What to do with others’ money

Writing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In a June 20, 2006 Wichita Eagle editorial, Rhonda Holman writes about the WaterWalk project in Wichita.

Evidently there is controversy over the public not knowing the name of the “destination restaurant” that is being courted and favored with a gift of $1 million. To me, the controversy is not the identify of the restaurant or when and how the city should conduct its negotiations, but that we are paying for a restaurant to be built.

We are not lacking for fine restaurants in Wichita. On both the east and west sides of town (and other parts, too), many excellent restaurants have been opened recently, and more are being built as I write. The Eagle has even reported on their astonishment at how many there are.

The problem is, I believe, that these restaurants were not built where Ms. Holman and our local government leaders feel they should have been built. But that’s not a problem, except to her and them.

The people who built these restaurants did so by investing their own money, or the money that others entrusted to them. These people did so voluntarily. They presumably built their restaurants where they thought they could earn the best return on their investment. And having invested several million dollars of their own money in the restaurant, they have a strong incentive to make the restaurant a success.

But that’s not good enough for Ms. Holman. Evidently she does not appreciate the sacrifice that people have made in order to accumulate the funds needed to make these spectacular investments. She may not be aware of — or maybe she does not respect or value — the tremendous effort and work it takes to run a successful restaurant.

Just because these people did not build their restaurants where she (and our local government leaders) thought they should have been built, she wants to tax them — and the rest of us, too — and give the proceeds of that tax to a new competitor.

Is this the type of behavior by our local government and our town’s leading newspaper that is likely to lead to other new private investment?

Ms. Holman’s editorial stance, along with the actions of our local government leaders, constitute a slap in the fact for those who have been foolish enough (we can now conclude this) to invest money in any industry in which the government is likely to set up their competitor.

This harmful attitude is summarized in this plea to get the WaterWalk project moving faster, “… so that citizens not only can see where their money is going but also soon start enjoying more of their investment.”

Making an investment, I might remind Ms. Holman, is something that people do voluntarily because they believe it is in their interest.

The WaterWalk project and the new downtown restaurant are being paid for by taxes. The expenditure is being made to serve the interests of politicians, subsidized developers, and people like Ms. Holman who believe they know best what to do with others’ money. There is a tremendous difference between the two.

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