View Poll Results: Your thoughts on the donations to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral
$1 billion is well worth it, and donating is the way to go 56 53.85%
Shouldn't have been private donors. Should have been French government or Catholic church footing the bill 15 14.42%
Donating is okay, but $1 billion is too much. Should have been a fraction of that 15 14.42%
Other answer 18 17.31%
Voters: 104. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 04-18-2019, 09:14 AM
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$1 billion donated to restore Notre Dame Cathedral: Good use of money or not?


As of yesterday, around $1 billion had already been raised to repair and restore the Notre Dame Cathedral, a sum which will only rise even further in the days ahead.

There has been considerable grousing on social media and elsewhere (here, here , here, and here, etc.) about that much money being donated to restore a burnt building while numerous other causes of choice go neglected - and also questions raised about why people donate so readily to a cause like Notre Dame but not others (i.e., did Notre Dame tug more effectively on their heartstrings, and because of publicity, than something more "mundane" but important like clean drinking water)

(Not a thread about whether people have the right to donate - people can donate to whatever they want)

What are your thoughts?
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:31 AM
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I'm going OK but a bit much. Is it even possibly really to restore it or is the end result going to be more a modern version? It strikes me that some of the materials and art/construction techniques may be hard to duplicate and from the pictures I've seen it looks like major parts are just flat-out gone. If true restoration isn't possible go cheaper and use the difference to further the actual missions churches like that should be fulfilling.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:32 AM
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It may sound harsh, but at least this money will be used for something lasting and permanent. The cathedral could conceivably go on another 800 years. The needy will be every bit as dead inside of 100 years as if they were made not needy by some of this money.

Plus, the cathedral is as much a symbol as it is a historic building- if this was another church in Paris that wasn't also a terribly historic or symbolic place, there would be some head-shaking and mumbling about how unfortunate it was, and then everyone would let the insurance companies figure it out.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:33 AM
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Donating money to restore the cathedral does not preclude spending on other charities.

One of the billionaires pledging over $100 million for Notre Dame restoration also heads a foundation to combat violence against women, including refugees.

One could argue that he should pour that dough into his foundation instead, or spend it on whatever one thinks is a bigger priority than Notre Dame, but in that event I would consider one a dumbass.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:36 AM
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(Not a thread about whether people have the right to donate - people can donate to whatever they want)
I find it hard to separate the answer from that concept. People can donate to whatever they want and it's just not the business of people who didn't donate.

I also don't see how the Church isn't a private entity. The different entity is the French govt which can force donations via taxes.

The problem I have, in general, is public stock companies making charitable donations of shareholder money. The argument in favor of that is that in the ideal world everyone would realize that shareholders should be left to make their own donations if they want to rather than managers basking in the glow of giving away other people's money; but in the real world too much of the public misunderstands what corporations are, so the corporation's reputation can be lifted by the donation and that may deliver more profit to shareholders than if the donation hadn't been made. I'd still prefer if managers made it a point to educate the public that the money isn't theirs to give away: it's entrusted to them to make maximum profits, ethically and within the law, period.

No problem with big donations from private companies or individuals. I object to charitable donations by companies I own stock in, I'll make my own decisions what to give to, thanks.

Last edited by Corry El; 04-18-2019 at 09:38 AM.
  #6  
Old 04-18-2019, 09:40 AM
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I think $1 billion is a bit much to spend on a restoration, but I don't know what these things cost. I don't have a problem with people donating money to do it, and I'd much rather see private citizens and companies pay to restore the building than the government. That said, I think people complaining about other religious structures that were vandalized or bombed that are "more deserving" are missing the point. Notre Dame is an iconic landmark and it's a global cultural treasure; it's one of the most memorable buildings in a city of memorable buildings. I've never seen the mosque that was destroyed in China or the churches that were burned in Louisiana, so as an atheist I don't particularly care about them (though I feel sad for the parishioners). For me, Notre Dame has just as much significance as Hagia Sofia, the Taj Mahal, the Vishvanath Temple, Al-Aqsa, Durham Cathedral, St. Patrick's, St. Peter's, and so on. Or a nonsectarian structure like the Eiffel Tower or Great Wall of China, for that matter.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:41 AM
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The billion dollars is mostly in the form of €100 million pledges by a handful of extremely wealthy French businessmen. For many of them, this is about as small a fraction of their net worth as a middle-class person buying a new HDTV for a thousand dollars. So should we stand in Best Buy to tell people to donate their money rather than buy that new TV? No, of course not. People are free to spend. And this money doesn't just go down a hole. It's going to employ a large number of tradespeople and artisans for five or ten years, so it contributes to the economy.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:42 AM
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I find it hard to separate the answer from that concept. People can donate to whatever they want and it's just not the business of people who didn't donate.
Well, they are two separate things. It's like free speech - someone can have the right to say something bad, but that thing would still be bad. So people can donate to whatever they like, however, like Jon Paulson's $400 million donation to Harvard, sometimes that money triggers the "that could have been better donated elsewhere" irritation reflex among many observers. (Of course, many observers can be obnoxious with trying to mentally spend other people's money)
  #9  
Old 04-18-2019, 09:48 AM
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I'm going OK but a bit much. Is it even possibly really to restore it or is the end result going to be more a modern version? It strikes me that some of the materials and art/construction techniques may be hard to duplicate and from the pictures I've seen it looks like major parts are just flat-out gone.
On the other hand, if they need to source authentic something-or-another limestone to match the original structure then it's probably a lot easier to do so with a billion dollars and a more modest amount of money might lead to cutting corners or going more "modern" out of financial necessity.

