Should the Government Subsidize…Silly Walks?
Would developing more silly walks benefit society? Possibly. But who will pay for them? Professor Art Carden regrets that the only way he can come up with to receive payment for creating silly walks is through receiving a subsidy from the government. If the government subsidized the creation of silly walks, there would surely be more silly walks around. Prof. Carden points out, however, that if people aren’t willing to pay for silly walks voluntarily, they must not be worth the value they create.
This draws into question subsidies in general. Are subsidies for more serious things, like food, valuable to society? Some argue that without farm subsidies the United States would have a shortage of food. But is that the case? Prof. Carden suggests that while subsidizing food will lead to more food production, it also leads to the production of foods that cost more to produce than they are worth to society. This indicates that resources are wasted.
Economists argue that subsidies are useful when they increase something that creates positive externalities, or spillover benefits for society. Some would argue education should be subsidized, for example, because society benefits from a better educated work force. But is the government really a good judge of what deserves subsidies and what doesn’t? Even if we assume that markets will produce too little education, for example, this does not imply that government intervention will make things better.