Dan O'Brien: 'Voters should care how their money is spent - broadband saga shows they don't seem to mind'
Do we care what happens to our money once we have handed it over to the Government in taxes? It often seems we don't, and that in the public consciousness "public money" materialises from some magical source unrelated to taxes paid.
If most people don't consider the money the Government spends to be their money, then it shouldn't be surprising if they don't mind what it is spent on, whether grasping vested interests are handed large amounts of it, or how much of it is wasted.
Please log in or register with Farming Independent for free access to this article.
Consider this in the context of the national broadband plan, which has been the subject of so much controversy in recent days.
Water and electricity are more essential for any home than high-speed broadband coming through a cable, but every house in the country does not have a right to 'free' connections to either the water or electricity networks.
Despite this, politicians thought it a good idea to promise billionaires with holiday homes in the country's remotest places broadband connections at great cost to their poorer fellow citizens.
Although things may change, there doesn't seem to be many votes for the Government in accepting that its current plan is a not a good use of taxpayers' money - if universal connectivity was as essential as the Government claims, many other governments around the world would be making the same commitment. But they are not.
Because there are a lot of votes in appearing to give things away for "free", the Government has decided to throw €3bn of taxpayers' money at fulfilling its unwise promise.
An even more powerful motive for proceeding with the plan is the fear of lost votes if the Government does not splash out with taxpayers' money. With local and European elections just weeks away, a rethinking of the plan would have the "rural-Ireland-is-neglected" brigade out in force.