George Pyle: Federal agencies need changes in attitude, not just latitude.

Jacob Bronowski, a British scientist sent to analyze the ruins of the Japanese cities destroyed by atomic bombs at the end of World War II, thought that the headquarters of the new United Nations should be in Hiroshima. That way, all the delegates from all the nations, whether they were on the winning side of the war or the losing, whether nearly destroyed or untouched, would see for themselves some hint of what might happen if peace were to again elude us and we turned to war in the Nuclear Age.

William O. Douglas, an advisor to Franklin Roosevelt who had since been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, suggested that the plan to place the new world body in New York City was a bad idea. Far too many distractions and amusements. The U.N. should, he told the president, be headquartered in a place remote from such diversions so that the diplomats would have little to do but talk to one another and, at least in theory, find the solutions to many of the world’s problems.

Where might that be? Roosevelt asked. Maybe Kansas? Douglas offered.

Alf Landon’s state?!?” FDR replied. “Never!”

New York it was.

Actually, either of those alternatives might have been a good idea for the U.N., for just the reasons their advocates mentioned.

Some similar thinking today has some people in power eyeing a similar idea for some departments or agencies of the federal government. And getting some of the big bureaucracies out of the echo chamber of Washington, D.C., might actually be a good idea.

Specifically, Utahns led by Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Rob Bishop have been talking up an idea that the HQ of the Bureau of Land Management — which is in charge of vast expanses of land in Utah, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, etc. — ought to be set in its area of responsibility. Salt Lake City has logically been mentioned, along with Denver or Albuquerque. And, the other day, when Bishop and Herbert were hosting a visit to that city by an Interior Department worthy, it was reasonably suggested that Ogden would be good spot.

Indeed it might. As it might make sense to move NASA HQ to Cal Tech, the Weather Service to Miami, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs to someplace where there are Indians.

And, as Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins said, “We love being involved with the federal government.”

Federal government as in a big offices — big staffs, big payrolls, big economic multipliers — of the U.S. Forest Service and the Internal Revenue Service. And, of course, Hill Air Force Base. Utahns like big federal bureaucracy when it helps pay our bills. Suggest that any of those facilities might close or even just downsize, and the wailing from Ogden — and Bishop and Herbert — could be heard all the way to the Beltway.

Of course, an even larger federally funded boost to the Utah economy, and its humanitarian well-being, would have been the immediate expansion of Medicaid through the original Affordable Care Act. It would not only pay doctor bills for people who might not otherwise be able to pay them, it would churn billions of dollars through the pockets of doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators, orderlies, cooks — and everyone those people did business with — using our own tax money to help us build our economy rather than send all that dough somewhere else.

Hard to see why one kind of federal honey is good and the other kind is bad. Unless, of course, you are petrified by the idea that poor sick people might get some help.

It also might matter a lot whether the BLM sat down in Utah or in Colorado or in Montana. As should have been made clear when the Outdoor Retailer trade show decamped for Denver to protest Utah’s lack of commitment to conservation, not all states of the West have the same view of what the BLM’s management priorities should be.

And it is unlikely that moving to Utah would have done anything to dissuade one agency official who helped shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument, then decamped for a job in with one of the oil companies that might soon be digging up that very land. Stopping that awful revolving door would require a change in attitude, not latitude.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.