I wanted to agree with Ryan Avent about the nature of the DC-area economy. But more broadly, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s easy to overestimate the extent to which everyone in the DC area is just busy lobbying. According to the Washington Post’s 2010 “Post 200″ take on the regional economy the largest lobbying firm in the area, Patton Boggs, employs 150 lobbyists. The biggest law firm, Covington & Burling, employs 501 lawyers. By contrast, the University of Maryland, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, and American University combine to employ slightly over 100,000 people. Over 13,000 people in the DC area work at McDonald’s. There are 10,000 working for Safeway, and 8,000 working at Wal-Mart. And Wal-Mart is adding stores.
Which is all mostly to note that different American metropolitan areas tend to have important deep commonalities. Universities, hospitals, and giant retail chains drive employment just about everywhere.