Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Now I Am Distressed

by Andrew Gillen

This article - Democrats Limit Future Funding for Washington Voucher Program - did not make sense to me until I read this, by Timothy P. Carney:
The top two teachers unions—AFT and the National Education Association—spent more combined, $5.27 million, than the top two defense contractors.

The top five lobbying firms, combined, didn’t equal the AFT and the NEA in federal contributions in the 2008 cycle. Both of the teachers unions gave more than any oil company, and the NEA and AFT combined gave more than the top four oil companies combined.

These contributions give the unions clout, and federal lobbying records show they use this clout. Again, on closer inspection, the teachers unions look an awful lot like those corporate special interests Democrats supposedly oppose.
I don't give much weight to conspiracy theories about buying off politicians. With a few exceptions, such as Rod Blagojevich, I think most politicians truly believe in most of what they advocate, and that beneficiaries of what they advocate give them contributions because of their positions - ie the causality runs opposite to how conspiracy theorists would have it.

Ignoring conspiracy theories, I was distressed to come to the realization that the Democratic party is so pro government monopoly that they will kill off other arrangements for ideological reasons. I had thought that their past objections to school choice were based on concerns about the additional costs, or a lack of evidence of effectiveness, but that is clearly not the case.

The government is literally throwing money at anything that moves in the hope that the multiplier will be big enough for it to make sense (the deficit this year will be bigger than any of the budgets from 1996 through 1999). The cost of any program is not an obstacle right now.

Nor is there an aversion to experimenting to see what works best:
God, I love having smart people in the administration!...

These folks actually get that we DO NOT KNOW what will work, and therefore whatever states try out needs to be rigorously evaluated...
So the only explanation for the attack on vouchers is that they really think that government monopolies (the same ones where 1 in 3 Los Angeles high school students drop out) is the best system. My reading of history and economics indicates that monopolies are rarely* the best system.

*Temporary monopolies (patents, copyrights, etc.) are generally acknowledged to spur innovation, and economies of scale can also lead to situations where monopolies are optimal. Neither of these are very applicable to education.

No comments: