Conservative economics: public funding is bad!

Two blogs in one day. Madness I tell you.

So I was just in a brief conversation that sparked some realizations about conservatives and public spending.

Basically it boils down to “things cost money. I don’t like things to cost money, I object to paying for big things that aren’t exclusively mine.”

Pretty silly all in itself, but when you look at the things that get them really worked up, such as the National Broadband Network. Blowouts. The horror! Blowouts!

The idea that something in reality might actually end up costing a bit more than originally estimated because reality is actually affected by things that happen, where a balance sheet is not.

But let’s think about this on a smaller, every day scale rather than billions of dollars, thousands of kilometers and a few years.

Let’s reduce it to say… A week to week thing. Let’s just say fuel for your car.
Today you got all green lights, straight through, skipped all the traffic. Perfect and smooth. Minimal fuel use. Awesome. If only every day were like that!

The next day you hit a few red lights and got stuck behind someone going a little slower. Bit of extra fuel use, hardly noticeable. Oh well, it’s not going to set you back much, it won’t even make you stop in for a top up.

Your average week will be made up of something around these, which gives you a weekly rough estimate of fuel costs that is generally accurate, give or take a few cents (not taking into account fuel price variability, we’ll say you’re already factoring that in and buying at roughly the same rate.

But next day there’s a traffic jam. It’s hot, you got the aircon on, you’re crawling along eating slowly into your fuel. It’s not a massive amount, but it’s enough to mean you have to put that extra bit of fuel in this week.

Guess what? You just had a blow out! Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

The only difference is we’re talking a few dollars over a few days rather than billions over a few years on something much larger in scale.

For infrastructure the response is to scream about bad management and it costing extra money! The horror!

Do they do the same thing with their car? Say “fuel cost more than I expected! Time to get rid if the car! I’ll outsource and catch taxis everywhere now!”

Of course not. If they did, you’d think they were a complete moron. But that’s exactly what they do for large public projects, which is ironic given how much the exceedingly rich- most vocal- avoid paying taxes through loopholes.

Now some of you might be thinking “but we’re talking BILLIONS of dollars! Not just a few!”

It’s a matter of scale. Proportionally, an extra dollar on your fuel bill can be about the sane, depending on factors.

The fact is with major infrastructure that not every eventuality can be predicted in advance, you just need to take it on the chin, particularly if the benefits of what you’re building are large or necessary. Particularly when a cheaper alternative means expensive replacement sooner. Then you’re just paying MORE in the long term for an inferior result. How does THAT make economic sense?

It’s somewhat like cafés and restaurants buying domestic grade china. Sure it’s much cheaper, but it breaks fast, so you’re replacing it on a weekly basis. Or you could buy done commercial grade china for a bit (or a lot more, depending how high grade you wanna go) and replace it far less often, freeing up more money in the longer term.

I already covered much of the other conservative issues in the libertarian barbarians post to do with privatisation, so I won’t go into detail about that, I’ll just reiterate that private enterprise does not necessarily come up with the best solution, often it just gets you the fastest return, not the best return for your money.

That’ll do for today. Congratulations for reading this far. You win an undisclosed number of Internet points.


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