The structure itself is insanely well studied and modeled so I'm not especially worried that we won't know how to recreate it.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:53 AM
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Regarding the architecture of the repairs, I read an article a long time ago about some addition being made to some historic or architecturally significant building. The article made the point that the design of the addition was not intended to copy the design of the original building but instead it was designed to complement the building while making it clear that it was a later addition. And remember that the cathedral is almost certainly a mixture of styles from previous additions and repairs.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:04 AM
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I haven't researched, but isn't the building owned by the Catholic church? Don't they have about $37 billion in their coffers? Why would the government be involved in restoring the church?
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:08 AM
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I haven't researched, but isn't the building owned by the Catholic church? Don't they have about $37 billion in their coffers? Why would the government be involved in restoring the church?
Why would the government be interested in restoring a world famous landmark that helps bring seventeen billion dollars to the city annually?
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:10 AM
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The donations seem a bit excessive imho. I realize emotions are running high and everyone wants the cathedral restored.

I'm concerned at Macron's vow to do it in five years. Construction planning & scheduling hasn't even been looked at yet. There's only so many tradesman that can work at any given time. Supplies & materials have to arrive in the correct order and at the correct time. Work can only be done in a logical order.

Throwing more money at the project won't help.
It will just waste the money and cause confusion.

Last edited by aceplace57; 04-18-2019 at 10:14 AM.
  #14  
Old 04-18-2019, 10:14 AM
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Omar Little: I believe the building is owned by the people of France (pursuant to their revolution a couple hundred years ago). They let Christians use it for their rituals.

I am sad to see the building damaged, but these things happen. However, $1 billion can go a long way toward relieving misery elsewhere in the world which would, ironically, answer the call of Jesus himself.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:29 AM
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Really, though, few of us actually consider whether there's some higher or better purpose we can put our money to. Upthread, someone mentioned a $400 million donation to Harvard University, which already has an endowment of $35 billion or so. If the goal was to educate as many people as possible, the donor would have been better off spending the money on community college scholarships. But that wasn't the purpose.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:34 AM
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However, $1 billion can go a long way toward relieving misery elsewhere in the world which would, ironically, answer the call of Jesus himself.
Yes, Jesus called us to feed the poor. However, He also said
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Originally Posted by Matthew 26:6-13
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Tomorrow is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter. Somehow that seems to fit.

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  #17  
Old 04-18-2019, 10:37 AM
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I haven't researched, but isn't the building owned by the Catholic church? Don't they have about $37 billion in their coffers? Why would the government be involved in restoring the church?
It's the property of the French Government, due to this minor event known as the French Revolution.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:46 AM
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Yeah, it's worth it. To put it in perspective, a billion dollars is about what a sports stadium is costing nowadays. I think that one can argue that Notre-Dame is more important than wherever the Cowboys throw a pigskin.

A billion dollars is unfortunately a relatively paltry sum in our modern day economy. It's about the budget of a medium sized university for a year. It wouldn't surprise me if it doesn't go nearly far enough to complete a restoration.

Nava is also correct that Notre Dame is owned by the French Government. It was confiscated from the church during the Revolution and used as a warehouse. It was given back to the church during the Napoleonic Era, but in 1905, all churches were confiscated from the Catholic Church and now belong to the state.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:47 AM
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And this money doesn't just go down a hole. It's going to employ a large number of tradespeople and artisans for five or ten years, so it contributes to the economy.
This is a good point.

When I, as an individual, choose to give or spend money on something, that money essentially disappears, from my point of view, and isn't available to give or spend on something else. So it's tempting to think of all expenditures in those terms.

