The Value of a Dream Job
An agreement appears to be near completion that would prevent the layoffs of 75 Providence police officers, but Friday’s human interest story in the Providence Journal — highlighting young officers’ sense of their “dream jobs” — touches on broader considerations pertaining to public-sector workers:
By March, [Sean Lafferty and Matthew McGloin] were named Officers of the Month for their numerous arrests, which contributed to a 50-percent drop in drug-related calls in the West End.
“We love coming to work. We know in our hearts that what we’re doing is good. We’re proud to be here,” Lafferty said. “We don’t want to leave.”
Added McGloin: “This is our dream.”
How bizarre is a system that places such men in the first wave of layoffs? And how much more productive would the police force be if they set a bar with which other officers felt at least some tangible incentive to compete? As with much else in the public sector, the rules appear designed to force the administrators and the public to make the worst decisions if ever they seek to rein in expenses.
Another point worth salvaging from the article is that jobs can have value beyond their pay:
[Donald] Castigliego had given up a well-paying job in the mortgage industry for this, spending months in the academy at minimum wage before hitting the streets as a rookie officer. “Other than my son, it’s probably the proudest thing in my life,” he said.
The layoffs have left him heartbroken, Castigliego says.
“I think people should realize — and I speak for my class — there’s 25 guys who didn’t take that job for a paycheck. They all gave up a lot to take this job,” Castigliego said. “And every single one of those guys loves this job, and is here for the right reasons. We’re not just a number.”
Just because a job is fulfilling doesn’t mean it shouldn’t pay well, but the fact that people want a job is clearly an aspect of compensation. What’s happened over the past half-century is that public-sector unions have taken advantage of the fact that they can appeal to voters, not to mention apply political weight to elect friendly bosses, so as to skew all such calculations. A fulfilling job that pays very well, with great benefits and uncommon job security, is not just a dream, it’s a fantasy.
As reluctant as we may justifiably be to push back the expectations of motivated and well-meaning young men and women, there is no alternative, because the perpetuation of such a system cannot but come at the expense of others’ dreams.