The buzz is all around: Corporate giant Amazon is in the market for a second headquarters — HQ2 — and the governments of cities and states across America are widely expected to make a competitive play for the honor of housing it, even if those same governments have only proven capable of keeping their current populations under H2O.
Americans should find this whole development disturbing. Consider the implications of this paragraph from Ted Nesi’s WPRI reporting:
Bids for the new headquarters are due Oct. 19 to Amazon’s Office of Economic Development in Seattle. The company will announce its choice next year.
Regional governments are bidding to the economic development office of a private company for the privilege of serving its headquarters. What does it mean for elected officials to be chasing the Amazon cornucopia in that fashion?
For one thing, the process sounds a bit like state governments’ applying to the federal government for competitive grants, and that exercise has proven to be one of the key ways in which the federal government has nudged states to adopt policies that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
Moreover, allowing our government to take the position of contractor to the company would make us all vulnerable to losing our state. Even if Amazon only puts Rhode Island in the running, none of our petty concerns about our own lives will even rate. Our entire system will be transformed to serve Amazon, and our government will become little more than a middleman between us and the company. No, thank you.
Instead, we should be trying to make Rhode Island the sort of state that a company like Amazon would approach independently. That would put the leverage in the right direction. And even better: Such a state would attract companies of all sizes and create the environment for the creation of the next Amazon.