Social pressure to diet hangs over all women, no matter how slim: restricting calories seems so virtuous and so certain to produce a better you. But dieting can also become anorexia, and deathly. The call to downsize the public service brings similar risks. Cost-cutting always sounds good, but not if it undermines education, health and security. After all, the Life Esidimeni tragedy was justified by a savings drive. Shortcomings in core government functions largely result from understaffing combined with poor management. In these circumstances, shedding jobs risks deepening inequality and aggravating inefficiency. Three justifications for downsizing have been proffered: the sheer size of the public service; its expansion from 2008; and the conviction, rooted in political theory, that state capture inevitably bloats public employment. In the event, the evidence supports none of these arguments. Understaffed sector The public service has about 1.3 million members, or 8% of total emplo...

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