March 05, 2003

Perhaps... the Sun Rises Every Day...

Perhaps... the sun rises every day... Perhaps... objects fall when dropped... Perhaps... water is wet...

Every once in a while you come across somebody advancing--diffidently and tentatively--a point that is completely blinkingly obvious that everyone over the age of five without total ideological blinders has known all the time. Today we have Unqualified Offerings and Jeffrey Tucker advancing the insight that American conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty.

Of course conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty. Conservatism is a combination of four currents: "change is bad," "things were better when my grandfather was a boy," "what our ancestors have handed down to use may be false, but we shouldn't inquire into it because it is useful," and "I've got mine, Jack, and the lower orders need to be more respectful." These are not the soil in which the tree of liberty grows.

American conservatism is different in some respects from European conservatism. What our ancestors have handed down to us are liberal doctrines and institutions: Republican government, strong individualism, a belief that rights are prior to the state and prior to society, TJ's time bomb in the "Declaration" declaring human equality, and AL's time bomb in the "Address" declaring that ours is a government of, by, and for the people. These mean that American conservatism is a set of harmonics springing from a liberal fundamental. But to the extent that American conservatism is a friend to liberty, it is because it is American--not because it is conservative.

The "conservative" part tells us that Jefferson's "Declaration" is our sacred, unquestionable ancestral doctrine. The "American" part tells us that that doctrine holds that governmental authority is legitimate only as long as it is directed at securing our individual rights. But the friendship to liberty comes from the second part, not the first. Strip "American conservatism" of the "American" part and you are left with Nino Scalia--quoting St. Paul to tell us that all governmental authority, or at least all governmental authority as long as it is no worse than the tyranny of the Emperor Nero, is legitimate and must be obeyed, for obedience to government pleases God.

Conservatism is the past. It is and has always been one of the enemies of the future. And I at least think that the future holds greater human liberty.


Unqualified Offerings: How'd You Get This Way - On the unreliable LewRockwell.com, a pretty good essay by Jeffrey Tucker of the Rothbard InstMises Institute. From a right-libertarian perspective, Tucker asks, what's up with the conservative enthusiasm for war?

Whatever happened to Russell Kirk's "politics of prudence," to pro-life politics, to rules against entangling alliances, to opposition to big government?

Tucker considers various explanations, including the supposed influence of ex-Trotskyite "neoconservatives," simple GOP loyalism, the influence of TV, (wait for it, Avedon Carol!) talk radio, the possibility that American conservative thought is "intrinsically corrupt," the vice of nationalism (as opposed to the virtue of patriotism). What surprised me is that he's remarkably skeptical of "The Neoconservatives Did It" theory for a paleo. He concludes, addressing his libertarian readership:

In any case, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for any friend of freedom to call himself a conservative. This seems to be some sort of important moment in history, a time when old ideological loyalties must be radically reassessed. Perhaps the problem runs very deep. Perhaps it is not the conservatives who are somehow diverging from the modal type. Perhaps this war reveals something more fundamental: namely that those attached to the idea of liberty are not conservative in either the European or modern American sense.

We have all had the feeling of reading some piece on National Review Online and thinking: I have nothing in common with these people! Well, perhaps it is they who are the conservatives, and you are not. We lost the word liberalism long ago, and only adopted the term conservative with the greatest reluctance. It is time to give it up too, neither describing ourselves as such nor allowing others to do so.

I've been there for awhile now. (I don't share Tucker's distaste for rap music, though.)

Posted by DeLong at March 5, 2003 08:35 AM | TrackBack

Comments

S'long as you're over at jim's site, scroll down to read the fine poem he posted below that entry.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner on March 5, 2003 09:08 AM

Frequently I can't tell whether DeLong, when he writes on politics, is intentionally writing a parody or not. The kindest assumption, of course, is that this post, like some others, was intended as a spoof, and that he is not this unfamiliar with the basics of political philosophy. (The same is true of nearly all Krugman columns, of course. Viewed as parodies of certain un-informed and partisan profs, they are quite funny. Taken seriously, they are embarrassing.)

If you think I am being unfair, try this simple experiment. Compare DeLong's definition of conservatism to the discussion in any decent text on the subject. Hint for those who have trouble. Look up what Edmund Burke said about change and conservatism. (For DeLong's benefit: Burke is one of the preeminent conservative philosophers, well worth reading even now.)

Posted by: Jim Miller on March 5, 2003 09:21 AM

For the curious,

Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.

http://www.knuten.liu.se/~bjoch509/works/burke/reflections/reflections.html

Posted by: Ethan on March 5, 2003 09:43 AM

In the endless debate on whether conservative or progressive is superior, one must ask at what point, if any, further change is counterproductive. It seems to me that if anarchy is 0 on the scale of social ranking, and 10 is perfection, however defined, we in 21st century America are at 6, or 7 or 8. Clearly, progress has been made on a number of fronts since the nation's founding. Arguably, there's been regressions as well. But overall, most would probably agree that change has served the United States and its people well. The question before the house is: When does change become damaging?

Going after the last 10% in pursuit of perfection is wonderful in concept. But does it have any prospect of success by materially improving society? No doubt there are many, many things which require additional change. But the challenge is that now that the low-hanging fruit has been picked--i.e., giving everyone the vote, banning discrimination, etc.--the potential gains are increasingly subjective. Whereas everyone of a reasonable mind agrees that universal voting rights are a necessary goal, the issues before us as a nation are growing more complicated and more nuanced. Should we ban cloning? Completely? Just in some circumstances? Under what conditions? Who regulates it? Doctors? Congress? Both?

Such is the nature of the future, casting new questions over how hard we should push for "progress" vs. conservatism.

Posted by: James Picerno on March 5, 2003 09:46 AM

Edmund Burke is a combination of ""change is bad," and "what our ancestors have handed down to use may be false, but we shouldn't inquire into it because it is useful."

Edmund Burke is not a friend of liberty. Burke is a friend of the Liberties (plural) of Englishmen--and he asserts that late eighteenth-century Britain is as good as it is ever likely to get.

This doesn't mean that Burke is stupid, or that his arguments are weak, or that he is necessarily wrong.

But no libertarian, no matter how small their "l"," belongs in bed with Edmund Burke.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 5, 2003 09:52 AM

There's a text of an interesting speech by Justin Raimondo to libertarians at http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j030303.html

that might be along the lines of what you are discussing.

Posted by: vachon on March 5, 2003 10:07 AM

As a political scientists, I must defend DeLong here. He may not cite many political philosphers in his assessment of the fissures in American conservatism, and the tension faced by a conservative movement in a country founded not on blood or land but liberal ideals, but I think he's basically right. And there is an inevitable conflict between those who think conservatism is about libertarian ideals, those who want a strong, religious, traditional nation, and those who want to protect the economic interests of the rich and powerful.

Posted by: Chris Adolph on March 5, 2003 10:46 AM

I prefer the term neo-royalist to conservatism.

Posted by: MattS on March 5, 2003 11:00 AM

Well, from my perspective it wasn't Professor DeLong's most erudite posting . . . . . . .

Rather than decry Conservatives as Neanderthals who don't want to ever see anything change (ummm, if things hadn't changed so much, we might have a few Neanderthals wandering around . . . ), it might be more interesting to discuss how conservatives and liberals both seem to like big government, but big government of different kinds.

There is a potential schism building between libertarians and conservatives, even small "l" libertarians such as myself - revolving around the growth of government spending and coddling of big business favored by people such as W and Cheney. The schism in the liberal Democratic party between the radical greens and the rest of the party is probably greater, however.

Posted by: Anarchus on March 5, 2003 11:19 AM

Let me see... In the history of humanity, what has generally happened to civilizations which have tried to stall progress? Precisely what the the conservatives seem to be concerned about: decadence. As James Picerno points there are always new issues, new challenges, and new questions that pop up to disturb at least some of us. Avoiding progress is playing ostrich with the dynamics of the human society.

The harder question is how to define progress. There is a lot of (sometimes voluntary) confusion about this: not many progressives (somewhat broadly defined) anymore envision progress as a march towards material egalitarianism, but rather as a march towards a world of equal *opportunity*, yet more than in a formal sense.

And when you write this in the US, instintively *some* conservatives -but, fortunately, by no means all- think about how African-Americans should only be (/ have been) allowed to make progress in a parallel society... Sounds anachronic, and it is...

Similarly, liberalism (here in its classical definition) implies the greatest respect for religious freedom, including the freedom not to believe. And yet, some of the conservative movement is about marginalizing non-Christians, and about insisting that America is an officially Christian country. That's, to say the least, a very selective reading of what the founding fathers of America taught us... Sounds paradoxical, and it is...

Counter-example: I don't think there is anything in liberalism that is ideologically at odds with school vouchers. It's a policy issue that, in my view, and although I oppose it in the way it is being proposed, crosses the partisan borderline.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 11:21 AM

And here is "nice" illustration about religious tolerance in some of the conservative movement:

http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/03/04/prayer.walkout.ap/index.html

This is a shame for America.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 11:30 AM

The posters in this comment thread appear to have completely missed Prof. DeLong's point. As I understand him, he said that historically, "conservatism" has demanded the preservation of old things, whether or not they are good in function. Instead, age - ancestry - determines the value of a social thing to conservatism. This privileges old class structures over new structures, old laws over lively legal regeneration, existing hierarchy and authority versus new systems of hierarchy and authority.
In a notional democracy, governed by Jeffersonian principles of legal equality and Lincolnian ideas of continual renewal of sovereignty through universal democratic franchise, the idolization of past things for their age is - evil. It is not American. It is something else. And "American Conservatism" is not American.
Seems pretty straightforward to me. American conservatives are not friends of America - they desire something different in the territory that they are organizing to control.

Posted by: David Greenbaum on March 5, 2003 11:40 AM

The posters in this comment thread appear to have completely missed Prof. DeLong's point. As I understand him, he said that historically, "conservatism" has demanded the preservation of old things, whether or not they are good in function. Instead, age - ancestry - determines the value of a social thing to conservatism. This privileges old class structures over new structures, old laws over lively legal regeneration, existing hierarchy and authority versus new systems of hierarchy and authority.
In a notional democracy, governed by Jeffersonian principles of legal equality and Lincolnian ideas of continual renewal of sovereignty through universal democratic franchise, the idolization of past things for their age is - evil. It is not American. It is something else. And "American Conservatism" is not American.
Seems pretty straightforward to me. American conservatives are not friends of America - they desire something different in the territory that they are organizing to control.

Posted by: David Greenbaum on March 5, 2003 11:41 AM

Boh. Well, maybe I needed to post that twice - but... probably not. Prof.? Could you delete this post and one of the previous two postings of mine?

Posted by: David Greenbaum on March 5, 2003 11:43 AM

On the contrary, Jean-Philippe Stijns. I am proud that Washington's legislative representatives are walking out on officially sponsored Muslim prayers out of lack of interest and relevance. I would hope that they would do so for Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist invocations as well. What does prayer have to do with legislation? Why open it with prayer, anyway?

I wonder if any politicians remember Matthew 6.5-6: "And when you pray, you must6 not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

And, trying to stay on topic just barely enough to justify this post, I think that whether conservatism is a friend of liberty really depends on what you mean by "liberty." I think it isn't, but then again, by liberty, do you mean a form of government that is gauranteed not to violate property rights? A situation in which everyone is free to express their own conscience? A government that creates the most oppurtunity for everyone to choose their own path in life and have the most choices, economically as well as politically and morally? "Freedom" can mean different things to different people. Hell, I'm not even sure what it means to me!

Julian Elson

Posted by: Julian Elson on March 5, 2003 11:59 AM

So sad that there aren't any of today's conservatives to put up a defense. No offense to Jim Miller - I mean those who select the lable "conservative" for themselves is today's choosing up of political sides, rather than those who look to Burke for a definition. I am quite sure there are more self-declared conservatives in this country than readers of Burke. I always like a fair contest, even if I know which team I back.

Posted by: K Harris on March 5, 2003 12:34 PM

So, I take what you wrote to imply that you would cheer a Muslim representative if (s)he walked out on a Christian or Jewish prayer, right?

Besides, with all due respects to the gospel, and even though I aggree with your point about the personal nature of spiritual practice of any kind, do you realize that you, perhaps unvoluntarily, are imposing a piece of Christian spirituality onto non-Christians?

Let's be frank about this: this Mulsm prayer was an act of religious diplomacy and a display of cross-cultural respect (among Americans!) And similar acts are constantly made towards America's Christians, and I guees & hope, Jews as well. Why this walk-out specifically on a Muslim prayer?

I do not identify myself as a believer, at least in the strict Judeo-Christian interpretation of the term. But I would never ever walk out on somebody's prayer. I would support, however, a general aggreement that religion be left out of politics in general, but until that is reached I would certainly not selectively walk out on any specific faith.

