2008-01-18

the free lunch revisited

Admittance to some national museums is free for youngsters but grown-ups have to pay a small fee. This is a more generous policy than has been in place over the years but it's still a reversal of the populist policy of the former government which introduced free entrance seven days a week for everyone. Swedes generally prefer the idea that someone else pays for everything (in case anyone wonders why we have the highest taxes) and this area is no exception. Complaints emerge from all corners of the political spectrum.

Why can't we have free entrance? I'll tell you why. Because resources are limited. Our national defense, our police force, schools and hospitals are sectors crying out for reinvestments. Whenever I enter a museum I can rely on the taxpayers subsidizing most of the cost for me anyhow. Why would it be unreasonable to pay a symbolic entrance fee? What does it cost to take the family to a hockey game? A movie? Do your own math and compare.

Recent statistics shows that fewer people visit museums these days. Possibly. Is that a problem? It probably means that some people passing by, looking for a toilet or visiting the café of the museum now go elsewhere. It probably means that those who do visit on average stay longer and see more. Is that a problem? It probably means that littering and vandalism will go down so the museums can concentrate on their mission. More curators and fewer guards. Is that a problem?

It's an old expression, valid none the less. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

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