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Noah Smith

A Better Way to Revive America’s Rust Belt

The government should spend money on research, not life support.
Give Motown some love.

Give Motown some love.

Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Harvard economists Benjamin Austin, Ed Glaeser and Larry Summers think the U.S. government should do more to help the country’s struggling regions. It’s a great idea, but their specific policies could use some work.

Many economists believe in focusing policies on people, rather than places -- essentially, having the government help the poor and disadvantaged, but letting the market sort out where people live and where economic activity is concentrated. There are several arguments for this approach. First, even if aid is aimed at a struggling area, it might benefit some richer individuals -- few people want to see their taxes being spent on millionaires, even if those millionaires live in Detroit.