And I don't think this is orthogonal at all with the topic's subject.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 12:42 PM

The core problem of liberalism (in the contemporary American sense of the word) is that it is based on a false view of human nature. See Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate for a fascinating account of the way research in evolutionary biology and cognitive science has overturned liberal assumptions.

Having suffered defeat after defeat, American liberalism has become bitter and reactionary. By its obsession with micromanaging people's behavior in the name of political correctness, and with race and gender victimhood, it has done a great deal of damage to our society and its institutions.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 12:43 PM

Yeah yeah yeah. Imagine all the problems the liberalism of the New Deal on produced. Rotten liberalism. Rotten Social Security, Medicare, GI Bills, Veteran's Health Care, School Lunches, restoration or forests and lakes and rivers and wet lands, wild life conservation, [rotten blue birds], cleaning our air, pushing for more fuel efficiency, protecting fisheries [rotten manatees].

Year, yeah, yeah. All the prosperity since the New Deal was a liberal sham. All the push to end segregation. Remember segregation? Rotten liberals, ending Jim Crow laws, ending separate but equal. Rotten liberals, integrating the military.

Rotten rotten rotten liberals, pushing for the rights of women. Remember women? Yes, yes, let's get women back where they belong you conservatives.

Yeah, liberals are rotten. Imagine caring for a miserable blue bird or a hungry child.

Posted by: dahl on March 5, 2003 01:18 PM

God help libertarianism if the majority of its disciples think like Willingham. The problem is that Brad's posting didn't really touch on a key paradox of the U.S. political system today: the fact that so many conservatives are allied to libertarians (i.e., libertarians who have influence by choosing to be major players in the Republican party, not libertarians like Mark Bahner who preserve their purity by being loyal to their party) through that grand old institution, the Republican party.

Brad, I think that at some point you have to reconcile the idea that Republican libertarians have in effect become conservative because the defense of property rights as such is also a defense of their privilege to use such property in a way that is positively harmful to many of their fellow citizens.

The most obvious example is the right to dump toxic pollutants in both the atmosphere and ground water and to classify all government attempts to limit such a right as "regulatory takings" which infringe on private property and must be financially compensated. Never mind that such an arrangement might preserve efficiency according to the Coase theorem; it is still the case of having to pay someone to _not_ perform an action that harms your own well being. In poorer neighborhoods, such an arrangement is called by its proper name: an extortion racket.

Time to set the bait: as long as libertarians favor such an extreme definition of property rights, they also join their supposed arch-enemies the conservatives in being enemies of true liberty. Flame away...

Posted by: andres on March 5, 2003 01:27 PM

"Having suffered defeat after defeat, American liberalism has become bitter and reactionary. By its obsession with micromanaging people's behavior in the name of political correctness, and with race and gender victimhood, it has done a great deal of damage to our society and its institutions."

You, like most in the modern conservative movement who express these types of views, are just projecting the anti-democratic qualities of your own sides' political methodology onto the other side. Because you can't tolerate dissent, you see disagreement as partisanship. Because you can't understand anti-authoritarian behavior you can't control, you assume that liberals are trying to control you. Because your side is bitter with resentment, you can't imagine a movement that isn't.

The thing is, liberals aren't like you. They are willing to tolerate a diversity of views, and while they recognize evil, they don't break everything, even minor policy nits, into a Manichean (sp?) struggle over the American soul. They believe in truth and trust in others, which has seriously weakened them in the face of your movement, which doesn't.

In terms of this thread, well, I'm not sure that labeling the current conservative movement conservative makes sense. Many 'conservatives' are nothing more than 19th century liberals, while others are nothing more than 20th century populist racists.

Posted by: MattS on March 5, 2003 01:35 PM

Reply to dahl:

The achievements that you mention from the great age of liberalism are enormous. With some necessary updating, those things need to maintained and defended.

What needs to be fought against is the way the battle against racial discrimination has been perverted into racial preferences and ethnic bean counting. The way that the idea of equality for women has been hijacked by radical feminists who want to impose a socialist anti-family agenda that the majority of women disagree with. The way the labor unions are seeking to advance protectionist anti-trade policies that hurt working people all over the world.

The environmental movement is near and dear to my heart. I participate in it on a daily basis. But there is an anti-scientific, irrationalist current among many environmentalists today that I find disturbing.

I think that the Bush administration's attitude toward the natural world is appalling. It's the reason why I am a New Democrat, not a Republican.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 02:00 PM

Bravo.....
I think all this NeoCon nostalgia is really about returning us to the 1890s. High Victorian moral Standards and the same corrupt government and business leadership. I dare say they are being successful. Let's pass legislation and have a new Oil Standard. We can call it the Shameless Act

Posted by: Bruce Ferguson on March 5, 2003 02:00 PM

>>Yeah yeah yeah. Imagine all the problems the liberalism of the New Deal on produced. Rotten liberalism. Rotten Social Security, Medicare, GI Bills, Veteran's Health Care, School Lunches,...

Aren't these rather, well, antique examples?

If one political party considered the future of Social Security and found it underfunded and proposed means-testing, or diverting a portion of FICA obilgations toward private investment accounts, or otherwise altering the plan developed some seven decades ago; and another party strenuously objected to such "risky schemes", uhm, which party is being conservative?

If a party considered five-decade old cabinet level bureaucracies developed to address the problem of re-integrating millions of ex-draftees into civilian life in light of the current problems of one-tenth that number of retiring volunteers ... but another party strenuously objected to changing that cabinet, uhm, again,
which is the conservative position?

If an affirmative action program developed in the 1960s has, two generations of college graduates later, failed to increase the percentage of black or Hispanic engineers, accountants, economists, and computer programmers (nor the percentage of white male degree-holders in such disciplines as African Studies, Women's Studies, and Ethnomathematics), is it "liberal" to insist that such programs be perpetuated?

If a compromise position worked out in the 1970's that divides a pregnacy into previously unrecognized "tri-mesters" based on increasing the government's duty to protect the developing rights of a fetus as that fetus, itself, develops -- and then the technology CHANGES so that "viability" occurs well before the final
"tri-mester" -- who calls for changes in the law to reflect changes in the technology: liberals or conservatives?

If a new method of public funding of elementary education via "school vouchers", entirely analogous to "food stamps", is considered are the conservatives the ones who fight even one single local/municiple low-percentage-of-students experiment?

The more radical of the two parties took over the House of Representative by proposing federal term limits, line-item veto over appropriations, and a constitutional balanced budget amendment -- uhm, was that a "liberal" revolt or was that "conservative"?

I've heard Eddie Burke's position on the power of tradition described as "letting the dead vote". This description, I'd thought, was metaphorical ... but if there is one party more prone than another toward such dead-voter fraud, as well as encouraging illegal immigrants to vote, convicted felons to vote, and morons who can't operate a punch card to vote -- uh, is that a liberal bias or a conservative one?


Posted by: Melcher on March 5, 2003 02:00 PM

Andres erects the usual straw-man in his description of those who defend property rights as being as essential to liberty as any other rights. The theory of what constitutes a taking is complex, and to imply that those who defend property rights are asserting that Consolidated Widget, Inc. has the unfettered right to dump molten rubber into Walden Pond without interference not accompanied by compensation is simply silly. Most property rights advocates find the commonplace use of state power to grab the property of other citizens, for things like baseball stadiums, ethanol subsidies, or medical care, to be far more pernicious

Posted by: Will Allen on March 5, 2003 02:03 PM

Melcher is right on target.

Both parities are too beholden to special interests. The Democrats in thrall to the trial lawyers, teachers' unions, and the race and gender racketeers. The Republicans are in the pocket of the mining, timber, oil and cattle interests.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 02:22 PM

Perhaps...Those In Crystal Palaces Shouldn't Throw Stones... ;-)

Brad DeLong writes, "Today we have Unqualified Offerings and Jeffrey Tucker advancing the insight that American conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty."

Yeah, no duh! That's almost as obvious as the insight that "liberalism" (the faux U.S. kind) is not a reliable friend of human liberty. :-/

"Conservatism is a combination of four currents:...and 'I've got mine, Jack, and the lower orders need to be more respectful.'"

That attitude is certainly *more* conducive to human liberty than "Look how much he's got! That's not fair!" (Which is the universal cry of communists, socialists, "progressives," and "liberals.")

"What our ancestors have handed down to us are liberal doctrines and institutions: Republican government, strong individualism, a belief that rights are prior to the state and prior to society,..."

Virtually no one in the U.S. supports all those concepts any more. That can be irrefutably proven by looking at the percentage of people in the U.S. who are members of the Libertarian Party.

"TJ's time bomb in the "Declaration" declaring human equality,..."

Only a minority in the U.S. take TJ's statement in the way that makes sense, per the Declaration of Independence: that no human was born to rule or serve, and that no human is above or below the Law. Most in the U.S. have the crazy idea that the phrase was somehow an invitation for the government to treat people UNequally, to make up for the obvious INequalities endowed by the Creator (i.e. "we have to mandate that building have special access ramps/lifts/seats for the handicapped, so they will have 'equal access' to cultural events"). (Not to mention, "We have to force the PGA to allow handicapped golfers to ride in carts.")

"...and AL's time bomb in the "Address" declaring that ours is a government of, by, and for the people."

This is also taken wrongly by most people in the U.S., as an invitation for the majority to do whatever they want; i.e., no level of government is wrong, as long as "The People" are running it. This viewpoint is utterly inconsistent with human liberty. It is also a viewpoint nearly universally held by "liberals."

"Strip 'American conservatism' of the 'American' part and you are left with Nino Scalia--quoting St. Paul to tell us that all governmental authority, or at least all governmental authority as long as it is no worse than the tyranny of the Emperor Nero, is legitimate and must be obeyed, for obedience to government pleases God."

Yes, and add "American" to "liberalism," and you produce the reasoning that all government tyranny is legitimate, and must be obeyed, because The People voted on it. (See comments on American "liberal" interpretation of Lincoln's and Jefferson's phrases.)

"Conservatism is the past. It is and has always been one of the enemies of the future."

The "liberalism" of Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. Democratic party is the past...and unfortunately the present. It was and still is an enemy of liberty. I am confident that the future holds far greater liberty than the Democratic Party will ever support. The Libertarian Party is the party of the future in the U.S....and its counterparts are the parties of the future around the world.

Mark Bahner (Libertarian Party...accept no substitutes!) :-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 02:45 PM

"but if there is one party more prone than another toward [...] encouraging illegal immigrants to vote, convicted felons to vote, and morons who can't operate a punch card to vote -- uh, is that a liberal bias or a conservative one?"

It's funny to notice that no matter how much efforts some conservatives put in to make their point, their true colors always pierce through their mantel of polite rationality...

Up to that point, I thought Melcher's comments were fair game except that he is moving from a discussion of conservatism vs. liberalism vs. libetarianism into a resentful partisan discussion of democrat vs. repulican policies which isn't what Professor DeLong's post in about.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 02:55 PM

"But no libertarian, no matter how small their "l"," belongs in bed with Edmund Burke."

Nonsense...I'll sleep with whomever I want. ;-)

Mark (Capital "L" Libertarian)

P.S. Seriously, though:

1) Edmund Burke was the wrong sex. (For me.) (Not that there's anything wrong with that, for men who think differently! ;-)). Plus, he's been dead for quite awhile. So I'll pass on the literal part. ;-)

2) More seriously...it is completely foolish NOT to "get in bed" with people who are right. Heck, I agree with the World Socialist Website:

http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/sep1998/sud-s12.shtml

...and Noam Chomsky:

http://www.salon.com/people/letters/2002/01/29/chomsky/

...about the attack on the Al Shifa plant in the Sudan: 1) The plant, beyond a reasonable doubt, did NOT make chemical weapons, 2) a large, but unknown number of people almost certainly died from lack of medicines caused by the plant's destruction, and 3) the failure to admit the mistake and make restitution was very wrong.

It's easy for me to agree with the World Socialist Website and Noam Chomsky when they're right. (They're simply not right very often!)

Conversely, I think Harry Browne (Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1996 and 2000) is frequently right. But sometimes he's wrong. It would be foolish for me to agree with him when he's wrong.

Edmund Burke said things libertarians (or even Libertarians) could agree with:

"The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts."

"The people never give up their liberties, but under some delusion."

And he said some things most libertarians (and especially Libertarians) would disagree with:

"The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations."

(The Libertarian reply being, "We don' care about your steenkin' congratulations! If we're not hurting nobody, M.Y.O.B.!")

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 03:14 PM

Conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism all have something to offer.

