When Fish is Really Pork

A press release from the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) attempts to justify the Fish Fund as a core function of government. However, we maintain our assertion that it is a wasteful program. Consider:

  • While technically funded through “fees” and “fines,” these are really no different than a tax on fishers.
  • The services provided by the Fish Fund could all be handled by private, voluntary organizations.
  • The PFBC claims that their “programs return $50 million to the General Fund.” In other words, they overcharge anglers on license fees and fines in order to subsidize other government programs. That money would be better spent by individuals in the marketplace, rather than government officials.
  • The PFBC claims that “recreational fishing in Pennsylvania adds $1.6 billion to the state’s economy,” as though without the spending of the Fish Fund, all fishing in Pennsylvania would end immediately. In fact, by reducing regulations and fees on fishing we would see a growth in that sector of our economy.

We anticipate that many of the programs identified in the Piglet Book 2006 will be defended by those who live off taxpayer money and those who believe that citizens (and fishers) are solely dependent on government programs to look out for their interests. At the Commonwealth Foundation, we trust the free market and encourage personal responsibility, voluntary association, and self-reliance — not government entitlement. We are glad that the Piglet Book has stirred the waters (no pun intended) in the debate over what is, and is not, a legitimate function of government.