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Selling Unneeded Federal Property Has Benefits Beyond The Direct Financial Gain

By Matthew Yglesias on May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

"Selling Unneeded Federal Property Has Benefits Beyond The Direct Financial Gain"

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The White House is today announcing a plan to sell off a whole bunch of no-longer-used federal buildings.

Given the austerity mood in the press, the administration is emphasizing the monetary savings involved in this, but that’s actually just a small piece of the potential gains. At the end of the day, by far the biggest problem with having the federal government own a warehouse it’s not using is simply that the warehouse isn’t getting used. An old warehouse could be converted into condos or a police station or a rock club, but those aren’t the kind of things the federal government runs. A private individual might just lease the property out, but again the federal government’s not a commercial real estate manager. Selling the land and the structures is the best way to get the real resources back in circulation. And as always, real resources matter a lot more than budget line items. The government can conjure up more money any time it wants. The real resources available to the country are what’s in limited supply, and the real policy upside is in putting them to better use not obtaining more dollars.

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