Why running government “like a business” can cause great harm

Today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer includes a column I wrote regarding one of the myriad shortsighted cuts included in the House version of the 2013 state budget that’s been emerging on Jones Street in recent days.

In another classic case of conservative ideology trumping common sense, the proposed Justice and Public Safety budget would eviscerate the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection by ending state funding and forcing the lawyers there to become “receipt-supported.” That’s a fancy way of saying that the Section will have to fend for itself and scare up money to pay the bills from lawsuits it wins. As I note in the piece:

“Under such a system, attorneys in the state Consumer Protection Section would have a huge, new incentive to decide which cases to take and which consumers to defend based upon the kind of attorney fees and other “receipts” they could hope to wring out of the case. Put bluntly, public watchdogs would face enormous pressure to behave more like ambulance-chasing lawyers than public servants.”

In other words, free markets are great, but this clumsy attempt to inject them into a place in which they’ll turn public servants into “entrepreneurs” is a perfect example of how market fundamentalists are sacrificing our state government on an absurd ideological altar.I hope you’ll take a moment to read the entire column by clicking here.

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