"The Lighthouse in Economics" Revisited


A privatization you may have missed:

The Coast Guard once owned and maintained all of the nation's lighthouses, but after Sept. 11, when the agency's mission shifted to homeland security, it had neither the funds nor the inclination to keep up these weather-beaten structures. So it began selling them. Most of the lighthouses on [Chesapeake Bay sailor Mike] Richards' tour are privately owned, though Coast Guard officers can stop by any time.

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  1. I bet the utility bills are a motherfucker.

  2. You’d have thought they would have played up the border defense angle and mounted all kinds of surveillance equipment on them. Instead we are dangerously exposed to Al Qaeda sailboats.

  3. They weren’t terribly expensive, either. For the price of a house on land, you could buy a house in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Several of them were purchased by families who apparently like to take really boring vacations.

    1. Sounds like a great vacation to me but I hope the utilities are included.

    2. Or writers that like to write murder mysteries around lighthouses.

  4. Seems like a great place to write your doctoral thesis on Ronald Coase.

  5. You could always recoup expenses by turning them off during storms and salvaging the wrecks. Now that’s entrepreneurship.

    1. Worked for Key West.

      Made it the second richest city in America for a couple of decades in the 1800s.


      1. Pretty sure Nag’s Head, NC did the same thing. Well, actually, They had lanterns on the beach to imitate light houses and confuse the sailors.

        1. The story I heard was that the lanterns were to imitate ships. They’d hang a lantern around a horse’s neck — a nag’s head — and the motion of the light would, seen from a distance, appear to be a light bobbing up and down on a ship. Thus, people out at sea would think the Carolina shoreline was actually navigable water, and run their ships aground.

          1. That might have been it, its been a decade since Ive been to the OB.

  6. Should have been done long ago. On a whim, the wife and I toured the Michigan lighthoses on Lake Huron. They are on beautiful spots of land that many would be more than happy to take over maintenace expeses as long as the US paid the electric bill for the lamp.

    They would be a great places to live. The houses themselves are all automated, no lightkeeper is required. I say sell them all and contribute to the housing surplus (Exacerbating the housing surplus is federal policy, no?).

  7. Once President Hussein strips us of our defenses, maybe I can buy one of those sweet missile silos up by Great Falls.

    Of course, that would mean moving all my shit; never mind, I’ll keep my barn.

    1. Old silos work because they have huge military grade maintenance and repair budgets.

      It would be cool for like a month until it starts leaking. Then it becomes the monster of all money pits.

  8. I’d love to take the tour and see if my sea legs are still working from my Navy days. (My definition of sea legs is that is what you have once you stop throwing up in rough water, took me months to get there.)


  10. With cheap GPS, electronic navigation equipment and depth finders do these things even serve a purpose anymore?

    1. Considering there are worries about us having enough satellites for full coverage GPS soon, YES.

      1. Considering there are worries about us having enough satellites for full coverage GPS soon, YES.

        I suspect those worries are based on mountainous areas in which satellites often get line of sighted that GPS in the open ocean is not a problem.

        1. Apparently it takes 24 to cover the world, it helps to have a few extra to make sure. There is worry that replacements may not go up as fast as they fail and we could fall below 24. Thus, chunks of the world wont be properly covered.

  11. The Coast Guard, for several reasons, has always been one of the best Federal Agencies/ branches of the military. Only thing holding them back is worrying about drugs coming through the gulf.

    1. Plus the mom of the Coast Guards only Medal of Honor winner didnt go all Cindy Sheehan after his death.

    2. And how they can routinely violate the Fourth Amendment by demanding any vessel open themselves up to search at any time without warrant.

      1. Next they’ll be quartering themselves on our houseboats without compensation to the owners.

  12. I hope Bill Buckley took notice of this before he passed on.

    Too bad Murray was not around to see this! Private lighthouses for all!

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