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No One-Stop Shop with Government

Monday May 2nd, 2016   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:20am PDT   •  

ComputerTablet Beach_MLCalifornia is a high-tech state and that leads Zócalo Public Square columnist Joe Mathews to wonder: “Why, in this Internet age, doesn’t my state offer a one-stop shop where I can renew my driver’s license, register to vote, pay my taxes and buy passes to a state park?” This one-stop shop, says Mr. Mathews, is “one of the oldest ideas in California governance” and pops up in commission reports. One, from the Little Hoover Commission, wants a one-stop shop that would enable Californians “to manage all their business with the state.” For Mr. Mathews, however, “the effective California one-stop shop exists only in the realm of myth,” and he knows why this is so:

“California has too many governments – literally thousands of them – that demand compliance with their own separate rules as a way to protect their very existence. Indeed, our governing system seems designed with the opposite of one-stop shopping as its guiding principle. California has more permitting and licensing agencies than most other states, all sorts of regional bodies and the California Environmental Quality Act, which can kill almost any worthwhile project.” Mr. Mathews decries government “dysfunction” and laments “the very inefficiencies that make one-stop shops nearly impossible here.” On top of all that, California politicians and bureaucrats, “have no real interest in doing the hard work of consolidating agencies and making things clearer for taxpayers.”

Those taxpayers should not conclude that Mr. Mathews is an advocate of limited government. He is co-author with Mark Paul of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. As a review by Lauren Kaye noted, the author’s solutions are for the most part “conventionally liberal and statist,” and “their stock villain” is Proposition 13, which they claim “unhinged California.” Actually, the 1978 voter-approved measure limited government’s ability to hike taxes but did not mandate any government spending or create any new government agencies.

Six years after California Crackup, Joe Mathews laments that California has too many governments, state agencies, and regional bodies, but he fails to call for the elimination of a single one. He shares the ruling-class view that government can always get bigger but never smaller. That is why dysfunction and inefficiency prevail, and why the government one-stop shop “exists only in the realm of myth.”

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May 2016