It's hard to imagine that there aren't quite a few hard-working employees of Hamilton County government for whom a pay raise would be amply justified, and it's difficult to begrudge them one even in these tough economic times.
But we got a bit of an illustration of the sometimes-puzzling way that government works in the recently proposed pay hikes for county workers.
"We're going to ask for the commission to do a 3 percent across-the-board raise for all employees," County Mayor Jim Coppinger said.
Let us stipulate that local county government is far from the only government body that considers or adopts across-the-board pay increases for employees. Let us further stipulate that the proposed increases here would be provided without resorting to a destructive tax increase. And therefore let these remarks not be construed as unfairly singling out the county for criticism.
But is there not something odd in the very nature of across-the-board raises? Doesn't a moment's reflection show it is unrealistic to believe that all employees in so large an endeavor as Hamilton County government have performed equally well and thus are deserving of equal percentage increases in their pay?
Rather, is it not the case -- whether in government or the private sector -- that some employees simply do a better job than others and should thus be entitled to a bigger pay increase?
What, after all, is the incentive to work hard in an undifferentiated system that rewards more competent and less competent workers equally? Doesn't that invite resentment among those who are putting in extra effort toward those who aren't -- and simultaneously encourage less such effort?
Just something to ponder about the way that money can be spent when its use is not directly constrained by market forces.