Texas billionaire pretty upset Nevada didn’t give him $1.4 billion

Victor Joecks

It looks like Texas developer Chris Milam is taking his ball(parks) and going home.

The deal to buy land west of Interstate 15 for a three-stadium sports complex has collapsed, ending a Texas developer’s plans for the $1.95 billion project across from Mandalay Bay. …

“The discussions ended. It’s not happening,” [John] Knott [executive vice president of the CB Richard Ellis Global Gaming Group] said, blaming the collapse on the Nevada Legislature’s failure to approve a bill that would have allowed Clark County to create a special taxing district for one of three alternate and competing Las Vegas stadium projects.

Aside from the numerous, numerous studies showing that government-subsidized stadiums are a horrible waste of taxpayer dollars, giving a private developer $1.4 billion for a private stadium would have been crony capitalism at its worst.

Fortunately for taxpayers, Assembly Taxation Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick and other members of the Taxation Committee were skeptical and effectively killed the enabling legislation that would have allowed Milam and other arena developers to gain taxpayer dollars from the Clark County Commission.

The whole issue of government-subsidized stadiums is a perfect example of what the political philosopher Frederick Bastiat, writing in The Law, called legalized plunder. Bastiat defines plunder as follows: “When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it – without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud – to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed.”

In the following passage, Bastiat does a great job defining legalized plunder, its dangers and what to do about it. Although Bastiat wrote this in 1850, notice how relevant his points are to our current political debates.

Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim – when he defends himself – as a criminal. In short, there is a legal plunder, and it is of this, no doubt, that Mr. de Montalembert speaks.

This legal plunder may be only an isolated stain among the legislative measures of the people. If so, it is best to wipe it out with a minimum of speeches and denunciations – and in spite of the uproar of the vested interests.

How to Identify Legal Plunder

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law – which may be an isolated case – is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.

The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it. [Emphasis added]

For anyone interested in understanding the philosophical foundation of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise, I cannot urge you strongly enough to read The Law. It’s well-written, brilliant, short and available for free online.

After reading it, you will understand why both giving subsidies to businesses and wealth-redistribution programs are anathema to liberty.

If Milam wants to build stadiums in Las Vegas with his own money, good for him. Until then, Milam should take his quest for legalized plunder elsewhere.