Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Moving to Higher Ground, Part 4

State government, the mid-level of the public sector, has shown a capacity to enrich our lives and impoverish us. In my own state, I have seen the establishment and growth of an enormous system of state universities, colleges, and (two year) community colleges. While it is highly debatable whether our formal educations need to be quite so long – into our 20s and even our 30s – there is no doubt that the universities, public and private, of California have spawned a diverse private economy. To the extent possible, I would like to keep most of this system. The state is also responsible for highways, water resources, prisons, and parks. Although there are many opportunities for economies (staggered work hours to reduce traffic congestion, market pricing to conserve water, decriminalizing drug use (a federal issue) to reduce court caseloads and prison populations, and user fees from parks kept separate from the general fund), I recommend that the state continue to provide these services.
To make state government more affordable, I recommend that state employees be made responsible for their own health and retirement plans. As for cities, state public-employee unions should be discarded. Where there are shortfalls, it will fall to students to make up the difference between the cost of their education and what the state is able to fund. One approach to closing this gap is for students to do more of the maintenance and administration work of their educational institutions. This would give students real work responsibilities and experience at a time when, for some, formal education has become disconnected from the private workplace. It would also give students a greater stake and more pride in their own campuses.

No comments: