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Crossing the Line?

Elizabeth Green’s story, “Teachers union sent scripted questions to City Council members”, may serve as a wake-up call. A friend called me and shouted “You’ve got to be kidding me!” about eight times. He got the wake-up call.

Others active in public education are surprised that people are surprised. That should be a wake-up call too. Perhaps this soft corruption exists in part because of a lack of public awareness. Perhaps if we better educate people about “how things work” (as Elizabeth subtitles her story), we will get better political outcomes.

All special interest groups use money and pressure to influence the political process. We hope that their methods don’t cross the line, but different people draw that line in very different places. Instead of changing human nature, here are four mechanisms to change government that might decrease the effects of inappropriate interest group influence:

1. Increase government transparency. We can’t oversee what we can’t see.

2. Simplify the role of government. We can’t oversee what we can’t understand.

3. Reduce the role of government. The greater the role of government, the greater incentive for inappropriate interest group influence.

4. Allow for private competition to serve as a check on government corruption. When the government is a monopoly provider, there is no competitive check on the inefficiency caused by interest group influence.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.