Thursday, April 07, 2016

Getting to Denmark?

Francis Fukuyama (among others) asks how we can "get to Denmark."  He means, how can we emulate that country's seemingly efficient public sector.  He cites the problem of U.S. public sector unions: "Today, these same public-sector unions have themselves become part of an elite that uses the political system to protect its own self-interests. ... the quality of American public administration has declined markedly since the 1970s, in no small measure because of these unions' ability to limit merit as a basis for promotion." (p. 163-164 of Political Order and Political Decay). With rare exception, a visit to your local post office or DMV (or similar agency) will bear this out.

This morning's WSJ includes yet another op-ed on how to fix America's infrastructure. "Finding the Money for America the Fixer-Upper" by George Shultz and John Cogan. Reform health care, social security and public pensions and the money will be there.

But I am not sure that such reforms in our lifetime are plausible. And more money fails to fix anything if the system is flawed. (Example, large public school districts.) In light of the politics now on display, is there a plausible challenge to the influence of public sector unions? Unlikely.