So called White Elephants.

Is it better to spend millions on a once in a millennium project to promote a country as a tourist attraction, possibly increasing the country’s economy for many years to come. Or is it better to put those millions into schools and hospitals, thereby increasing the budget of an average school or hospital by a small percentage for just one year.

In other words, I think it was unfair of the UK tabloid press to negatively portray the Millennium dome as a white elephant, ruining it’s reputation and therefore it’s success. I think it would have been a success if it wasn’t for that. The press jumped on the opinion that these millions could have gone directly into more humane causes (schools, hospitals) and so was short-sighted.

(this post was so much more detailed and articulate when I was composing it in my head in bed this morning. Amazing how actions limit thoughts)

I went to the Dome. I was alright, I suppose, but vastly overpriced and not a patch on similar attractions, some of which are actually free.

The simple problem was that it was utterly, hopelessly poorly conceived. A temporary attraction costing £850M??? Were they mental? As for what to put in it, that had the air of a school pupil desperately seeking help from a parent to produce something for the school exhibition next morning.

I agree that the schools & hospitals card gets played too regularly in discussions of cultural heritage, but nearly a billion pounds is a lot of money: it could have produced a structure that was genuinely worth seeing, equivalent to the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House or Golden Gate bridge.

Instead we got a bike track.

I think you’re better off putting those millions into education if you want to make the country a better place in the long term. Egypt and Greece have some of the coolest tourist attractions around but I’d rather live some place where the majority of the population has reasonable access to an education. Think Germany, Great Britian, or the United States.


Heh heh, I think some of our Greek members here might take umbrage at that, Marc. Greece isn’t the richest EU member but there’s nothing particularly wrong with its education system or literacy levels. And I’m not sure Lobsang quite meant a millennium project as in “3rd millennium BCE”!

Eight hundred and fifty million pounds for THAT??

I think your problem was that someone was stealing your money.

I didn’t mean to suggest that Greeks or Egyptians were a bunch of savages just a hair shy of the stone age. I know he didn’t mean millenium as in 3 BC but both Egypt and Greece have had those tourist attractions for thousands of years. While they appear to have been a good investment I just don’t think tourist dollars are as valuable as investing in education and skills.


Education is a fine thing, but not in isolation. Some of history’s cruelest tyrants have been well educated, while some of history’s kindest saints have had very little schooling. Why not just let people decide for themselves how they want to spend their own money, and stop making these sorts of decisions for others?

Indeed, Rick - had initial plans been properly thought through the general thinking is that it could have come through on budget (around £150M orginally IIRC). The problems became vast since nobody allowed for various structural and political difficulties (and the deadline was very close by modern architectural standards and couldn’t exactly be moved!) and the number of visitors was vastly overestimated.

How about a third alternative – leaving the money in the hands of the taxpayers to spend as they please? All goverment revenue comes from taxpayers and I think they should be considered in an equation such as this. Leaving it in their hands would put the money to better use than any government program, in my opinion.

It’s the difference between gambling and investment. At certain levels, the gamble that they’d make a lot of money off the Dome was pretty good, and it should have made more money than it did. However, investing in their people by providing better education and health care was guaranteed to pay off in the long run. Perhaps not as much, and perhaps not as soon, but guaranteed.

The UK has a tradition of considering the government “us” rather than “them”. The idea of funding a Millennium project through tax was quite popular - it was the specific choice which was considered so foolhardy.

Leaving health and education funding “to the people, as please” is utterly anathema to us here: out NHS and schools may not be perfect but we recoil in horror from even considering adopting a US model.

Guaranteed to pay off in the long run? Nonsense! You might be “investing” in the education of the next Joseph Stalin, or the health care of the next Pol Pot.

I’m sorry, Liberal, but that’s got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time.

Most people are not would-be evil dictators who are best thwarted by keeping whole populations ignorant and sickly. Don’t dictators rely on ignorant masses to gain power?

And of course, ignrance produces poverty which produces crime.

I must have missed the part of the OP where he advocated using force of arms to get other nations to spend their money wisely. Of course we’ll continue to leave others to spend their money as they will. That doesn’t mean we have to shut up about it.


More nonsense. Lots of brilliant people are poor, and lots of dumbasses are rich. Dictators rely on traits of character, not of intellect, to seize their power — foolishness, cowardice, weakness, and pettiness. It is far easier to conquer a sniveling hand-wringer from academia who welcomes his new Overlord than it is to conquer a pissed off redneck with a shotgun.

My point, and Renob’s point, was that the money does not even belong to the hypostatized entities, i.e., nations. It belongs to the people they stole it from. Only the most blind and clueless academic would engage a debate fretting over how a mugger should spend his pillaged loot.

My feeling was that the dome was an architectural success. It looked great. The contents, by contrast were a complete crock. The project as a whole was a crock. Having said that, I feel that sometimes using public money on things that will probably return no financial benefit is a Good Thing. Why else build an Eiffel Tower? Or erect a Statue Of Liberty? Or send a telescope into space? If you can choose a project that stirs the heart of a populace, it might be a better and more lasting investment than a new hospital or school.