Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cothran's First Corollary to the Rule of Government Efficiency: Keep counties small

Every two years or so, someone trots out a bill in the Kentucky General Assembly calling for the consolidation of counties in Kentucky under the banner of "Efficiency". How do we know that reducing the number of counties will be more efficient? Because the government says so.

According to Al Cross, Tom Brokaw in the New York Times is touting the finding of a government panel that says that reducing the number of counties will result in greater government efficiency:
His examples range from New York, where a state commission determined that consolidation could save the state more than $1 billion, to North Dakota and his native South Dakota, where Brokaw says that 17 universities for 1.5 million people in two states could better use their money by consolidating administrations into one university system with satellite campuses.

Brokaw's example of Iowa's 99 counties for 3 million residents could be repeated for a number of states. Nebraska has more counties per capita than any state, and Kentucky is second. "Each one houses a full complement of clerks, auditors, sheriff’s deputies, jailers and commissioners," he writes. "Is there any reason beyond local pride to maintain such duplication given the economic and population pressures of our time?" [emphasis added]
The idea that consolidating or simplifying any state function saves money is the organizational equivalent of the "cone of silence" in the old "Get Smart" TV series: it never works. Someone should go back and look at all the promises that were issued by those behind what is undoubtedly one of the worst organizational actions in the history of education: the school consolidation movement. What I'd like to see is the cost per student for education before all the small schools were closed down and the cost now.

The only thing that the consolidation of counties will do is to take the government of localities out of the localities themselves and place it in the hands of bureaucrats outside of the community being governed.

Cothran's Rule of Government Efficiency plainly states, "There is No Such Thing." And one of corollaries of this Rule is: "The Bigger the Government Body, the More Inefficient It Is."

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