listening to charlottesville

The decision this week by the University Virginia Board of Visitors to reinstate President Teresa Sullivan, after her forced resignation less than three weeks ago and the subsequent student and faculty revolt, will echo through the halls of American public universities. Like many others, I’ve been riveted. My three cents: Continue reading


krugman on privatization

Paul Krugman writes on the ills of privatization today in NYT (click this sentence to go to the story.)

I sometimes get frustrated with Krugman’s approach to his NYT column because he seems (at times) to depend more readily on his visceral inclinations than marshaling forth objective evidence that supports his argument. The fact is that most of the contentions he makes can be justified in such terms, and he has a Nobel in Economics for providing insights through objective analysis derived from the scientific method and a deep appreciation for historical context. That’s why columns like this are so frustrating. Krugman’s larger point about the problems of privatization is spot on, but the dependence on ideological frames automatically inhibits the ability to have a genuine debate about the economic and moral consequences of privatizing public goods.

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civil service changes gain a foothold

From Pew Center on the States:

Civil Service Changes Gain a Foothold

“Brewer made civil service changes her top priority in the 2012 legislative session, and she succeeded in getting them enacted. The changes will gradually transition the state away from a traditional civil service structure towards an “at will” system that mirrors private sector companies. Agency managers will have flexibility to hire and fire employees as they choose, and reward star employees with bonuses and pay increases without legislative approval.”

Note: Shifts away from traditional merit system structures of government  bureaucracy to at-will employment have gained traction across traditionally conservative states since the 1990s. Georgia was the first state to move to a predominantly “at-will” model. The fears of such shifts are the politicization of human resource and line management processes–including patronage appointments, arbitrary firings or disciplinary actions, and subverting legislative intent to executive prerogative. Of course, legitimate arguments for the institution of at-will employment include many of the “bureaupathologies” that emerge through merit systems, such as trained incapacity, goal displacement, and intransigence to political authority. Time will tell whether Brewer’s changes will result in the former or cure the latter. But given her record of extreme partisanship, the likelihood of a Jacksonian spoils system emerging seems more likely.