Collective choice without passion

One of the predicaments facing many institutions and various levels of government today was indicated in a recent headline in The Christian Science Monitor (February 14, 1995). It read: "Anticrime Wave Shackles State Education Spending." The story told of many public universities in the United States that are seeing their share of states' budgets go down as spending on anticrime measures goes up. On the one hand is the challenge common to any budgeting process large or small—the setting of spending priorities in order to divide the financial pie as wisely and fairly as possible.

But there is another element that fuels concern among people, and it has to do with what can happen when a wide range of people are involved in the process. When there is a collective choice to be made, as in the setting of budget priorities for a government, not everyone who has a say in the process may have the same point of view. One university president who was interviewed about the increase in anticrime spending commented, "It's short-term thinking, responding to immediate political pressures rather than thinking of the long-term health of our country and citizens." Others involved in the issue argue that spending money on anti-crime measures is as wise an investment as is education.

May 8, 1995

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