At the moment we most need conservatism, to act as a corrective to the excessively leveling and egalitarian tendencies inherent in a democracy such as ours. The danger we face is intellectual decline and moral anarchy.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 03:16 PM

"excessively leveling and egalitarian tendencies inherent in a democracy such as ours."

You scare the heck out of me, Joe. I am trying hard not to read your comment as implying that, somehow, conservatism is a cure to Democracy (as opposed to the democrats). Any conservative willing to break out of party discipline on this one?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 03:23 PM

I'm not a conservative, but if the point is that democracy is too often used to rationalize, and falsely legitimate, those actions of the state which are fundamentally, morally, illegitimate exercises of power, I agree whole-heartedly. Just recently in this forum, someone, who it can be assumed describes himself as "liberal", explained to me that having wealthier, older, people grab the wages of poorer, younger, people, was justified in part because it was now a long-standing tradition. It is in instances like this that it becomes clear that the words "conservative" and "liberal" have become meaningless.

If one is favorably disposed to expanding individual liberty, it necessarily means that considerations of "fairness" become less important, since a state of liberty guarantees wide disparities in outcomes. To be favorably disposed to expanding individual liberty also requires that one be unfavorably disposed to expansion of state power, as states are now constituted, since the primary function of the state is to constrain individual liberty. Whether this attitude, or this attitude's opposite, is more widely represented by those who call themselves "liberals" or "conservatives", to say nothing of Democrat or Republican, will vary widely from one particular issue to the next.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 5, 2003 03:56 PM

"At the moment we most need conservatism, to act as a corrective to the excessively leveling and egalitarian tendencies inherent in a democracy such as ours."

I have no idea what this means. I guess it's too abstract for me. (Probably because of my intellectual decline, discussed below. ;-)) What "leveling and egalitarian tendencies" are you writing of? The tendency of the poor to vote to take money from the rich? If so, I agree that's a problem with our current state of democracy. But libertarianism fixes that much quicker than conservatism.

"The danger we face is intellectual decline and moral anarchy."

I'll deal with my intellectual decline myself, thanks. As for "moral anarchy," I recommend moving to Saudi Arabia. I've heard that place is completely free of moral anarchy. ;-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 04:13 PM

Will, if I read you well, and to simplify your prose, you are saying:

Democracy has to do with government, liberty is antinomical to government, hence any attempt at increasing liberty will run against democracy.

Does this imply that you:

* consider that the concept of Justice, say, is irrelevant to the advancement of liberty? Example: should gun owners be granted the right to shoot at will? Should it be allowed to prostitute childen, or, have them work long ours in dark and cold mines like in 19th century Belgium?

* and /or would be willing to deliberately curtail democratic rights of some or all citizens in order to further your definition of liberty?

Please explain. We all like liberty but don't we live, at least phisically, in one world (which necessarily implies externalities among the parties' actions)?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 5, 2003 04:17 PM

"If one is favorably disposed to expanding individual liberty, it necessarily means that considerations of "fairness" become less important, since a state of liberty guarantees wide disparities in outcomes."

No, questions of "fairness" don't become "less important." They become redefined. If you haven't already, read Thomas Sowell's "The Quest for Cosmic Justice."

Or, suffer my summary translation (it's been several years since I read it):

G@d is an S.O.B. (or D.O.B.) (Sowell didn't say that, of course.) But when we try to "correct" the "unfairness" He/She creates, we do very, very bad (unfair) things.

In other words, we never can obtain "Cosmic Justice"..."justice" that that cancels out the unfair things that God/Gods/Fates do. The best we can hope for is to have regular, human justice. Such regular justice can't include punishing, taking things from, or deliberately handicapping, people who have been blessed, in order to help out people that haven't.

To give an example: a poor woman sues a rich doctor for medical malpractice. She had an operation, during which she appears to have suffered harm. But "malpractice" is not simple "harm"...either by legal standards, or moral standards. (My opinion on the moral standards part.)

"Malpractice," by legal and moral standards, must include some degree of incompetency/negligence...MALpractice. It can't simply be that some completely unexplained problem occurred.

Anyway, human/regular justice ("fairness") demands that the jurors find in favor of the rich doctor defendant. Even though the poor woman definitely "needs" the money more than the doctor.

That's an example from personal experience (of a trial on which I was a juror).

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 04:40 PM

The only true advocates of unfettered liberty are anarchists, who err in believing that human nature is benign, allowing humans to live in a large peaceful state without government. In reality, of course, anarchy is an incredibly violent condition (roughly analogous to your example of people shooting at will) , matched only by that the condition on the other end of the spectrum, tyranny. I am willing to curtail democracy to the extent that it entails majoritarian tyranny, meaning the use of violence, or threat thereof, to force others to submit to the majority's will, for reasons wholly unrelated to the prevention of anarchy, or other forms of tyranny.

Having the majority self-servingly decide that it is "fair", or "just" that they have forcible access to a minority's property, regardless of whether the minority gained that property via voluntary transaction, and regardless of whether such an exercise of force is required to stave off anarchy, does not suffice as a morally legitimate use of democratic power. It is merely a more popular type of tyranny.

Of course, there is not a bright line test for when majority power becomes tyrannical; humans interaction and societies do not lend themselves to bright line tests, which is why forums like this exist. I happen to think that outlawing child labor via democratic means is legitimate because children lack the ability to give the informed consent required to form a legitimate contract. Naturally, not all cases are as clear. Some who describe themsleves as libertarian object to any forced property transfers, and one of the reasons I do not describe myself a libertarian is because I think that a society in which those truly unable to provide themselves with life's essentials were faced with destruction is one in which tyranny might threaten, given sufficient economic crisis. I therefore favor limited property transfers to those truly unable to provide for themselves, which happily now comprises a very small percentage of the population.

When discussing such patently obnoxious forms of coercion, however, such as the subsidization and protection of agribusiness and farmers who could otherwise make their way in life, or the construction of baseball stadiums for the well being of shortstops and CEOs, or the transfer of wages from a cashier at Dairy Queen to the cashier's boss, Warren Buffett, the most common defense of such blatantly illegitimate use of state power is that these actions have majority support. Sorry, majority support is only the beginning of morally legitimate state action, and not even close to being sufficient by itself.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 5, 2003 05:01 PM

"Democracy has to do with government, liberty is antinomical to government, hence any attempt at increasing liberty will run against democracy."

Liberty as a function of government, is a Kuznets curve.

http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/cnt/indicators/world/kuzcur/kuzcur92.htm

Construct a plot with amount of government on the x axis, and amount of personal liberty on the y axis.

X=0%...absolutely zero government, would be anarchy. The amount of personal liberty (y) would also be near zero****, because you could be imprisoned without committing a crime, by your stronger neighbor.

X=100%...would be totalitarianism (fascism, communism, religious fascism such as the Taliban...whatever). That also has nearly zero liberty, because The State commands your every move.

The peak amount of liberty would occur somewhere between zero and 100% government. And it would occur at the point where the only illegal things would be causing physical harm, or defrauding, other people. The only things that would be illegal are things to protect people from harm or fraud by others...not to protect people from harm by themselves. Not to regulate any consensual behavior.

No minimum wages. No limits on hours worked. No laws regulating drugs, prostitution, pornography.

****P.S. (The economist) David Friedman argues that zero government can actually be worked to achieve maximum freedom. If we ever get down to level of government that only addresses physical harm and fraud, I'm willing to consider further reductions. But I wonder what keeps a guy like David going, when there's virtually zero chance of his ideas being implemented?

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/index.shtml

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 05:06 PM

"The only true advocates of unfettered liberty are anarchists, who err in believing that human nature is benign,..."

Not all anarchists. David Friedman recognizes that humans aren't, by nature, benign. He would work around that by private enforcement firms. Interesting stuff...but too irregular for most people.

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Anarchy_and_Eff_Law/Anarchy_and_Eff_Law.html

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 05:10 PM

The paradoxical thing about American politics is that from an outsider's point of view, both Democrats and Republicans are liberals, in the sense that they value rationality and egalitarianism (as opposed to conservatives, who value tradition and elitism). When they're attacking each other, they both accuse each other of being hidebound and elitist.

Seymour Lipset's "Continental Divide", which compares American and Canadian politics, provides an interesting perspective. (Lipset describes the difference as "Whig vs. Tory", and points out that for most of the last couple hundred years, the US has been to the _left_ of Canada politically.)

Posted by: Russil Wvong on March 5, 2003 05:56 PM

Mark Bahner writes:

"I'll deal with my intellectual decline myself, thanks. As for "moral anarchy," I recommend moving to Saudi Arabia. I've heard that place is completely free of moral anarchy. ;-)"

Judging from the wit of your reply and the eloquence with which you defend the libertarian philosophy, I would say that you have managed to avoid intellectual decline. The issue I was worrying was the trashing of American education by the fifty seven varieties of political correctness.

I suppose that conservatism has to be indexed to a particular society. On the Saudi scale I am a radical left wing feminist. In fact Saudi Arabia moral purity is a fraud. The privileged males there drink, gamble, and consort with fast women.

Both liberalism and libertarianism have a tendency to want to remake society to fit an ideal plan. By contrast conservatives see society as the product of thousands of years of biological and cultural evolution. It needs to be improved, but only by gradual alterations to what is already there.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 05:58 PM

First, for JP Stijns:

I think I would agree a Muslim representative who walked out on a Christian or Jewish prayer. The constitution says that there should be no law respecting establishment of religion or prohibition of the free exercise thereof.

You're right that I'm using the Gospel as an argument against state sponsorship of religion, but it's more an argument against the hypocrisy of (mostly Christian) American politicians who wear their piety on their sleave than an argument against why the government, as opposed to individual politicians, shouldn't hold public prayers in the legislative chamber.

In the specific case of the CNN article you cited, you're right: they mostly walked out out of bigotry, not belief in the seperation of church and state.

And I pretty much agree totally with your forth paragraph.

And as far as liberty & conservatism goes...

I think it's pretty obvious that, at least in principle, Joe Willingham is right that democracy does need checks and balances to prevent the usurpation of liberty. In practice, pure democracy is less likely to violate human rights than pure monarchy, or pure aristocracy, or a pure one-party state, or anything like that, but that doesn't mean democracy should be totally without rules other than majoritarianism. Though I really see no signs of "excessively leveling and egalitarian tendencies" in the U.S., at least, today.

Anyway, Bahner has advanced the definition of liberty as a state in which no one harms anyone else, but all consensual activities are allowed. It's interesting to look at other definitions of liberty. Was Sen's definition something along the lines of liberty being measured in terms of ability to make substantive choices about how one will live one's life, rather than mere lack of coercion? I don't exactly recall... anyway, I think if you adopt that "lack or coercion" ideal of liberty, then probably the Swiss or Americans or something have the most liberty. If you adopt the "oppurtunity" ideal, it might be the Netherlands, or some other nation which allows extensive personal liberty and free markets, but with extensive support for education and redistribution. I don't really know what liberty means to me... anyway, libertarianism seems to be best suited to the noncoercion definition, while neoliberalism seems to be best suited to the oppurtunity definition. Conservatism, to me at least, seems to be mediocre at satisfying either one.

Posted by: Julian Elson on March 5, 2003 06:20 PM

Hi, Joe:

"I would say that you have managed to avoid intellectual decline."

I......what? :-)

"The issue I was worrying was the trashing of American education by the fifty seven varieties of political correctness."

Oh. Does that include trashing American education with $32 billion varieties of unconstitutional federal involvement in education? If so, amen to that! Now, you need to crack your conservative President's skull, and remind him that agreeing with Ted Kennedy means one is almost always wrong!

"In fact Saudi Arabia moral purity is a fraud. The privileged males there drink, gamble, and consort with fast women."

Ahh...em...what's his name? Bright Indian fellow...Dinesh D'Souza, that's him!....;-)

....He's written that there really is no morality, without liberty. His point was that even people who obey the law in Saudi Arabia, and don't commit adultery, if they do it merely because they're afraid of being stoned to death, they aren't really being moral. They're being scared.

A realllllly nice argument, I think! It completely derails Muslim fundamentalism. (Of course, it also derails any "morality" brought about by the force of law.) Even the men in Saudi Arabia that *don't* drink or gamble can't be counted as "more moral"...because they may simply be doing it to avoid the legal penalties.

It's only in a country were "bad" things are legal (i.e., drinking and gambling) that those who still don't do those bad things can be counted as "more moral." (Except, like me, they may simply not like the taste of any alcoholic drinks.)

"Both liberalism and libertarianism have a tendency to want to remake society to fit an ideal plan."

Maybe "liberalism" (the fake kind). But not libertarianism! There is no attempt to make "society" into anything, with libertarianism. With libertarianism, people are free to do anything, except physically harm or defraud others. Virtually everyone (except pathological criminals) agrees that those are reasonable restrictions on behavior. And other than that, there aren't any restricts.

