Jeff Jacoby

SO NOW it's the video game industry that wants to be bribed to do business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Boston Globe reports that local game developers are lobbying Beacon Hill for subsidies that would make them more competitive against out-of-state rivals. Massachusetts companies such as Demiurge Studios of Cambridge and Turbine Inc. in Needham are angling for tax breaks to help them recruit and hire experienced game designers, and turn the state into an industry stronghold.

A bill to subsidize video-game makers with tax incentives has been introduced by Representative Vincent Pedone of Worcester, who is promoting it as a can't-lose bet for the treasury. "For a fairly small investment," says Pedone, "we have the potential of grasping billions and billions of dollars of additional revenue." His legislation, he insists, will "make Massachusetts the hub of the universe for video game design."

Sigh. Here we go again.

For years Massachusetts has played this sucker's game of allocating financial benefits -- grants, credits, and other tax breaks -- to politically favored companies and industries. And for years the Bay State's hapless taxpayers have seen their dollars squandered to enrich firms that slashed employment instead of growing it, or funneled into unneeded "incentives" for development that would occur even without a penny of state money.

Beacon Hill's confidence in its ability to successfully pick marketplace winners and losers is boundless. So is its inability to grasp that it cannot confer any financial benefit on X without imposing a simultaneous financial cost on Y. No matter how often state government bets wrong, ladling taxpayer-funded goodies to industries that don't fulfill their boosters' rosy predictions, bureaucrats and politicians remain convinced that gambling with public funds is good policy.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for