Another View: A Libertarian argument against the city’s subsidy for a downtown Sacramento arena

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:00 am

I want to express my appreciation for the article about the proposed construction of the downtown arena and my role in opposing the city subsidy (“Tomato-paste mogul helps bankroll arena subsidy fight,” Page A1, Feb. 9). I also want to make clear that my political donations primarily support Libertarian organizations and candidates, not conservative ones.

What makes me a Libertarian is the fact that I don’t believe in coercively imposing my personal beliefs on others or expecting anyone else to subsidize what I personally like to do.

I am fine with this arena being built. Supporting the arena and fighting against the subsidy may seem contradictory; however, I believe the arena can, and very well may, be built without the use of a subsidy. I love basketball; having attended college and most basketball games at UCLA and seen John Wooden’s impact on the sport, its players and fans was truly inspirational.

Just because I oppose the subsidy does not mean I am opposed to the Kings having a new arena. I simply disagree that public funds should be used for this private venture. The justification for spending the taxpayers’ money is that the arena will magically “revitalize” Sacramento; this notion is entirely false. Economically speaking, sports arenas do not, in fact, positively affect a city’s economy. The costs of such a venture are incredibly high and the net benefit is low, if it exists at all.

Private enterprise has built far more expensive buildings without subsidies and the Kings’ investment group is entirely capable of financing this through private means and private financing.

If you dive deeper into the current proposal to finance the arena, the “creative financing” involves a 35-year loan with eight years of interest-only payments; it sounds like the housing bubble. The loan made by the city to the Kings in 1997 has yet to be paid in full and the current arena is dubbed obsolete. How can anyone possibly guarantee that the proposed arena will still be relevant for 35 years?

The heart of my opposition to the subsidy is a fundamental moral argument. Libertarianism is a social philosophy that says that, to the degree individuals refrain from the use of coercion and theft, and live up to their commitments, civil society will enjoy a greater level of happiness, harmony and prosperity.

For me, the moral argument is reason enough to oppose the subsidy; however, the economic and financial arguments are just as compelling.


Chris Rufer, owner of The Morning Star Co. in Woodland, is the largest individual donor to the campaign for a Sacramento ballot measure on city subsidies for sports facilities.

Read more articles by Chris Rufer



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