Lots of Money, Lots of Men?
Michael Ubaldi, June 8, 2007.
John Derbyshire, on National Review's Corner, reacted to a bit of a paralogism crafted by the New York Post. Because four hundred vacancies are expected over as many years in an apparently munificent police department, thirty thousand men and women have applied. That proportion meant, to the Post, "a better chance of getting into Harvard."
Derbyshire writes, "This is one of those cases that make you wonder what happened to market economics. Wouldn't a market solution be, to lower salaries until the applicant-to-job ratio falls from this current 75-to-1 to something more reasonable — perhaps 10-to-1? I suppose you could argue that the bigger the pool you're choosing from, the higher the quality of your final picks is likely to be. Still, 75-to-1 seems over the top to this country taxpayer."
I am the chairman of my city's civil service commission. Market economics, for good or ill, aren't pertinent to civil service laws, rules and regulations. The balance of contravening interests — individual and municipal — is, instead. Competitive testing on an entry level eventuates open admission, usually for a written examination, from which a list of valid candidates with passing scores (an "eligible list") is created. Potential hires are customarily certified by a civil service commission to an appointing authority in order of list ranking. Candidates, unless otherwise disqualified, may be considered by the authority for several open positions until removed from the eligible list.
To have seventy-five candidates for every vacancy isn't unheard of. My city's police department currently has one position open — and the commission recently established an eligible list of 105 candidates.
As Derbyshire adduced, a greater number of candidates should yield better choices than a lesser number. Attrition, unfortunately, is also a concern: three score of the aforementioned candidates have neglected to submit a particular certification, a requirement about which applicants and candidates received half a dozen notices, reminders and, finally, warnings. Before the month is over, it may be that only a balance of the list remains, all because candidates couldn't follow simple and repeated directions. Remember what they say about government work.
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