Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Unfair Burden of ‘Public Parks’ and the ‘Public Good’

A letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger by Sam Pesin, president of The Friends of Liberty State park, blasted Governor Chris Christie for his plans regarding Liberty State Park. In Christie's plans will destroy Liberty State Park, Pesin fumed:

The Star-Ledger's July 6 editorial clearly described the danger that the "hallowed ground" of Liberty State Park is in due to the coming large scale privatization plans of Gov. Chris Christie.

LSP is N.J.'s crown jewel park overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and it was our 1976 bicentennial gift to the nation. It provides open space, inspiring vistas, lawns and walking paths for its annual 5 ½ million visitors to enjoy.

The governor's goal of LSP paying for itself is sickening. Parks serve the public good, and are therefore funded by taxes.

I left the following comment, edited for clarity:

“Parks serve the public good, and are therefore funded by taxes.”

The “public good” is the tool of special interests seeking to impose their values on everyone else. In this case, Pesin wants to preserve the ability of 5.5 million visitors to freeload off of taxpayers throughout the state, regardless of whether these taxpayers—whom Pesin and his ilk ignore but are also part of the public—wish to subsidize these visitors. Pesin, like all public good peddlers, really means “I am the public, and what I believe is the public’s good goes.”

5.5 million freeloading visitors a year does not constitute the whole public. If numbers are the criteria, Disney World is much more in the public good. It gets nearly 50 million visitors a year, 9  times Liberty State Park. And Disney World is fully private and fully pays for itself—and is profitable to boot. None of Disney’s visitors freeloads off of taxpayers. Every visitor pays his own way. Liberty State Park visitors should also.

There is no moral justification for tax-funded parks. If Liberty State Park can’t survive on self-supporting visitor fees and other voluntary means of raising revenues, it should depend on voluntary contributions to fill in the gaps rather than picking taxpayers’ pockets. If it still can’t survive, it takes steps to attract more visitors or closes. No one has the right to parks paid for by someone else. Kudos to Governor Christie for proposing to take this monkey off of the taxpayers’ backs.

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