Arnold Kling  

Government Mergers

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What is selfishness?... More on Privatization...

Peter Gordon writes,


Just surfing the U.S. Statistical Abstracts, which are now available through www.census.gov for many years back, reveals the dimensions of the most auspicious government consolidation project in U.S. history: the consolidation of school districts. Sixty years ago, when there were about half as many school-age children, there were over 100,000 local school districts. There are now roughly 13,500.

In my opinion, both the intent and the result of these consolidations was to reduce the power of parents and increase the power of unions and bureaucrats. The contrary hypothesis, that these mergers increased efficiency, has a difficult time confronting the data.

For Discussion. Is the consolidation of U.S. intelligence gathering likely to achieve the desired results?


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/172
The author at Moscow Education (Idaho) in a related article titled Consolidation and Centralization writes:
    TITLE: Consolidation and Centralization URL: http://MoscowEducation.org/archive/2004/12/22/310.aspx IP: 198.206.162.134 BLOG NAME: Moscow Education (Idaho) DATE: 12/22/2004 11:18:09 AM [Tracked on December 22, 2004 11:18 AM]
COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ronnie Horesh writes:
Is the consolidation of U.S. intelligence gathering likely to achieve the desired results?
Yes, because the government can define the desired result as being the consolidation of US intelligence. Until we put pressure on government to tie the funding of its agencies to explicit, verifiable, outcomes it will continue to reward favoured institutions and activities rather than performance.
Edge writes:

Lord knows, I'm suspicious of big bureaucracies of all stripes.

Do you have anything other than suspicion on which to base your opinion, though? Case studies of individual school systems that merged, statistics regarding efficiency and efficiency of what?

How do you differentiate your opinion here with your discussion "What is selfishness"? Why would a big bureaucratic corporation be acting for your mutual benefit, while a big bureaucratic government unit would be acting as a brute with a club?

Lawrance George Lux writes:

Anyone associated with the Intelligence gathering process knows the Recipient gets not Information, but Opinions. These views are generated by 'personal axes to grind', as well as honest assessments. Policy-makers become entrapped in Policies undesired when they consistently rely on singular opinions. It is the reason Don Rumsfeld and Dick Chaney are positive poison to American Interests, this having nothing to do with lack of patriotism. lgl

Bob Knaus writes:

The analogy of school districts to intelligence operations seems ill-chosen. My grandfather taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. It was progress when that district was consolidated, along with thousands of other tiny districts organized on township boundaries! Contrast that with, what? A couple dozen intelligence gathering organizations amongst the federal agencies?

A better analogy would be with agency services which might or might not be consolidated -- purchasing, printing, information technology, accounting, to name a few. Studying the pros and cons of these is a steady source of revenue for management consultants. The outcomes are always somewhat political, but it is possible to find examples of well-crafted compromises which streamline the shared services while preserving agency autonomy.

Does this sound dry as a bone? Yup. Not even PowerPoint can hide that! But it's how the management of government is (slowly) improved. The solution to the intelligence services problem will be similar.

Capt. Bob Knaus
S/V PELLUCID

"Do you have anything other than suspicion on which to base your opinion, though? Case studies of individual school systems that merged, statistics regarding efficiency and efficiency of what?"

Carolyn Hoxby does:

"If every school in the nation were to face a high level of competition both from other districts and from private schools, the productivity of America’s schools, in terms of students’ level of learning at a given level of spending, would be 28 percent higher than it is now."

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