Thursday, February 6, 2014

The European Way

Everybody is having a good laugh over the infrastructure problems at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia this week.  Hotels without roofs, running water, operational toilets or light bulbs are mixed in with open manhole covers in the middle of sidewalks and stray dogs running wild in the streets to fill up everyone's Twitter timelines.  Apparently, a reported $81-BILLION of Russian government spending just doesn't buy as much as it used to.

The Sochi disaster still hasn't reached the proportions that Athens, Greece saw in 2004.  The International Olympic Committee was seriously considering having a back-up site ready to host the games on a moment's notice because it appeared that a number of venues in Athens were not going to be ready in time.  Worker strikes, cost overruns and a general lack of urgency on the part of pretty much everyone involved in the process put construction of everything behind schedule.  And once the Games were over, the Greek government was saddled with a $10-BILLION loss of taxpayer funds--which added to their economic collapse a few years later.

Compare those Games to the ones held here in the US--most of which have ended up making money--and spending far less in taxpayer cash.  Both the LA and Atlanta games netted about a quarter-billion dollars each--while spending less than a billion in public funds.  (Salt Lake City did suffer a $155-MILLION loss--and spent 1.2-BILLION in federal funds secured largely after Mitt Romney took over administration of the planning.) 

So why are US Olympics so much more financially successful than those staged in Europe?  Because Games here are largely a private sector enterprise--while the European model is based upon the central government doing all of the work.  When organizers in LA and Atlanta had to beg corporations and individual donors to pony up cash to pay for venues and other infrastructure, they tended to keep a very close eye on how it was spent.  But when its taxpayer dollars going into these projects overseas, far less concern is paid to getting the biggest bang for your buck.

All of this would be a moot point if not for all of the Progressives here in the US insisting that we become "more European" in the way we do things.  Their desire for more government control of healthcare, more government provided transportation, greater government regulation of industry and commerce, mass unionization of workers, wage controls, reduced work hours, and tighter environmental standards are all based on the "success" of similar practices in the Old World.

But isn't funny that when we get a close-up look every four or six years into how those systems really work, they don't seem all that "successful"?

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