EDITORIAL: Why not spread wealth around?

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Rest of state — not just Madison — could use the investment.

ONCE AGAIN, the State of Wisconsin is preparing to spend more than a billion dollars in capital projects to be used, for the most part, to house government workers.

And, once again, the vast majority of the money will go to build up Madison.

We understand that government has been housed in the capital city for longer than anyone alive can remember.

We also understand the workers live in Madison and their lives are in Madison.

So the immediate impulse and easiest decision is to keep all the government operations in Madison, maintaining the status quo and keeping employees happy.

FRANKLY, THAT’S PART of the problem with government — whether one is talking about Madison or Washington.

Government culture becomes so separated from the realities of everyday life elsewhere that the level of understanding and, therefore, responsiveness can be severely compromised. The rules and regulations are produced in closeted cocoons and citizens become mere abstractions.

Think about it.

Demographically, Madison enjoys higher educations, higher home values, higher household incomes, lower crime rates ... well, you get the picture. It’s that way not just because state government is there, and the University of Wisconsin flagship, but also because of the vast army of lawyers and lobbyists and others who flock to Madison to buy influence. It’s a potent combination that leads to affluence, security — and out-of-touch smugness.

THERE WAS A TIME when locating all government offices and personnel in physical proximity to one another made sense. That was when transportation was by horse and communication was by telegraph.

In the day of jet planes and interstate highways; of computers and smartphones; of Skype and Facetime; of fiber-optic networking, such considerations hold no sway.

Spreading government around would accomplish at least two worthy goals: (1) An economic shot-in-the-arm for any community lucky enough to host a government facility, and (2) culturally, government would benefit from a closer connection to common people.

Change is never easy. Most government workers probably like Madison and wouldn’t be excited to swap it for, say, Beloit. Likewise, Madison officials would fight to the death to hold their monopoly on all that investment.

For those reasons and more the time may not yet be ripe for blowing up the bureaucracy and spreading it out among the people.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. We would love to hear a debate on the subject from those elected to represent Wisconsin’s citizens.

After all, they’re supposed to be looking out for us, not just the system.

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