11 August 2014

Local Government And Economic Development

A post at Marginal Revolution on libertarian misconceptions about government recalls for me another under appreciated aspect of the developed world status quo.

Most of what distinguishes Third World political economies from those in the United States, happens on a largely non-partisan basis at the local government level in the First World.  What do local governments provide in the United States that is often missing or sorely deficient in the Third World:

* Water supply, treatment and sewage services.
* Mosquito control.
* Weed control.
* Storm sewers.
* Public street lights.
* Local road maintenance.
* Operate and build public transit systems (sometimes with grant funding at higher levels of government).
* Traffic and parking law enforcement.
* Administration of motor vehicle registration.
* Administration of motor vehicle emissions requirements.
* Enforcement and adoption of building codes.
* Property tax assessment and collection.
* Resolution of property line disputes.
* Administration of public records related to real property ownership.
* Administration of public education via public schools.
* Enforce vaccination and truancy requirements.
* Enforce laws prohibiting child abuse and neglect.
* Administer libraries.
* Mental health services.
* Administration of welfare laws.
* Local hospitals of last resort.
* Fire fighting and functional EMT services.
* Alcohol establishment regulation.
* Relatively non-corrupt enforcement of laws prohibiting blue collar crime by law enforcement, and prosecuting attorneys.
* Determination of cause of death in suspicious cases.
* Trial courts for all crimes.
* Pre-trial incarceration and misdemeanor sentence implementation.
* Collection of small debts and evictions in courts of limited jurisdiction with appeals in most cases to a general jurisdiction court in the same county and enforcement by local law enforcement officials.
* Civil trial courts of general and probate and domestic relations jurisdiction.
* Conduct of non-judicial foreclosure proceedings.
* Marriage licensing.
* Most election administration except compilation of final tallies in multi-jurisdictional election districts.

It also isn't uncommon for local governments to operate or manage by outsourced contracts utilities such as electric power grids, cable television, and Internet access providers.

State and federal governments legislate broadly and engage in some administration of governmental functions, but far less than most people realize.  A quite small percentage of law enforcement officers are in state or federal government positions.

The biggest categories of state and federal workers are college and university employees, postal workers, national defense employees, park rangers, and managers of public lands and public property.

The proportion of the federal and state government engaged in controversial regulatory activities is quite modest.

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