"By contrast conservatives see society as the product of thousands of years of biological and cultural evolution. It needs to be improved, but only by gradual alterations to what is already there."

To extend an analogy of Thomas Sowell's...one doesn't put out a fire, "gradually." The federal government currently takes $2.2 trillion dollars per year of *our* money. That's about 20% of our GDP. For the first 130 years of our countries existence, the federal government averaged less than or equal to 3% of GDP, which would be $330 billion in today's terms.

Now, you can cut the federal government "gradually"...by $50 billion per year. I'd be ecstatic that it got cut...but it would still take you 37 years to get down to where we were for the first 130 years of our existence. That's an awful long time.

Yoicks! Past my bedtime! :-)

Best wishes,
Mark

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 5, 2003 06:30 PM

On education I agree that President Bush is too far to the left. All those federal billions seem to have done more harm than good. On top of that, he is pussyfooting on the subject of racial preferences, and he has caved on Title IX. He may be tough abroad, but at home he is a wimp.

Dinesh d'Souza is right about Saudi Arabia, and I stand corrected.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 06:51 PM

Well that was entertaining, but I am still left with that nagging thought that the good Professor DeLong is kidding us. If he is serious, I am still puzzled, as it is not obvious from his comments, what parts of Burke's career he objects to. Is it Burke's fight against the corruption and oppression of people in India by British officials? Or perhaps it is Burke's efforts for more religious freedom for Ireland? Maybe the support Burke gave to the American colonist in their struggle with the British king? Or his brilliant attack on the French Revolution that led to so much tyranny and bloodshed? You see why I think DeLong may be kidding us.

It couldn't be personal, I am sure. Even though there is that famous quote from Burke. You know, the one that goes: "But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever." (I am sure, well almost sure, that Burke would not include Professor DeLong in those "sophisters, economists, and calculators".)

This was interesting enough so that I may do a sketch of Burke's career in the next week or two, on my site, for those who want more than entertainment.

Posted by: Jim Miller on March 5, 2003 07:03 PM

>>If he is serious, I am still puzzled, as it is not obvious from his comments, what parts of Burke's career he objects to. Is it Burke's fight against the corruption and oppression of people in India by British officials? Or perhaps it is Burke's efforts for more religious freedom for Ireland? Maybe the support Burke gave to the American colonist in their struggle with the British king? Or his brilliant attack on the French Revolution that led to so much tyranny and bloodshed?<<

I think that there are many things to like about Burke. But Burke--like other conservatives--is not a reliable friend of liberty, and thus an unsuitable long-term bed partner for a libertarian. Burke is a friend of historically-grounded and long-developed particularist Liberties, yes. But he is very far from Jefferson. Burke would have said that the Indian peasant has a right not to be plundered by Warren Hastings. But tell Burke that the British Raj in India was illegitimate because it did not derive its powers from the consent of the governed, and he would call you crazy...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 5, 2003 08:33 PM

Jim Miller: Does Burke have anything to do with American conservativism, which was what DeLong's, Henley's and Tucker's pieces (none of which mentioned Burke) were all about. When I try to make a point similiar to DeLong's these days, I write about "people who call themselves conservatives", since a substantial proportion of the American conservative movement is made up up guttersnipes, Calibans, and hysterical millenarians. Another substantial chunk (Scalia, Bennett) seems to harken back to Ignatius Loyola and the Inquisition. Burke is certainly one of the nicest conservatives you could bring forward, but hardly a libertarian no matter how small you make the L.

I find your affectation of amused superiority really amusing. Keep trying!!

Posted by: zizka on March 5, 2003 08:41 PM

Jim Miller: Does Burke have anything to do with American conservativism, which was what DeLong's, Henley's and Tucker's pieces (none of which mentioned Burke) were all about. When I try to make a point similiar to DeLong's these days, I write about "people who call themselves conservatives", since a substantial proportion of the American conservative movement is made up up guttersnipes, Calibans, and hysterical millenarians. Another substantial chunk (Scalia, Bennett) seems to harken back to Ignatius Loyola and the Inquisition. Burke is certainly one of the nicest conservatives you could bring forward, but hardly a libertarian no matter how small you make the L. In any case, he was not typical of the conservativism of any time or place.

I find your affectation of amused superiority really amusing. Keep trying!!

Posted by: zizka on March 5, 2003 08:43 PM

"Nino Scalia -- quoting St. Paul to tell us that all governmental authority, or at least all governmental authority as long as it is no worse than the tyranny of the Emperor Nero, is legitimate and must be obeyed, for obedience to government pleases God."

You know, it's not very liberal of you to keep indulging in name calling like this without even *trying* to understand what the man was talking about and actually saying. Quick resort to insult at the cost of understanding always suggests an unattractively conservative mindset to me.

OTOH, a guy like Laurence Tribe, who has a bit of working knowledge of the Supreme Court and is reputed to be a good "liberal" too, shows he actually deserves the title by paying heed to what the Justice really said. His opinion of the Wilentz (/DeLong) assault on the theocrat in robes....
[at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forum/forumnew60a.htm]

"Having read and reread Scalia’s piece in FT, and having concluded that you grievously misrepresented the Justice’s views, I would ordinarily have written a letter to the editor of the Times in hopes that, especially coming from a constitutional scholar and a sometimes harsh critic of Justice Scalia, my words might help offset what I regard as the extreme, if conscientiously based and well intended, misunderstanding that yours are likely to engender [in owners of web logs] ... however, I was a bit reluctant to attempt a rebuttal within the cramped word limits of the Times’ Letters to the Editor section....

"[W]hat Justice Scalia wrote in FT -- in remarks that, when read in full and understood in the context in which he wrote them, leave an impression very different from that conveyed by the excerpts you quoted and by the statements you paraphrased -- in no sense amounts to the blast at secular democracy and the proclamation of a divinely inspired anticonstitutionalism ...

"The blunt truth is that nothing in the Scalia essay warranted your apocalyptic conclusion ... One could reach that conclusion only by twisting the views Scalia in fact expressed."

Which would be a very illiberal thing to do! But then again, it's the sort of thing many liberals can't get enough of when it comes to conservatives.

Well, at least the example of Tribe shows there are still a *few* liberals out there who retain a liberal enough mindset to keep paying attention to substance rather than have an immediate hysteria attack when the word "God" comes out of the mouth of a Republican with a government job.

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 5, 2003 09:00 PM

"Conservatism is the past. It is and has always been one of the enemies of the future..."

As opposed to Progressivism, which is the road to the future. ;-)

Why, here in NYC right now we have the organized forces of institutionalized Progressivism fighting hard to keep in place work rules *literally* from the 19th Century in a public school system (with a new former anti-trust enforcer chancellor) with 1.1 million students, two-thirds of whom just flunked their grade-level tests. (There's your underclass of the future, those kids. Maybe people worried about the income gap of the future should write a column or two less on tax policy and a couple more on the political economics of school system work rules and organization.)

And nationally we have Progressives who are so wedded to a social security system which even ssa.gov describes as being basically Bismark's 19th Century set-up, that when presented with the option from a radical like Moynihan to do what even Sweden(!) has done -- modernize it a bit by giving property rights and positive returns to all through a 2% savings option -- they react by creating advertisements showing Republicans pushing people in wheelchairs over cliffs.

Conservative or Progressive, we have to choose, *that's* the problem.

But as to the faults of conservatives you hardly scratched the surface. I won't even start -- though a picture is worth a thousand words so a short video's worth millions, and surely we all remember the State of the Union speech....
http://www.wiredvideo.com/av/clips/stateoftheunion.wmv (4,522kb)

The Nero for Nino to defer to. ;-)

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 5, 2003 09:49 PM

Will Allen you completely misrepresent the argument I made. Why don't you just pay me the $20 you will owe me and skunk away.

According to Joe - "At the moment we most need conservatism, to act as a corrective to the excessively leveling" If you are talking about leveling in the economic sense you are mistaken. The wealth gap has become very unbalanced over the last 50 years. In the 1950's there was real leveling due to a more progressive (too progressive) tax code. Maybe you mean the "excessive leveling" brought about by the civil rights movement. Hard to tell.

The problem I see is that conservatism is divided into two camps, neither of which is really for a smaller, less intrusive government. One group can be most aptly called aristocratic. They are the conservatives who actually govern and they want the government to actively work in the best interests of the wealthy. The other camp of conservatives are the religious fundamentalists who provide the votes and want the government to actively impose their own value systems.

When a conservative says small government, what he is really saying is allow the wealthy to do as they please. Because small government for them does not apply to medical marijuana (liberals and conservatives are both wrong in supporting the Drug War), equal rights for homosexuals, prayer in schools, choice, corporate welfare, or foreign aid which is often nothing more than giving other countries money to buy American goods and services.

Posted by: Dan on March 5, 2003 10:20 PM

“Whatever happened to Russell Kirk's "politics of prudence," to pro-life politics, to rules against entangling alliances, to opposition to big government?”

I have even been a guest at the Russell Kirk home in Mecosta, Michigan. Also, at one time I was very close friends with his former assistants, Jay MacNally and Jim Roman. Nevertheless, I never completely bought into Kirk’s vision of Conservatism. In no way shape or form, did I ever accept his belief that the United States should have remained out of WWII. Isolationism is an unworkable and naive political philosophy in our modern age. We now live within a global village where it is virtually impossible to keep a safe distance between us and our most relentless enemies.

Kirk’s economic ideas bordered on the reactionary. He definitely would be included in Virginia Postrel’s criticism of those who fear change and human advancement. Would Russell Kirk, if he were still alive, disagree with President Bush’s position on Iraq? I’m not sure, but it makes no difference whatsoever to me. America was right to confront the Axis powers during WWII---and we are today acting prudently by opting to invade Iraq.

Posted by: David Thomson on March 5, 2003 10:32 PM

"Why, here in NYC right now we have the organized forces of institutionalized Progressivism fighting hard to keep in place work rules *literally* from the 19th Century in a public school system (with a new former anti-trust enforcer chancellor) with 1.1 million students, two-thirds of whom just flunked their grade-level tests. (There's your underclass of the future, those kids. Maybe people worried about the income gap of the future should write a column or two less on tax policy and a couple more on the political economics of school system work rules and organization.)"

There are three solutions to bad public education. Vouchers, vouchers and more vouchers.

The fourth best solution would be to turn the schools over to the US military. At least there would be some discipline and a pro-western curriculum.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 10:35 PM

>>It's funny to notice that no matter how much efforts some conservatives put in to make their point, their true colors always pierce through their mantel of polite rationality...

Up to that point, I thought Melcher's comments were fair game except that he is moving from a discussion of conservatism vs. liberalism vs. libetarianism into a resentful partisan discussion of democrat vs. repulican policies which isn't what Professor DeLong's post in about. <<

Brad says "conservatism is the past." I point out old programs championed by so-called liberals and new ideas championed by so-called conservatives. And, my dim recollection of history suggests to me that historically, the problem of voter fraud has been tied to Pendergast, Tamminay Hall, Daley and other "machines". Is that history one embraced by those you consider conservative? And what if any efforts are those you consider "liberal" making in order to prevent ineligible voting, counting "error" and fraud in future elections?

My point is that Brad one line definition offers little utility because so many counter-examples spring so easily to mind.

In 2003, which is more conservative, the party that holds to 1960's doctrine Mutual Assured Destruction or the party that wants to deploy 1980's "Star Wars" defense systems?

Who is more liberal, Al Gore who wanted all classrooms provided with co-axial cable to
access the internet, or Newt Gingrich who wanted all students issued a laptop in place of textbooks? (both idiotic notions, if you ask me...)

Is the issue of reparations for 1870 debts to slaves or 1940 debts to Japanese internees one embraced by the conservatives?

Which philosophy has it as a goal to "conserve" ANWR in the pristine state it has enjoyed these past few thousand years, and which wants to put roads, pipelines, WiFi sat dish McDonalds and Starbucks in?

The past/future duality, in my view, wholly fails to map to the conservative/liberal one.

Can we ask Brad to try again?


Posted by: melcher on March 5, 2003 10:45 PM

Melcher, I've been with you until now, but you're wrong about ANWAR.

Liberals are determined to trash society. Libertarians and conservatives are determined to trash the natural world.

Can we check none of the above?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 11:59 PM

>> Edmund Burke said things libertarians (or even Libertarians) could agree with...

Only if you don't have any historical understanding of what Burke meant when he invoked 'Liberty' at the end of the 18th century. Hint: it's not what you think.

(Really, 'Libertarians' ought to have to sit an exam on political philosophy 1650-1800 before they join threads like this.)

