In response to my article in the Boston Globe on the proposed Chicago ordinance requiring big-box retailers to pay employees a living wage, blogger Daniel Drezner goes the ad hominem root and suggests that, before stating an opinion on the matter, I need to live on the south side of Chicago where the store would be going. If I did, he says, then I'd see that the proposed Chicago ordinance is reckless. But, of course, lots of people who have spent lots of time there -- and in places a lot like it -- seem to think the ordinance is sorely needed. They realize that big-box retailers want access to lots of neighborhoods in the city, and not just the one Drezner highlights. In fact, big-box is already in some upscale parts of Chicago. So we know this much: people who know the neighborhood and the city in question quite well (and that includes Drezner) actually have VERY different views on the wisdom of this policy. Which leads precisely to the point I was making. I was not arguing that Chicago should pass the ordinance but rather that Chicago should have the legal power to make the policy judgment for itself. Drezner, an economist, skipped right over that distinction. (If I need a fellowship to take me to the South Side, as he suggests, then maybe he needs one to take him to law school.) Actually, though, Drezner is on to something interesting and important. He emphasizes rightly that not all city neighborhoods are the same. It might be that the city would be wise to permit bix box retail in some neighborhoods within the city on more favorable terms than others. The mayor has suggested as much, proposing that each ward be able to decide the matter for itself. It's a complex policy question, however, whether such neighborhood-based tailoring is a good idea or a bad one, and it depends a lot on the particularities of the retail market in the Chicago area. I am skeptical it is a good idea, but open to being persuaded otherwise. But, for me, the key point for now is that a city could not tailor its policy in this neighborhood-focused manner even it was a good idea for it to do so unless it had the legal power to enact such living wage ordinances at all. And that's part of the reason why I think the Chicago ordinance, if enacted, should be upheld against the home rule, equal protection, and ERISA-preemption challenges that are sure to follow.