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Combining Federal Departments Will Be Sold as “Efficiency”… and Efficiency is the Enemy

June 28, 2018

A few days ago the Trump administration floated the idea of combining the Labor Department and the Education Department… which is a bad idea on at least two counts.

First, the combination underscores the business-minded assertion that the sole purpose of education is to provide trained employees for the workforce, overlooking the reality that public education today is viewed as the primary means of providing social and medical services to large groups of students.

Secondly, the notion of combining these departments in the name of efficiency will undercut the social responsibility of businesses and ultimately undercut the functioning of democratically elected school boards. How so?

This consolidation will be inevitably sold to the mainstream media and voters as a move toward more efficiency in government. But efficiency is the enemy of socially responsible business, the enemy of most voters, and the enemy of democracy. After all, it is efficient to offshore jobs to save costs associated with wages and benefits. It is efficient to replace workers with robots and truck drivers with driverless vehicles and drones that deliver packages. It is efficient to avoid the costs associated with environmental regulations. It is efficient to replace defined benefit pensions with self-funded 401ks. It is efficient to provide a stipend for health insurance instead of paying taxes to assure that everyone has coverage. And at the end of a long list of examples…. it is efficient to replace democratically elected school boards with CEOs who answer to shareholders seeking profits instead of the well being of the community where their business is located.

Whenever you hear that a business or government agency is doing something in the name of efficiency, keep this in mind:

  • No one ever added jobs to an organization in the name of efficiency,
  • No one ever added wages and benefits to employees in the name of efficiency
  • No one ever increased regulations that protect employees and the environment in the name of efficiency
  • And no one ever advocated open governance in the name of efficiency.

Efficiency is the enemy of social responsibility.

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