Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Two-Tiered Support for Retaining Walls

In an absolutely brilliant item, Brian Ferguson relates that some folks in San Francisco were hesitant about letting private parties donate money to make repairs and upgrades to public property [retaining walls and a median strip]. Quoting from,

Robin Williams and his wife, Marsha, offered to donate $80,000 US to fix a retaining wall and median strip near their home in the city's Seacliff neighbourhood.

City supervisor Gerardo Sandoval balked, fearing Williams would be getting preferential treatment. Sandoval said he didn't want the city to go "down the slippery slope" of putting privately funded projects ahead of those needed in less affluent areas.

But after city staff assured him that Williams' generosity would free up funds for poorer neighbourhoods, Sandoval joined nine colleagues in voting unanimously Tuesday to accept the comedian's gift.
Brian's response to all this is:

No, no, no, no, no. Has this man paid no attention to progressive Canada's efforts to protect Medicare from the two-tier virus. Any of the true friends of medicare could tell him that private money doesn't free up funds for poor neighbourhoods, it doesn't add to total resources available, it doesn't reduce waiting times for things that are crucial to a community's identity:

City officials said the funds will be used for new benches, irrigation, planters and bronze memorial plaques.

What will actually happen is that as the rich start to buy their own bronze memorial plaques, their own retaining walls and their own median strips, support for the publicly funded median strip system will fall, leading not to increased funds being available for poorer areas but to a reduction in total public funding for median strips. And before you know it, every median strip in San Francisco will have two tiers.
There is much more at his site.

Brian Ferguson is one of Canada's best health economists. If you do not recognize the sarcasm in what he wrote, let me assure you that he is a strong advocate for allowing people to spend more to supplement the health care coverage provided by the gubmnt.
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