Posted by: nick sweeney on March 6, 2003 04:07 AM

Belatedly I find the following regarding vote validation.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110003150

I hardly expect everybody to agree with me. I don't agree with anybody else, all the time. That's why we have elections.

I would wish the election process were more open and honest.

I would wish that my support for one or another issue -- say, ending the 50 year old war in Korea -- did not invoke in others a range of assumptions about my probable stance on issues like school vouchers, medicare reform, or Kyoto. But wishes are not horses and beggars can't ride.

Posted by: Melcher on March 6, 2003 04:10 AM

Some clarifications, for those who do not read carefully. I did not even mention libertarianism in my posts. (It is a subject about which I have complex ideas, which I may sometimes treat at my site.) My central point is simply that DeLong's caricature of conservatism is so extreme as to raise doubts--and I am not joking--about whether he believes it himself. It does not fit the beliefs of significant conservative thinkers like Burke, who has had great influence in the United States, nor the beliefs of most conservative leaders, nor the beliefs of most self-identified conservative voters.

The definition reminds me of those few loud and angry people on the right who used to call Bill Clinton a Communist. Both are so extreme as to discredit the people making the argument.

Reform can come from anywhere. It is simply a fact, whether DeLong and company like it or not, that the main impetus for welfare reform came from the conservatives. It is simply a fact, whether DeLong and company like ir or not, that the main support for education reform now comes from conservatives.

Finally, amused superiority seems an entirely appropriate response to those whose main tactic in an argument is name calling.

Posted by: Jim Miller on March 6, 2003 07:04 AM

Upon reading Delong's post, I immediately thought of something I ran across earlier this week:

http://www.southerncaucus.org/

Load up the front page of the Dixie Daily News and you'll find, interspersed with rants against Lincoln, anti-imperialist rants against GWB and the Washington Empire. The far, far right is /not/ happy with the GWB + Ashcroft assault on civil liberties, and militias, the NRA, and other such groups are finding themselves in league with the ACLU, the EFF and those on the left. And the Southern far right is also not happy with imperialism in any form, especially Northern American imperalism. The whole mess has made for very strange bedfellows...

Posted by: Jon Stokes on March 6, 2003 07:32 AM

Jim Miller: As I said, DeLong and the other two were talking about American conservatives, and he's right. Check out Bush's "core constituency". That's who we're talking about.

In Oregon we have an educational system which is well better than average; in Portland most upper-middle-class parents still send their kids to public schools. This year the anti-tax sentiments of conservative voters and the Republicans in the legislature are on the point of destrying these schools (an ongoing problem culminating this year.) Now it turns out that the Republican head of the education committee wants the public schools destroyed so that vouchers can be put in effect.

No, he doesn't say that he wants the public schools destroyed. He has said that **nobody** should send their kids to public schools, and he does want vouchers, and he has been part of the problem in the legislature. Iwas reqading between the lines a little. So shoot me.

From the Oregonian

This is the kind of guy we mean when we say "American conservative". He has no more to do with Burke than he does with Albert Einstein.

Now if you think that destroying an existing good school system to replace it with vouchers is forward-looking, yeah, this guy is forwardlooking and liberals are backward-looking.

Where do you live, anyway? The Conservative Faculty Lounge? Your amused tone is highly annoying.

Jon Stokes: Bush has been pretty successful in keeping the neoConfederates on board, but he could't get all of them.

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 08:03 AM

Questions for zizka:

Why would vouchers destroy public schools in Oregon? If people like the public schools they will ignore the vouchers and continue sending their children to those schools.

If the Republicans defund schools that people like, wont't they be voted out of office?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 09:49 AM

Did you read the link? It was pretty clear that the chairman of the house (senate?)education committee has a longtime, deeprooted, and intense hatred of the public schools. I didn't say that vouchers would destroy the public schools; what I said was that he wants to destroy the public schools first, so that it will be easier to promote vouchers.

My hope is that these guys will be voted out of office. However, a lot of the constituency is people who call themselves conservatives too, Many of whom also want to destroy the public schools. Something I've been hearing a lot from them since earlier cuts is "Where's the disaster? We cut and there's no disaster yet, you liars". Well, the disaster they want is this year or next year.

Your argument from public opinion is not one which a Burkean conservative would make, as I understand. My disagreement is as much with the conservative voters as with their conservative representative.

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 10:57 AM

This is coming from a soft-headed liberal standpoint, I guess, but, Joe, would you tell me how vouchers would resolve the problem?

As I understand it, vouchers allow students to attend a school of their choice. From my reading, most vouchers do not cover the totality of a good private school tuition. So, to begin with, there's a large poprtion of the population that cannot take advantage of it. Bright kids from poor families who cannot make up the difference are out.

But let's say you ignore that. Take an imaginary American city. In this city everyone is lucky enough to be able to pay tuition. Assume that there are maybe a dozen really good schools, a large number of mediocre schools, and some really bad ones. The really good schools already have a local population; they can maybe accomodate a few dozen or a few hundred more kids per school. So that's a few thousand voucher students. The schools pick and choose among the brightest of the voucher students.

Say the same for a few thousand mediocre schools, mediocre being better than lousy. So there's a few thousand voucher students. They take the rest

So let's say the good and mediocre school accomodate 25,000 voucher students. The school population of this city is, say, one hundred thousand?

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE OTHER 75,000 KIDS? Do we just consider them expendable because they are either too poor or not bright enough? Is this considered to be acceptable in our society?

This is not a snarky post. I am really trying to understand the pro-voucher argument. Although a liberal, I would agree to try anything that would improve poor kids' access to a good education.

Posted by: Emma on March 6, 2003 11:00 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/06/opinion/06HERB.html

March 6, 2003

The War on Schools
By BOB HERBERT - NYTimes

There's something surreal about the fact that the United States of America, the richest, most powerful nation in history, can't provide a basic public school education for all of its children.

Actually, that's wrong. Strike the word "can't." The correct word is more damning, more reflective of the motives of the people in power. The correct word is "won't."

Without giving the costs much thought, we'll spend hundreds of billions of dollars on an oil-powered misadventure in the Middle East. But we won't scrape together the money for sufficient textbooks and teachers, or even, in some cases, to keep the doors open at public schools in struggling districts from Boston on the East Coast to Portland on the West....

Posted by: jd on March 6, 2003 12:01 PM

Emma,
The answer to your question is that with vouchers there will be more paying customers than currently exist. Therefore new schools will open up to meet the new demand.

The school problem is really about parents. There are so many kids out there that no respectable private school would accept (for a long period of time anyway). People who will benefit from vouchers are really after tax breaks for what they are already doing - sending their kids to private schools. The vast majority of families will see their kids kicked out of private schools or will see the private school decline to the public school standard. A few families will actually benefit from vouchers at great expense to all of us.

I say send kids who can't behave or keep up, to separate but public trade-schools and if they are still a problem - kick them out.

Posted by: Dan on March 6, 2003 12:50 PM

Zizka, I read the link. The man has his attitude. His Democratic colleague didn't sound as though he were all that worried about him. What, is he supposed to be some sort of dictator?

Reply to Emma:

"As I understand it, vouchers allow students to attend a school of their choice. From my reading, most vouchers do not cover the totality of a good private school tuition. So, to begin with, there's a large proportion of the population that cannot take advantage of it. Bright kids from poor families who cannot make up the difference are out."

You have to design the program right and make sure the vouchers are big enough to pay for good private schools. The vouchers could be bigger for poor children.

"But let's say you ignore that. Take an imaginary American city. In this city everyone is lucky enough to be able to pay tuition. Assume that there are maybe a dozen really good schools, a large number of mediocre schools, and some really bad ones. The really good schools already have a local population; they can maybe accommodate a few dozen or a few hundred more kids per school. So that's a few thousand voucher students. The schools pick and choose among the brightest of the voucher students.

"Say the same for a few thousand mediocre schools, mediocre being better than lousy. So there's a few thousand voucher students. They take the rest

"So let's say the good and mediocre school accommodate 25,000 voucher students. The school population of this city is, say, one hundred thousand?

"WHAT HAPPENS TO THE OTHER 75,000 KIDS? Do we just consider them expendable because they are either too poor or not bright enough? Is this considered to be acceptable in our society?"

Some of the more difficult to educate kids will stay in public schools, others will find private schools that specialize in hard cases. Under the present system, poor kids who are bright to average and well-behaved are forced to go to school with children who are violent, disruptive, or for whatever reason uneducable. So instead of half (just to pick a number) of the poor children getting an education, almost none do.

For political reasons, it is impossible to maintain any sort of discipline or order in some public school. In those school almost no education occurs. The kids might as well not be there. No parent should be forced to place his or her child in such a school.

Liberals don't send their children to schools like that. Usually liberals' kids attend suburban schools or private schools. And yet they are willing to sacrifice others' children.

If poor parents had a choice to send their children to private schools, then it is likely that the public schools would improve. Competition is the mother of excellence. In some school districts just having a few students using their vouchers would stimulate the public schools to improve enough so that the majority would be happy to remain in the public schools.

An additional advantage of school choice would be that parents' preferences could be more closely matched. One parent may feel his kid would do well at a progressive school. Another might prefer a military school. One size doesn't fit all.

Monopoly is a bad thing. Choice is a good thing. That is why we have anti-trust laws.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 01:19 PM

Joe W. : For Christ's sake, his Democratic colleague is going to have to work with the guy in an evenly-split chamber. He can't afford to burn any bridges.

Oregon is a total mess. Last year the Legislature had I don't know how many special sessions and still adjourned leaving the next legislature a godawful budget mess to clean up. This legislature, in turn, is probably going to leave the next one an even worse mess, probably insoluble, to clean up. K-12 education is the state's biggest single responsibility, and a high proportion of school funding comes from the state. The k-12 system is going to get worse.

First of all, do you think that it is appropriate for someone who clearly and explicitly asks people to boycott the public schools to make important decisions regarding public schools?

And second, do you call this guy a conservative? This is the kind of guy I'm talking about when I talk about "people who call themselves conservatives", i.e. American conservatives, which is what this thread originally was about.

Where did the snotty, ever-so-superior Burke dude go?

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 02:45 PM

Joe W. : For Christ's sake, his Democratic colleague is going to have to work with the guy in an evenly-split chamber. He can't afford to burn any bridges.

Oregon is a total mess. Last year the Legislature had I don't know how many special sessions and still adjourned leaving the next legislature a godawful budget mess to clean up. This legislature, in turn, is probably going to leave the next one an even worse mess, probably insoluble, to clean up. K-12 education is the state's biggest single responsibility, and a high proportion of school funding comes from the state. The k-12 system is going to get worse.

First of all, do you think that it is appropriate for someone who clearly and explicitly asks people to boycott the public schools to make important decisions regarding public schools?

And second, do you call this guy a conservative? This is the kind of guy I'm talking about when I talk about "people who call themselves conservatives", i.e. American conservatives, which is what this thread originally was about.

Where did the snotty, ever-so-superior Burke advocate go?

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 02:49 PM

Joe W. : For Christ's sake, his Democratic colleague is going to have to work with the guy in an evenly-split chamber. He can't afford to burn any bridges.

Oregon is a total mess. Last year the Legislature had I don't know how many special sessions and still adjourned leaving the next legislature a godawful budget mess to clean up. This legislature, in turn, is probably going to leave the next one an even worse mess, probably insoluble, to clean up. K-12 education is the state's biggest single responsibility, and a high proportion of school funding comes from the state. The k-12 system is going to get worse.

First of all, do you think that it is appropriate for someone who clearly and explicitly asks people to boycott the public schools to make important decisions regarding public schools?

And second, do you call this guy a conservative? This is the kind of guy I'm talking about when I talk about "people who call themselves conservatives", i.e. American conservatives, which is what this thread originally was about.

Where did the snotty, ever-so-superior Burke advocate go?

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 02:50 PM

Sorry, but there's really a problem. It's really impossible tell if your post has been accepted, even if you log off and log back on.

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 02:54 PM

"First of all, do you think that it is appropriate for someone who clearly and explicitly asks people to boycott the public schools to make important decisions regarding public schools?"

I'm sure the gentlemen's opponents will make the same argument you are making. Whether it's a valid argument is up to you Oregonians to decide. One thing is clear, he's not a very good politician, shooting off his mouth the way he apparently has.

"And second, do you call this guy a conservative? This is the kind of guy I'm talking about when I talk about "people who call themselves conservatives", i.e. American conservatives, which is what this thread originally was about."

I gather that he is a member of the "religious right", who are often called conservatives. Some of them would disagree with that label, many would accept it. I'm not a big fan of that school, but politics makes strange bedfellows.

I am not religious - I am more likely to read Edward Gibbon or Charles Darwin than the Bible. But I share the gentleman's dismay at what is being taught in many of our nation's schools.

