Government Is Best When It’s Closest to Home

* Dennis Aigner suggests that the County Boards of Supervisors be eliminated because the state has eroded the county government’s functions (“Local Government Fit for Scrapheap, UCI Dean Says,” Nov. 24).

A better solution is to reduce the size of the state and federal governments, and shift taxing power and responsibility for governmental services back to local governments.

The closer a government is to its people, the more responsive it is.

City government is fairly efficient, and delivers useful services (street maintenance, parks, law enforcement). Even the messy spectacle of recalling elected officials, which happens fairly often in city government but almost never at the state and federal levels, is evidence that the people hold the reins of their municipal destiny.


County government is a step further from the people; it is probably less responsive than city government. It too provides useful services (sheriff, fire, parks, courts), but it is saddled with providing welfare services to meet muddled objectives that invite waste.

State government is further away still, and is glutted with bait-and-switch taxes and useless regulatory powers.

Federal government is the most remote from the people. Does anyone think it is not a disaster, with its trillion-dollar deficit and Ponzi economics?

A government’s only real power is to tax and spend. A principle of good taxation is that there should be a link (what policy wonks call a “nexus”) between a tax and the governmental service it supports. That nexus is strongest, and most comprehensible to the citizens, when the tax is collected and spent locally on specific, visible improvements. The nexus is lost when taxes are collected by the state or federal governments, dumped into a general fund, then spent far away on programs that the forlorn taxpayer neither approves nor understands. Only God knows what the state government spends our money on--assuming that Willie Brown tells him.


Orange County is a donor county; that is, we send more money to Sacramento and Washington than we receive back in state and federal services. We subsidize Los Angeles, San Francisco and other counties which have more political clout. Let’s not do away with local government. Let’s shrink the state and federal governments, bring back our local taxing and spending responsibility, and re-establish the nexus between the taxes we pay and the services we receive.


San Juan Capistrano