Wal Mart & Subsidies

by Jonah Goldberg

I yield to Adler and Bainbridge’s greater expertise on the level of Wal Mart subsidies. But, just as a matter of principle, I’d like to throw into the mix the suggestion that subsidies at the local level are far less offensive than federal subsidies for corporations. I’m not “pro-subsidy” at any level. But when a town decides to build some roads or cut some taxes or waive some regulations in order to attract a big company most residents want, I just can’t muster outrage about it. It seems to me that if you’re going to be libertarian when it comes to national economic policy, it’s a lot easier to forgive a little statism at the local level. The case against subsidies at the national level is that the government in Washington DC is taking money from people in Kansas to pay for something in Ohio. Just for the sake of argument, if 100% of the voters in Shelbyville vote to give Wal Mart a million dollars to open a store in their town rather than in Springfield, how is that so terribly wrong? Never mind “un-conservative”?

I despise communitarianism at the national level, but I generally find communitarianism at the local level tolerable, and sometimes even admirable (and, yes, sometimes idiotic). Communitarianism at the local level can be despotic of course (think eminent domain) but even then it does have the virtue of being local despotism and the residents have to live with the consequences of their politics — or they can move.

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