It’s official

by on August 3, 2009 at 12:29 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Don Boudreaux, chair of the GMU econ department, comments on this sign of the times:

…Uncle Sam is on the verge of paying the City of Los Angeles $30 million to subsidize a ten-year run of Cirque du Soleil. 

So it's finally come to pass – America has embarked on the same road down which ancient Rome marched to its ruin: Uncle Sam not only subsidizes bread (by subsidizing wheat production) but now also circuses.

1 MPO August 3, 2009 at 12:42 am

“So it’s finally come to pass – America has embarked on the same road down which ancient Rome marched to its ruin:”

There are a lot of things on econ blogs that cause me to roll my eyes, boggle or just laugh out loud, but this is the first time – owing to disappointment at the source of this comment – that I can recall saying “give me a break” out loud upon reading something, and that’s despite the fact that I disagree with the subsidization itself.

2 Anonymoose August 3, 2009 at 1:12 am

If we have an Imperium, does this mean we don’t need 60 votes in the Senate to pass a health care bill?

3 RW Rogers August 3, 2009 at 1:55 am

The developer seeking the loan, CIM Group, is a major contributor to the current mayor as well as the city councilman (and wannabe next mayor) sponsoring the bill. CIM Group is almost entirely funded by the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System. President Obama’s favorite union, the SEIU, is a major player in the operation of CalPERS while the California state Democratic Party’s favorite union, the CTA, heavily influences STRS. It’s wise to “look for the union label” in stories like this.

4 RW Rogers August 3, 2009 at 2:21 am

Daniel: Try reading the whole story. The city council debated if it was wise to use for this one project so much of the federal money given the city:

On Tuesday, Councilman Dennis Zine questioned whether so much federal loan money should be devoted to a single economic development project.

5 ogmb August 3, 2009 at 5:14 am

So the chair of the GMU econ department doesn’t understand the difference between a subsidy and a loan?

6 Tiedemies August 3, 2009 at 6:03 am

Gee, I wonder if it was “penis büyütücü”, whatever that is, that brought the Roman empire down…
Seriously, LOL, bread and circuses.

7 Gary Leff August 3, 2009 at 6:29 am

This rather strikes me more as the government throwing games to quell the masses.

8 DanC August 3, 2009 at 7:55 am

I can hardly wait for the Gladiatorial health care fights, will the government give me a thumbs up

9 AADL August 3, 2009 at 8:29 am

So the chair of the GMU econ department doesn’t understand the difference between a subsidy and a loan?

He does understand the difference.
A loan that is backed by the taxpayers certainly is a subsidy, at least to the extent that its cost is lower than the market rate. The loan might not even have been available through the market. If the loan comes from a private source, it’s not a subsidy.

10 Jody August 3, 2009 at 8:55 am

MAP: The Ranger/ Arlington deal was like 1990. Oddly enough, not everything from back then is on the internet.

Would criticisms of Republicans from those two satisfy your request?

11 Russell L. Carter August 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

Exactly what other function did Iraq War II provide other than as a functioning circus for the masses?

12 Mike Huben August 3, 2009 at 10:30 am

The Economics department of George Mason University has been strongly shaped by tens of millions of dollars of donations by the libertarian Koch Foundations of the billionaire Koch brothers. Most, if not all, of the staff (23 GMU professors on the Mercatus “Scholars” list 5/16/09) is affiliated with the Koch-financed Mercatus Center, a libertarian pro-corporatist think-tank. The result is a propaganda mill with academic credentials.

So why wouldn’t we expect the chair of the GMU econ department to deliver conservative soundbites rather than something scholarly?

13 madgellan August 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

…certainly an interesting/concerning little tidbit in that it may/or may not involve federal money. The author, who is perhaps more in tuned w/ local gov’t may do well to clarify this ambiguity. If it is indeed w/ fed. money my concern is the timespan over which the loan is to take place (not so much a knee-jerk reaction or viability in subsidizing a circus)-10 yrs. is not “shovel ready”.

14 M August 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm

For the people who don’t get it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses

I have to subsidize local sports stadiums through my state and sales taxes despite the fact I could care less about them. That is probably the case in a lot of places.

15 mgs August 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

It is my understanding that spending stimulus money on the arts is one of the best ways to improve employment. I don’t have the exact figures but I think it stands to reason that art is labor intensive, and artists are generally broke so they spend whatever money they receive. I don’t see how this ranks as particularly problematic.

16 Jeff Maughan August 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

The author may be a fine economist but he ain’t a very good historian.

The corn dole was essential for the maintenance of the western Roman Empire. When the Vandals invaded North Africa from Spain, taking Carthage in the early 400s, the main grain-supplying areas of the Empire were lost (the area was at that time arable and supplied Rome and other major cities). Without the supply of cheap, government-subsidised grain, the state could neither sucessfully feed the population nor raise troops. There were several abortive attempts to recover North Africa before they gave up in the 470s.

I would like to know which historian has ever posited the thesis that ‘bread and circuses’ led to the ruin of Rome. I suspect you will find that there are none.

17 Brian B August 3, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Jeez Alou.
Somebody posts a small joke and you guys pull the pens out of your pocket protectors and the slide rules out of your back pockets, where you store them next to the tape for the bridge of your glasses presumably, and start calculating the Roman Empire’s price deflator under Marcus Aurelias.
Lighten up a bit, eh mates?

18 Scondren August 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Apparently I’m the only one who found this a somewhat amusing joke, rather than a serious comparison to ancient Rome that needs to be critiqued.

19 FakeName August 4, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Someone in the comments section at the LA Times pointed out that the guy who runs CdS is spending $35M to visit the International Space Station…

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