Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Microsoft Bridge

Here is a CNN piece on Microsoft receiving stimulus money to complete their campus-connecting bridge. In short, Microsoft planned to fund this bridge themselves but costs increased beyond their initial $25M level, and so the company applied for stimulus funds to cover the $11M shortfall. In all, Microsoft is contributing $17.5M to the $36M project, or just less than half.

First and foremost, the quote concerning foregone opportunities due to the spending is refreshingly spot-on.

But as is often the case with government spending, we're left choosing between worst and not as bad. Given that we've got this albatross of stimulus money, is it going to places where it will, in the long run, do the least harm? There are things to like about this project in light of others. As opposed to a bridge built to nowhere, Microsoft did value this bridge at a minimum of $17.5M, and put its money behind it in the first place-- rising costs tipped it beyond its value to the firm, however. Instead of funding projects in which we must blindly guess the value to society, is it that horrible by comparison to help finish this project? In the global sense, is it an efficient use of funds? No-- but again, we're not going to have efficient spending when it comes to public spending, so what we need to task is to find the least harmful outputs.

Of course, making a broad-based policy of requiring a private matching sum would end up in a lot of projects that simply aren't efficient. So this isn't good policy that could be instituted on a wide scale.

There's a lot of angles to take on this one.

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