Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Infrastructure"

Something I stumbled across recently. Policy wonks out there know that for the last few years, though it has mostly subsided now, the public forum has witnessed a lot of talk about insufficient funding for municipalities to build infrastructure - roads, bridges, whatnot. Toronto has been particularly loud, and there was that bridge collapse in Quebec awhile back, if you remember.

Either way, infrastructure funding goes to some awful strange things. Like culture:
Building Canada funding in this category (Culture) will be directed towards projects that:

* Support arts and/or designated heritage facilities;

* Help communities express, preserve, develop and promote their culture and/or heritage within Canada.

Hrmm. Roads and such have a legitimate function as a public good. This study estimates the rate of return from public infrastructure investment at 20% - and that's only counting reductions in the costs of business, and not the savings on repair bills from the average citizen hitting potholes, among other things.

However, in my mind, art galleries are not a public good. Some argument can be mustered here, generally along multiplier impacts from tourism and whatnot, but I remain very unconvinced and philosophically opposed. Even if something does generate economic activity, that doesn't mean the government should levy growth-hampering taxes to finance it.

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