An editorial today again demonstrates The News & Observer’s amazing capacity for self-contradiction and logic-defiance. The newspaper’s opinion editors are glad that Dell Computers accepted North Carolina’s $242 million in incentives to come here, but now find the competition between Guilford and Forsyth counties for the plant oh-so-distasteful:

Dell chose North Carolina, a relief. So the state should be excused for the raised eyebrows over how the company now is pitting governments in Guilford and Forsyth counties against each other to win the plant.

Greensboro and Guilford County may offer as much as $12.4 million if Dell builds a $100 million manufacturing plant there, while Forsyth and Winston-Salem have put together a whopper of a package of more than $27 million. Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday rightly described his struggle with Forsyth as Dell dropping “the cheese on the floor and let[ting] the rats come get it.” Where is the competition to stop?

For North Carolina, companies shouldn’t be allowed to drive the incentives game to the local government level after they have negotiated deals with the state. In situations like Dell’s, state economic development officials should set the terms of deals that companies could seek from local communities. Sensible boundaries, drawn with a view to what the state already had offered the company, would be in place. The rights of local governments wouldn’t be preempted because they still could vie for companies that approached them, rather than the state, first.

Incentives may be a necessary evil in today’s market, but the state ought to require a sane approach that keeps the process from getting out of hand.

“Sensible boundaries?” “A sane approach?” Sorry, but the Triad pushed for this knowing a local competition was coming. And why do local governments need to be protected from themselves by a state that clearly doesn’t know what a “sensible boundary” is?