- January 17, 2013
It’s history now, and old news — that the Sarasota City Commission voted 3-2 to adopt an 8.5% increase in the city’s tax rate for the fiscal year that just began.
But after that vote, Commissioner Susan Chapman, one of the three who raised the tax rate, asked the two who voted against the increase — Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo — what they would have cut from the budget to avoid the rate increase.
Commissioner Caragiulo, unlike so many other elected officials, gets it. He told Sarasota
Observer/Pelican Press News Editor David Conway the commission’s job is to approve a budget, not assemble it.
What’s more, Caragiulo said, “If you convey to staff that you’re agreeable to the millage increase, you give them no incentive to cut the budget … Unless you give them less money to play with, they’re only going to cut what they need to cut.”
No incentives, or the lack of performance incentives — that has always been one of the flaws of government management. As a result, governments typically manage and budget themselves up to what they collect in taxes.
They also pad the numbers, It’s part of the game. They estimate high on expenses to the commissioners, knowing but not telling that the city or county can be managed for less. It’s not in a city manager’s interest to have less to spend each year.
If, however, more commissioners approached their jobs as Caragiulo does, they would adopt performance incentives for their top bureaucrats, much like the private sector does. For instance, reward them financially for improvements in productivity. For every $10 saved through efficiency improvements (while maintaining acceptable service levels), pay the city manager a 10% bonus. For every quarter-point cut in the millage rate(while mantaining services), pay a percentage in bonus.
People always respond to incentives. It works in business. Government should be no different.
But to think the status quo can be broken is a wish that, historically speaking, will never come true. See below.
+ Unbroken record of failure
It’s such a shame so many Americans — especially the Democrats who voted for Obamacare — have this delusion that “The State” can manage 300 million Americans’ health-care needs.
Here’s why they believe it: They don’t know history.
Consider the following excerpt from “Our Enemy the State,” written in 1935 by Albert Jay Nock, then a noted journalist:
“State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently; yet when the slightest dissatisfaction arises over any exercise of social power, the aid of the agent least qualified to give aid is immediately called for.
“Does social power mismanage banking-practice in this-or-that special instance — then let the State, which never has shown itself able to keep its own finances from sinking promptly into the slough of misfeasance, wastefulness and corruption, intervene to “supervise” or “regulate” the whole body of banking-practice, or even take it over entire.
“Does social power, in this-or-that case, bungle the business of railway-management — then let the State, which has bungled every business it has ever undertaken, intervene and put its hand to the business of “regulating” railway-operation.
“Does social power now and then send out an unseaworthy ship to disaster — then let the State, which inspected and passed the Morro Castle, be given a freer swing at controlling the routine of the shipping trade.
“Does social power here and there exercise a grinding monopoly over the generation and distribution of electric current — then let the State, which allots and maintains monopoly, come in and intervene with a general scheme of price-fixing which works more unforeseen hardships than it heals, or else let it go into direct competition; or, as the collectivists urge, let it take over the monopoly bodily.
“‘Ever since society has existed,’ says Herbert Spencer, ‘disappointment has been preaching, “Put not your trust in legislation’; and yet the trust in legislation seems hardly diminished.”’
Nothing has changed in 80 years; in fact, it has worsened.
For that matter, nothing has changed since the Fall of the Roman Empire. Consider the following from an essay by Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education:
“Late in the Third Century, Emperor Aurelian declared government relief payments to be a hereditary right. He provided recipients of government-baked bread (instead of the old practice of having them bake their own bread) and added free salt, pork and olive oil.
“Rome suffered from the bane of all welfare states, inflation. The massive demands on the government to spend and subsidize created pressures for the multiplication of money.
“Roman coinage was debased by one emperor after another to pay for expensive programs. Once almost pure silver, the denarius, by the year 300, was little more than a piece of junk containing less that 5% silver.
“Prices skyrocketed and savings vanished. Businessmen were vilified even as government continued its spendthrift ways.
“Romans first lost their character. Then, as a consequence, they lost their liberties and ultimately their civilization.”
Deja vu all over again?