Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Take On Consolidation

At first blush, consolidation of government looks like a great thing to a Libertarian, because it stands to eliminate better than 1,000 elected offices. As always, the devil is in the details, and that's a problem, because the elimination of say, the township assessors, is not an issue that calls for a one-size-fits-all solution.

For instance, if I were a Marion County resident, in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Pike or Washington Townships, I positively would not want the Assessor's duties consolidated at the county level.

The reason? Political power in Marion County is concentrated in Center Township, which is the poorest township. It is easily foreseeable that a County Assessor from Center Township could be inclined to assess the outer townships differently (read: more highly) than Center, to suit political whims, and to redistribute wealth.

Want to try to vote out the County Assessor if this should occur? Good luck! Marion County is now firmly in Democratic control, even though Washington and Pike Townships largely vote Republican. At least with a Township Assessor, there is the greater chance (not certitude) of accountabilty.

In sum, the more centralized the government, the less responsive. Centralized government dilutes the local vote.

I truly believe that this is really another kind of gerrymandering. Just as at-large seats tend to be spoils for the dominant party in any jurisdiction made up of many districts, county elections tend to reflect the dominant party.

Democrats take note: The Republicans dominate the vast majority of Indiana's counties. While consolidation could be a great political victory for you in Marion County, it essentially shuts Dems out of local government in all but a few locales. The GOP will gladly cut Marion and Lake Counties loose in exchange for an iron grip on, well, most of the rest. Even Madison & Monroe Counties would swing Republican, despite their well-known Democratic tendencies in Anderson and Bloomington.

Republican officials at the township level are going to be screaming and probably fighting soon on this. Once Democrats check the intracacies, they should be too.

Libertarians should view consolidations with a wary eye. Of course, we look for less government, but it must not come at the expense of more powerful and distant, and less responsive government.


GadFlier said...

Fewer levels of government do not automatically meal less government. From the point of view of authority, Imperial China's infamously huge bureaucracy was all just a single level of government, after all. The more centralized a government is, the more innately tyrannical it is, including allegedly "democratic" governments. This is because nobody can be held responsible for incompetent, negligent, or criminal bureaucrats if the bureaucrat is appointed by another bureaucrat, who is appointed by another bureaucrat, who is appointed by another bureaucrat, who is appointed by a committee of appointees, who are appointed by elected officials.

Mike Kole said...

Exactly. It seems this plan tries to fool friends of smaller government by offering the elimination of so many elected officials.

On the whole, I would rather have a host of elected officials with little authority, overseeing very few programs than a few elected officials with great authority and a host of expensive programs.

We have the host of programs, the cutting of which I heard nothing about from the Governor.