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May 04, 2007



On occasion Tom and I have discussed the desirability of more metropolitan area control (taking on some of the tasks usually addressed by state and federal governments). I was lately thinking of something a little along the lines of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey but with a more concrete status and role and funded by those taxes paid by residents and remitted from the state and federal government that exceed the per-capita average percentage.

This would be helpful for a number of reasons. For one thing, it would mitigate the subsidy cities pay to rural areas, which encourages all sorts of economically suboptimal behavior. Second, it would help close the loop between local priorities and the large regional projects necessary to make dense metropolitan areas work. Third, I think it would cut off a lot of the justifications used for porkbarrel projects. Fourth, it might even take some wind out of the "soak the rich" impulse at the national level.

Of course, I don't see any real political path from here to there, but I figured I'd throw it out there.


I'm pretty much in agreement with both of you on this subject. We should celebrate the occasion!

Val Larsen

I think the referendum by foot vote has been taking place for a long time and the pattern is clear: major population shifts south and west--in the direction of lower taxes and less regulation (and warmer weather)--though, paradoxically, those who leave the Northeast bring the politics of their erstwhile home region with them, to some degree. The pattern holds within regions as well and has made New Hampshire--once a safe Republican state--a marginally Democratic one.


Val, it's hard to judge, considering that the tax system effectively subsidizes low density areas - which is, I suppose, not so surprising since residents of low population states can get up to three times as many votes as those from highly populated ones.

Val Larsen

A countervailing fact is that the Federal Government owns large portions of most western states (and pays no taxes on the land it owns). For example, about 70% of Idaho is federally owned. Moreover, the more populous states (through the Congress) frequently exert control over land use in the less populous states and, thereby, reduce local revenue. The premiere example is ANWR which would be open if Alaska alone were permitted to make the decision but similar dynamics occur in most Western states. I don't know that this wholly offsets income transfers to less populous states (it probably doesn't), but it should be an element in any calculation of the equity of current arrangments.

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