But from a global perspective, when money is spent, it doesn't get used up: it gets spread around.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:50 AM
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Personally, I'm less bothered by all the money being donated to restore Notre Dame, than I am by all the money being donated to help Political Candidate A beat Political Candidate B and all the money being donated to help Political Candidate B beat Political Candidate A.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:10 AM
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Personally, I find it more ridiculous to spend thousands of dollars for a ticket to a sporting event to watch millionaire jocks do whatever it is they do, but whatever. Private individuals can spend their money as they wish, whether it's to restore what they consider to be a national treasure, or buy a mega-yacht, or dig wells for poor villages. Sure, it'd be great if people would donate more to help the less fortunate, but people don't always do what's great.
  #22  
Old 04-18-2019, 11:12 AM
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Yes, Jesus called us to feed the poor. However, He also said Tomorrow is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter. Somehow that seems to fit.

Regards,
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Well said.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:23 AM
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And this money doesn't just go down a hole. It's going to employ a large number of tradespeople and artisans for five or ten years, so it contributes to the economy.
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Why would the government be interested in restoring a world famous landmark that helps bring seventeen billion dollars to the city annually?
And once it's on its way the construction site itself can be an attraction.

In any case, the pledges can be put into an endowment so that if there's funds left over from ND itself it can then be used for other historic preservations.

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I'm concerned at Macron's vow to do it in five years. Construction planning & scheduling hasn't even been looked at yet. There's only so many tradesman that can work at any given time. Supplies & materials have to arrive in the correct order and at the correct time. Work can only be done in a logical order.
Eh, I'd look at it more as in five years work will have visibly started and some part of the sanctuary will be reopened to the public (even if it's just the West foyer). That's more realistic.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 04-18-2019 at 11:24 AM.
  #24  
Old 04-18-2019, 11:23 AM
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I think $1 billion is a bit much to spend on a restoration, .
IMO, restoration was what was happening before the fire. Now they are trying to recreate what was lost.

I understand the desire, but I think it is misguided. It is tragic....but the original is gone. What they are going to have now is an incredibly expensive copy.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:24 AM
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A billion dollars is unfortunately a relatively paltry sum in our modern day economy. It's about the budget of a medium sized university for a year. It wouldn't surprise me if it doesn't go nearly far enough to complete a restoration.
Who's this "our," kemosabe? A billion dollars is nearly the entire endowment of the Sorbonne.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:34 AM
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I understand the desire, but I think it is misguided. It is tragic....but the original is gone. What they are going to have now is an incredibly expensive copy.
But much of the original remains. So should they knock it down? Put a giant tarp over the hole? You need to do something with it and restoring or recreating the lost portions seems as valid as response (and a better one, in my eyes) than anything else.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:37 AM
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I'm as crabby about capitalism and wealth inequality as they come, but even I'm not bothered by this. First off, it's mostly wealthy French and European people making large donations. Their money was never going to solve the water problem in Flint.

I'm much more worried about the US government's military spending, or the prospect of a $5b wall. That money is "my" money, and that money can help solve the water problem in Flint.

Second, lord knows I enjoy plenty of stuff donated by rich people. There's a 300 acre park land in my city donated by a rich guy. The Cleveland Museum of Art is free thanks to rich people. Cleveland Orchestra performances are well within reach because of rich people.

Millions of people have posted this week about their joy in experiencing the Cathedral some time in their lives. I don't see how rich people paying for its restoration is any different than me enjoying NPR thanks to Annie E. Casey and her fund.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:38 AM
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1) The cathedral should be repaired.
2) That process is going to cost a lot of money, and that money has to come from somewhere.
3) The more of that money that comes from French billionaires, the less of it that has to come from French taxpayers who aren't billionaires.

Donate away!
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:41 AM
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Millions of people have posted this week about their joy in experiencing the Cathedral some time in their lives. I don't see how rich people paying for its restoration is any different than me enjoying NPR thanks to Annie E. Casey and her fund.
(Speaking of which, when the NPR announcer mentions the "Annie E Casey Foundation", I'm sitting there wondering if it's Ann E Casey, Annie Casey or Annie E Casey.)

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 04-18-2019 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:44 AM
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Or N.E.E.K.C.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:44 AM
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Art is art, and beautiful and worthy of our embrace. If we treat it as trivial in comparison to our raw utilitarian needs, we reduce ourselves to a utilitarian organic level.

I have little patience for people who say "How can you spend money on { gourmet food; orchestral concerts; beautiful works of oil painting; education in the arts; literature; etc } when some people are starving or freezing in the cold or dying from lack of medical treatment?"

