Complacent Texas taxpayers have become captives of their rent-seeking civil servants.
In Jonathan Swift’s classic fable, Gulliver’s Travels, a shipwreck maroons Lemuel Gulliver, the ill-fated crew’s sole survivor, on a remote island (Lilliput) inhabited by people only six inches tall. Upon reaching shore, the exhausted Gulliver falls asleep, unaware of the island’s tiny occupants. When he awakens, he finds himself helplessly bound by a web of string, with which the puny creatures—called Lilliputians—have tied him to the ground. So it is that highly focused public employees can come to dominate the much larger group of taxpayers they supposedly serve, especially if—like Gulliver—the taxpayers fail to apprehend the threat until it is too late.
For the purposes of this argument, Texas is Lilliput, and the 27 million residents of the state are Gulliver. The nearly 1.5 million state and local government employees in Texas are the Lilliputians. The Lone Star State has more state and local employees per capita than Illinois or California. Approximately 325,000 of these employees work for the state of Texas; approximately 1.2 million work for local governments (cities, counties, school districts, and other “political subdivisions” of the state).
Texas is a fast-growing right-to-work state with a robust economy. Only 4 percent of the workforce in Texas belongs to a labor union, less than half the national average. Therefore, the common perception is that organized labor is weak in Texas. Moreover, Texas voters are overwhelmingly conservative. Both houses of the Texas legislature have lopsided Republican majorities, and for decades, only Republicans have been elected to statewide office. The “Texas Model” of low taxes, business-friendly regulation, and comprehensive tort-reform legislation is key to the state’s current prosperity, as is its ban on collective bargaining by public employees (a condition that has contributed substantially to California’s economic decline).
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