Should America break up Washington?

By The Economist online

CONCERNS about regional inequality and frustration with elites are contributing to interest in an intriguing idea: reining in the economic and political power of Washington by dispersing government agencies more widely. Tyler Cowen muses on the subject here. Matthew Yglesias makes the case for such a policy here. Ross Douthat makes a somewhat different but related argument here. So: is this a good idea? It certainly isn’t a terrible idea, but the more you dig into the matter the less it looks like an out-and-out good one. (Some disclosure: I work in Washington now, and once, long ago I was a federal government employee at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

It might be useful to begin with a little perspective. Funnily enough, Washington was a purpose-built capital, located outside the major cities of the day, partly in order to prevent a Philadelphia or New York from becoming dominant. America’s metropolitan geography remains multipolar in a…

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Category: Business and finance, Free exchange

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