Friend of the blog Jon Geeting shared my Free Market post from yesterday with some good insights and responses at his blog today. This is the kind of online discourse I really enjoy: people of good-will engaging each other respectfully across platforms. I encourage you to take part in the conversation at Jon’s blog, but I do want to share a small excerpt from my own response:
It’s fine by me that Rite Aid provides cheaper goods and medicines to Center City residents, and God bless them for it. But on the ground in Allentown, based on conversations I had downtown over the weekend, some civic leaders really are worried that it’s going to be hard to lure and place that kind of store in the near future. They’re not worried the same way about replacing the dollar store (which is also needed). Another question: why isn’t Rite Aid simply moving across the street or up or down a block? Why isn’t the efficiency of the market making it compelling for Rite Aid to stay in the city? And if Rite Aid won’t stay, why should we be confident that Walgreens will come? If the market worked exactly the way we wanted, there’d be no such thing as food deserts, or, in this case, prescription deserts, right?
For me, the immediate issue is also framed by the experiences some folks had at the three “arena open houses” last week. For months, people have been complaining about the lack of transparency that seems to be guiding the hockey arena project. Last week, open houses were held in which various stations were set up and the public could talk with city officials, developers, and the owners of the former Philadelphia Phantoms. One of the problems with this format, well-intended as it might have been, was that there was no chance for real public discussion. If I’m being cynical, I might suggest a sort of divide and conquer strategy at work. In any case, the Rite Aid concern came to me from downtown religious and civic leaders following these open houses, and they are worried. So am I. I’m not at a point where I feel confident that the market, as such, won’t create a healthcare desert in Center City.
Thank you, Jon, for picking up this discussion!