Over the years I’ve heard so-called conservatives try to make the case that the business sector is the foundation of the economy, while the public sector provides nice-to-have services that we may or may not be able to afford. As if what the government does is the cherry on top of a sundae, perhaps desirable but not absolutely necessary. There is a reasonable “conservative” case to be made about the relative value of services produced by the public and private sectors, but that isn’t it. The types of services that can’t fund themselves, and are in the public sector, include education, much of health care, most infrastructure and public safety. And certainly aid to the needy. The types of services that can fund themselves with sales in the private sector include alcohol, tobacco, other pleasurable but addictive substances, gambling, pornography, and prostitution. Do we need less of the former, and more of the latter?
Perhaps the conservatives where thinking about the subject of most of this post: Parks, Recreation, Culture, Natural Resources, and Libraries. They have certainly been among the first services to be wiped out in NYC when money gets tight, along with services to keep poor children from being abused, neglected and killed. But there was no fiscal crisis going on in FY 2017, the year of the latest Census of Governments, or in FY 2007 and FY 1997, prior Census of Governments years. So how much was spent on these services then, in NYC and elsewhere? This uses post Census of Governments data to find out.