The Metro is not cheap

A few weeks back I had a discussion, via twitter, with a friend of mine who claims to have libertarian streaks. One major caveat: She claims to “love public transportation” – in particular the Metro.

She now knows, thanks to our said exchange, that what she and others pay for the Metro is heavily subsidized by tax dollars (only 57.6% of the funds come from fares and other WMATA revenue, the rest from governments), but there are many people for whom this thought never occurs. As an example, Mike Munger highlights this phenomenon in Germany:

…They have these enormous, utterly irrational subsidies for solar everything, and houses all over that dark, cloudy country have hugely expensive solar panels…

But they say “it’s cheap!” because the cost is subsidized by a fictional entity called, “The State.” It doesn’t actually exist, and the cost is being picked up taxpayers, which of course are the very people touching themselves and squealing with joy at how “cheap” the subsidized solar panels are.

When people know that they are a benefactor or beneficiary of subsidies, they often make a pronouncement about either the efficacy or morality of them, or both. One can agree or disagree with those evaluations, but that is not what is terrifying. That someone does not know that they are a participant in such a system of subsidization is worrisome to say the least.

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