Why is Huntersville Subsidizing Soccer?
A strange thing happens to politicians when elected to office, they seem to immediately lose any ability they may have had previously to think in a critical manner. And I’m not just talking about at the federal level, this happens at the state and local level as well. This is obviously not a new phenomenon. Politicians in Bastiat’s day were just as likely to be inept in various ways, which thankfully gave him plenty to write about during those few productive years before his untimely death.
Politicians haven’t changed much since the middle of the 19th century. For example, take the politicians in my town of Huntersville, NC who recently unanimously approved a revised agreement with a local soccer club to allow them prioritized use of town managed soccer fields for ten years without seeking other bids for use of these fields. In exchange for being able to use town soccer fields during peak times (after school and weekends), the soccer club agreed to pay a slightly higher amount than they would have otherwise paid. Proponents argue the town makes more money and the “economic development” impact of this soccer league will far exceed any costs involved with maintenance of the fields, so where’s the problem asks anyone who has never read Bastiat.
This one issue is such a great example of Bastiat’s classic definition of government as the great fiction through which everybody attempts to live at the expense of everybody else. Instead of requiring people who enjoy the benefits of playing soccer to pay the full value of said benefits, politicians are willing to use taxpayer money to subsidize soccer because they have determined parents of soccer players represent a larger share of the vote than admirers of Bastiat. No rational parent of a child playing in the subsidized soccer league is going to demand these subsidies cease so they can pay higher registration fees. It’s far easier for a politician to take taxpayer money to subsidize soccer when people driving by soccer fields every weekend see crowds of players, coaches, and parents (the seen) than it is for a politician to vote against taking taxpayer money to subsidize soccer because of all the uses that money could have gone towards if left in the hands of taxpayers (the unseen).
It's also far easier for a politician to simply accept the positive “economic development” figures cited by the soccer club (the seen) than it is for a politician to question whether these figures take into account opportunity costs like the alternative sports or entertainment options that could benefit but for money spent on soccer (the unseen).
If you think your local government is immune from participating in some similar type of legal plunder, you can likely rid yourself of this notion by just reviewing your town’s parks and rec budget. I may not have been able to convince my local politicians to stop engaging in our town's particular type of legal plunder, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to convince your local politicians from engaging in your town's particular type of legal plunder. The majority of us can have little to no impact on the legal plunder engaged in every day at the federal level, but members of the Bastiat Society can potentially have a large impact in their communities by simply pointing out these economic fallacies to their local politicians. Just don’t expect results overnight. I’ve been handing out copies of The Law to politicians in my town for three years now and yet the legal plunder continues.
Eric Rowell, founder of the Bastiat Society of Charlotte, is working hard in his community to advocate for a cause that he believes in. Eric graduated from North Carolina State University, B.A., 2003 Charleston School of Law, J.D., 2007, is now a lawyer in Charlotte, NC.
Visit Eric's website for agendas and more stories about the Huntersville Board.