Art Carden  

The Political Economy of Government-Financed Boondoggles

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The Alabama Music Hall of Fame has been closed since November. The article linked here points out that over the course of the museum's existence, the taxpayer subsidy has worked out to about $33 per visitor. I skimmed down to the comments and came across an interesting and plausible claim--"One of their favorite tricks is to run the school kids through on field trips to increase the visitor count."

This raises what I think could be a set of interesting research questions: what is the relationship between government-financed operations like music Halls of Fame and local education? What percentage of museum visitors come from school field trips? How does this play politically? Might spending on things like the Alabama Music Hall of Fame be classified as "education spending"? To what extent are things like this exercises in Helen Lovejoy Political Economy? Are the schools vocal constituencies when it comes to funding for such ventures?


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Franklin Harris writes:

When the Alabama Music Hall of Fame still received funding from the state Legislature, that money have from the Education Trust Fund budget, which in Alabama has traditionally been used to fund things like museums and other attractions using exactly that kind of argument. (Also, in Alabama, it's where the money is, compared to the smaller General Fund budget, which funds all "non-education" spending, but mostly Medicaid and prisons.) But, as I recall, the state's teacher lobby tends to oppose such spending because it diverts spending from things it likes more, like pay raises for its members.

It's been sitting empty for almost a year?

I know a guy who runs a company which remodels commercial spaces. When malls were adding food courts, he said they evaluate a mall, tear out the existing stores and get the food court running in under 6 months. They had to because the mall was losing money every day the project was under way.

Then he went to work for a large, famous museum in DC. The first thing they did was close the hall for 2 years while they figured out what they wanted to do with it.

Seth writes:

Good example of spending other people's money on other people. Nobody cares.

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