Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 139
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for May 16, 2002


The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

I read that a Warrensburg restaurateur received a substantial grant to build a large restaurant and banquet hall on the site of the old livestock sale barn. At the same time, the state legislature is on the verge of passing a substantial subsidy for the big-time sports stadia in St. Louis and Kansas City. We may applaud the good fortune of the local business and bitterly criticize the stadium bills. If we do so, we are inconsistent.

Government subsidies distort the marketplace. While I suspect that a substantial part of the local grant is to mitigate soil contamination on the site, the money is being extracted from taxpayers in other areas in order to expand a business which will compete with other businesses that had to pay for everything themselves. Similarly, the stadium subsidy will take money from other parts of the state to award to those areas with the political clout to push the measure through, despite the fiscal crisis the state claims to face.

Government subsidies for private businesses are morally wrong. It matters only in scale whether the subsidy is for tax increment financing for a retail development, tax incentives for a manufacturing plant, an income tax credit offsetting the cost to preserve an old building, or transient room taxes to support tourism advertising. In each case people are being forced to pay for things they may benefit only peripherally from, if at all.

In the Robin Hood legend, Robin takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Nothing is said of the part he keeps for himself or how he selects who gets what he distributes. In comparison, the government takes from all of us and gives to the selected few, and we arenít really aware of how much government keeps for itself. Weíd all be better off without the competition for businesses between cities falling over themselves to grant financial incentives. Weíd all be better off if we paid less in taxes and let the market rather than the bureaucrats determine what businesses would be created.

If I threaten you so youíll give me money for a worthy cause, thatís extortion. If the government threatens you so youíll give them money for a worthy cause, thatís taxes. The threat of force is there in either case, but one is a crime while the other seems to be the prime function of government.

If the restaurant is built, Iíll probably eat there. If the ball parks are improved, Iíll probably continue to attend games. But not without a little pang of guilt.


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