Democrats versus Government School Teachers

Years ago, one of Honolulu's daily papers reported a fatal auto accident in which a driver apparently misread the ground, turned off his headlights, and, in the dark of night, rolled over the cliff on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island. A witness reported seeing the brake lights blink after the car was airborne. I think of this when I contemplate the finances of the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii, the United States of America, and governments worldwide. Vaclav Smil calls the inevitable slow-motion default the "Great Unraveling".

Via Public Finance, this news.

Off the cuff, and just eyeballing chart VI of this report, it looks like there's a strong negative correlation between unfunded public sector pension and benefit liablilities, on the one hand, and NAEP 8th grade Math scores, on the other. I'll take that as a measure of the relation between public-sector integrity and school system performance. Compare North Dakota (tops in the US on NAEP by some measures, low unfunded benefit exposure) and Hawaii (NAEP scores in the national cellar, high unfunded pension and benefit exposure).

Politicians at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. In democratic polities, they make these promises to influential interest groups such as unionized public sector employees and other contractors to the State, and to other well-organized, politically active constituencies. In bureaucratic one-party States, bureaucrats ascend the hierarchy through strategic alliances with superior patrons and loyal subordinates. Financial opacity allows politicians to make impossible promises without fear of immediate contradiction. Within organizations, opacity in either finances or goals contributes to inefficiency (and fraud), as Canice Prendergast suggests in his A Theory of "Yes-Men", (AER). Mounting inefficiencies reduce future resources, including those which would otherwise fund pension and benefit promises. When you (formally, "one", for the nit-pickers of the English Department) have made more promises than you can keep, you will have to break some of them. As Vaclav Smil observed, this will take decades to unfold.

Sorry to sound so grim. Hawaii politicians have not yet acknowledged the financial situation. We're accelerating toward the cliff edge and they refuse to accept even that brakes have a useful function. Individually, many probably accept that the State cannot long continue on the current path. Collectively, they close their eyes.

Homeschool. Start a garden. Learn First Aid. Buy ammunition.

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