Commentary

UNC prof’s NYT op-ed is the best of the weekend

Prof. Zeynap Tufecki, Image: UNC

Prof. Zeynap Tufecki, Image: UNC

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the fine op-ed that ran in the Sunday New York Times by UNC Assistant Professor of Library Science Zeynap Tufecki. “Why the Post Office Makes America Great” is a powerful reminder of why investment in common good, public institutions is essential for the maintenance and growth of a healthy society.

In it, Tufecki, a Turkish immigrant, explains how amazed she was when she first came to the United States and discovered the easy accessibility of institutions like the U.S. Mail and public libraries. Indeed, she had to work hard to convince her friends back in Turkey that she wasn’t lying when she told them that postal workers would pick up mail free of charge six days a week from private mailboxes throughout the country.

She concludes the essay this way:

“Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the link between infrastructure, innovation — and even ruthless competition. Much of our modern economy thrives here because you can order things online and expect them to be delivered. There are major private delivery services, too, but the United States Postal Service is often better equipped to make it to certain destinations. In fact, Internet sellers, and even private carriers, often use the U.S.P.S. as their delivery mechanism to addresses outside densely populated cities.

Almost every aspect of the most innovative parts of the United States, from cutting-edge medical research to its technology scene, thrives on publicly funded infrastructure. The post office is struggling these days, in some ways because of how much people rely on the web to do much of what they used to turn to the post office for. But the Internet is a testament to infrastructure, too: It exists partly because the National Science Foundation funded much of the research that makes it possible. Even some of the Internet’s biggest companies, like Google, got a start from N.S.F.-funded research.

Infrastructure is often the least-appreciated part of what makes a country strong, and what makes innovation take flight. From my spot in line at the post office, I see a country that does both well; not a country that emphasizes one at the expense of the other.”

Would that our passionate friends in the anti-government Right would read Prof. Zufecki’s commonsense observations and take them to heart.

Uncategorized

Is state program devoted to fighting inefficiency and redundancy redundant?

NC GearA friend of NC Policy Watch points out that a new and controversial $4 million McCrory administration program to fight inefficiency in state government may itself be an example of inefficiency and redundancy.

As WRAL reported earlier this week, the head of the NC Government Efficiency And Reform initiative (NC GEAR) — a former John Locke Foundation staffer — got a fairly skeptical reception at a joint legislative committee on Monday.  Senators and representatives both voiced concern that $4 million was a lot to spend on an ill-defined initiative that has thus far produced very little of substance.

Even, however, if one sets aside the output from NC GEAR thus far (i.e. not much), it’s also worth noting that North Carolina already has a similar program in place called NC Thinks.

Thus far, the main evident function on the NC GEAR website is a virtual suggestion box for improving government efficiency. But, as a our friend points out, NC Thinks already does that!

Here is the website description for that initiative: Read more