Thomas Sowell on Public Golf and Poverty

Thomas Sowell gets pithy on “Priceless Politics”. Writing about the plight of San Francisco’s municipal golf courses, Sowell asks the rhetorical questions we all ask about our city governments, and provides the obvious common-sense answers; obvious, that is, to all but politicians and bureaucrats.

Here’s a quote from Sowell’s piece to pique your interest:

Are the taxpayers being asked to support municipal golf courses so that the poor and the downtrodden can play? Not bloody likely.

As San Francisco’s six municipal golf courses lose money, Sowell suggests:

If the golf courses are losing money, then get rid of them. Given San Francisco’s sky high land prices, selling the land that the golf courses are on would bring in millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Sowell reports that “recent renovations” cost the city more than $23 million, and

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “the city closed the gap with $16.6 million from state bond funds meant for recreation and park projects in underserved and economically disadvantaged areas.” In other words, the poor have once again been used as human shields, this time to protect golfers.

The homeless cannot sleep on golf courses. Children cannot play in sand boxes, swing on swings, or teeter on totters on golf courses. Those earning below middle incomes do not play golf often. While you can picnic in a park seven days a week, weather permitting, most of modest means rarely play golf. Sowell:

Put bluntly, the poor are in effect being used as human shields in the political wars over government spending, which extends far beyond anyone who could even plausibly be called poor.

Politicians will spend money wherever that is likely to increase their chances of getting re-elected. Of all the things that governments spend money on, none is further removed from fighting poverty than municipal golf courses.

We see politicians at the City, State and Federal level sell their votes, every day, to a “few” at the expense of many, as their Prada wallets and Louis Vuitton handbags grow fatter. They have no shame. Read Sowell’s entire piece at

Then this snippet from yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor:

A 2005 study by the University of California at San Diego, for the city of San Diego, found that the average street person in California costs communities between $40,000 and $150,000 a year in public services ranging from health care to police.

So, for those of us who appreciate lower greens fees, (and I, personally, have no disaffection for Louis Vuitton bags) but also want to do our part to care for the legitimately disabled, protect the mentally ill, and feed the children…what are we to do? $40,000-$150,000 PER YEAR, per the “average street person in California” – and this in temperate climates! Give us a break! Sigh.

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