INDIANAPOLIS – The preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares the intent of the document: “to form a more perfect Union.” They weren’t talking about labor organizations.

Fragmentation was a major issue faced by the founding fathers. Political fragmentation of the 13 contentious states, not the human fragments they avoided of women, slaves, native Americans. Despite progress, those issues remain evident today throughout Indiana.
Consider just the political fragmentation. You would think Hamilton County, which is probably 60 years behind the times, would not be thinking like Lake County which is 100 years behind the times. At this point, Myrtle my Muse, reading over my shoulder, whispers, “You’ve just lost whatever friends you have left in two important Indiana counties.”

“Fragmentation!” I say to myself. Lake County has 19 cities and towns from the days of horses and carriages as well as ethnic and racial stereotypes. Hamilton County has eight cities and towns, half of which, the BIG4 (Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, and Westfield) account for 91% of the county’s population. They were built on a post-WWII concept based on the automobile and owner-occupied single-family dwellings, supplemented by racial paranoia.
Lake County has seen tiny efforts to erase the costs, confusion, and inconvenience of fragmentation. Several Chambers of Commerce have formed consolidated entities. There is a Lake County Public Library with nine branches, but six cities continue to have their own public libraries.
Lake County has separate fire and police departments as well as a county-wide sheriff’s department. There is no unified bus system to serve the most heavily traveled corridors. The South Shore commuter rail line provides a very constrained link to Chicago.

In both Hamilton and Lake counties, each governmental unit has its own councils, its own elected and appointed officials.

Consolidation of Hamilton’s BIG4 cities would form the second largest city in the state, surpassing Fort Wayne. With open minds, Hamiltonians could create a transit system that recognizes their interdependence with Marion County and the entire Indianapolis metro area.

According to the most recent data, 40% of Hamilton County’s workers come from beyond its borders. Plus, 50% of Hamilton County’s working residents work in Marion County.

The BIG4 might think in terms of what is best for all areas of the county. Combined, their separate police and fire units might avoid duplication. They might replace the county’s five separate libraries with one system.

Does Fishers need an economic development agency of its own? What do the new, massive multi-unit housing developments portend for the roads in Westfield, congestion in Carmel, air and water quality in Noblesville? Are there plans for these structures as they go into economic decline in the next two decades?

Fragmentation gives rise to the Goldilocks questions: How small is too small? How big is too big? 

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at Follow him and John Guy on “Who Gets What?” wherever podcasts are available or at