Annals of improbable statistics: public choice edition

A bit late, but this case study is too good to pass up! The local Wellington newspaper reported that:

Wellington City Council’s strategy and policy committee this morning agreed to a joint plan by Positively Wellington Tourism, Grow Wellington and the council to implement the council’s new ”Destination Wellington” programme. … The proposal agreed to today will see the city’s tourism agency work to tell the ”Wellington story” [which] should return $50 for each $1 of council investment

If someone called you up offering a 5000% return on investment you might be a bit suspicious. Indeed, some councillors were:

Helene Ritchie arguing that… ”This is a significant amount of ratepayers’ money … We don’t know what we are going to achieve and how we are going to measure it, and we need to do that first.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t prevail:

…other councillors argued that… would just be putting up more red tape when they should be getting on with it.

Now, I don’t know the details of Grow Wellington’s plans, and they may well be excellent. For all I know, their only fault may be incredibly poor economic impact analysis. However, the council’s rationale for approving funding appears to be summed up by the final quote in the article:

You have to have a plan and that’s what people want to see – they want to see that we’re doing something.

This is why public choice theory exists!

  • Paul Walker

    “We must do something. This is something, therefore we must do it”. Classic bureaucratic thinking.