Dr Madsen Pirie wishes to remind us all of Bastiat, the unseen, or that there are always opportunity and third party costs:
The weekend saw the Cambridge half marathon; many other similar weekend events are held in various towns and cities. They are no doubt good for the health of those who participate – the occasional death notwithstanding – and they benefit charities with the money they raise, and sponsors with the publicity their backing secures.
Not everyone gains, however. Local shops and restaurants lost out in Cambridge because with so many streets closed off, customers could not reach them. Taxi drivers lost business because they could not navigate the closed-off routes. Council taxpayers lost because several parking bays were closed for days in preparation, and they will ultimately have to fund the cost of workmen putting up barriers and taking them down afterwards.
When London streets are closed for “fun” events, it causes massive disruption by way of traffic jams, as well as lost business for the shops, restaurants, pubs and wine bars unlucky enough to be affected. It is probably the same in other cities. Although money is raised for good causes, many such events must make a net loss when the down side is included. They are, in effect, a transfer from local businesses and taxpayers to the charities involved.
I am by no means suggesting that such events should be stopped, but it would make sense to hold them in places and along routes that take account of the losses and the difficulties that they otherwise cause to others.
The correct answer is a Pigou Tax on runners. Who is brave enough to suggest that?