When folks suggest that we reduce the size of government, we’re often accused of seeking Somalian anarchy, wanting to sack police and firefighters, that sort of thing. In point of fact, we dislike having to fund bureaucrats, hacks, and timeservers who pull down above average salaries for relative sinecures.
“Now who’s stereotyping, Mondo?” I hear you cry. This leads us to a study discussed at the WSJ this morning. The authors examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and discovered
[D]uring a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services.
We’ve excluded teachers from the full-year comparison because of their naturally shorter work year. But could public-private differences in work time be due to other occupational differences between the sectors? Large differences in work hours actually persist even when comparing workers with similar jobs and similar skills in each sector.
Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector.
But that way lies Somalia, apparently.