In politics you make coaltions. On the environment I often align with the left. On eduation I find myself in general agreement with the right.

I don't think vouchers should be thought of as liberal or conservative. The most famous voucher program is in Milwaukee, where the mayor is a Democrat.

My line is that the issue should be decided on the state and local level. Try different approaches and see what works.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 03:52 PM

First of all, is your distress at the public schools based on awareness of Oregon's public schools, which have been pretty good so far, or are you just lumping the whole lot of them in with East Saint Louis and inner-city Detroit, based on something you saw once on TV?

Second, again, what do YOU think about having someone who hates the public schools making decisions about the public schools? He sounds like a nihilist saboteur to me. Regardless of whether the voters in his district like the guy, I think he's no good. What do you think? Is it a permissible strategy to sabotage the public schools in order ultimately to get your vouchers?

Finally, if you're a conservative in Oregon this is what you get. And apparently this guy is a bedfellow you'd be willing to have if you were here.

Posted by: zizka on March 6, 2003 06:21 PM

"American conservatism is different in some respects from European conservatism. What our ancestors have handed down to us are liberal doctrines and institutions: Republican government, strong individualism, a belief that rights are prior to the state and prior to society, TJ's time bomb in the "Declaration" declaring human equality, and AL's time bomb in the "Address" declaring that ours is a government of, by, and for the people. These mean that American conservatism is a set of harmonics springing from a liberal fundamental. But to the extent that American conservatism is a friend to liberty, it is because it is American--not because it is conservative. "

And it is this difference that in turn influences friends of liberty and induces some of them to consider lining up under the conservative banner.

Those same people, faced with a different existing order, would not even consider being conservative.

"Year, yeah, yeah. All the prosperity since the New Deal was a liberal sham."

Well, there was that 10 year long depression, which was highly unusual. So was the New Deal. Coincidence? I think not.

Since then, of course, we have actually made some progress. How much more could we have made without the New Deal and related policies?

"The most obvious example is the right to dump toxic pollutants in both the atmosphere and ground water and to classify all government attempts to limit such a right as "regulatory takings" which infringe on private property and must be financially compensated."

Well, reducing by government fiat one's ability to do something useful with his property does smell like a partial taking to me. And the issue goes far beyond dumping toxic pollutants - governments restrict land use for reasons ranging from the presence of certain animals to the desire on the part of local governments to "beautify" the area.

As far as schools go, I don't see any good reasons for the government to operate schools at all. When government takes responsibility for feeding the poor, it doesn't operate farms, trucks, or grocery stores. It simply gives poor people vouchers with which they can buy food from the private sector. Oddly enough, there are enough stores selling a sufficient quantity of food to feed everyone.

In the case of schools, you can't take the current private school tuition as a guide to anything. Price-sensitive consumers aren't even in the market - they're using the public schools. If not for the public schools, they would be in the market for private schooling, and the price structure would reflect their presence.
And the total supply of private school seats would also expand to meet the demand. That would be facilitated if the governments auctioned off the public school facilities.

"Melcher, I've been with you until now, but you're wrong about ANWAR. "

Why is ANWR so valuable? There's not much there. Certainly not an ecosystem that is critical to the well-being of humanity.

Why is ANWR more worthy of protection than, say, the Gulf of Mexico?

Posted by: Ken on March 6, 2003 07:11 PM

Well, if I lived in Oregon, and looked into the public schools and found them to be by and large satisfactory, I wouldn't *be* this man's bedfellow. At the very least I would want to check out some polls and focus groups to see whether it was worth my while.

I get the impression that the people of Oregon are by and large a pretty pragmatic bunch of folks. They'll figure out what they want to do.

The idea of vouchers polls best among inner city blacks. If it's broke you want to fix it.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 07:51 PM

My last post was a reply to zizka's above.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 07:58 PM

"As far as schools go, I don't see any good reasons for the government to operate schools at all. When government takes responsibility for feeding the poor, it doesn't operate farms, trucks, or grocery stores. It simply gives poor people vouchers with which they can buy food from the private sector. Oddly enough, there are enough stores selling a sufficient quantity of food to feed everyone."

The same goes for medical insurance. Give people a means-tested medical insurance voucher instead of putting the government into the insurance business.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 08:12 PM

"Why is ANWR so valuable? There's not much there. Certainly not an ecosystem that is critical to the well-being of humanity."

ANWR

Nature remains essentially undisturbed in this scenic, pristine land. The Refuge System's primary mandate: to protect wildlife and habitats for the benefit of people now and in the future.

Wildlife: The Arctic Refuge contains an impressive variety of arctic wildlife. Dominated by the rugged and majestic Brooks Range, the Refuge is vast and remote - domain of the wandering Porcupine Caribou herd, packs of wolves, hardy muskoxen, lone wolverines, flocks of snow geese, and other wilderness-dependent species.

The rich pageant of wildlife found within the Refuge includes more than 160 bird species, 36 kinds of land mammals, nine marine mammal species, and 36 types of fish.

Habitat: The Arctic Refuge is among the most complete, pristine, and undisturbed ecosystems on earth. Here coastal lagoons, barrier islands, arctic tundra, foothills, mountains, and boreal forests provide a combination of habitats, climate, and geography unmatched by any other northern conservation area - conditions that support the Refuge's diverse community of life.

People: The Arctic Refuge is a landscape like those that shaped America's unique heritage and culture - a place of reflection, beauty, and adventure. It's big and wild enough to make you feel like one of the old-time explorers - self- reliant, independent, and free.

The Refuge is an inspiration to nature enthusiasts, and a home to local Inupiat Eskimo and Gwich'in Indian communities. It is also a symbol, even for those who will never visit, of the link between wilderness and wildlife, and the need for both, now and in the future.

That's what the gummint says, and for once the gummint is right.

Americans love nature, and tens of millions hunt, fish, hike, birdwatch, canoe, kayak, raft, mountain climb or just gawk. Only the hardiest go to ANWR, but we love the fact that is there, even if we are too wimpy to do anything but admire it on the boob toob.

I know we need oil wells and shopping malls and all the other amenities of civilization. But if that were all there is life would be a sad and tedious affair.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 08:42 PM

There is a big difference between food and education or medical insurance. By and large, food is a commodity with easy entry into the supply-side of the market. Until you are talking about fancy restaurants, basically a food product is a food product.

Education and medical insurance have high barriers to entry, they are necessities, and, because the product is differentiated, profit maximazation is likely to reduce the quality and/or access of the product. Uneducated and unhealthy people are bad for the society so it makes sense for the government to get involved. We have bad schools because we have bad parents, not because the schools are public. We have bad medical insurance because it is based on profit maximazation (that is not to say every government run medical insurance program is so great). Overhead costs associated with Medicare are 2%. That sure beats the private providers.

Posted by: Dan on March 6, 2003 08:42 PM

>Education and medical insurance have high barriers to entry,

It's easy to be a farmer? I don't think so.

>We have bad medical insurance because it is based on profit >maximazation

I went to a restaurant in the neighborhood last night. I enjoyed it. My car is nice, I like my house, my clothes, my furniture, my computer and my stereo. Nothing fancy, but all good stuff. It was all supplied to me by people intent on profit maximization. I can't imagine the government selling me things of comparable quality at comparable prices.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 09:02 PM

Joe, many people go without all those things you mention because of cost.

I don't care if people go without a stereo, but I think it is wrong for millions of people in this country to not have health insurance.

Posted by: Dan on March 6, 2003 09:31 PM

"I don't care if people go without a stereo, but I think it is wrong for millions of people in this country to not have health insurance."

I totally agree. That's why the government should help them to pay for health insurance if they can't afford to buy it on their own.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 6, 2003 09:42 PM

That so many hold the notion that central planning and the elimination of the profit motive has been disastrous for the production of high quality, affordable, goods and services with continual innovation (does the history of the 20th century really need to be reviewed?), but will somehow be a magic elixir for health care and education delivery, makes one despair that people can learn from observable phenomena. Yes, state control of the production and delivery of any good or service can insure that people for the most part will receive roughly equal amounts, but don't think for a second that such regimes don't come at a price. The entire globe benefits from the profits that can be made by selling Americans cutting edge health care technology, and if one disputes this, it is incumbent that one explain in detail why the profit motive
does not play the same role in health care as it does in, say, the production of automobiles. Care to buy a Yugo? If one's primary goal is to wipe out disparities in what people receive in health care, fine, central planning can accomplish that. It is disingenuous, or historically ignorant, however, to suggest that the elimination of the potential to earn large profits in delivering health care goods and services will not have a sizable impact on the pace of innovation and quality of those goods and services. This isn't to say that current method of delivering health care in the U.S. is ideal; it is a hybrid that in some ways combines the worst of both worlds.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 07:06 AM

"I totally agree. That's why the government should help them to pay for health insurance if they can't afford to buy it on their own."

That will just drive prices up. Like college tuitions, the more the government offers loans and grants the higher the prices go.

Posted by: Dan on March 7, 2003 09:02 AM

"That will just drive prices up. Like college tuitions, the more the government offers loans and grants the higher the prices go."

Food stamps haven't caused the price of food to go up to any significant degree.

If what you say is true in the case of medicine, that would indicate inelasticity in the supply. The thing to do would be to figure out what's causing that and fix it.

Do you have a better plan?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 7, 2003 11:44 AM

"If it ain't broke, don't ruin it" is a pretty good conservative slogan which applies to ANWR and the public schools.

To me the ANWR problem is easy, since the amount of oil doesn't seem to be that great. I've heard that the oil companies don't care much, and that Bush just pushes the issue to satisfy the anti-environmentalist yahoos among his core constituency.

The public schools in the places I know of (North Dakota, Minnesota, and Oregon) aren't that bad. My son's high school was by and large better than mine 30 years earlier. The attacks on the public schools take descriptions of the worst schools and claim that they are typical, going from there to declare that the public schools all must be replaced. The stupid slogans and broad allegations that are being shovelled out hit all the schools, not just the bad ones. "The failing American schools" isn't all of them, but it sounds that way.

Among those who hate the public schools are those who want state-funded religious education, people who hate all government and all taxes, and people who resent paying for the educations of other people's children. Very few of them are in good faith.

I don't have time to argue it, but I'm convinced that across-the-board, vouchers will weaken education while delivering better education to the upper middle class. The concern of the party of Trent Lott for inner city parents is phony.

The guy who can't see why education should be a government responsibility should go back a century and a half and explain it to the people who started it. Free public education was an experiment that worked, no matter what your little libertarian tract says. And people want to destroy it.

Expletives deleted throughout.


Posted by: zizka on March 7, 2003 11:48 AM

It is the liberals who are denying the poor a good education by putting the interests of the educational bureaucracy and the teachers' unions ahead of that of the children.

The upper middle class can and does take care of itself. It is the people at the other end who are getting a raw deal under the present system.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 7, 2003 12:41 PM

Joe, I said quite a few things and you didn't respond in the least to any of them. You just repeated the same things you've been saying all along. Characteristic scripted knee-jerk anti-tax anti-government behavior.

When voucher advocates claim that what they really care about is inner city parents and their children, voucher advocates are lying. They're just playing games with liberal guilt. (Yeah, some voucher advocates are black, but that's not where the power of the movement comes from).

Nore expletives deleted.

Posted by: zizka on March 7, 2003 02:24 PM

All nonsensical rhetoric about "libertarian tracts" aside, I never said that the state should not be involved in education. I think it should, to some degree. To compare, however, what is required in an agrarian society in which the agrarians have an economic interest in keeping their children out of a classroom, so they can work in the field, and an information age society in which child labor is tightly regulated, and parents will not economically benefit by keeping their children out of an educational setting, is indicative of the reactionary thinking that so many so called liberals currently engage in. Having the end user direct where the resources are directed to is far more likely to result in the resources being utilized well, particularly in those cases where the resources are being utterly squandered, like the D.C. public school system. In regards to health care, the elimination of the profit motive will have a devastating effect on the innovation of health care technolgy and delivery, as it would for any good or service highly dependent on technology. If you wish to have continual innovation in a cost effective manner (do you really wish to run the health care industry the way the Pentagon is run?) , it is necessary to have some degree of market forces in play, and that means allowing for the potential of large profits.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 02:31 PM

"This is coming from a soft-headed liberal standpoint, I guess, but, Joe, would you tell me how vouchers would resolve the problem?"

Well, in the spirit of the Professor's original comments, wouldn't one imagine that Progressives and Liberals would be the ones willing to experiment with them as a new thing to find out? And that Conservatives would be the ones entrenched to resist change, coming up with all kinds of rationalizations not even to test them all?

