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Is this just how the game is played?

As I am sure you have all heard, there’s a lot of debate in New York right now (city and state) about whether they should reject Amazon’s decision to open up a new headquarters in Queens.

Urbanist Richard Florida has been arguing that one of the richest companies in the world shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer subsidies and that Amazon should do the right thing here. They should open up in New York but without any inducements.

As a counter argument, Kenneth Jackson, professor of history at Columbia University, recently opined that this is actually business as usual. American cities have a long history of competing for companies because the benefits outweigh the costs over the longer term.

Here is an excerpt from his op-ed in the New York Times:

They are right about one thing. It is absurd that any city would agree to such a deal. But this is how the game is played. Paying companies to relocate has been the American way since 1936, when Mississippi established the nation’s first state-sponsored economic development plan. Under that plan, since followed by many other jurisdictions, cities and states agreed to pay companies to relocate by promising them new factories and low or nonexistent taxes. With those inducements, numerous businesses relocated in the decades after World War II, usually from the union-dominated Northeast and Midwest to the business-friendly South.

Perhaps this would make a good debate topic for Kialo.

Update: Amazon just cancelled its plans for a corporate HQ in NYC.


  1. Sylvie Turcotte

    Brandon, why would we be suprised that an history teacher is praising for the past? Aren’t we in a new technology era? Is capitalism, society and environment are not changing? Why the game of grabing new investment using consumers or tax payers money is absurd. Good for New York people, the money to attract business is note the only way to succeed,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. amare11spero

    Just because this was “the way the game is played” in the past doesn’t mean we should follow this model going forward. Giving very rich companies or sports teams enormous taxpayer funded subsidies no longer works. The irony is that this practice is so common in business-worshipping, tax-averse America.

    Liked by 1 person

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