Jonathan Chait

Better Anti-Government Horror Stories, Please

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Some government-bashing from National Review:

$1.8 Million for a Map. Seriously?   [Veronique de Rugy]

In the "crazy ways government is spending our tax dollars" category, this example may be one of the worse items. According to the Government Monitor:

Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced the state will receive $1.8 million in federal stimulus funds for broadband mapping and data collection to allow greater Internet availability and speed to all Connecticut residents and businesses.

“Communicating effectively and efficiently in the 21st Century on all levels – schools, public safety, business and government – is important for a prosperous and dynamic economy and makes for sound public policy,” Governor Rell said.

“It is a quality-of-life issue that requires we continue to move forward with a cutting-edge technology and establish Connecticut as a leader in broadband usage. Broadband plays an increasingly important role in our ability to attract and retain business and industry,” Governor Rell said.

Next time you can't buy something for you or for your kids because your taxes went up, think about the good people in Connecticut who's quality of life has improved thanks to your cash.

Anybody else find this a less-than-horrifying horror story of big government run amok? First of all, the headline warns of a $1.8 million map, but the story immediately explains that it's "broadband mapping and data collection." This seems like the classic example of an externality that only government can address.

Second, $1.8 million, divided by roughly 300 million Americans, comes out to 0.6 cents per American. Next time I'm sixth-tenths of one cent too poor to purchase some vital family need, I'll think of that broadband mapping in Connecticut.

Third, are we supposed to feel some special bitterness toward the people of Connecticut? The ones I've met seem pretty swell. Yes, it might seem like a raw deal if government did nothing but take money from the rest of us and provide things like great broadband to Connecticut. But the people of Connecticut are also helping to fund the Smithsonian museums here in Washington where I take my kids all the time. So, if my six-tenths of a penny has helped improve the quality of life in Connecticut, they're welcome to it.

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