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The performance based crime bill has been a great success, several cities have come up with innovative crime reduction programs and leapt to the front of the line for the biggest shares of federal crime fighting dollars. Other cities have started copying the successful programs and are catching up. People all over the country are impressed with how sensible the idea of simply measuring performance and getting out of the way has turned out to be.
It is time to add more performance based projects. Perhaps a job training program which actually tracks the performance of graduates and makes sure that the programs which continue to get federal funds are the programs which get people good jobs they can count on for years to come. Perhaps a drug use prevention program that tracks success at keeping kids from using drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. Perhaps a charter school program which actually asks the question "Are the kids learning useful skills?".
The success of the performance based crime bill needs to be reinforced with more success in more performance based programs, but it will be important to keep an eye on the principles of performance based government. It is all too easy to give in to the temptation to measure the wrong thing. Our country's founders gave us some mighty fine performance goals in the preamble of the constitution, and they are worth reviewing here:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Whichever programs are selected to continue the transition to performance based government, we always need to remember these basic goals of government and ask, "Does the proposed performance measurement advance our basic goals?". If the answer is "no", then the wrong thing is being measured. In the case of the crime bill, the crime rate is the right thing to measure because reducing crime is clearly something that promotes the general welfare, and you could probably make a case for insuring domestic tranquillity and establishing justice as well. Its a winner all around.
As long as the right goals are selected, the initial pilot program will soon have a whole collection of additional success stories on the path to government by performance, and we will be ready for the next logical step.