A Truly Terrible Idea for West County
The title of this article in the Post-Dispatch says everything one needs to know about the focus of far too many businesses in Missouri: “New Chesterfield music production development eyes legislation to bolster industry.” How do you increase profits? Well, first you need to get special legislation passed.
This new business, which has just opened in West St. Louis County and has already received millions of dollars in state and county tax subsidies, is all set to go with a plan to increase profits. Is it going to focus on customer service? Hiring a better sales team? Increasing business efficiency? Apparently not. It is going to focus right away on hiring lobbyists and getting the Missouri Legislature to pass a new, special state tax incentive program for its industry. From the article (emphasis added):
Gateway Studios in August hired Bardgett and four lobbyists from his firm. Kerr said the company is hoping to win support for an incentive program tailored to the music production industry. Pennsylvania has its own program for the industry, which helps draw production companies and acts to the state.
What Ludwig Von Mises said in 1944 in his famous book Bureaucracy is becoming reality in our state with tax subsides (emphasis again added):
Such executives did not care a whit for the company’s prosperity. They were accustomed to bureaucratic management and they accordingly altered the conduct of the corporation’s business. Why bother about bringing out better and cheaper products if one can rely on support on the part of the government? For them government contracts, more effective tariff protection, and other government favors were the main concern. And they paid for such privileges by contributions to party funds and government propaganda funds and by appointing people sympathetic to the authorities.
The tax subsidies this particular business has already received are bad enough. The idea that a special Missouri state tax incentive would be created to benefit one particular business in Missouri is appalling. There is no evidence that supports the idea that subsidy-focused economic development plans are successful, especially in a growing, thriving area like Chesterfield. Economic development officials and politicians cannot predict the future, and their choices are often based on political favoritism. Furthermore, chasing subsidies often leads businesses to make sub-optimal choices, such as locating in a less productive place to qualify for tax money, or focusing resources on lobbying instead of business improvement (the latter of which, unfortunately, does pay off far too often).
There has been progress made on some fronts in this fight, but creating a new incentive program just because an exciting and hip new business asks for it would be a terrible step backward.