Manhattan Moment: Public sector unions bring back Tammany Hall

By Daniel DiSalvo, The Washington Examiner

James Madison believed that constitutional government was a matter of balance. As he put it: “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Today, few people worry about government’s ability to control the governed. But the politicization of government workers, especially at the state and local level, has made it increasingly difficult for the government to control itself.

From the 1830s to the 1950s, the central problem was the patronage system ruled by machine bosses and ward heelers. “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy,” New York Senator William Marcy said in 1832 — the spoils in this case being government jobs. By prioritizing political connections over merit, the patronage system weakened the quality of government services, as many government workers spent more time on party politics than their nominal jobs.

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