What is happening, you ask? Work is about to begin on Ballpark Village, the commercial development around Busch Stadium in downtown Saint Louis. According to reports, the Missouri Development Finance Board approved buying its share ($5 million) of Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority (MoDESA) bonds. Total government aid will amount to $17 million for the first phase of construction. It appears that the government is, once again, in the development business.
Why is Ballpark Village receiving public subsidies? The government, whether local, state, or federal, is the steward of taxpayer money. Yet, the government is spending taxpayer money to help build shops and restaurants. Isn’t there anything else a bit higher up on the public’s list of priorities on which the government can spend money? There are legitimate roles for government, being a developer is not one of them.
It is possible the government sees that helping to finance the construction of Ballpark Village will boost economic growth. However, it should be noted that while these new shops and restaurants may do well and attract customers, other shops and restaurants located in the city may lose business. The disposable income of the average citizen is limited and by spending money in one place, they may be declining to spend money in another. If you are a private investor, this is not something to worry about as long as it is your business attracting the customers. However, what is the net benefit to the economy as a whole and why is the government in the position to favor one business over another?
A lot of people might enjoy Ballpark Village once it is built. However, that does not mean I support Ballpark Village being built with the aid of public money. There are legitimate things on which government should spend money; Ballpark Village is not one of those things.