Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reforming Bureaucracy--Empowering Operatives

Last night Lehrer Newshour had another in its series of interviews with people on immigration. The interviewee was an immigration lawyer. She mentioned a case where the waiting for legal immigration (from the Philippines?) would take 12 years, during which no visitor visa would be allowed. She mentioned another case of a high school student who would be sent back because she had no adult advocate here (parents split, father brought her here, then split, etc.) which even Immigration agreed was deserving.

That leads to a thought. With computers and databases, it's easy enough to track histories. So we could empower "operatives" (James Q. Wilson's term for the front-line bureaucrat) to make decisions and track how good or bad they are. For example, in the case of immigration, allow each frontline worker to let in two people a year under a special program. Track the history of the people let in and tie it back to the worker. So if Joan Doe lets in someone who runs afoul of the law, that should impact her ability to make future decisions, her promotability, her pay, etc. Contrarily, let in someone who becomes a good U.S. citizen and you get rewarded.

We could apply the same principle in other bureaucracies.

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