In the wake of last week’s tax protests, the last person you’d expect to be pushing for smaller government would be Tom Brokaw. But here he is today, writing in the New York Times:
In my native Great Plains, North and South Dakota have a combined population of just under 1.5 million people, and in each state the rural areas are being depopulated at a rapid rate. Yet between them the two Dakotas support 17 colleges and universities. They are a carry-over from the early 20th century when travel was more difficult and farm families wanted their children close by during harvest season.
I know this is heresy, but couldn’t the two states get a bigger bang for their higher education buck if they consolidated their smaller institutions into, say, the Dakota Territory College System, with satellite campuses but a common administration and shared standards?
Iowa, next door, is having its own struggles with maintaining population, especially among the young. As the Hawkeye State’s taxpayers grow older and less financially productive, the cost of government services becomes more expensive.
Yet Iowa proudly maintains its grid of 99 counties, each with its own distinctive courthouse, many on the National Register of Historic Places – and some as little as 40 miles away from one another. Each one houses a full complement of clerks, auditors, sheriff’s deputies, jailers and commissioners. Is there any reason beyond local pride to maintain such duplication given the economic and population pressures of our time?
This is not a problem unique to the states I have cited. Every state and every region in the country is stuck with some form of anachronistic and expensive local government structure that dates to horse-drawn wagons, family farms and small-town convenience.
Of course, on Brokaw’s own television network – the one he spent decades building into a reputable news organization – he would be labeled a “teabagging racist redneck” for espousing this preference for smaller government. Who knew Tom Brokaw’s brain was so underdeveloped? Who could have imagined he took all his marching orders from Fox News?