And if one did imagine that, one would be wrong, eh? ;-)
~~~

"Why would vouchers destroy public schools in Oregon?"

For the same reason that they've destroyed the public schools in Milwaukee, obviously. Just look and see for yourself.
~~

"The public schools in the places I know of (North Dakota, Minnesota, and Oregon) aren't that bad."

Good for those places! Unfortunately, when the Children's Scholarship Fund offered poverty level, inner-city parents 30,000 50% scholarships -- the families still had to come up with the other 50% of the cost -- it received 1.2 *million* requests for them. A good 40 for each. That shows what parents of kids in those inner city schools that you don't know of think of them. Voting with feet and pocketbook, when you don't have much money to start with. Revealed preferences and all.

"The concern of the party of Trent Lott for inner city parents is phony."

Sounds like people in North Dakota, Minnesota and Oregon don't have much concern for inner city parents either.

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 03:00 PM

"The guy who can't see why education should be a government responsibility should go back a century and a half and explain it to the people who started it."

You mean those people like John Stuart Mill?
~~

"If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer classes of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those who have no one else to pay for them.

"The objections which are urged with reason against State education, do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking upon itself to direct that education: which is a totally different thing. That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating ....

"An education established and controlled by the State, should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus ...."

-- from _On Liberty_, 1859
~~

And that is in fact how the people who started public schools actually started them, a century and a half back.

What was it Santayana said: "Those who don't know history are condemned to repeatedly show they don't know it?"

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 03:16 PM

John Stuart Mill is the man. If the Democratic Party in this country would adopt him as its patron saint they would move from the edge of oblivion to becoming the dominant party again.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 7, 2003 06:17 PM

Jim Glass -- that was about the wildest logical leap I've ever seen on the internet, which is **really saying something**. I said nothing about what North Dakota, Oregon, or Minnesota parents thought or didn't think about inner city parents. I said that by and large, these states have good schools.

Will, you still read like a Libertarian tract. I've seen them before.

No, not John Stuart Mill. The people in the US who started offering free public education a century and a half ago. Not every single person who was alive a century and a half ago. And as far as I know, public money wasn't spent on church schools that whole time.

To repeat for the third time: I did not say that vouchers would destroy public schools. What I said is that the head of the Oregon Senate Education committee seems to want to destroy public education in order to make selling vouchers to the public easier.

Incidentally, as I remember, Minnesota does allow any kid in the state to enroll in any other public school in the state, conditional on space limitations. This allows some of the freedom of choice that people have been demanding.

The energy behind vouchers doesn't come mostly from the inner city. I didn't say that no inner city parents wanted vouchers.

Incidentally, I came onto this thread, not to oppose vouchers, but to oppose dishonest attacks on the public schools system which mostly come from the promoters of vouchers. Specifically a guy in Oregon who I believe is sabotaging the Oregon schools in order to promote vouchers.

Posted by: zizka on March 7, 2003 08:55 PM

Jim Glass says: "And that is in fact how the people who started public schools actually started them, a century and a half back"

Perhaps that is how they were started in England. I don't really know. I know John Stuart Mill had many good ideas, but education wasn't one of them. He did work for the East India Company - not exactly a beacon of freedom. I prefer the following philosopher who did actually start the public education system two centuries back.

"It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that, too, of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This is the business of the state to effect, and on a general plan".
--Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1786

And here is the plan:
"[The education bill I proposed would] divide every county into wards of five or six miles square;... establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic--Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813. (*)


Posted by: Dan on March 7, 2003 09:27 PM

A good way to settle the dispute between the advocates of government run public schools and those would prefer to replace them with a system of government funded vouchers would be the following. Give parents a choice. You can send your child to a government run school, or you can take a voucher and send your child to a privately run school.

That way everybody gets what he or she wants. It's a win/win solution.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 7, 2003 11:31 PM

Explain to me why the market wouldn't segment to give poor children a significantly worse education. Unless you ban parents paying above and beyond what the government hands out in vouchers, the private market would "tier up" by quality/price really quickly. This happens already in the current private schools, but it's not a big enough deal at the moment to really matter in terms of equal opportunity.

A rejoinder, to this, obviously, is that the parents below a certain income level will just leave their kids in public school. However, if the public schools end up only being for the poor, then public schooling will inevitably be seen as "welfare", driving down the quality of public schooling even more.

The current state of inner city schools is horrible, but I don't see how the logical endpoint of an all-vouchers system would be an improvement. It certainly looks a lot easier to get serious about fixing underperforming schools than dealing with the fundamentally broken opportunity equality problems of vouchers.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 8, 2003 02:10 AM

"What needs to be fought against is the way the battle against racial discrimination has been perverted into racial preferences and ethnic bean counting."

Surely Joe Willingham meant, "What needs to be fought against is the way the battle against racial discrimination has been falsely characterized by conservatives as racial preferences and ethnic bean counting."

The Michigan case is a good example of this: Although no quotas are involved, the Republicans persist in claiming it is a quota system. This is a standard conservative strategy - tell a lie to kill a program that has the potential to create social equality.

Liberals needn't obsess on changing a thing just because a change is "new". The point is to identify actual problems and try to fix them. But that doesn't mean you abandon the dictum of, "If it works, don't fix it." Liberal programs are solutions to things that didn't already work. "Conservatives", on the other hand, hate things like public schools and Social Security precisely because they do work to expand the opportunities for individuals to break about of the class/caste system. The conservative program is essentially to sabotage such programs - or, when they fail to sabotage them, to simply make false claims that the programs have failed.

Perhaps the biggest lie of all is that liberals like big government and conservatives don't. Liberals tend to distrust ALL large institutions; government, in the liberal view, is useful as a counter-weight to the amassed wealth and power of large non-governmental institutions (churches, corporations). Conservatives prefer to place government into the hands of those same powerful interests, and then they LOVE big government. (One only need look at the way Rehnquist usually votes to see what the classic conservative approach is - BOTH government and corporations are treated as having more legitimate rights than individuals.)

As to what happened in Washington: Someone who recognizes that religious observance does not belong in government walks out on ALL religious observances imposed on government bodies, not just those of Muslims, or of other religions, or of their own religion. Two legislators who walk out only on a Muslim observance are not standing up for the American virtue of keeping religion out of government, but are in fact making an ignorant and bigoted stand against that virtue. Get it straight.

Posted by: Avedon on March 8, 2003 04:36 AM

> Most property rights advocates find the commonplace use of state power to grab the property of other citizens, for things like baseball stadiums... to be far more pernicious

... and then turn around and support George W. Bush, whose personal fortune comes from a payoff, basically, from his "fellow owners" of a baseball team for condemning land on their behalf around their new stadium at firesale prices so that they could develop it.

Way to vote your principles.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 08:54 AM

> Most property rights advocates find the commonplace use of state power to grab the property of other citizens, for things like baseball stadiums... to be far more pernicious

... and then turn around and support George W. Bush, whose personal fortune comes from a payoff, basically, from his "fellow owners" of a baseball team for condemning land on their behalf around their new stadium at firesale prices so that they could develop it.

Way to vote your principles.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 08:59 AM

> Most property rights advocates find the commonplace use of state power to grab the property of other citizens, for things like baseball stadiums... to be far more pernicious

... and then turn around and support George W. Bush, whose personal fortune comes from a payoff, basically, from his "fellow owners" of a baseball team for condemning land on their behalf around their new stadium at firesale prices so that they could develop it.

Way to vote your principles.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 09:03 AM

gack. Delete two of those, please.

>The answer to your question is that with vouchers there will be more paying customers than currently exist. Therefore new schools will open up to meet the new demand.

Pfui. What will happen: all of the parents who currently have their children in private school will apply for and receive their share of the already scarce dollars dedicated to education, which will disappear out of the system without a single child who is currently in the public school system being helped one whit.

Subsequently, the price of private school education will do what the price of anything does when lots and lots of money enters the market - it will go up. Again, no net loss to the parents whose children are already enrolled in private schools, because their parents will have the voucher funds to pay the increase. The kids in public school, however, will now be every bit as far away from a private education as they ever were.

Now: when you consider that Chris Whittle's pilot attempt to set up private schools on a "businesslike" basis along precisely the lines that the libertarians and the religious right are calling for was such a spectacular failure that even with an outrageous amount of support from people who hoped he would succeed he managed to not make a paying business of it, not educate children and repel attempts by parents to become involved (the trifecta!)

precisely what reason do you have to believe that privatisation will do anything positive to balance the destruction of universal education for children?

I'm becoming increasingly more convinced that the libertarian horse in this race is putting the electorate at a distance from the idea of educating children so that they can come back later and demand that the government stop funding it altogether.

As a matter of fact, if you have any intellectual honesty at all, getting government out of education is really the only position for a person with your views on the role of government to take.

I'll do you the compliment, then, of assuming that you are a sincere person, and that therefor your rhetoric about "fixing" the system is wildly disingenuous at best and a flat out strategic lie in all likelihood.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 09:30 AM

gack. Delete two of those, please.

>The answer to your question is that with vouchers there will be more paying customers than currently exist. Therefore new schools will open up to meet the new demand.

Pfui. What will happen: all of the parents who currently have their children in private school will apply for and receive their share of the already scarce dollars dedicated to education, which will disappear out of the system without a single child who is currently in the public school system being helped one whit.

Subsequently, the price of private school education will do what the price of anything does when lots and lots of money enters the market - it will go up. Again, no net loss to the parents whose children are already enrolled in private schools, because their parents will have the voucher funds to pay the increase. The kids in public school, however, will now be every bit as far away from a private education as they ever were.

Now: when you consider that Chris Whittle's pilot attempt to set up private schools on a "businesslike" basis along precisely the lines that the libertarians and the religious right are calling for was such a spectacular failure that even with an outrageous amount of support from people who hoped he would succeed he managed to not make a paying business of it, not educate children and repel attempts by parents to become involved (the trifecta!)

precisely what reason do you have to believe that privatisation will do anything positive to balance the destruction of universal education for children?

I'm becoming increasingly more convinced that the libertarian horse in this race is putting the electorate at a distance from the idea of educating children so that they can come back later and demand that the government stop funding it altogether.

As a matter of fact, if you have any intellectual honesty at all, getting government out of education is really the only position for a person with your views on the role of government to take.

I'll do you the compliment, then, of assuming that you are a sincere person, and that therefor your rhetoric about "fixing" the system is wildly disingenuous at best and a flat out strategic lie in all likelihood.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 09:35 AM

"...it is still the case of having to pay someone to _not_ perform an action that harms your own well being. In poorer neighborhoods, such an arrangement is called by its proper name: an extortion racket."

Well, then what do you call being forced to pay someone to harm you? A teen or 20-something would call it "Social Security." ;-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 8, 2003 02:05 PM

"And as far as I know, public money wasn't spent on church schools that whole time."

You should read up. New England states like Vermont and Maine *still* have voucher-equivalent programs where the student picks any school and the state pays for it, as a remnant of their original systems, and they paid for education in private religious schools until the 1960s, stopping only as a result of Supreme Court church/state decisions then. In light of the last Court decision, they are now considering resuming doing so.

"The energy behind vouchers doesn't come mostly from the inner city."

Yet somehow that's the only place where there's been enough political energy for voucher programs to be actually *enacted*. Inner city Milwaukee, inner city Cleveland, etc. How odd is that?

"Perhaps that is how they were started in England. I don't really know."

Yes, it was. And New York. And New England...

"I prefer the following philosopher who did actually start the public education system two centuries back.... 'It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This is the business of the state to effect, and on a general plan"..'

Where did Mill disagree with that?

"'[The education bill I proposed would] divide every county into wards of five or six miles square;... establish in each ward a free school'...

Except the question was, how did public schools actually get started? And that's *not* how they got started. Not enough people liked Jefferson's plan. ;-(

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 8, 2003 02:37 PM

"Anyway, Bahner has advanced the definition of liberty as a state in which no one harms anyone else, but all consensual activities are allowed. It's interesting to look at other definitions of liberty. Was Sen's definition something along the lines of liberty being measured in terms of ability to make substantive choices about how one will live one's life, rather than mere lack of coercion? I don't exactly recall... anyway, I think if you adopt that "lack or coercion" ideal of liberty, then probably the Swiss or Americans or something have the most liberty. If you adopt the "oppurtunity" ideal, it might be the Netherlands, or some other nation which allows extensive personal liberty and free markets, but with extensive support for education and redistribution."

