Tag: Phillip Howard

Dead on The Job, Part II

Just wanted to add something to my earlier post on how federal workers are more likely to die on the job than be fired. I’m currently reading Phillip Howard’s latest book — Life Without Lawyers. It’s just fantastic at dissecting how bad our government institutions have gotten. But what’s striking — and maybe it take a progressive like Howard to point this out — is how bad they’ve gotten for government workers.

Let’s take teachers as an example. He documents relentlessly how rules and regulations have made teaching hell in some districts. Because it’s so hard to fire anyone, morale is low anyway. A sense of camaraderie is critical to any endeavor and when you have people sticking around who aren’t pulling their weight, it drags everyone down. But what Howard points out is that if someone who doesn’t have the most critical skill needed to teach — temperament — they are wasting their life at job they’re not suited to. Districts try to correct for this by failure-proofing teaching, planning out every single lesson, slathering teacher in forms and evaluations. And it demonstrably does not work.

We often grip about the inability to fire public employees for the perspective of the taxpayer being screwed or the government service being ineffective. But it’s also bad for the people who can’t be fired. They are wasting their lives in professions to which they are not suited. Their human potential is dribbling away, day by day. Someone who can’t be an effective teacher could be an effective construction worker. Or an effective cop. Or something. But by insulating people from responsibility and firing, we trap them in jobs that waste them.

Creative destruction doesn’t just apply to industries and businesses; it applies to people.