Funny how – being stereotypical – those who favor “buy local” also tend to be those who favor top-down approaches to governance. It’s funny because the two policies are complete opposites in a sense. In what sense? In the sense highlighted by this Atlantic article on city growth rates over the past decade.

The commentary in the article – which is mostly just data – is not very good (more on this in just a moment). But here is a good observation:

“It’s time to recognize that the U.S. economy is not only made up of industries which grow and decline at different rates, but hundreds of metro regions that do so as well.”

And here is a bad observation – in fact, the very next sentence:

“There is a great deal national economic policy makers can gain from studying the factors that underpin the metros with more consistent and resilient growth.”

Why is it a bad observation? 1) because national economic policy makers have much less idea what is going on at the local (city) level than do local policy makers. And 1b) local policy makers have even less idea what is going on at the local level than does the local market – that is: the sum of all of the collective actions of actors in the marketplace. 2) Because policy makers probably can’t do much positive for economies (other than doing nothing). And 3) Because policy makers shouldn’t be doing any for economies. The only thing policy makers can effectively do is pick winners and losers which is the epitome of unfairness.

Finally, the article concludes with this drivel:

“It makes sense to focus the future economy less around housing, roads, and physical capital, and more toward the accumulation of human capital and knowledge assets.”

No. No. No. No. It makes no sense to “focus” the future economy on anything. The future economy will emerge, whether one attempts to control it or not. Controlling it – focusing it – will only lead to bad outcomes. Possibly the outcomes will be very bad – like the recent housing catastrophe which was itself the result of top-down control (focusing).

-JD Cross

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