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Good enough for government work?

An intriguing quote from the judge who decided the no-longer-endless Washington State governor's race yesterday: "Almost anyone who works in state and local government ...

An intriguing quote from the judge who decided the no-longer-endless Washington State governor's race yesterday: "Almost anyone who works in state and local government knows exactly what this culture is. It's inertia. It's selfishness. It's taking our paycheck but not doing the work. It's not caring about either our fellow workers or the public we're supposed to serve. It's not taking responsibility. It's refusing to be held accountable." (He was referring to the atmosphere over at the King County elections office, suggesting that such a good-enough-for-government-work attitude had a role in its less-than-stellar performance in the November election.) This is certainly much of the public's perception of government bureaucrats, but is it really fair to single out government people this way? People who advocate the run-government-as-a-business approach (what business? Eastern Airlines? the Pennsylvania Railroad?) in particular are quick to claim that taking a businesslike approach -- or turning more government functions over to business -- is the cure-all that will make government responsive and responsible. But can anyone really cite a place where that has occurred?

John Martin is a senior editor for Governing.
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