WANT to know why massive government bureaucracies don't...

salmagundi

January 18, 1995

WANT to know why massive government bureaucracies don't work efficiently or expeditiously?

It could be because there are not incentives -- positive or negative -- for workers to perform their tasks in a superior fashion.

Take the state government's 60,000-employee work force. Union pressure and state laws forbid the use of merit pay to reward the best-producing workers. At the same time, a union-friendly legislature has made it nearly impossible to effectively discipline a malingerer or an incompetent. Trying to fire someone who sleeps most of the day away at his or her desk is a long, arduous, nearly impossible task.

That's borne out by the following figures. The number of suspensions of misbehaving state workers last fiscal year was only 252. Of those, the state tried to fire 78 (remember, that's out of a work force of 60,000).

Demotions? All of seven during the year (There was only one the year before). Unsatisfactory reports? Six. Number of workers denied their incremental pay raises for incompetence: zero. And the number of workers rated as doing an unsatisfactory job (those who are "below a fair standard of performance and efficiency") reached 334.

No private-sector business could thrive for long with that kind of built-in deterrence to effective management of a work force. How are managers supposed to get good performance out of their staffs when they know they can't reward and they certainly can't fire or discipline wayward employees?

But don't complain to the governor about this: the culprits are the legislators who have acted as protectors for the status-quo unions. And state government is far from alone in this problem. Other governments are just as bad. So are local school systems.

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