The K Street Mall in Sacramento, and particularly its taxpayer-subsidized Dive Bar and Cosmopolitan Cabaret, has long been a poster-child for the injustice and unwisdom of government-run redevelopment schemes. These schemes give bureaucrats power to take away money that citizens would have spent at a shopping center or a store or a coffee shop, and invest that money instead in bars, theaters, and other projects that taxpayers don’t want–and to use eminent domain to get these projects accomplished at the expense of businesses that people do want. Politically influential developers win big, as do the bureaucrats, who gain political advantage from the ornate, short-lived make-work projects they finance. The projects, of course, often fail, because if the public had wanted, say, a musical theater in a government-created ghost-town miles from where anyone lives, then there would have been no need for the government to force us to subsidize the theater in the first place. But by that time, the government officials and the developers are off on another project, and can blame their past failures on someone else.
You and I were forced to pay about six million dollars for the Dive Bar before the owner decided to sell out. I don’t know how much we spent on the Cabaret. I would have preferred to spend that money on other things–and apparently so would many other folks. So now that the transfusions of seized cash have dried up, the bar is up for sale and the cabaret is closed. Milton Friedman once said that only government could take perfectly good paper and perfectly good green ink and render them absolutely worthless; well, only the Eminent Domain Industry could put perfectly good girls in mermaid outfits and make them a symbol of the waste and injustice of government-managed development and corporate welfare.