THE LAST ENTREPRENEURS: America's Regional Wars for Jobs and Dollars by Robert Goodman
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THE LAST ENTREPRENEURS: America's Regional Wars for Jobs and Dollars

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State and local governments (""the last entrepreneurs"") compete for business, businesses cooperate to up the ante, and the public pays--in higher taxes, lower wages, and poorer working and environmental conditions. Such is the simple, incontrovertible thesis of this snappy exercise in progressive economics; but Goodman, who has proper academic credentials (Berkeley, Stanford) as well as a popular touch, sees the ""regional rotation"" process, injurious in itself, headed for collapse--and he has a prospective solution. The case is made, disarmingly, via crackerbox examples like Sonny Werblin's selection as head of Madison Square Garden--""to repair the financial damage caused by his own efforts"" in promoting the rival Meadowlands sports complex. In the field of sports, cities compete for franchises--and, winning, find that the ""home team's"" home games are blacked out on TV; in the business world, communities and states boast of their ""docile,"" ""low-median income"" labor to attract new investment--and the losers set about lowering labor costs and throttling unions to match. The movement is not, however; from the ""cold belt"" to the ""sun belt,"" Goodman demonstrates, but ""greenward""--toward insular rural areas; and the result in the South Bronx and kindred spots is ""a modified form of triage""--a.k.a. ""planned shrinkage."" But even as government costs rise--to underwrite industry, to support the unemployed--the level of business profits is declining, along with productivity, and capital is fleeing overseas. How to break the competitive, depressive cycle? By ""regional socialism,"" Goodman proposes. He interprets the corporate destruction of regional energy, transport, etc., systems in the early 1900s as a means of fostering costly/lucrative ""geographic interdependency""; he takes note of the danger that national economic planning could lead to more-concentrated private power; and he observes that private industry is bound to favor short-term investments over long-term investments in real, renewable wealth. So how about cost-cutting regional self-reliance? Local initiative and accountability? Some government-, some cooperative-, some individual-ownership? And to block the next corporate flight, why not set your community up in business? Buy out the defecting company, that is. Goodman has sharp things to say, contra Schumacher, about small-scale technology as a ""social panacea""; and he's more hopeful than may seem warranted of the chances for an effective coalition of anti-corporate interests (labor, environmentalists, etc.). But he's inviting comment, which his hilarious, startling, infuriating disclosures should certainly stir up.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster