A Scheme to Improve Public Service
Reading Dave’s exellent post, and his mention of a hysterical article about government workers, brought to mind this hysterical article about government workers. A man named Chris Myers Asch is trying to start a public university that would devote itself exclusively to training future government workers. The problem with the public sector, according to Asch, is not that it’s composed of unwieldy bureaucracies that crush innovation. Rather, the problem is that the smartest undergraduates don’t aim to join those bureaucracies. (Hmmm, I wonder why?)
It’s interesting to see all the alternatives to the university that are suggested by the article, but overlooked by Asch. For example, a quote from one academic quoted suggests offering scholarships for students who plan to go into public service. They could take a scholarship and choose from the dozens of public and private schools of public service that are already out there. No way, says Asch. That’s not prestigious (read: centralized) enough.
The article notes that Asch worked for Teach for America early in his career. Teach for America has achieved considerable success. Why couldn’t we start a similar program for other government jobs? Recent college graduates could spend a year or two working for different federal agencies, polishing their resumes and bringing new talent into government. We don’t require all the Teach for America teachers to attend one particular public university, and we shouldn’t encourage other public servants to do that either.
Putting all the future government workers in one place may sound convenient, but there are many advantages to a system of dispersed, competing schools and private-sector involvement — as Asch should know. After all, he went to Duke.