If you have "extensive support for education and redistribution," then you must also limit the liberty of people to come into your country. There's no way ANYONE can give away things of great value--education and "redistributed" money--and not somehow limit the number of people that can come to collect those things.

So a country can either: 1) have "free" education and other forms of redistributed money, and restrict immigration, or 2) not have any redistributed money, and allow unrestricted immigration.

I think the latter is a better way to run things.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 8, 2003 02:50 PM

First we are told that the public schools are, with some exceptions, pretty good.

Then we told by the same people that if the middle classes have access to vouchers they will desert the public schools by the millions.

There is a hidden assumption here: that the American middle classes are stupid or irrational.
I don't find that assumption credible.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 8, 2003 02:56 PM

"Explain to me why the market wouldn't segment to give poor children a significantly worse education"

Um, do you mean UNLIKE NOW?

You *are* aware of course that in urban school systems like NYC's the schools' union members have seniority transfer rights so that the senior teachers and administrators select the "best neighborhood" schools to work in, and the beginner teacher/administrators get shunted to the poorest neighborhood schools, city wide.

And that because the salaries of senior teachers & administrators are more than double that of the beginners, while their ratio to students is fixed city-wide, the best neighborhood schools spend TWICE AS MUCH on staff as the poor neighborhood schools do -- and of course have staff with many more years experience.

Do you see the irony in condemning a proposal because you imagine it *might* lead to inequality between rich and poor while defending a system that has actually institutionalized giving DOUBLE to the rich at the cost of the poor??

And do you see the blatant hypocrisy of the teachers unions in saying they are "defending the poor" while they insist on this funding method as a perk for their own senior members? ;-)

Now a moment's thought reveals that vouchers and independent charter schools (1) *equalize* student funding between schools, while (2) eliminating seniority transfers, because the principal of each school picks its own staff that best fit it -- amazing reform! -- rather than have staff that may not fit the school at all pick it because it's in the best neighborhood with the shortest commute.

There are two "third rails of death" in internal urban teachers union politics: seniority transfers, and equal seniority-based pay raises for all teachers good and bad -- both greatly insisted upon by the senior teachers who have the big clout inside the union. Moreover, the unions' external clout comes from its power to negotiate specific wages and work conditions city-wide for *all* employees.

But vouchers and independent charter schools threaten to break *all three* of those arrangements by equalizing pay between schools -- giving MORE to poor area urban schools -- while also giving the principal of each school the power to pick the teachers and other employees that the principal feels is best for the school ... and to use the school's budget to pay whatever salaries the principal needs to pay whomever to get them ... and to set school-based work rules as well. Radical reforms all!! Which create unbearable internal political problems for the union (as the senior teachers go nuts at the thought of them) while greatly reducing the union's external power and authority.

And now we get a hint of why the schools' unions fought vouchers all the way to the Supreme Court. Guess what -- it *wasn't* because they are afraid children may be exposed to religion! Nor that they fear money will be drained out of public schools to vouchers -- there isn't a city in the US where voucher schools could take more than 2% of students within years, and with the demographic rise in students public school enrollment will go up anyhow everywhere. And it sure ain't because they are "defending the poor", with this pay scheme. Ha! ha! Those are all just expensive public relations presentations.

What the unions really are afraid of is that *if* voucher schools and their style of *management* are seen to work in the poor area schools that adopt them, then voters may begin to think: "School-based management makes sense! Why should rich area schools get so much more money than poor area ones just so the union's senior members can pick plum jobs regardless of merit? Why shouldn't principals pick the teachers they want, and pay them what they want, on the merits?" Which would be hell for the union leaderships. THAT's why the schools union leaders so hate and fear vouchers!

And they are *right* too. After ten years of vouchers in Milwaukee, the *entire* city school board that had been controlled by the teachers union forever was voted out in once clean sweep in favor of a slate of reformers who favored school-based management in light of the voucher experiment, with the city's *Democratic* leadership entirely won over.

To quote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on this election...
~~
All five seats went to candidates who want school accountability, vigorous standards, reduced bureaucracy, and more choice through vouchers and charter schools. "This is the end of excuse-based education", said Democratic Mayor John Norquist... This week's election ended the myth that union-backed incumbents couldn't be beaten. Afterward, Alan Brown, the city's schools chief, went on television to say he thinks competition will improve the public schools and he welcomes it... Mayor Norquist says his city has experienced a "virtuous circle" in which each change in attitude has helped create the next positive step...
~~
THAT's why the union leaders hate vouchers -- especially that LAST SENTENCE. They know how this politics works, and aren't stupid about their own self interest.

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 8, 2003 03:07 PM

julia wrote:

"... and then turn around and support George W. Bush, whose personal fortune comes from a payoff, basically, from his "fellow owners" of a baseball team for condemning land on their behalf around their new stadium at firesale prices so that they could develop it."

That's one reason why I didn't vote for President Bush. I like people who apply their principles to themselves.

I take it that in this forum the liberals, conservatives and libertarians, as well as the mugwumps like me, are all speaking for themselves, and not on behalf of any politician.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 8, 2003 03:18 PM

> Yet somehow that's the only place where there's been enough political energy for voucher programs to be actually *enacted*. Inner city Milwaukee, inner city Cleveland, etc. How odd is that?

Not odd at all, if all the ideologues who want vouchers are willing to pour lots of time and energy into a profoundly cynical attempt to make opposition to vouchers a racist stance.

Useful, to have colorblindness that switches on and off at need.

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 03:40 PM

How very clever. I give you two Jefferson quotes that are inter-related and you take one of them and counter with "Where did Mill disagree with that?" Then you address the other quote separately. Straight out of the Rush Limbaugh school of distortion.

"Except the question was, how did public schools actually get started? And that's *not* how they got started. Not enough people liked Jefferson's plan. ;-("

That specific plan was not approved, but to deny Jefferson did not father the idea of our current public school system is to deny history.

Of the hundreds (thousands?) of public school systems you can site many failures. But you can't answer how, once implemented on a large scale, the voucher program won't just drive prices up, segment the education market, leave the poor behind, and provide tax breaks for the rich.

Posted by: Dan on March 8, 2003 03:48 PM

John Norquist is a true progressive of the old school. If only the Democratic Party would embrace his approach, and ignore the selfish and corrupt teachers' unions, the leftist ideologues, the trial lawyers, and the race and gender racketeers. If the Democratic Party did that, its long dark night would be over, and it would again become a positive force in American life.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 8, 2003 04:02 PM

Mark Bahner, you have given me this thread's second nominee in the highly competitive "stupidest thing I ever read on the interent" category:

"If you have "extensive support for education and redistribution," then you must also limit the liberty of people to come into your country. There's no way ANYONE can give away things of great value--education and "redistributed" money--and not somehow limit the number of people that can come to collect those things.

So a country can either: 1) have "free" education and other forms of redistributed money, and restrict immigration, or 2) not have any redistributed money, and allow unrestricted immigration."

We've already done it once, and it was a great triumph. If something is **actual**, it's **possible** !!

Read "The Education of Hyman Kaplan". Find out about some of the boat people getting PhD's and MD's. Read about the immigration from Europe, 1850--1910. Read about the ignorant Irish peasants whose grandkids got PhD's and MD's. Rejoin the human race. Deal with non-Libertarian reality. Think about one other thing than income transfers and the perfection of the market.

I actually have seen letters from Dutch and Norwegian immigrants (ancestors and ancestors of friends) a century ago talking about how happy they were to get education for there kids. It was a good thing!

Posted by: Zizka on March 8, 2003 04:36 PM

If the public schools were like they were back in the days of Hyman Kaplan, nobody would even be talking about vouchers. Back then, the schools didn't have much money or equipment, but there were no lawyers threatening to sue teachers for maintaining order and discipline, no bilingualist quacks preventing the kids from learning English, no multiculturalists teaching ethnic resentment and hatred of the US and its traditions. Parents made sure their kids did their homework and were well mannered and respected their elders.

Fortunately most immigrants today are like they were in Hyman Kaplan's day. But many of them are not getting the help they need from the public schools. That's why people of many political persuasions are willing to try different ways of doing things. They are interested in outcomes, not ideology.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 8, 2003 07:48 PM

I don't agree. Religious people want the government to pay for religious schools, people sending their kids to private schools want the government to chip in, people who hate to pay taxes want to pay less taxes, anti-union ideologues hate all unions, anti-immigrant activists hate immigrants, and free-market ideologues want to privatize everything.

All these forces will have a negative effect on the existing good schools, which are many. It's mostly echo-chamber ideological TV/talk radio slogans: "failing American schools", as if all of them were, or even most of them.

And yeah, there are some problems and something should be done about them. But that's not what the debate is about.

Posted by: zizka on March 9, 2003 12:01 AM

"> Yet somehow that's the only place where there's been enough political energy for voucher programs to be actually *enacted*. Inner city Milwaukee, inner city Cleveland, etc. How odd is that?<"

"Not odd at all, if all the ideologues who want vouchers are willing to pour lots of time and energy into a profoundly cynical attempt to make opposition to vouchers a racist stance.

Ah, *you* know what is good for the people of inner-city Milwaukee and inner-city Cleveland, but they have the effrontery to disagree with you.

Thus, they have organized politically to join the conspiracy of rich white racists against themselves!

That's pretty pathetic. But I guess it must be easier for you to accept than the implications of their thinking what's good for them being different from what you think is good for them.

Priorities are important. *You* know what's good for the poor and *that's* what counts. So if they disagree with you, they've joined the conspiracy of rich ideologue white racists, of course. They are *so* susceptible that way -- that's why they need you to protect them from themselves. ;-)

The liberal's true concern and respect for the poor shines through. ;-)


Posted by: Jim Glass on March 9, 2003 08:12 AM

Zizka writes, "Mark Bahner, you have given me this thread's second nominee in the highly competitive "stupidest thing I ever read on the interent" category:..."

He is referring to my statement that, "a country can either: 1) have "free" education and other forms of redistributed money, and restrict immigration, or 2) not have any redistributed money, and allow unrestricted immigration."

No, Zizka, my statement was not stupid. You're simply ignorant. (In fact, not only was my statement NOT "stupid," it was a truism.)

Since you're so ignorant that you can't even spell "Internet" (it's a proper noun, and therefore properly capitalized), it doesn't surprise me that you're also so ignorant that you don't know that the United States strictly limits the number of immigrants allowed in each year:

"1990 The Immigration Act of 1990 increases the number of immigrants allowed into the United States each year to 700,000."

http://www.gliah.uh.edu/historyonline/immigration_chron.cfm

And WHY does the United States limit the number of immigrants allowed in each year? The answer is because Democrats and Republicans support a U.S. welfare state. It is simply not possible to have unlimited immigration with a welfare state (e.g. "'free' education and other forms of redistributed income"). This is also why the Libertarian Party--being the ONLY U.S. party that is a consistent friend to liberty--supports unlimited immigration.

http://www.lp.org/issues/platform/immigrat.html

Once again, my statement was a truism (unquestionably true, based on simple logic): a country can either: 1) have "free" education and other forms of redistributed money, and restrict immigration, or 2) not have any redistributed money, and allow unrestricted immigration."
Perhaps Dr. DeLong, or someone else here with an economics background, can explain to you why no one can hand out free $100 bills, Zizka. That's the same logic whereby it's not possible to have a welfare state with unlimited immigration. Until you learn this lesson, I have a suggestion: don't call statements you apparently don't understand, the "stupidest thing I ever read on the interent."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 10, 2003 09:44 AM

Oops, that should have read, "...no one can hand out an *unlimited number* of free $100 bills..."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 10, 2003 09:52 AM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 11:53 AM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 11:59 AM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:04 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:09 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:14 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:19 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:24 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:29 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:34 PM

Perhaps Zizka is not aware that American welfare-statism hardly existed before 1933; that mass compulsory schooling was institued circa 189x in an effort to fit Catholic immigrants into a Procrustean bed; that tax-subsidies for higher education were vastly expanded after WW2.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood on March 12, 2003 12:39 PM

"Among those who hate the public schools are those who want state-funded religious education, people who hate all government and all taxes, and people who resent paying for the educations of other people's children. Very few of them are in good faith. "

You forgot the people that notice that the quality of education is nothing to write home about even in the "good" schools, while the quality and price of goods supplied by the private sector tend to increase steadily over time.

If you doubt that, take a look at the market value of a high school diploma from anywhere.

Over the past several decades, it became more clear that most people needed a more extensive education than the schools were offering. Now there are two possible courses of action:

1. Eliminate long breaks, speed up instruction, and come up with other ways to accomplish more instruction in a given amount of time.

2. Tell your customers to just suck it up and accept significantly longer childhoods. When the students object to their lengthened sentences, call them troublemakers. When the birthrate among these "children" drops more slowly than the marriage rate among them, claim that there is a "teen pregnancy epidemic".

Clearly, the government education establishment has gone with option 2, to everyone's detriment. A competitive education system run by the private sector would be much more likely to go with option 1.

Posted by: Ken on March 16, 2003 05:29 PM
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