Here we go again: for the third time in, um, three years, the Korean Grand Prix - the only Formula One event on the Divided Peninsula - turned out to be a money-loser. As The Diplomat reports, attendance was up only slightly from last year, and this despite an appearance and dance lesson from Psy (he of the now wildly worn-out "Gangnam Style") and discounts of up to 40% for tickets. In other words, the powers-that-be couldn't even pay people to show up for the races.
Not that they didn't try.
Care to take the wildest of guesses, then, as to who gets to pick up the tab for the money lost by Korea's South Jeolla Province in hosting this latest F1 event? That's right: taxpayers, most of whom probably cared not a whit as to whether Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso or Herbie the Love Bug took home the trophy (Vettel, by the by, won). Indeed, in the mostly agricultural South Jeolla Province, most of said taxpayers were probably too busy tending their fields or at least taking a much-deserved nap to even know that the finest technology in the world was topping 200 MPH just a a stone's throw from their house.
Nevertheless, says the South Jeolla government, the bill's in the mail. Pay up.
As someone who loves cars and auto racing and speed and technology, I have a soft spot for events like this. That should give me an extra ounce of credibility, therefore, when I say that, despite my love of the event, I do not wish to force anyone else to foot the bill just so I can hang around and watch a bit of motoring. If I want to watch such shenanigans, I ought to pay for it myself. Seems fair, no?
Whether in the United States or Korea or any other nation, conservative politicians often make much of the "welfare queens" (usually, in America, portrayed as a poor woman of African extraction) that are rapidly draining the nation's treasury. Seldom, however, do they mention the "corporate welfare queens," as Richard Epstein calls the business interests who wheedle subsidies and tax breaks out of local and national governments for projects and events (such as an F1 grand prix or the Olympics) that bring little in the way of lasting economic benefit to a local community but which bestow worldwide exposure upon, say, the advertisers whose banners you see in the background and who use the facilities that those taxpayers built.
So, as I've written before on this very topic (i.e. Formula One), if these events are such a windfall for (local) businesses, then by all means let them make the investment by pooling their resources and paying for the facilities. If the investment was a wise one, god bless 'em. If not, well, at least the rest of us aren't on the hook.