"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Why governments shouldn't be creative

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tech Central Station has a nice post titled Economics in One ($90 Million) Lesson.

It's a gripping tale of how the UK spent US$90 million on a web site that helps users get around Britain using public transportation. There are several problems with this high-minded proposition. The first being that a full-featured private sector web-site already existed prior to starting this project and it only cost $1.8 million to develop. Why not save the $90 million by spending 5 minutes to create a web page that linked to every commercial site that plans and books travel by public transportation? I guess that takes the fun (pork) out of it, now doesn't it? Problems 2, 3, and 4 are how State agencies budget and manage projects (limited functionality, frequent site crashes, incorrect info, and 4 years of development time). The fifth problem is that the State went into direct competition with private enterprise. Why take away from your tax base? Again, why not link to sites that do the booking already?

Tim takes this journey into a mini commercial by pointing out the lessons learned and ending with, "If we take the cost of this scheme, that $90 million, and allocate it per capita across the population of the UK we get something like $1.50 each. That's a once off cost, not a recurring one. Set that cost against the lessons learned, that State action is expensive, slow, inefficient, cannot be relied upon to actually achieve the tasks it sets itself, usually ends in you being told lies and in the process crowds out private companies doing a better job.

A buck and a half each to have those lessons demonstrated for us in the real world? Yup, that's a bargain. I just hope that my fellow Brits take those lessons to heart."

Priceless. Read the whole thing, Tim does a much better job.

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