A COUPLE OF STATISTICS floated through my meme space Saturday. (Who says the History Channel is good-for-nothing?) It appears from the cites in this documentary that the Washington Monument, in D.C., gets about 800,000 visitors per annum. Meanwhile, back at the oasis, a private, entrepreneurial grocery store just north of here in Fairfield, Ohio, Jungle Jim’s, gets about five times that.
On hearing that, I was immediately struck by the contrast — apples and walnuts comparison notwithstanding — between a coerced “good-for-you-whether-you-want-it-or-not” — scorn quotes — “public good” and a private, we-have-to-persuade-you-to-spend-your-money-here for-profit enterprise.
Statists declaim a devotion to democracy — they’ll use the trope like a club. But they’ll turn right around and — deaf to the cognitive disonnance — tell you that, because something is unprofitable (and therefor, presumably, not desired by large numbers of people), does not mean it shouldn’t be done. They’ll try to persuade you that using public moneys, taken by force from the sustenance of citizens whose rights are supposedly being protected by the government, MUST be used for these so-called “public goods” — which cannot find sufficient support among their fellow citizens.
Now, I understand that certain of the monuments in Washington have been at least partially funded in their construction by private donations. But, once created, they are under the administration of the Park Service, and as such are supported by tax dollars. They have not demonstrated that they can support themselves on admission fees or rentals to private groups for special occasions. I submit to you that, when Congress, in a budget crisis, holds a metaphorical pistol to old George’s head and says, “Pay up or the Monmument gets it,” we should say, in effect, “Go ahead and shoot. Let the danged thing subsist on what it can garner by passing the hat or charging admission. Just don’t abdicate your fiduciary responsibility and go haring after vote-buying schemes.”
Cross-posted at Eternity Road.