In This Review

Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government
Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government
By Lawrence Tabak
University of Chicago Press, 2021, 280 pp.

Governments in the United States and elsewhere are increasingly trying to encourage companies to “reshore” manufacturing production from places where it was offshored. Tabak’s engaging study of efforts in Wisconsin to attract the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn provides a cautionary tale. Such efforts inevitably involve an information asymmetry: manufacturing firms know more about their true employment and production plans than the governments seeking to attract them. Firms are able to play competing jurisdictions off against each other to obtain tax breaks and other commercial concessions. All too often, this combination of circumstances makes for bad public policy. Tabak’s book also contains two disturbing observations. First, officials can arrive at a distorted view of their constituents’ interests owing to their preoccupation with free-market ideology and their obsession with manufacturing jobs. Second, the power of eminent domain, which enables governments to convert private property to public use, can work against the public interest when employing it requires subsidizing private manufacturing firms.