Allan Sanderson: Consider the Options

Allan Sanderson tells his readers that TANSTAAFO (Olympics, not lunch).

Whether to support the Games themselves or merely the city’s official bid, the latter carrying a price tag of $50 million to $100 million, one hears that “only private money” is underwriting those activities; no tax dollars will be spent. “Private” implicitly refers to donations from corporations and wealthy citizens. However, in jargon that students learn on the first day of Economics 101, virtually all expenditures or allocations have an opportunity cost, whether it be for a firm or family.

If Boeing, Sears, Motorola or McDonald’s gives $1 million to help finance our Olympic bid, that is $1 million that does not get returned to stockholders as dividends or plowed back into the company for new projects and production. In addition, that is $1 million that does not, then, support an exhibition at the Field Museum, a new gallery at the Art Institute, or an after-school youth program.

When I sit down each December to write out checks to local, national and international charities and other non-profit organizations, I am implicitly choosing how to allocate, say, $2,000 among various groups and activities. The slice that goes to WTTW Ch. 11 doesn’t go to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless or the American Cancer Society—or to the University of Chicago. It’s still just $1 million or $2,000 no matter how a corporation, a wealthy benefactor or I cut it.

There is no free lunch in this world and no free Olympic Games either.

Via Stephen Karlson.