Jessica Irvine thinks that fireworks are a ‘classic public good’ which she concludes
… as public firework displays show, public money well spent can yield real returns.
She cites estimates from the Sydney City Council that the $6.8 million spent by Sydney City Council yielded extra spending of $156 million.
Leaving aside the veracity of the Sydney City Council’s estimates – why would one take at face value the claims of the organisation that funded the fireworks? – Jessica falls for the classic Keynesian trap. No extra money was spent – except ratepayers’ money on fireworks. The grog and other goods and services consumed that night on Sydney Harbour would have been spent on something else at some time – perhaps a new television, perhaps support for an elderly aunt – it hasn’t been created out of thin air.
If it is a ‘good’ investment by Sydney City Council it is not necessarily a good investment of ratepayers’ money who might have preferred lower rates. The fact there was no price on admission to the fireworks show gives no information about the way in which attendees valued the show, or even if they did at all. Surely it was the experience of being with friends that was the principal value, not some silly fireworks show?
I’m no puritan, but why is it that those celebrating are called ‘revellers’ on New Year’s Eve but drunken louts at other times of the year?
Also, why is it that the AGW believer, Clover Moore, spends a small fortune on fireworks which add substantially to carbon emissions? If the planet is in dire need of saving – as she has wont to say – shouldn’t the City Council have declared that the fireworks show has been cancelled to save the planet? (She will, no doubt, declare that the emissions have been ‘offset’ but that is just baloney. As has been shown on numerous occasions, the entire edifice of carbon offset permits has been corrupted and does not in reality offset the original emissions).
The truly remarkable thing about large firework displays, however, is that left to the free market, they’d never exist.
What rubbish. Before the NSW Government banned private fireworks, it was common for neighbourhoods to compete to provide the best fireworks shows. These were all privately provided. I remember participating in these events when very young.
It is very 1984 to declare that something is a public good because the private sector doesn’t provide the good or service when the said good or service has been banned by the Government.
A good proxy for these fireworks shows are the privately provided Christmas decorations, including the massive one at Forrest in the ACT which cost the owner close to $100,000. Why doesn’t Jessica declare Christmas lights as a public good? Well if the Government banned homeowners from decorating their homes, perhaps there would be demand for a public Christmas lights show.
Happy New Year dear Catallaxy friends. May 2014 be a year of advancing freedom of the individual. May the New Year’s headache be replaced by a libertarian fire.
Please don’t criticise Jessica Irvine too much – after all she was indoctrinated by the University of Sydney. Even a Milton Friedman might have trouble understanding economics if he had studied there. If we can help her understand opportunity cost she will be one step closer to becoming a libertarian.