Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dear Oklahoma Legislature: Just say "No" to Professor Spiropoulos

The Journal Record has posted a guest editorial by OCU professor Andrew C. Spiropoulos, who - believe it or not - actually admonishes Oklahoma's legislators to increase the government's budget, not decrease it!
But if the Legislature cuts its own budget, it isn’t helping the cause of fiscal responsibility – it’s seriously harming it.
And later:
It may sound strange, but if our Legislature is serious about right-sizing government, it needs to increase, not cut, its budget.
Spiropoulos seems to be arguing that the state simply doesn't have enough bureaucracy to oversee its own agencies:
The sad fact is that most legislatures lack the resources to effectively oversee the operation and budgets of state agencies. Each house of our Legislature, for example, has fewer than 10 fiscal staff members to analyze the budgets and operations of about 80 state agencies that receive tax funding. Given this crushing workload, it is impossible for the Legislature and its staff to know whether an agency is wasting money. They are forced to take the word of the agency that its programs are working and deserve to be funded. It would be a rare agency, indeed, that admitted that its programs should be cut.
Well, Professor, first of all I would like to respond that if it's purely a matter of manpower, perhaps if the actual members of the Legislature pitched in with analyzing the agency budgets, I'm sure they could take up the slack.

But I think there's a more important issue here and that is the standard you are using: whether or not an agency is wasting money. A state agency may be doing a perfectly good job of fulfilling its mandate - including spending its budget effectively - and still be in violation of the principles of proper government. The proper function of government is the protection of individual rights and every agency that does not directly contribute to that is, in fact, undermining it.

The proper standard to judge whether a given government agency should exist is the role it plays in protecting individual rights. Of course those agencies should be held accountable for their use of government funds, but creating an entire new layer of bureaucracy just so the government can oversee a bunch of agencies which shouldn't exist in the first place only serves to perpetuate a government that violates rights rather than protecting them.

By the standard of protecting individual rights, such agencies - indeed, the vast majority of the state's entire bureaucracy - should, in fact, not exist.

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