Recently it has come out that the city of Winona has compiled a sort of wish-list of projects that, hopefully, will be financed by money doled out to the states from the federal stimulus package. First on the list is the good old Louisa Street extension, followed by a European style roundabout at the intersection of Sarnia Street and Mankato Avenue, to deal with congestion there which truly is heavy at hours of peak traffic. (I have encountered these in Europe and can’t wait to see how Winonans will adapt to them, but that’s a different subject). I have seen only an abridged list of six projects out of some sixteen, but there are also a couple of bike paths and something called an EVP system which would allow emergency vehicles a sort of safety-enhanced passage through signalized intersections.
Which projects would have priority, and who would ultimately decide on the ones to actually be funded and built? City Hall says that the criteria have not yet been spelled out, but that eventually, various state agencies would get the money and decide how it is to be spent. I assume at some point down the road, Winona would be informed, sort of like a lottery winner, which projects it can now afford with federal money, that we couldn’t buy with our own.
There is a superficial appeal in all this. We might even get another overpass without having to wait – yippee! The only problem is that we do not get out of paying for all this stuff. We will owe for it down the road, as will our children and grandchildren, I’m afraid. Not being able to decide locally, through discussion and debate, what we really need and can afford, will mean that ultimately we will be paying much more and not getting nearly the value for dollars spent. The roads, bike paths, playgrounds, lemonade stands – you name it – will be decided upon by hired bureaucrats who will not have to pay for them. You will, and when did someone else ever have the ability to spend money more responsibly than the person who earned it and must fork it over? Unfortunately, when governments see fit to throw around trillions of borrowed dollars, individuals will no longer be able to keep any for themselves. Swedes, on the average, retain 10 cents of every dollar they earn.
What we seem to be heading for is European-style social democracy where, no matter who gets elected, it will be the same old army of professional bureaucrats who actually run things, ultimately and primarily for their own benefit, and the connected elite. The freedom and wealth of individuals will grow ever more subservient to the interests of a government which is, for all practical purposes, unelected.