A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“A BuzzFeed writer walks into a bar…” (bar joke) (10/15)
“Why did the cactus cross the road?"/"It was stuck to the chicken.” (10/15)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (10/15)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (10/15)
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Entry from February 23, 2011
“The best public servant is the worst one”

Homer L. Ferguson (1873-1953), who was president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1919-1920, wrote “A Plea for Inefficiency in Government” in Nation’s Business, November 1928, pages 20-22+. The article became famous for Ferguson’s statement, “The best public servant is the worst one.” Ferguson did not think much of public employees, writing:

“The best public servant is the worst one. A thoroughly first-rate man in public service is corrosive. He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays the greater the danger. If he is an enthusiast­ic, bright-eye­d madman who is frantic to make this the finest government in the world, black plague is a house pet by comparison­.”

The statement was long forgotten until Thomas Frank made it a chapter title in his book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation (2008).


Wikipedia: Homer L. Ferguson
Homer Lenoir Ferguson (March 6, 1873–1953) was an author and businessman. He was President of Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia from July 22, 1915 through July 31, 1946.
(...)
He was President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, 1919-1920.

Google Books
The Wrecking Crew:
How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation

By Thomas Frank
New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks
2009, ©2008
Pg. 127:
CHAPTER 6
“The Best Public Servant Is the Worst One”
Pg. 130:
“A Plea for Inefficiency in Government” was the title of this (Pg. 131—ed.) doctrine’s most concise expression; it appeared in 1928 in the pages of Nation’s Business, the magazine of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and it took the form of an interview with Homer Ferguson, a former president of that august organization. “The best public servant is the worst one,” Ferguson declared.

“The best public servant is the worst one. A thoroughly first-rate man in public service is corrosive. He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays the greater the danger. If he is an enthusiast­ic, bright-eye­d madman who is frantic to make this the finest government in the world, black plague is a house pet by comparison­.”

Salon.com
Thursday, Aug 7, 2008 07:33 ET
Thomas Frank on the Bush administration: Sabotage by design
The author of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” discusses the corrosive relationship between conservatives and business, liberal bias and his new book about Republican misrule.

By Rick Perlstein
Thomas Frank is back with another hunk of dynamite. His “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” monopolized political discussion for over a year when it came out in the summer of 2004. “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule” should monopolize political conversation this year. It’s the first book to effectively tie the ruin and corruption of conservative governance to the conservative “movement building” of the 1970s, and, before that, the business crusade against good government going back at least to the 1890s.

Here, for example, is a splendid bit Frank pulled from the Journal of Commerce from 1928 about why it’s best for business to wreck the state: “The best public servant is the worst one. A thoroughly first-rate man in public service is corrosive. He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays the greater the danger. If he is an enthusiast—a bright-eyed madman who is frantic to make this the finest government in the world—the black plague is a house pet by comparison.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, February 23, 2011 • Permalink