2011 May 11 Wednesday
Andrew Cohen: Charge To See Bin Laden Death Photos

The United States government is desperate for revenue and is headed for either a sovereign debt crisis or high price inflation. Andrew Cohen offers a modest proposal: Why Not Charge People to See Bin Laden's Death Photo?

I just don't think the Obama administration ought to give them up cheaply. And by that I don't only refer to the government's legal defense against the blizzard of Freedom of Information Act requests for the photographs already filed or on the way on behalf of individuals and media organizations alike. I refer also to simple market principles of supply and demand. The government is desperate for money. And it has a wholly unique "good" that many people in and out of Washington seem eager to view.

I think this idea should be a starting point for unique experiences that only a government can sell. Want to see a serial killer get the electric chair or lethal injection? (and surely the electric chair execution will command a much higher viewing price) Sell the seats on eBay to the highest bidders. The biggest name serial killers will earn the most for spectator viewing rights.

How about trials? They are expensive. Big name trials ought to have ticket prices for the audiences. New highway or bridge? Charge extra for anyone who wants to be first to drive it when it officially opens. The US military is going to test-fly a new fighter jet? Okay, sell tickets to the side of the runway. Why not?

You can imagine that special forces are in a position to make some pretty awesome videos of their battles with mujahideen. Why not sell viewings of videos of air strikes of muj camps? Some people will pay good money to see that sort of thing, especially if telephoto lenses show the muj guys walking around for minutes before getting splatted. Video of them laughing and smiling and then dying could earn movie viewing revenue.

Also, it is about time that those front rows of Presidential speeches to Congress have top bidders rather than US Supreme Court justices, generals, or cabinet secretaries. Those people can watch via closed circuit video - unless they want to pay big bucks of course.

Got any other ideas on how to monetize the US federal government or other governments? I'm thinking the British Parliament needs a bigger peanut gallery of paid spectators when its time for the Queen to give a speech or for Prime MInister's Questions. Also, the US Navy ought to charge for a Trident submarine ride or for a landing on an aircraft carrier. Set a price that'll earn a hefty profit. What else? We need bigger ideas for bigger revenues.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 May 11 09:00 PM  Economics Tax Revenue

Stephen said at May 11, 2011 11:33 PM:

Sell get-out-of-jail-free cards?

One-time use only

Expires after one year.

Not for resale.

Second card costs 10 times more than first card; third card 100 times more; etc.

bbartlog said at May 12, 2011 5:38 AM:

Some of these ideas would result in perverted incentives. E.g. the mujahedeen snuff films... once you have an enemy in your sights, you often want to kill them right away, not try to make a youtube hit out of it. Anyway all of it together would only be a drop in the bucket (how many $billions do you think all these ideas together would raise?). The only positive side I see is that it might result in more people seeing what kind of a circus government really is.

Black Death said at May 12, 2011 7:19 AM:

This is a remarkable idea. It will help to reduce the deficit and is something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Here are some additional possibilities:

* Executions. Not only watching, but getting to throw the switch. Or how about being a member of the firing squad?

* Military. Not just a chance to fly in an F-18, but pay extra to fire a Maverick AGM into a mosque full of terrorists. Or drop some cluster bombs onto a terrorist headquarters. "Tank Commander." Command an M1A2 main battle tank as you cruise across hostile territory, looking for enemies. You get to select the targets and fire the tank's weapons until you run out of ammunition. What hedge fund billionaire wouldn't pay top dollar for such an opportunity?

* Naming rights. Now we're getting into the big bucks. How about the "Sony" Grand Canyon? Or "Trump" Yosemite National Park? The "Minute Maid" Washington Monument? Or maybe the "Disney Everglades National Park?"

* Jobs. Most government jobs involve bureaucratic drudgery, but a few are really cool. "Warden for a Day." Be the warden at a maximum security prison for a day. Have inmates tortured and beaten or just thrown into the "hole." Arrange floggings, mutilations, etc. Great fun! "Cop for a Day." No mundane stuff such as traffic tickets or court appearances. Go out with the SWAT team and break down doors! Fire your shotgun into rooms full of assorted villains. Shoot down fleeing criminals with your Smith & Wesson.

The possibilities seem unlimited. When do we start?

Lou Pagnucco said at May 12, 2011 2:47 PM:

And, don't forget that the U.S. needs a new arch-enemy.

Rather than pay Tom Clancy or Marvel Comics to script the next conflict, we could raise a lot of money with a "America's Next Top Enemy" TV show.

Randall Parker said at May 12, 2011 9:35 PM:

Black Death,

Paying to throw the switch: That's a great idea. People will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to legally kill someone.

Bomb dropping: The UAVs in the Middle East are operated from a Nevada AFB. The USAF could charge for the right to initiate the firing of missiles from UAVs. The targets would already be chosen and people could pay for that final step of letting the missile lose. You could pay to get a video of "your" bomb hitting a target.

Naming rights: Universities already do this with buildings. Yes, the US government should do it too. Don't name stuff after politicians. Bridges, airports, and the like should all have naming auctions on eBay. Why not?


Like the concept. Imagine rival groups bidding up each other as targets.

Black Death said at May 13, 2011 6:37 AM:

RP -

Executions and bombing are cool, but the big bucks are in naming rights. You are correct - why waste a valuable naming right on some slimy politician who probably belongs in jail anyway. I was thinking about Joe Biden's favorite boondoggle - high-speed rail. Now there's no way these wasteful projects will ever break even. They'll just go on sucking up taxpayer dollars forever, just like Amtrak. But if Amtrak sold naming rights, things might be different. Just think about it - The Wal-Mart Flyer, the Pizza Hut Limited, the Arby Express, etc. The cars could be plastered with ads, and the railroad personnel could all wear logo clothes. They could even give out coupons to passengers ("Ride with us and your next Pizza Hut pizza is half off!"). Indeed, this seems like only the beginning. Military bases would be good. Instead of Fort Hood or Fort Bragg, we could have Fort Pepsi or Fort Exxon. And the navy could get in on the act with its ships - the USS Sears or the USS Verizon. Just think about all the free publicity - "Two ships from the Bank of America Sixth fleet - the USS Kleeenex and the USS Chevrolet - today fired Hallmark cruise missiles at Libyan positions near Benghazi - details at 11."

Randall Parker said at May 14, 2011 5:02 PM:

Black Death,

Yes, naming rights are a good idea. We could do national parks too. The Great Smokey Mountains could become the Camel Smokey Mountains. Old Faithful could become Viagra Old Faithful.

no i don't said at May 16, 2011 11:38 AM:

I think we should forget the whole issue. "Bin Laden", "The War on Terror", Just another mass-distraction dirty spittle.

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