Saturday, April 8, 2017

Institution Transition and Growing Pains

It is clear that the Tohono O'odham are trying to become a truly self-sufficient and sovereign nation. By way of utility (power and water) controls, agricultural expansion initiatives, higher education, and health care administration, the institutional transitions in the reservation seem to all be coming at once. As stated during out tour of the museum (and specifically relating to health care administration), the rapid takeover of many of the public services have been met with many growing pains. This begs the question of whether the tribal adoption of these services have been done too quickly.

I have taken a course in the economics of institutions with Professor Grajzl. A large focus in this course was the time and resource cost of institutional transition and reform. In short, changing regulatory or administrative institutions is a slow, long, and resource intensive undertaking that can easily result in detrimental effects if not done right. If the institutional reform is rushed, the detrimental effects can be so drastic that the reform is abandoned, leaving the current institutions in shambles as the prior system was replaced by a failed reform. Out of necessity, the system will revert back to its prior form. My question is: Have the Tohono O'odham bitten off more than they can chew?

The desire to become self-sufficient and sovereign regarding freedom from off-reservation regulatory influence is a wonderful concept, and if done right, can produce great rewards for tribal members. Furthermore, the lack of regulatory overhead may allow for more efficient public services and institutions. But the growing pains associated with those transitions may be too much to handle. Furthermore, if the transition of control fails, what does that mean for future attempts by the TO to regain control of the public services?

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