Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Co$t of Democracy

Democracy isn't free.

It's a good quote.....even I'll admit that.

This week, they held a meeting in Wiesbaden (my local town here in Germany) and discussed the live data-stream they had of state meetings.  For two years, the state has sponsored (meaning they paid for the service) of a data-stream deal.

You could hit the menu button, and get live chat of CDU, Greens, SPD, Linke Party folks...discussing and arguing over state business here in Hessen.

When this idea was put forward originally.....everyone was thrilled because their people....their voters....their supporters...would get to see their star players in action.  Kinda like the Bundesliga (the German soccer league).  Various folks would be on the offense, and some folks would be on the defense.

They'd chat up about new bridges needed here...more social services for the elderly in Hessen....more integration programs....more sports support....more road money.....etc.

This data-stream service?  It wasn't free.

The state folks were paying roughly 150,000 Euro (figure $200,000 roughly) for the sign language support.  There were apparently some other cost it was fair chunk of money.  Someone finally got around to asking how many people generally clicked and watched the live data-stream.  The local newspaper, the Wiesbaden Kurier, says that it was generally 120 folks logged in and watching the debates/discussions.  That's it.  With a population of 5.9 million....they could only get 120 folks to watch state discussions.

Yeah, I would tend to agree that it's just not that big of a crowd interested in things like this.

Around three years ago, I was looking at the daily viewer listings for state-run TV networks in Germany.  NEO, one of the networks designed for younger crowd.....out of eighty million Germans....could only muster around 50,000 folks for an entire viewing day (twenty-four hour cycle).  You can figure most of the 50,000 came at peak hours between 6PM and 11PM.  So in the mid-afternoon.....they probably had only a thousand Germans watching their network.  Financially viable?  No, but then it's state tax funds that pay to run it.

The 120 folks logged into this data-stream?  Maybe a dozen of them are newspaper journalists or bloggers.  Probably forty of the folks are admin folks who work for the party members in attendance....just admiring their boss during the frequent arguments that occur.  Another twenty-odd folks watch from the state-run TV networks....for material they can use for their nightly news.  The remainder are probably just retirees with some fascination over German state politics.

All of this brings me around to the idea or concept of cost analysis.  We (I mean generally everyone on the face of the Earth)....rarely sit down and ask what something costs....and what benefit society gets from this expenditure of money.  Bridges that allow 300,000 people to cross daily, and move tons of food around some community....are worth what was spent on them.  Statues of 100,000 Euro value of demons fighting other demons....well, they might not be as valuable to the community as you think.  This is why on a general basis....regular people don't buy sun-dials anymore.

No comments: