is not measured by how much it taxes, but by how much it spends." ~ Milton Friedman
Favorite Local Boondoggles
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
The town government just got done patting themselves on the back for a renovated library.
I notice in the “key numbers” sidebar, they left out “Money stolen from taxpayers.” In the story, though, it’s explained that it cost $9.5 million dollars; but if I am not mistaken, this bought not a single book. This sort of thing is what I call “nine million bucks worth of sheetrock.” My other town, Cody, blew $6 million on their library sheetrock (also no money for books), while my former town Beaverton blew $20 million for a whole new building (also no money for books)--the converted grocery store not being deemed glorious enough to house a government library.
I’m being unfair, though. I see some of that money was spent on an objet d’art: “280 first lines from books, poems and songs decorate the new glass wall entrance on the west side.” Woah, now that is impressive, isn’t it? I wonder if they have “It was a dark and stormy night.”
It’s strange to see this kind of money spent on something so anachronistic. Due to the government schools, with their tendency to make kids hate reading, the government libraries have a much-reduced clientele. And now with the Internet, people can read online, order books online, or instantly buy electronic books for their Kindles--those who still want to read, anyway. And who wants to have their reading material filtered by overpaid government censors (AKA “librarians”)?
Let’s not forget that government libraries replace or replaced two things already provided perfectly well by the market: privately-owned libraries and book stores. Even these days, it is still possible to drive through small towns and see libraries put up by Andrew Carnegie, and at one point, half the libraries in the country were funded by this single man’s grants. And he was paying for the whole building, not just sheetrock. Probably bought some books, too.
I spent many a pleasant afternoon in my local government library as a child; but of course, I could have spent it equally well in a private library or a book store--especially if the government library was not putting those alternatives out of business.
But the incentive for the local ruling class is obvious. Spend a pile of taxpayer dollars--the easiest dollars to spend--for a “worthy” project (who can argue with learning?) and get your portrait up there on the walls for all to see, for decades to come. Way more fun than building a sewage plant.
I did notice the renovation is supposed to save (in their no-doubt reliable numbers) $6,400 per year in energy costs. Hmmm, let’s see, $9 million divided by $6,400 gives us a 1,400-year payoff. Cool. I always like to see a government that wants to save us peons money.
Drive into any struggling town, with people out of work and dead cars on the streets. No matter how downtrodden, you will always find three fancy items there: a government fire department, government schools, and a government library. These are even more likely to exist than a fancy city hall. Of course, the first two have powerful constituencies backing them in the halls of power, but the library is just plain fun for the rulers. I always wonder if the out-of-work folks look at those buildings the same way I do, seeing their options and opportunities flushed down the drain because of these boondoggles. Or are they just thought of as a modern form of bread and circuses?
Oh, well, at least city money is not spent on bombs to kill women and children, like federal money is. Look at the bright side, eh? Just a few homeless men getting their heads bashed in by city cops, that’s all. Nothing to get upset about. Those homeless dudes should go to the library and enjoy the wonders showered on us all by our betters; keep ‘em out of trouble.
I was going to log in to the city website and leave a few embarrassing questions and comments there, such as the ones above. But they are smarter than that. They are certainly not going to let people leave any unfiltered feedback about how the money is spent, or about the advantages of the free market, or of liberty. I wonder what they are afraid of?