The Deep State as Competitive Economic Advantage

Stephen Moret’s sales pitch to the Amazon in the HQ2 deal offered an analysis that was both acute and chilling — acute if you’re an economic developer seeking to promote Northern Virginia as a place for tech companies to do business, chilling if you are an American worried about the growing overlordship of the technocratic elite.

According to Luke Mullins’ Washingtonian article, “The Real Story of How Virginia Won Amazon’s HQ2,” Virginia’s proposal to Amazon highlighted Northern Virginia’s proximity to the Pentagon and other federal agencies. Writes Mullins:

By plopping HQ2 into Crystal City — right next door to the Pentagon — its employees could become part of the Washington community, attending backyard barbecues and school dance recitals with the very regulatory staffers and procurement officials whose decisions will determine the company’s future — as the very journalists and political strategists who might paint the firm as an Evil Empire.

“The high concentration of tech companies, federal agencies, and supporting organizations offer Amazon the opportunity to develop valuable future relationships,” [Moret and his team] wrote. “Northern Virginia provides an unmatched place for Amazon to locate as it attempts to influence federal policies, particularly as it delves into complex areas of federal regulatory authority (e.g. unmanned drones).” Moret’s team even drew up and provided a helpful map charting Crystal City’s proximity to some of the most powerful agencies in Washington — the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the FCC.

Mullins also quotes Amazon executive Holly Sullivan as saying that political considerations played no part in the company’s decision to locate in Arlington. I have no reason to doubt her word. However, it should surprise no one if the dynamics Moret describes do come to pass — 25,000 Amazon employees embedding themselves into the Washington community, befriending and even marrying members of the political class. Amazon’s interests will color the interests of the power structure, and the power structure’s interests will color Amazon’s.

The proximity to power across the Potomac River is precisely why Arlington and Alexandria have become the trade-association capital of the United States. Proximity to the Pentagon is why Northern Virginia is the center of the defense-tech sector. That’s an unalloyed good thing if your sole preoccupation is growing jobs and investment in Northern Virginia.

But Virginia’s sales pitch provides a profound and terrifying insight into the sociology of power in Washington, D.C. The power structure — e.g. the Deep State — runs far deeper than the official channels of political activity — campaign contributions, lobbying, and the influencing of public opinion — would indicate. It is a permanent social/economic/political fixture that no four- or eight-year president can dislodge. It is comprised of federal bureaucrats, political appointees, lobbyists, trade association officials, foundations, advocacy groups, and media who cycle between the governmental, nonprofit and private sectors. These people attend one another’s cocktail parties. They send their children to the same elite schools. They go to the same country clubs, attend the same churches (if they attend church) and literally inter-marry with one another. Although they may hew to different factions within the Deep State, residents of the Washington region comprise a distinct class — an elite governing class. They listen to the same news sources, share the same worldview, for the most part vote the same way, and mobilize the structure’s antibodies to repel populist interlopers who would disrupt the status quo.

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16 responses to “The Deep State as Competitive Economic Advantage”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    In my younger days I once asked a wise older fellow just why Arlington and Alexandria were so politically liberal, so unlike ROVA, and the answer was simple: All the legions of Democrats FDR brought to the region from all across the U.S. as he built the New Deal bureaucracy and then fought WWII. Everything old is new again…..

    I’m telling you, in Virginia, this is over. Done. It is a blue state.

  2. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    And it survives due to massive borrowing that saddles the rest of the Country with an unpayable National Debt. And on top of it, the overclass bites the hand that feeds them. Sadly, in many ways, what’s good for Northern Virginia, is bad for America.



  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    So why are ya’ll extolling the virtues of Moret if he is aiding and abetting this deep state conspiracy of liberals and social justice warriors?

    This has to be the mother of all virtue signaling…right?

    Integrating technology into the Federal Govt – HORRORS!

    Oh, BTW – anyone who has worked in the Pentagon or similar govt agency and who has a security clearance is usually no typical “liberal”.

    So this sorta has to be the mother of all luddism…eh?

    Combine technology with the Deep State – WOWZA!

    Oh… and throw in WaPo… Good LORD! Virginia is screwed!

    Say…… how come this was not brought up when Amazon was PROPOSED? I don’t recall seeing the Deep State Agnst as part of the fears PRIOR to Amazon coming here.

    Gawd Forbid – Google and Facebook also want to come to Arlington!!!

