At one point James writes,
It’s a bit like going on holiday: it’s only a bad use of money if you don’t end up enjoying the break. The financial return is hugely negative but that’s fairly irrelevant when one’s enjoying a hike in the French Alps or lounging on the beach in Mallorca. What we really need to ask is whether the public gets sufficient enjoyment from hosting events like the America’s Cup.To say the financial return to you holiday is hugely negative is to say the financial return to all consumption is hugely negative. Of course it is, we spend the money to gain the utility from the consumption. Going on a holiday of your choosing is about utility maximisation. You are spending your money to purchase a consumption bundle of your choosing. Having the America's Cup here is more like someone telling you that you will go on holiday, whether you want to go or not, telling you where you will go, whether or not you want to go there, and telling you how long your holiday will be, no matter how long you want it to be. And to cap it all off, they then make you pay for it! A forced holiday isn't about maximising your utility, you get the consumption bundle whether you want it or not. You suffer a hugely negative financial return with no guarantee that you get any utility from it at all. Someone else's utility is being maximised and you, as a ratepayer and/or taxpayer, get to pay for it.
The obvious answer is ‘yes’, nations compete to host events and have done for as long as historical records exist. Hosting is incredibly prestigious and competitive, which suggests that there is no shortage of benefit from hosting. It isn't as if the legacy of hosting large events is unknown, yet cities and nations continue to bid huge sums for them despite that.There may be benefits to hosting such events but those benefits go to a very small group who pay very, very, little of the costs of hosting. The people who make the decisions about hosting don't pay the bill. That they may well make an inefficient decision is hardly surprising given this.
James ends by saying,
So long as people know what they’re paying for the thrill, we shouldn’t worry too much about the money.But if you want to host on the grounds that some people will get positive utility from the "thrill" of hosting then you have to net out the negative utility that other people suffer from hosting. You must consider both sides of the ledger. It's the net-thrill that matters.
Update: Brennan McDonald makes the sensible point that If We Host The America’s Cup, Kickstarter Financing Is The Only Responsible Choice