Was It a Good Idea to Reinvent Government? After Reading About Milwaukee I’m Not So Sure Any More….
Naked Capitalist blogger Lambert Strether posted one of the most thoughtful essays I’ve read about the Milwaukee riots that occurred this past weekend. After providing a historic context for the events that occurred and systematically describing the coverage, he concludes his essay with this:
The destruction of America’s — and Milwaukee’s industrial base — was motivated by greed. The realtors who ran blockbusting scams were motivated by greed. And the people who turn law enforcement into profit-making opportunities are motivated by greed. All three of our systemic factors, then, have greed at the heart, if the heart is the organ I want.
I’m not sure that GREED per se motivates city administrators and elected officials who are not corrupted by political contributions or outright bribery… but I AM sure that many well intentioned elected officials and public administrators have bought into the notion that they should run their enterprises “like a business” and in doing so have mimicked the behaviors of the corporations by outsourcing labor. And this behavior is reinforced by the notion of many voters that all taxes are “confiscatory” and “government is the problem”… and that, in turn, plays on the notion of many voters that they EARNED their money and I shouldn’t have to share it with those who are “takers”… and this notion is exacerbated when the “takers” are unionized public employees. Several years ago as a public school administrator I read, agreed with, and encouraged the implementation of many of the ideas in Reinventing Government… in retrospect I see that many of the ideas incorporated in that book and others like it promoted the notion that government-funded agencies should behave more like corporations and now am beginning to see that THAT notion might be wrongheaded. Maybe the efficiencies advocated by Reinventing Government’s authors, efficiencies designed to increase the bottom line, to impose the profit motive in government, contribute to the problems that plague urban areas. Maybe efficiency, not mismanagement or corruption, is the enemy. As I’ve noted frequently, I intend to plumb this topic more in the future….