(Columbia is a feminine form of “Columbus”, FYI)
I’ll try to be brief and avoid the snark, but this is an idea whose time has come and could be a winning plank in the Republican campaign legislative agenda for 2020.
It can fix a lot of national eye sores, such as the national electoral college being decided by a bunch of blue pips on a sea red, for you all know those blue areas are primarily made up of federal bureaucrats and an underbelly of state bureaucrats whose existence relies of the existence of those enabling federals. A special class, an elite class.
I used to be proficient on the “natural law” of bureaucracies, American style, only chose to make my living for over 20 years helping people in the old Communist bloc (Russia, Ukraine, Balkans and Baltic) deal with their bureaucracies while trying to do their business the American way. In turn, they taught me a lot about having to do honest business with stealth, avoiding mafia as well as state regulators, in some very unique versions of “tricking the government” (an old Russian phrase I heard in four different languages).
The pay wasn’t all that good, but ‘Ay God, Woodrow, what satisfaction! And what friends!
I’m surely more in their debt than they are mine.
But if you’ll note this website, VassarBushmills.com, un-connected analysts who get approximately ten reads a day are not apt to build much of a groundswell even with a great idea. I’ve designed some very good mousetraps though. So, if you like what I have to say here, feel free, in fact, I encourage you to snatch this up and plagiarize the hell out of it, just so that it can get in the hands of people who can make it happen. I learned quite a bit about plagiarism in the three years I wrote at Red State, when I read by hundreds more.
The Federal District idea
The creation of a separate governmental district was authorized in the 1787 Constitution at Art 1, Section 8. Originally limited to ten miles square (100 sq mi) the original District of Columbia was created in George Washington’s first term, with the Residence Act, 1791, from land ceded by Maryland on one side of the Potomac and by Virginia on the other side.
It’s original purpose was to house the federal government and its buildings, including the residences for its work force, with one intention specifically to insure the federal employees who would live there would not be voting citizens to any other state since their livelihoods were derived directly from their employment of the government. They could only elect their own local officials.
In other words, what became known as Parkinson’s Law in the 1950s about the internal mechanisms that cause bureaucracies to grow on their own volition was just common sense to the Founders in 1790; namely that people in “government service” will always try to grow their departments and would likely vote to protect their source of employment and continued service, and would always apply pressure from within to make that growth both necessary and viable. Affordable?, not so much..
Still, in 1790 it was determined that the bureaucracy should not have the power to effect federal elections…House of Representatives, Senate, and President…which could either create and abolish those jobs.
This isn’t a history lesson, which would lend itself to endless debate, but in the District of Columbia federal employee populations would soon spill over into both Virginia and Maryland, eventually turning both states into blue strongholds for Big Government, eventually controlling those states’ electoral college electors. My Virginia is nor considered a hard blue state.
Obviously, I think this is a bad idea or I wouldn’t be writing this now. I believe Big Government and large federal (and state) payrolls are a bad thing to the rest of the people who have to pay for them, for two very good reasons:
1) They never seem to know when to quit growing, in fact, seem hell bent on getting larger. Keynesian economics, from the New Deal era, actually stands for the notion that massive government spending on government is a good thing, especially as a job creator. We now know that, as a kind of natural law of bureaucracies, if left to their own devices, will never, can never stop trying to grow until they have actually killed the sources of funding. Their host. Private corporations have contended with this phenomenon for many more years, but always had the means to reorganize themselves or, in the alternative, collapse, at which time, in a private free-market economy, they are quickly replaced, and the market organism remains healthy. But governments are not so easily replaced, especially free ones, of which I still only count one, for they would be replaced by authoritarian and totalitarians who have been waiting in queue to seize what the free markets have created for them. Venezuela is a recent example of this natural phenomenon.,
2) And, as noted by the Founders, they skew the voting in the states in which the federal employees reside, for the larger a federal bureaucracy becomes, their employees and their families can come to swing the state politics of their states, as well as the federal elections of those states.
The original District of Columbia was designed so that federal employees would live inside the district, so they would be able to organize and vote in their own local government, only.
There has already been talk of moving some federal agencies out of Washington. Why not move them all, and sprinkle them around a few blighted cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, the Boston-Connecticut corridor?
Think of how the map might be redrawn.
I chose Detroit only because there are 100’s of square miles of blighted areas that can be bulldozed and turned into a Federal District much as the Founders imagined in 1790. There are other locations equally accommodating.
Simply build upon that chosen district a gated community, much like a military post, with nice quarters, segregated by rank, GS3-to-GS14, all of it paid for by the taxpayers.
Cause and Effect
Such a relocation might have a short term negative effect on federal employees, at least 20% of which are redundant anyway, notwithstanding the immense savings they could make by having not monthly house payment. A perquisite.
They would have to register as legal residents of the new federal district, and do the necessary paperwork of removing themselves from voter rolls in the states where they now reside. (Most states, blue states now, but red if the roles were reversed, will make some effort to keep those names on their voter lists anyway, simply because that’s what Democrats do. Fairfax, Virginia certainly would.
Federal employees would be able to sell their homes in Fairfax, Virginia, and move into comfortable government-paid quarters in Michigan. But something tells me many won’t want to go. Middle management, GS9 and up, may seek local work elsewhere and leave government service altogether.
Short term, it could be a messy process.
Now anyone who works in federal government (I’ve had friends in several agencies, especially Defense) can tell you their offices are bloated, only a handful carrying the work load of a much larger staff. The Soviets literally destroyed their government apparatus by mandating 20 people do the works of 3, just so they could report full employment. (Then the whole department shuts down if one necessary signature did not show up for work.) So far, the security of federal employment insures that a redundant employee will gladly show up and do nothing but play video Solitaire in order to hold onto their sinecure. In the 1980s I knew federal safety inspectors who applied at every one of our manufacturing facilities for the better job. That has been reversed.
In application, John Maynard Keynes was wrong.
And several agencies have mirror-images in state bureaucracies; Education, Health, EPA, where a general reduction in state bureaucratic employment might occur since many of those state missions only exist because of federal laws and federal funding, something LBJ was able to masterfully achieve in housing and welfare programs in the 60s. Once the states find out they will have to pay for their own urban solutions without large federal outlays, their politicians will likely figure out better-managed and less costly designs simple because the people (the taxpayers) will be closer to how their tax money is spent.
Colleges and universities may even change their curricula, as more and more young people will choose trades or more concentrated degrees over BA’s in Underwater Basketweaving, where their best job opportunity was as a GS-7 office manager in HUD. Prairie View A&M may even require their engineering graduates to be able to do simple logarithms.
Don’t hold your breath, as it will take awhile, but Liberal Arts sociology and history teachers may even find themselves buying Fords once again.
Without getting long-winded, I think you can imagine all sorts of good that can arise, over the next 20-30 years, if we cut our federal bureaucracies by at least 20%-40%, resulting in a seismic trickle down, now that real jobs are coming back to America.
And it can all begin by the creation of a Federal District of Detroitia, and keeping all those voters off the Michigan voter roles.
Think about it.