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Larry, one of your more useless rants…liberals can’t get security clearances? Really? And I didn’t frame it as deep state angst, but last year I very much noted that Amazon coming to Virginia with that large a sudden footprint would further transform the state politically. I don’t think it was hard for anybody to see that so it wasn’t some deep insight – but you read it here first.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Oh liberals DO get “clearances” but I can also tell you there is a good number of Conservative types with said “clearances” also.

      The Pentagon, DOD and the Federal Law enforcement agencies have a heavy population of conservative-thinking folks.

      I don’t think Amazon will “transform” Arlington – which is ALREADY “that way” if you know what I mean. 😉

      “Deep State” ??? geezy peezy.. how TRUMP-LIKE !!

      common guys… luddite-inspired conspiracy thinking!!!!

  5. DLunsford Avatar

    All of that infrastructure, all those data centers; well within the 50-mile blast perimeter………………

    1. Andrew Roesell Avatar
      Andrew Roesell

      Dear “D”,

      A lot of eggs in one basket.



  6. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    This is another example of political and economic centralization loving one another and Capitalism’s merging into Socialism. Marx just wanted the bourgeoisie to follow the process to its logical conclusion. “The problem with competition,” Orwell wrote in his review of Hayek’s _Road To Serfdo_, “is that someone wins.” In economics and if the Demns have their way on immigration, politics, too.



    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Very insightful comment, Andrew. So now we will see awesome power concentrated and distilled into a very few master overlords like never before in human history. It is a frightful vision.

      Like, for example, a few people making a great fortune, handing out taxpayer money to massive amounts of “poor” to buy drugs.

  7. smoretva Avatar

    Our HQ2 proposal to Amazon for Northern Virginia was 397 pages long. Just a few paragraphs focused on the federal government proximity benefits of locating in Northern Virginia. We thought it would be important to reference that location advantage in our proposal given the range of business sectors Amazon competes in, just as we do with other HQs considering the region.

    To the best of my recollection, the company never referenced federal government proximity as a selling point or consideration for them during our many discussions. Indeed, they already had a public affairs office in DC, and they had announced the placement of the AWS east coast campus in Northern Virginia months before the HQ2 competition began. Our HQ2 proposal focused far more attention on other factors, such as tech talent, education, quality of life, business climate, infrastructure, connectivity (e.g., flight service, broadband), and sites.

    Virginia’s full proposal for HQ2, excluding confidential developer information for National Landing and the sites that weren’t selected, can be viewed at the following HQ2 downloads page:

    1. I understand that the proximity-benefits-to-the-federal-government reference was only a tiny part of Virginia’s sales pitch. I was just drawing attention to the insight behind that particular argument — and exploring the implications for our understanding of the national power structure.

      1. smoretva Avatar

        No worries. I just wanted to provide some context. Thanks, Jim.

  8. Jim Loving Avatar
    Jim Loving

    Look, while I am from Richmond originally, I spent my entire career in DC Metro (Baltimore too) and the Federal Government was my client. I now live in Falls Church. While this proximity may not have been the first second or third criteria for HQ2, it certainly was a big factor for the following reasons:

    Bezos owns the Washington Post.
    Amazon’s business is coming into increasing scrutiny by anti-trust Democrats (as it should be).

    Amazon’s highly successful and profitable business, Amazon Web Services (Cloud computing) has risen to the top of the industry ahead of Microsoft (#2), Google (#3) and my old company, IBM (#4 or 5). Amazon has hired many former IBMers into this business area. They got there by winning the CIA contract 5 years ago and are in position to win the DoD bid that is imminent. They have data centers across NoVa.

    There are many reasons beyond Arlington/DC being a solid walkable community with high culture – access to regulatory power and a large constituent base for the products and services that Amazon sells. This was a no brainer decision for them/Bezos. My nephew’s wife works in Seattle HQ1 and early in the process hinted that NOVA was a clear early favorite.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Surely, no one should doubt the unique advantages of Amazon’s H2 site being located within the heart of the capital of the world’s wealthiest nation. This is a great opportunity for all concerned if it is done right, and it is a problem if is not.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think we really have crossed over the Rubicon when we worry that ED will attract “tech” companies with “liberals” that will infiltrate the govt as a “deep state” e.g. ” the implications for our understanding of the national power structure.”

    Are we going off the rails here?

    1. Larry, it is hard to carry on a serious dialogue with you when you so manifestly garble and mis-represent other peoples’ viewpoints.

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