Once upon a time nine of 100 people who lived in Norwalk wanted to play golf. But not one of them wanted to pay to play on private courses.
“Too expensive,” they said.
So, they visited Mr. Wannabee Elected.
“Hi, Mr. Wannabee,” they said. “We shall support you if you’ll give us a golf course.”
“O.K., I like to play golf too and of course I could use your support,” said Mr. Wannabee.
Soon thereafter an autonomous body composed of golfers and called the Oak Hills Park Authority was established and began operating an 18-hole golf course in Oak Hills Park.
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Wannabee told the 91 out of 100 of his constituents who would have preferred the park remain a park, “user fees will cover the costs of the golf course.”
But they never have.
“The reason,” the OHPA said at first, “is our restaurant is too small.”
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Wannabee said, “I’ll lend you a few million taxpayer dollars to build a bigger one.”
And so, the smaller restaurant was torn down and the bigger one built. But the new restaurant did not relieve the OHPA’s losses. Rather, it added to them.
“The problem,” the OHPA then claimed, “is the new restaurant is too big. What we really need is a driving range.”
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Wannabee said, “with more taxpayer dollars I’ll pay for a National Golf Foundation study to confirm that conclusion.” But when the study was completed it indicated that a driving range in Oak Hills was more likely to suffer losses itself than to cover the losses of the golf course.
“O.K.,” the OHPA said. “What we really need is a sit-down bar.”
And so, with more taxpayer dollars the OHPA plans to construct the bar. Soon, therefore, we may expect the ghost of James M. Buchannan to sidle into it and exclaim: “Wow! What a perfect example of special interest politics run amok!”
Then, while still sober the ghost of the man who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his seminal work in public policy might continue:
“Just take a look at the costs and benefits of the golf course in Oak Hills Park from the point of view of Norwalk taxpayers.
“First, the benefits:
“The benefit golfers from Norwalk receive may be calculated as the difference between the cost per round of playing on a private course and the cost of playing on the course in Oak Hills Park multiplied by the number of rounds played.
“Second, the costs:
“All Norwalk taxpayers as a whole pick up the multimillion-dollar difference between the cost of operating and maintaining the golf course and the user fees paid by golfers.
“Furthermore, the nine out of ten taxpayers who do not play golf are deprived of a park where they could walk; picnic; play soccer, basketball, or softball; jog, swim or just hang out with family and friends.
“And then, too, there are the environmental costs. Golf courses use massive amounts of chemicals and water to keep their greens green.
“In short from the point of view of all the taxpayers of Norwalk the cost of the golf course far outweighs its benefits.
“And golfers should consider the fact that government subsidized golf courses undermine private sector golf courses’ ability to survive. So even from their point of view the long-term costs of government subsidized municipal golf courses may outweigh their short-term benefits.
“But instead Norwalk golfers formed a coalition to get their share of government largesse. And elected officials continue to cater to them at the expense of all those they were elected to represent.
“Yep, a perfect example of special interest politics run amok!
“Now, after having one too many drinks, I hope I don’t run over some kid on his way to or from one of the three schools in the residential neighborhood where this terrific bar is located.”