Michael Barone

Managers should understand that they will face harsh scrutiny if they don't hire and promote equal numbers of men and women and pay them all the same. Better just to figure out how to make your gender quotas and avoid any trouble.

Of course, anyone with experience in the real world can tell you that an organization run this way wouldn't be as efficient as Wal-Mart. It wouldn't do as good a job of satisfying consumers' wants. Its employees would probably not be as friendly and helpful.

If you doubt that, think back over the years about your experiences in your local department of motor vehicles. Only the most strenuous efforts by local officials, like former Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, gets a DMV operating with anything close to Wal-Mart efficiency.

The folks that concocted this lawsuit against Wal-Mart want, in effect, to model the private sector of the economy on the civil service. That's why they took on the largest private-sector company of them all.

Their motives are similar to those of feminists who, in the 1970s, pushed for "comparable worth" legislation, under which bureaucrats would decide what each job was really worth and what each worker should be paid.

We're better off if private firms allow managers to use "subjective criteria." Which is to say, the human judgment we all use in everyday life to judge the performance of others. Sometimes those judgments turn out to be wrong, but on balance they're more reliable than rigid civil-service criteria.

All of which is recognized by liberals who care about government performance, like education reformers who want to give principals more discretion to weed out bad teachers.

Or, as Elaine Kamarck, head of Al Gore's Reinventing Government initiative, told me in the 1990s, "No rational person would choose civil service as the way to manage a large organization." Justice Ginsburg notwithstanding.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM