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Justice

It’s Time to Move Some Federal Agencies Out of D.C.

A relatively simple way to address inequality would be moving federal-government operations to smaller cities around the country.
The Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most prominent federal agencies located outside of Washington, D.C.
The Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most prominent federal agencies located outside of Washington, D.C.Tami Chappell/Reuters

It’s not just economic inequality, but rising spatial inequality that is the defining issue of our time. The gap between have and have-not cities and regions is growing, and it contributes to our increasingly divided and dysfunctional politics.

It’s an admittedly hard problem to counter, as this pattern of economic clustering is a fundamental feature of today’s knowledge economy and winner-take-all geography. But that hasn’t stopped people from imagining a better way. Ross Douthat of the New York Times has argued, albeit somewhat cheekily, that it’s time to break up the liberal city by forcing elite universities and media companies to set up satellites in places like Buffalo and Flint. Steve Case, the AOL co-founder, famously advocated for the “rise of the rest” by bolstering innovative startup ecosystems outside of the established coastal centers.