Monday, June 9, 2008

Why (government-sponsored) downtown revitalization efforts are a bad idea

By J. H. Huebert

What a thrill to visit cities that have “revitalized” their downtown areas! From the empty streets to the government offices to the abandoned retail spaces—what’s not to like?
Well, everything, of course.

Not only are such areas unsightly and useless, they often come at the expense of millions of taxpayer dollars and eminent-domain coercion.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling a bit nostalgic for when everyone worked and shopped in a bustling downtown—although I happen to enjoy today’s so-called “sprawl,” especially as I think about how it demonstrates how well the market serves consumers with an ever-increasing variety of goods at ever-lower prices. But in any event, fuzzy feelings about downtown areas apparently aren’t very important to most people who do have them, because those people don’t put their money where their mouths are. They choose to live, work, and shop in outlying neighborhoods instead.

Voting, however, offers such people an opportunity to act on their emotions at virtually no personal cost. Thus we get government-sponsored “revitalize downtown” efforts in cities all across America that fail again and again.

For more on this article, go to The April 2008 edition of The Freeman, a publication of The Foundation for Economic Education

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