A Modest Proposal to Help Drain the Swamp

Quite a few years ago, one of my law partners was prominent in the Democratic Party. This was the good old days, when most Democrats were mainstream Americans. He wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, arguing that we should disperse federal agencies around the country rather than centralizing them in Washington. The Department of Agriculture might be in Des Moines, the FTC in Denver, the FDA in Charleston, the Department of Justice in Phoenix. The bureaucrats should live among the people, not just with each other. My organization has proposed something similar for Minnesota’s government agencies.

Great Britain, amazingly enough, is actually taking action along these lines. London and the Southeast dominate Britain economically as well as politically, and a major part of the populist revolt seen in Brexit and other recent elections is a rebellion of the North and the West against the South and the East. Thus, Boris Johnson’s Tory government is moving toward dispersing some government offices Northward and away from London. The London Times reports:

York is being lined up by Downing Street as a possible second centre of government as part of an exodus of senior Whitehall staff out of London.

Departments have been given two weeks to submit plans to move thousands of officials from the capital into regional hubs around the country.

York has been identified as one of a number of potential sites to base senior civil servants as part of a renewed push to relocate the House of Lords in the city.

The House of Lords moving to York? That seems seismic. Maybe we could move the Senate to Pierre. Might help.

Another source said that no final decisions had been made but ministers were intent on creating a number of regional “hubs” of civil servants that could combine policy specialisms from across Whitehall.

The idea to move the House of Lords to York was first mooted in January to some bemusement. Senior figures said it was still “very much on the agenda” and that the city could also see a significant Whitehall presence to complement parliament’s second chamber.

“The Lords is a major thing. But there could be lots of stuff. You could put the Home Office there. The step change will be to move everything other than the secretary of state and private office or an entire directorate,” a source familiar with the discussions said.

The Treasury is also looking at a new base on Teesside, which, together with York, would create a northern hub for policymakers.

Other civil servants could move to the east and west Midlands, while there is also a push to ensure that some Whitehall work is relocated to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

This is a model that we should seriously consider. It would be great to drain the swamp, but that has been difficult for obvious reasons. A modest alternative would be to disperse the swamp. For bureaucrats to live in neighborhoods with regular Americans, and send their children to school with the children of regular Americans, would be, I think, a good thing.

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