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This is a perfect illustration of how government officials think:

Mary Tullius, director of the Division of State Parks and Recreation, doesn’t think so.  She says the state prides itself on giving Utah families affordable destinations like state parks. And if those destinations were made private, the quality would suffer.

History has told us that whenever you privatize something people are so focused on making money that they don’t pay attention to the infrastructure or to the maintenance of the facility. What happens after five years and they’ve run something and they haven’t taken care of it and they turn back to the state? And then the state has a much bigger problem,” she said.

Yes, that’s exactly how private business works. I sure hate it when companies try to make a profit off of me. Those non-profits around the country and the government run agencies are oh so famous about paying attention to infrastructure and maintenance of their facilities. I am sure this is a little anomaly that is all. And of course, in the face of severe underfunding and facilities deterioration, we would never see things like this and this. I think that is what the Looter quoted above means. When private businesses make decisions, they can’t just steal money from their customers to build unnecessarily lavish facilities that no one will use, and don’t generally award the construction contracts to politically favored groups.

And I am sure the parks example is just something that I cherry picked. I am positive public agencies fully fund their pension obligations. I am positive that the $400 billion dumped into Fannie and Freddie (thusfar it has been less than that, but the credit line remains open) had nothing at all to do with implicit government guarantees. I could go on.

But just pause for a moment on what the Looter is saying. Private profit seeking businesses do not care about the future. They just try to take your money and run. Is this what she has in mind?

Coyote illustrates very vividly how absurd the Looter’s claims are:

This is hilariously wrong.  As readers probably know, my business is the private operation of public parks.  The number one problem we have in taking over government parks is that they are usually terribly run down.  By the time the government is finally willing to turn to private companies for help (generally in the category of “last resort”) the government has typically been ignoring the capital maintenance needs of the parks for years.  As I have written before, government is terrible about appropriating sufficient amounts of capital maintenance dollars.  We see it in everything from parks to the Washington metro.

Nowadays, as a condition of taking over the operation of public parks, our company is generally asked to make a large up-front contribution to tackling deferred maintenance in the park.  In fact, in our newest contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority, we actually have rebuilt the entire park and campground from the ground up.

I am sure there are some private operators who have let things run down, but in general this has occurred when the public authority has insisted on giving the operator a series of 1-year contracts rather than a real 10-20 year contract.  Who is going to replace the roof if the contract only lasts for another 6 months.  On the other hand, who is going to fail to keep things nice if he knows he is going to be there for another 15 years?

I hear this kind of rant from people within the government all the time.  They seem to believe it, but it is hard to find an example where it is true.  When I worked for an oil company, they planned on having to totally rebuild their retail stations every 20 years or so.  What legislature plans for this kind of expenditure?

And just as I finish writing this, an article comes across my screen indicating that:

In response to Gov. David Paterson’s budget that would reduce every area of state spending to close an $8.2 billion gap, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation proposed a list of closures and service reductions for parks and historic sites that would save $6.3 million.The measures include closing the beach at Hamlin Beach State Park for three days each week, and closing Chimney Bluffs and the Oak Orchard State Marine Park in Orleans County.

Hamlin sees about 250,000 visitors annually, and Oak Orchard gets about 9,000 visitors a year. Figures for Chimney Bluffs were not available.

“It’s gamesmanship,” said Larry Staub, director of the Monroe County Parks Department. “I don’t think for a minute (Paterson) thinks this will go through. He’s using it as a poster child for the budget woes.”

In all, 55 of the state’s parks and historic sites would close this year.

That’s how you guys are served by your government folks. Rather than thinking of solutions to problems, they raise the stakes and up the ante. Selling off each and every one of these state parks would guarantee that they would never be closed. Selling off each and every one of these parks will guarantee that these cherished resources do not have to be a pawn in a political game of power grabbing and tax spending. And don’t give me the tired canard of the socialists that if parks were privately owned they would cease to exist or would turn into giant theme parks with McDonalds banners all over them. Not only is there no evidence for this happening – states can craft contracts with private management agencies or conservation agencies to limit or ban those practices if indeed they are viewed to be horrible.

But what happens when states find themselves in budget woes? They threaten to eliminate the most valuable things that they do, but no doubt make sure they keep plowing billions of dollars into things that are mere transfers and provide no value for state taxpayers. What kind of a private company would do such a thing? State spending has increased to make sure unions and public pensions could be made whole after the stock market decline and fiscal crisis that emerged during this recession. Rather than having public “servants” suffer just like us in the private sector, we are threatened with park closings, school closings, reductions in policing and other vital services, etc. Is it not anywhere in the realm of realistic that there are other less valuable things we should be spending our tax dollars on?

And if state officials truly were “public servants” would they not have on the table any and all options for how to deliver the best public goods for their citizens? One reason our family chooses to endure the awful high tax burdens of Rochester is that the public amenities are quite good. We have awesome parks, well taken care of roads, terrific libraries, etc. (yes I do recognize this, even if the counterfactual cannot be demonstrated). So, now with my high tax burden, I am being threatened with the loss of access to these things?

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