Not an Example of “Pro-Business” or “Pro-Market”
Centene Corp. is in the news again. After the collapse of the Saint Louis ballpark village incentive proposal (which, in addition to $78 million in direct tax incentives, also included their very own “Centene” sales tax district), Clayton has attempted to renegotiate its own incentive package to entice the company to expand its world headquarters in Clayton’s business district (apparently everyone’s forgotten about Claytons attempt to confiscate property for Centene in 2005 through eminent domain).
One sentence in the Post-Dispatch’s coverage is worth highlighting:
State and St. Louis County officials have joined Clayton in discussions with Centene over incentives for its world headquarters expansion.
We cover corporate welfare extensively, so I won’t dwell on this issue (though you should read Dr. Joe Haslag’s recent op-ed on the topic). But I would like to make a point. I suspect that these kinds of government “incentive” shenanigans are what most people think of when they hear that someone a politician, political party, or even a Clayton-based think-tank is “pro-business” or "pro-market."
Enticing business through governmental handouts is not pro-business. This is crony capitalism and one of the most debased political ideologies in the world. Being “pro-business” means that you believe in creating a business environment in which property rights are well-protected, people are free to contract with one another freely and without governmental interference, and competition is encouraged. Pro-business does not mean using the government to reward or punish favored companies or industries. It does not mean using tax dollars to reward the rich and the powerful at the expense of the poor. There’s nothing "market-based" about that.