Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 12/18/2023
On an Acela (the northeast’s high-speed train) heading for Washington, DC two weeks ago, the first class steward pointed out the new replacement fleet—sitting idly on tracks outside of Philadelphia. These trains are now scheduled to enter service in 2024—three years late. The government and the contractor have been arguing over the validity of computerized crash-test simulations, among other things.
I’ve always doubted that the “best and the brightest” flock toward government service, though I’ve known (and coached) many such excellent people. But the sheer bureaucracy of government work and the mind-boggling politics must drive a lot of people away (or crazy). Of course, passion is passion, and at one time it took the government, not the private sector, to land people on the moon. (Today, not so much.)
At local levels we have people running for school boards who know nothing about education, but merely see the office as a starting point for city council, then state legislature, then who knows what? At state levels, even Supreme Court judges have been convicted of crimes and gone to prison. Certainly not unusual here in Rhode Island.
We had an au pair from Europe one year when our kids were young, arranged through a well-respected international organization. She didn’t have one form properly done, and the immigration attorney held her for four hours. We had to have our attorney deal with it in court, and he told me, “The problem is that the government guy doesn’t understand the applicable law.”
George Santos was just thrown out of Congress for laughable fraud and lies. He’s now negotiating with the media. His basic premise: “Is what I did and are my lies so much worse than what the rest of them have done?”
Around four out of seven (57.7%) workers in the public sector are covered by collective bargaining agreements, compared to only around one in ten workers (10.6%) in the private sector. (Source: The Cato Institute.) It is the only sector where unionization is growing. The focus here is on job protection and retirement benefits. (Don’t get me started on the teacher’s unions which are destroying primary and secondary education because they don’t see students or parents as “customers.”)
We’ve seen a LOT of rich people run for office, ostensibly committed to public service, though sometimes I wonder. It seems to me we need to change the incentives and freedom in public service to draw the best and the brightest. I know that sounds Utopian. What could that incentive be?
Maybe the survival of the Republic?
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help. —Ronald Reagan
The essence of good government is trust. —Kathleen Sebelius
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. —Winston Churchill
Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees. And both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people. —Henry Clay