A news item informs us that Camden, New Jersey, may shut down its city libraries if more financing is not forthcoming. A veiled threat to sell or destroy its book collection has even been offered to rattle the cages of the electorate. Such responses by government officials are not uncommon. When Proposition 13 was passed by California voters in 1978 — greatly reducing state property taxes — a number of cities immediately announced that they would cut back on library and/or city parks services. How dare the rabble stick its collective nose into the affairs of state?
It should be noted that the services local governments are the first to curtail are those actually desired by the citizenry. There is rarely a suggestion made that the jobs of city administrators be eliminated. After all, someone has to be shooting paper-clips at his fellow workers, or reading People magazine, or solving the daily crossword puzzle! The assumption prevails that, while non-government employment or programs are subject to curtailment during economic recessions, the continued employment of these make-believe "public servants" should remain protected.
As officials of various cities look for ways to cut their costs, let them begin with those agencies and services that the local citizenries do not value: perhaps meter maids, traffic courts, or health departments that spend their time ferreting out little girls' lemonade stands, would be places to start.