One of the problems administrative agencies face is the need to be legitimate or relevant. There is the urge to justify budgets by creating new programs that hopefully the public will recognize as beneficial hence worth the dollar expenditures. Administrative agencies may create additional costs in the attempt to be legitimate by replacing the electorate’s visions for a good society with what administrative agencies deem to be better.
For example, a county’s residents may consider the most important attributes of cable television to include affordable rates, no cable blackouts, and excellent customer service. A local county government, on the other hand, may consider more important a cable company’s ability to wire county government offices for broadband services and provide county government with television studios. Unbeknownst to most county residents is that the cable company’s cost for providing these services to the county are passed on to the resident as part of the franchise fees that counties are able to extort from the cable provider during license negotiations.
The county government’s argument for these additional “services” is that citizens benefit from the public, educational, and government programming that the county’s new television studios provide (even if a very minute number of residents watch the channels) or that citizens benefit from the cable provided connectivity between county buildings (even if data and communications sent between buildings is primarily for operational reasons).
The county’s television operations could be contracted out to a private sector provider with payment to that provider coming from general funds versus a special cable account funded by the additional “tax” that residents overlook on their cable bills. Even if county residents were aware of and accepted that part of the “cable vision” of county government to dress up and play TV exec for the benefit of the county, county residents would probably prefer that portion of the vision be managed privately versus in the public space.
Government, whether local, state, or federal, would probably save a lot in resources if it kept in mind that it was created to manage the citizen’s vision of a good society. Co-opting that vision may increase society’s costs either via dollar expenditure or change in the original vision. The difficulty for the citizen is keeping tap on government when that vision is tampered with. Most citizens either do not have the time or do not want to expend discretionary time keeping tabs on their government. The citizen’s time, the major barrier to her efficacy, enables government to pursue policy that injects imbalance into the public management vs. private management of resources decision.