It isn't an either/or proposition, and it's the kind of thinking that would have us burn our books and paintings for whatever duration there remain people who need the warmth and light.

I'm not going to address the specifics of Notre Dame Cathedral, not being one of the people who has ever been to it. But as a generic type of argument, it's wrong-headed.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:45 AM
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(Speaking of which, when the NPR announcer mentions the "Annie E Casey Foundation", I'm sitting there wondering if it's Ann E Casey, Annie Casey or Annie E Casey.)
I only know it's Annie E. Casey because someone on the SDMB asked :P
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:52 AM
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Who's this "our," kemosabe? A billion dollars is nearly the entire endowment of the Sorbonne.
'Our' is the US and a billion dollar endowment is nothing special in the states. All of the Ivies are way over that. A billion dollar endowment in the US would make you the 90th richest school, roughly on par with Indiana University or the University of Tulsa. US University endowments are up to about 550 billion dollars total. A billion dollars is a drop in the bucket. (Actually, that's in 2015 as well when I pulled those numbers. Stock market gains likely have even more schools over the billion dollar mark)

Last edited by senoy; 04-18-2019 at 11:55 AM.
  #34  
Old 04-18-2019, 11:55 AM
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It's fine that these French billionaires are contributing such large amounts but one French schmuck suggested that they should get a ninety-percent tax deduction for doing so, rather than the standard sixty-percent deduction. That ignited a furor in France and at least one of the billionaires pledged to take no tax deduction on his gift.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:15 PM
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It's not like the money is going to disappear down a black hole or be burned in a bonfire - that money is going to employ all sorts of people during the repair/reconstruction/rebuilding from tradesmen to security guards to the folks who supply everything from new masonry to the toilet paper in the workers' porta-poties on site to all sorts of other stuff. Then the folks who earn money from the rebuilding are going to turn around and pay rent/mortgage, buy food, pay the utility bills....

I really don't see a downside here.

As for where the money comes from - I think it's grand that the very very wealthy are chipping in. Otherwise - since the government owns it that would make it the government's responsibility but with the donations there's more choice on what, exactly, will be done and how rather than relying on the lowest bidder and doing only bare-bones work.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:23 PM
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'Our' is the US and a billion dollar endowment is nothing special in the states. All of the Ivies are way over that. A billion dollar endowment in the US would make you the 90th richest school, roughly on par with Indiana University or the University of Tulsa. US University endowments are up to about 550 billion dollars total. A billion dollars is a drop in the bucket. (Actually, that's in 2015 as well when I pulled those numbers. Stock market gains likely have even more schools over the billion dollar mark)
Well, yes, that's kind of my point. A billion dollars is still quite a lot of money in France.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:25 PM
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There was never a chance of there being any "bare-bones" work. This is France and Notre Dame we're talking about, not the US and New Orleans' levees. This restoration is going to be a jobs program like you wouldn't believe, and the French Government isn't going to have to pay a sou for it. For once, three cheers for billionaires.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:32 PM
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Yeah, but before it caught fire they funding for the restoration work was less than half what experts thought would be needed. So... that was barebones, basically, doing just the minimum to get by.

It will be ironic if nearly being destroyed is what leads to fully funding a real restoration effort.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:37 PM
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I don't plan to donate any money to the repair of Notre Dame. If I was a billionaire I wouldn't donate any money to the repair of Notre Dame. Whoever owns the building, their insurance company and/or the person responsible for the damage and their insurance company should pay for the repair. But if Joe Schmoe or Joe Billionaire want to kick in a couple (hundred million) bucks I don't really care either.

I think some burned out church in Louisiana would do more good for the world and it would be higher on my list of things to donate to. I think a pretty building is a generally worthless thing to begin with and I wouldn't donate to rebuild the White House or Big Ben either.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:59 PM
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I'd be concerned about the billion dollars not being used for "better" things if someone showed me that it was coming from the charitable donations the billionaires were already making. If it is coming from investments or money dedicated to luxuries - which is my bet - it is a great use of the money.

I'm as atheist as they come, but I thought it was a magnificent building. It is a part of our world heritage. How wonderful that so much of it was spared.

It's one fifth the price and a thousand times the value of the stupid wall.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:20 PM
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Thanks for the clarification on the ownership of the cathedral. If people wish to donate for its restoration, that's there business. People have all sorts of pet charities that they give to that may not coincide with mine.

