Urban leaders must reject the race to the bottom that these scrambles to please corporations generate – as 19th-century mayors did during the rise of capitalism

Amazon’s plan to build a second headquarters away from Seattle has triggered a bidding war among North American cities. A reported 238 cities, big and small, submitted inducement packages to the tech giant, each jostling to entice the company to their own metropolis.

The scramble to please Amazon marks the return of a very old dilemma that American cities faced with the rise of capitalism in the 19th century: roll out the red carpet to investors, with tax breaks and other subsidies, or lose development funds to more pliant competitors.

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