Wednesday, March 07, 2012
An interesting article in The American notes that the budget crisis in California is resulting in increased private involvement in the funding and maintenance of government recreational programs, such as parks and university sports teams.
One of those organizations with an imaginative approach is the Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma. The company's founder, Tony Magee, is in negotiations with California State Parks to assume the maintenance of the local Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Magee believes that through volunteer staffing and a more creative marketing approach, he can "come pretty close to breaking even" on a budget that currently runs at $1 million annually.To its credit, the article does not call any of this "privatization", but calling such efforts "partnerships" is bad enough, since the government, as a coercive entity, ultimately calls the shots, and shouldn't be involved in such matters anyway.
Further creative solutions can be seen in nearby Jack London Historic Park, also designated for closure. Working with the Los Angeles-based Transcendence Theater Company, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association is producing an "under the stars" concert to raise the money needed to keep Jack London and other area parks open.
Transcendence's Amy Miller says, "The first time we walked into the gorgeous venue we knew it was the most remarkable space for a theatre." If the fall shows prove popular, the theater company is looking at a full slate of productions in area state parks next summer -- inspired new uses for park land. [links dropped]
On the bright side, however, such efforts may well raise numerous opportunites (which The American has missed) to ask the following question: Why not get the government completely out of owning and running things like public parks? One rationale for having the government do this is already being refuted: the idea that were it not for the government's deep pockets, there would not be, for example, parks open to the public. Other rationales, such as the kinds noted by Brian Phillips in his book, Individual Rights and Government Wrongs (excerpted below), should also come into question.
These proposals are usually met with indignant opposition. Private companies, it is claimed, would despoil the parks by building condos on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Motivated by profit, they would erect a Starbucks in front of Old Faithful. They would raise prices and turn parks into the playgrounds of the rich, leaving the poor and middle-class with few opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation. And, as the acting director of the National Recreation and Park Association stated in 2006, privatizing parks is un-American: "Public parks embody the American tradition of preserving public lands for the benefit and use of all."I will note that Phillips provides plenty of examples of successful private parks, libraries, roads, and other things the government needn't -- and shouldn't -- be involved in.