Last week I responded to an article that appeared in the Charlottesville Daily Progress about the role former Senator John W. Warner played in obtaining funds to pay for the long-proposed Meadowcreek Parkway. (The idea for this still-unbuilt road was first raised more than 40 years ago.)
My letter to the editor appears in today's newspaper:
Referring to former Sen. John W. Warner’s obtaining an appropriations earmark to pay for part of the Meadowcreek Parkway, former Albemarle County Supervisor Forrest Marshall said that the parkway “wouldn’t exist had he not given us $27 million for the interchange at the bypass” (“John W. Warner Parkway? Idea has supporters,” The Daily Progress).
There is something wrong with that sentence. Unless that $27 million came from Sen. Warner’s own pocket, that money was, to paraphrase the legendary Tennessee Congressman David Crockett, not his to give.
Legislators cannot “give” money to anyone or for any purpose. They can only take the earnings of some taxpayers and redistribute it to others.
In this case, Sen. Warner arranged for taxpayers around the United States to pay for a project desired by the residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Concentrating funds that are collected from many people and then transferred to a few people is an example of what economists of the Virginia School (also known as “public choice”) call “rent-seeking” — using the political process to obtain money that is otherwise unearned.
None of this is intended to question the merits of the Meadowcreek Parkway project, but rather to remind us that government cannot “give” us anything.
It can only procure money from one group of people to benefit another group.
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