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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Caesar Cone, January 7, 1983. Interview C-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Quality of government has declined

The quality of government has declined for two reasons, Cone argues. First, rising salaries for politicians has meant that money, rather than devotion to public service, attracts people to politics. Second, politicians need to be well-compensated to deal with a rising tide of entitlement that drives people to demand government help in every aspect of their lives. Cone is frustrated with these people and the politicians who indulge them.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Caesar Cone, January 7, 1983. Interview C-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

HARRY WATSON:
You've expressed a lot of frustration with government in our conversation. Was there a time when industrialists could get a more reasonable treatment from government or had a closer relationship with government officials that are missing now?
CEASAR CONE:
I don't know. I tell you, I think this: I think you had a far better type of elected official some years ago than you have today, and I'll tell you why, and understandably so. Take the City Council here in Greensboro. They didn't used to pay anybody much, a few hundred dollars a year. I mean the honor and the desire to serve was what made people go on the Council, and they were responsible people. Like this milk thing. I don't think the City Council today would have gotten rid of that milk ordinance, because some lawyers would have scared them. You see? They had a different type on the Council, businessmen who were willing to take a risk. But here's your problem. When Ben was Mayor, he'd get a call once in a while about a hole in the street, or the streetlight is burned out, or the garbage wasn't picked up. Today, "I lost my job," "I didn't get my raise," "I couldn't rent this apartment because I'm black" or whatever. Today the public has gotten to expect government—and they don't know who the hell it is, whether it's Washington or Raleigh or City Hall, Greensboro—to harass these people with all these daggone things that come up, which nobody ever thought government was ever involved with, you see? So you don't get the type of person willing to put up with that crap. And they've got the salaries up there now where a lot of these people who are serving never made that much in their life by working.
HARRY WATSON:
So the kind of person holding public office has changed.
CEASAR CONE:
No question about it, and I think it's going to be worse.
HARRY WATSON:
Why is that?
CEASAR CONE:
Because as government gets into more and more things, expands its entry into things…
HARRY WATSON:
Do you think there's any difference between state, local, and federal government on this score, or is it all the same?
CEASAR CONE:
I think it's very much the same.
HARRY WATSON:
Do you see any benefits from the Reagan administration attempt to …
CEASAR CONE:
You take down here at the state, now they're pretty much making it a fulltime job. It used to be that people were willing to go down there in the Legislature in Raleigh, and it was maybe a two-or three-month session, and they got a nominal fee for it, and they came on back and ran their business. Now as the state has expanded its entry into all kinds of things and takes a… They used to only meet once every two years. Now it's every year and sometimes twice a year. And they've gotten the salaries up to the point where it's a better deal running for office than they could make in their own business, you see.