Marty: What I want from government

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City Hall

An anonymous commenter recently asked me if I had any relatives in the city or county – I have none. He or she went on to inquire what business I was in and who was paying me for my opinions because, the reader said, everyone wants to get something out of government.

As our painful, overly long, and money-dominated election process starts to heat up again, my political comments will too; therefore, it’s only fair for me to tell you what I want from government. What I want from government are four things – liberty, honesty, effectiveness and efficiency.

Liberty is the first thing on my list. I want a government that shows restraint and only governs when there is an overwhelming collective interest. Unfortunately, that’s many things in a modern and complex world, but it’s still not everything. Doesn’t the government have enough important things to do without trying to regulate every aspect of our lives? They can always find an excuse for a law or regulation whether it is your personal good, everyone’s good, or even the government’s good. That attitude would be worth a discussion if they were doing things well. However, not a week goes by without a report of the government’s serious problems. The attitude appears to be – we can’t solve our own problems so let us have some more money and we’ll solve yours.

The second thing I want from the government is honesty. From the recent redistricting scandal to bills with titles that are intentionally misleading, to hidden payments and benefits to supporters, staff and public employees, to nepotism, to accepting lobbying and PAC money for blatant vote selling, there are simply too many dishonest people in government. Many of them do not believe they are dishonest, but that does not change the fact that so many are owned lock, stock and barrel by their financial supporters. To make matters worse they almost never pass up a deal to profit financially from their positions when they are in office or after they leave. Since it’s not illegal, they reason, it must be ok. Well, I guess that’s the new national standard, but one would wish leaders were better than that.

The next item on my list is effectiveness; the government needs to set measureable goals and accomplish them. Instead, they usually overpromise and underperform by half. They consistently make claims that cannot be measured and they often abandon and orphan any project that does not work without admitting defeat so they do not learn from their previous mistakes. To be effective goals need to be performance oriented, if you want students to read and understand make that the goal. Having them take 10 classes does not fulfill the requirement unless there is irrefutable evidence that this works. Government should get off the process train and get on the results train.

The final thing I want from government is efficiency. Too many programs and organizations are just bloated bureaucracies that add immeasurable time and cost to everything. Years ago, I observed that when FedEx came into being the required reports and bids were completed later and later as people scrambled around trying to determine where to go to meet the final FedEx truck. Prior to that, you just had to mail it on time or you missed the deadline. Now the government has the capability to collect more information that anyone can use regardless of cost, so that’s exactly what they do. It relieves them of making the management decisions that allow any organization to run efficiently. In short, I want my money’s worth.      

Marty Richman is a Hollister resident. His column appears Tuesdays.  

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