As far as giving credit to Notre-Dame for bringing in $17 billion of tourist revenues annually, that's a bit delusional. People visit Paris for numerous reasons, I highly doubt that even a small % of those are there precisely to make some sort of Pilgrimage to the cathedral. Even if the cathedral was 100% demolished and not rebuilt, people would still visit Paris.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:23 PM
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If Paris had no tourist attractions at all, fewer people would visit it. Unless even one such draw means that the same number of tourists would visit for the same amount of time, for each person thinking about Paris, there is an attraction such that some will make up their mind to go or not go based on its existence or non-existence.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:26 PM
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It's 800 years old and a National Monument.
It means a great deal to the French people.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Oredigger77 View Post
I think some burned out church in Louisiana would do more good for the world and it would be higher on my list of things to donate to.
I'm not saying you have to - your money is your money and it's no business of mine how you spend it - but if you or anyone else does feel an urge to make such a donation here is one place you can do so. I'm sure there are others.

Or take this an opportunity to donate to any worthy cause of your choice if you feel a need to give. My favorite charity(s) are the local food pantries/soup kitchens, as an example.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:43 PM
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As far as giving credit to Notre-Dame for bringing in $17 billion of tourist revenues annually, that's a bit delusional.
It's a good thing no one said that, then. I said that it helps to bring in that money. If you think that the loss of Notre Dame wouldn't affect anyone's choice to visit Paris over London, Rome, Madrid or some other destination then I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps you're not "delusional" but you're absolutely mistaken.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Typo Negative View Post
IMO, restoration was what was happening before the fire. Now they are trying to recreate what was lost.

I understand the desire, but I think it is misguided. It is tragic....but the original is gone. What they are going to have now is an incredibly expensive copy.
So? Barcelona's Liceum has burned down completely twice and been the site of one of Spain's worst terrorist attacks (fourth worst IIRC). Have you ever seen the pictures of Köln Cathedral after WWII? There's farms in Spain where the pockmarks in the walls are from 19th century wars (bigger holes from previous wars usually led to partial reconstruction); I imagine we're not the only ones in Europe to have that kind of scars on our homes. For centuries, abandoned monuments all over Europe were used as quarries by the locals; some of them are now rebuilt. If we refrained from rebuilding stuff when it breaks down, burns down or gets otherwise damaged or destroyed, there wouldn't be anywhere near as much Old Stuff around as there is.


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Originally Posted by glee View Post
It's 800 years old and a National Monument.
It means a great deal to the French people.
And World Heritage site.
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Last edited by Nava; 04-18-2019 at 01:58 PM.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Oredigger77 View Post
Whoever owns the building, their insurance company and/or the person responsible for the damage and their insurance company should pay for the repair. But if Joe Schmoe or Joe Billionaire want to kick in a couple (hundred million) bucks I don't really care either.
FYI, Notre-Dame Cathedral has no insurance policy. As is common when a large government is the owner of pretty much anything, they elect to self-insure. Why wouldn't they? Not only are there no high premiums to pay, the government of a first world country is generally much bigger than any insurer and better able to absorb the loss - not to mention the whole "can get more money when needed through taxes and fees" angle. In 2017 France took in over $1.3 trillion USD in revenue. If the rebuilding ends up costing $13 billion (almost double latest estimate I saw), that is still 1/1000th of 1% of annual revenue. Add in the fact that the expense will be spread over 5+ years, and it really is a nit.

That said, if people want to donate so the French taxpayers don't have to, I'm good with that.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 04-18-2019 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 04-18-2019, 02:03 PM
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I'm not going to address the specifics of Notre Dame Cathedral, not being one of the people who has ever been to it. But as a generic type of argument, it's wrong-headed.
It's quite pretty, though on purely aesthetic grounds I'd have been more upset if Sacré-Cœur burned down. It's one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, especially when you see it lit up from across the city at night.
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Old 04-18-2019, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Typo Negative View Post
IMO, restoration was what was happening before the fire. Now they are trying to recreate what was lost.

I understand the desire, but I think it is misguided. It is tragic....but the original is gone. What they are going to have now is an incredibly expensive copy.
It's not gone. It's just damaged. To follow up on Nava's post, most of the world's ancient and medieval wonders are at least partial "recreations." Almost every inch of the gemstones that decorate the walls of the Taj Mahal are reproductions, because the original lapis lazuli, emeralds, rubies and so on were pilfered by locals years ago.
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Old 04-18-2019, 02:17 PM
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There are ample instances of taxpayers being on the hook for many hundreds of millions of dollars for sports stadiums that aren’t used all that much during the year. I’d be surprised if any of them last 50 years.

Knowing that this occurs, having people volunteer their own money to put towards something that may last another half millennia or longer seems totally fine.

Mind you, I am under no illusion that the main donors include billionaires who are throughly contemptible. But their donations are not.
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