St. Louisans Should Support the Zoo!
I love zoos. Some of my fondest memories of my youth are of my trips to the zoos in Knoxville, Birmingham, and Atlanta. When my wife and I lived near the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the fact that my morning runs took me right past the elephants, cheetahs, and gibbons gave me motivation to get up and get going. Since moving to St. Louis, I have happily gone to visit our fabulous zoo with several of my nieces and nephews.
That having been said, I have to disagree with Dave’s take on proposals to expand taxation in support of St. Louis’ zoo and museums. My problem with the plan is this: Taxation forcibly strips people of hard-earned money. These are dollars that, if not for taxation, citizens could use to buy flowers for their significant other, pay down debt, improve their home, put into a college fund, or give to charity — whatever was most important to them. If the government is going to take that money away from those who earned it, it should only take as much as is necessary to provide the services and infrastructure necessary for the well-being of society — such as roads, law enforcement, education, and so forth.
No matter how much I love zoos, they are not institutions vital to the well-being of a community. They are a luxury, and not even a luxury that everyone will want to enjoy. Why should people with no interest in going to the zoo be compelled to financially support those who do? And, on the flip side, why should those who would like to go to a zoo be able to force their neighbors to subsidize their entertainment? I’m sorry, Dave, but zoos should be supported only by people who don’t have to be coerced to give them funding.
Thus, the ideal free-market solution in this case would be to replace taxation on behalf of the city’s zoos and museums with a reasonable admission fee of $20–$25, perhaps charging half price for children aged 5–13 and letting kids younger than five get in for free. The zoo’s board could even choose to adopt a policy that would offer free or reduced-price admission to people of slender economic means, if it felt strongly that no one’s ability to experience the zoo should be limited by their ability to pay. This sort of arrangement would guarantee that the zoo would continue to be supported by those who want to enjoy it, solving the “free rider” problem while lightening the tax burden for those living in the area. And, once the government quit taking that portion of their money, area taxpayers who were so inclined could then use it to, y’know, support the zoo!