Probably so, so says my latest Bloomberg column. One problem is that interstate mobility as a competitive check has declined, but there are other problems too. Here is one excerpt:
One unfortunate side effect of today’s political polarization is that voters are more likely select state and local candidates on the basis of whether those individuals profess the same ideology — as defined at the national level — as the voter. In other words, if you think the federal government spends too much on transfer programs, you are more likely to vote for the Republican in your state, whether or not your state spends too much on transfer programs. The incentive for candidates is then to stake out relatively extreme and easily observed positions, to attract the most commonly held ideology in each state. The news media, by devoting most of its coverage to the most highly visible national candidates and issues, makes this problem worse.
One study found that when it comes to votes for the state legislature, the most important factor was the popularity of the sitting president and the president’s party. How well the state’s economy was doing was relatively unimportant. Again, that hardly creates strong incentives for good practical performance. Many state and local issues are more about competence than ideology, including road maintenance, running the prison system and helping to fund K-12 education.
Do read the whole thing.