August 22, 2011 9:18AM

Is It ‘Well Worth the Money’?

A former congressional page tells the Washington Post that the recently ended page program was "well worth the money." At the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, I note:

Well, it would be, wouldn’t it? For those who benefited from it, it is indeed well worth the money. But, as with all government programs, the beneficiaries weren’t paying for it. Did the program do the taxpayers much good? Yes, in the days when members of Congress needed a way to get documents to one another, the page program may well have been an efficient use of resources. But times change; technology has eliminated a lot of jobs in the private sector, and there’s no reason to think it shouldn’t have the same impact in the public sector. Cynics point out that pages were mostly the children of people with good political connections. And then they make better connections: The writer who thought the program was “well worth the money” now runs a company that boasts of having made more than 500 million political robocalls over the past 30 years. So we all owe something to the page program!

Much more on the problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs, some appalling examples, and a suggestion as to how we might determine whether each government program is "well worth the money."