Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Values verses Numbers

There is a recurring theme in the News Journal and other media outlets that Delaware has too many state employees. The Governor has contributed to this idea by talking about the need to make state government smaller. The justification given is a relatively high number of state employees per capita in Delaware. No in-depth analysis by either media or Governor has been forthcoming on this issue.

Small states deliver public services differently than large states. They naturally lose a bit in competiveness due to a lack of economy of scale, but there is more to it than that. In small states jursidictional lines blur and services that would be performed by counties and cities in larger states become the responsibility of the state. For example, state troopers act in lieu of local law enforcement for some localities, and state transportation workers plow roads that would be maintained by the county. This sort of transfer of services happens more frequently in the two southern counties. That's not a condemnation, it's just the way we do things here.

Ranking states by the number of state workers per 1,000 citizens proves little in terms of the efficiency of government. If one wants to get closer to the truth, one could count the number of all public employees per 1,000 citizens and then compare states. Using this method, Delaware usually ranks around 18th in the nation. Yet again, attempting to quantify public services produces more questions than answers:

Who is going to accept the responsibility for essential service?

Who is going to pay?

What demographics do we serve? Do we have high numbers of senior citizens, of children, of people with illness?

What kind of state do we safe, how clean, how educated, how healthy?

Upon consideration, our attitude towards public services and servants is more a question of values than numbers.



Congratulations to all those bold teachers and school employees who have been stepping out of school at the end of their contract day this week. It has been a great show of solidarity and a demonstration of the fact that you already give a lot to this state and asking you to do it all for less is just wrong.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very smart analysis, and once pointed out, seems pretty obvious. How can we get this message out to the hoi-poloi?

    Make government smaller and needed services will no longer be available or will be DOA.