Monday, December 24, 2007

Reducing the Number of Elected Officials is not a Panacea and Will Make Government Less Responsive and Accessible to the People

The letter below was sent to the membership of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. It clearly reflects its understanding that solely reducing the number of elected officials without other major systematic changes is not reform but in fact is bad government:

"It is being “proved” in the governor’s office, in the halls of the Legislature and on the editorial pages of the state’s largest newspapers that democracy is inefficient.

Of course it is.

Members of this foundation, however, understand that it is inefficient only when compared with a corporate or even despotic ideal. Democracy — take a deep breath, you progressives — is only a means of succession, not a guarantee of good government or even efficient management. It certainly is not a guarantee of wealth, certainly not of fairness.

And as such, its costs must be compared with alternative systems of succession, i.e., monarchy, revolution or, in this case, perpetual incumbency for the politically fashionable.

The honest legislator understands that fiddling with the number of government units is folly if the goal really is to improve the individual prosperity and welfare of a constituency. (How did the first consolidation of the public schools work out for Indiana taxpayers? For parents? For students?)

The reformers’ proofs, by contrast, exist only in an accountant’s ledger. The failing dynamics of the larger Indiana economy are ignored as the Legislature concentrates on maintaining an arbitrary balance in a government treasury.

So it is disingenuous for those in the highest offices to complain that Hoosiers must pay, in the words of the Indianapolis Star, for the “overhead" of 3,000 some lower offices and 11,000 some local office holders — none of whom, incidentally, are doing a demonstrably worse job than their Indianapolis superiors. Or to complain that Indiana has more layers of local government than California, a state that, coincidentally or not, is in myriad crises.

It all is a reminder that figures may not lie but politicians will figure.

Craig Ladwig

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