When it comes to government money, there’s no shortage of people who have ideas on how to spend it. One group that has grand ideas of how government should spend your money is the Northern Flyer Alliance. This group promotes passenger train service in our area. Currently they’re promoting extension of rail service from Oklahoma City to Wichita.
The problem with this group, as alluded to above, is that they seek to accomplish their goal by using government. As reported in the Wichita Eagle (Group seeks support for train service through Wichita), “The director of a group seeking expanded passenger rail service through Wichita today asked City Council members to pass a resolution urging the state to include in its upcoming transportation plan a new Amtrak line stretching from Oklahoma City to Wichita and on to Kansas City.”
So this group is asking Wichita (and many other towns and cities) to apply pressure to the State of Kansas to subsidize this rail line. This group is another example of political entrepreneurship in action. Instead of practicing market entrepreneurship — that’s where you develop and deliver services and products that people actually want enough to pay for — this group seeks to accomplish its goals by influencing politicians and bureaucrats. They were successful in Oklahoma.
If we want passenger train service that is truly successful, this group should work to raise private capital rather than seeking government subsidy. This is the only way we’ll know whether this train service is something that truly adds value, or whether it is just another “amenity” the government provides by taxing one person to subsidize someone else.