Unexpectedly Intriguing!
07 January 2008
Via the comments at Sound Politics, concerning a controversial land deal in King County, Washington involving the county government, perhaps the most well-considered argument ever for requiring more bureaucracy on the part of public servants, written under the pseudonym GovtMole (emphasis ours):

So it's probably no surprise to anyone reading this, and I realize I am not saying anything profound when I say it. But even from an insider's perspective - and someone who is not necessarliy [sic] inclined to dislike government, since I work there - Ron Sims is about as conveniently ethical as they come.

Sims is unbelievably shallow in convictions and in recognition of what's right. I am 100% not surprised that Ron has chosen to exercise what many folks recognize as a very special clause to sell this property w/o bid.

You have to understand that many government executives don't get that the paramount duty of government is to overtly refrain from bilking the taxpayers. That means that you have to be just a bit less 'efficient' (although you could argue that, hence the quotes), you have to have a bit more process, and you have to be willing to stand up to just a bit more scrutiny than if you were in the private sector.

As a free market guy, that all makes sense to me. And it actually works in favor of getting the taxpayers the best deal. The quote from Bob Thompson in the article is a perfect example of this. Follow the rules (ie the public process) and you will 999 times out of 1000 get a better product for the taxpayers in the same amount of time...that last 1 in 1000 will in all likelihood result in better product, but maybe longer time. Transparency is good (this holds in private sector too, BTW).

Unfortunately, Ron and/or his office doesn't see it this way. Witness many land and other deals, but most recently the Donut Hole as was ably covered in the Times article, and the Burlington Northern property, which at one point Ron wanted to buy straight from the railroad, as long as the RR would remove the track first, thus avoiding a public debate about what should be done with that corridor.

Ron Sims is an embarrassment to all of us in government who want to do the right (and economically rational) thing and who think the rules actually usually end up giving you a better product. If only SOMEBODY would nominate a credible candidate to run against him. He is really a serious detriment to improved quality of life to anyone who lives in King County.

Alas, if only bureaucrats and politicians had good incentives, tales of government failure like this expedient land deal would be much less common.

The Best Post of the Year, Anywhere!(TM)

Last Friday, we awarded our highest recognition of the best blog post contributed to the world of business and money-related blog carnivals to a post that specifically revolved around the topic of building trust through transparency. We couldn't pass up this example of how the same principle would apply to government!

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