mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Welfare for poor baseball fans...

Via wizbang comes an article about Boston trying to regulate the price of parking near Fenway Park on game day. Apparently, gas station owners and anyone else with a car-sized patch of free space wil rent it out to people, and charge up to $100 to park there. Boston wants to regulate the price they charge.

I'm a big fan of letting supply and demand run their course. But the amount of government regulation that is designed to keep prices down for sports fans who go to games always amazes me, and this is a great example of it. People are willing to pay the prices, but the government still wants to regulate the industry. They seem to forget that parking near the stadium exists only because there is money in it - otherwise people wouldn't bother running the parking lots. My guess is if they suceed in setting a price ceiling, many people who run parking lots won't find it worth the hassle - and there will be less parking available at any price. Once again government controls make people - business owners and customers alike - worse off in sum, even if some individual fans may get cheaper spaces.

Baseball games are one of the few times I see public transportation making sense - lots of people going to the same place at the same time. Heck, the only time I've ever ridden Baltimore's light rail was to go to a game at Camden Yards.

But Boston's regulation attempt isn't the only example of government involvement with keeping sports prices down. Most states have anti-scalping laws in place that make it illegal for someone to resell a ticket to someone who wants to buy it. The Supreme Court years ago made an antitrust exemption for baseball, letting them do stuff that would get other businesses hauled to court. And tons of cities dump tons of money into subsidizing stadium building projects, in the hopes of creating lots of part-time seasonal jobs in the lucrative peanut and beer sales business.

I understand why people try to argue for rent control- shelter is one of the human necessities of life. Of course, rent control actually makes things worse by making it unprofitable to build rental housing, thus making housing harder to find. There are a host of other problems as well - if you aren't familiar with the pitfalls of rent control, I recommend the rent control chapter in Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Easy Lesson which you can now read online.

But sporting events, and attending sporting events, is not a necessity like housing. So why are there so many government regulations of it, especially ones like anti-scalping laws and the Boston parking proposal, that are designed to make it cheaper? I mean, if the government is going to try to make something more accessible, you think it would be a necessity and not a luxury.

Yet the other major necessity that people associate with shelter - food - is just the opposite. While there are some government subsidies (food stamps, WIC), for the most part the government works to drive the price of this necessity up by paying farmers to not grow food or by setting price floors, such as on milk. So here you have the governent purposely driving UP the price of something that everyone needs to survive - food - while trying to drive down the price of something nobody needs - parking. (and yes, I know farm programs are federal and Boston is local, but I still think it is an interesting comparison).

And thus you have the greatest argument for decreased involvement of the government in market pricing - when they make policies, they don't make sense. At least the market usually does.


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