Nobody really likes a free market, especially when it comes to sports teams.
The Washington Redskins may not have been the most threatening presence on the football field in recent years, but they are unquestionably fierce when it comes to government lobbying. Last week, after flirting with a move north to the District of Columbia or Maryland, the team announced that they would keep their headquarters and training facilities in Ashburn, Virginia, and relocate their summer training camp down to the city of Richmond. For this privilege, the commonwealth is kicking in $6 million dollars towards an overhaul of the franchise's home base, known as Redskins Park.
Compared to the outrageous sums cities and states regularly pay to keep sports teams in town, this deal is pretty tiny. It's nothing but an eye drop versus the $498 million the Minnesota Vikings extracted from their state's taxpayers in May to build a new stadium. But it does illustrate something about the way government constantly picks winners and losers in America's economy.
Earlier this year, the public policy world returned to the perennial debate about whether the U.S. should do anything to encourage more manufacturing here at home, or, as economists put it, "engage in industrial policy." Industrial policy boils down to the government choosing favorite sectors of the economy, then doing what it takes to support them. Even simpler: It's picking winners and losers. Mainstream U.S. economists generally aren't big fans of industrial policy, though a few outspoken voices are.