If asked to choose between American's most fundamental political philosophies—which most would concede are federalism and states' rights—I generally will favor the latter. In that sense I fall into what's referred to as the Jeffersonian camp. Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of limited central government with power and control placed as close to the Constitution's stated source—the people—as possible.
It's a principle that I've been aligned with for most of my adult life. Let others be homogenous. In America we should celebrate our differences.
In many ways we've kept true to this philosophy. Oh, I grant that in 200+ years, incursions to the purity of concept that Mr. Jefferson espoused have occurred. However, overall, we still enjoy many differences from one state to another.
I got to thinking about this topic when the "winner" of the Hyundai automotive plant location competition was announced. The envelope please . . . and the winner is Alabama. Congratulations, you get a $1 billion automobile plant and an estimated 2,000 jobs.
So, here's the deal. As I said, I am philosophically aligned with the concept of state's rights. However, because of the courting of Hyundai and other transplants as well as domestic manufacturing relocations, I must resign my Jeffersonian club ID and decoder ring.
I watched closely as the state governors, senators and numerous other leaders (my state included) literally fell over themselves trying to outsell other states for the privilege of being anointed with the prize of a new Hyundai factory. The game seemed to be who could give away the most abatements, infrastructure projects, educational plums, low interest loans and other goodies to entice the Koreans. I find the process embarrassing and demeaning. It's not any of the auto companies' fault. It's our sad system.
My view is that at least in the case of transplants, states should not be—I hate this word—allowed to compete with one another through giveaways to attract foreign investment.
I know that's federalism—but I think Mr. Jefferson would forgive me. In 1783, few could foresee the investment attraction of the United States. It's important to remember that these companies want to come here for very good reasons. Our leaders need to understand this and stop acting like these plants are manna from heaven.
It's a privilege to operate a business in this country, not a favor.