Unholy Coalition

At the 2:40 mark of this video, Milton Friedman says this about government programs:

There are always…two groups of sponsors.  There are the well-meaning sponsors and there are the special interests who use the well-meaning sponsors as front men.  Who, almost always, when you have bad programs, have an unholy coalition with the do-gooders on the one hand and the special interests on the other.

The do-gooders focus on the intentions of government programs and either do not pay attention to results or are quick to explain away bad results as a problem that can be fixed if we just spend more money or find the right people.  It never seems to occur to these people that perhaps the incentives are poor and the system is broken.  Maybe we should change those incentives before doing anything else.

The special interests are the folks who get a paycheck from public education — or benefit in other ways (like tenure with bad results)– be they teachers, administrators, consultants, business owners who have the custodial contracts — just about anyone feeding off the public school district funding.

As commenter Lane Meyer pointed out when he replied to this post, the special interests who benefit from economic rents created by the public school system have incentives to keep getting those rents, which provide political barriers to changing the system for the better.

We expect those in the private sector to practice full disclosure.  If a business commentator mentions a stock he owns, we expect him to mention that so we can take his comments with a grain of salt.  I find it amazing that we don’t have the same expectations in the public sector.

When the do-gooders and the special interests combine into their unholy coalitions” we get a political force that’s tough to beat.  And we may get a lot of creative, consultant-inspired rhetoric to the question, why should any student have to settle for a neighborhood school that’s awful?



2 thoughts on “Unholy Coalition

  1. Revisit 2:00-5:00 of the video. Friedman discusses do-gooders and special interests and uses the minimum wage law as his example.

    However, step back for a moment and take Friedman’s discussion and apply it to collectivism or more particularly where collectivism starts its journey into political-economy. Its disembarking point if you will:

    (1) is the go-gooder, consciously or unconsciously, promoting a collective scheme based on the supposed “benevolence” of such scheme stemming from family unit collectivism,

    (1a) does the average do-gooder merely transpose the family unit collectivism concept and the “benevolence“ of family unit collectives onto a large decentralized economy based upon mutual self interest guided by price,

    (2) that an early root error phenomena occurs in this process of do-gooder, in that, the benevolence of family unit collectivism ends with the family as the family can function in a collective environment as everyone knows one another and “shirk” among other economic phenomena can be quickly identified. However, that same non-shirk, collective, close family unit phenomena of “benevolence” can not be transposed outside this small single unit collective economy,

    (3) the do-gooder promotes a collectivist idea/ideal based on transposing a family unit economy concept/phenomena onto a large decentralized economy based upon mutual self interest guided by price. The two concepts being mutual exclusive as the family unit economy foundation is opposite of family units functions among other family units. That is, the economy within the front door of the home is exactly opposite of the economy outside the front door of the home when households now function within a world that is based upon a decentralized economy based upon mutual self interest guided by price. “Benevolence” within the home collective becomes mutual self interest guided by price when households function together rather than separate,

    (4) a series of separate single family units can relate to the benevolence of the do-gooders proposition, as they relate the do-gooder’s proposition to the family collective proposition, and do not relate the proposition to the large decentralized economy based upon mutual self interest guided by price. In other words, this series of separate household transpose the wrong economic circumstances on the wrong economic system,

    (5) the professional collectivist is in fact the special interest. Within the universe of special interests exists those interests that are in fact founded upon, promote, believe in collectivism.
    The professional special interest that is particularly collective based then consciously and purposely promotes the phenomena of transposing the wrong economic circumstances on the wrong economic system and through verbal virtuosity promotes the benevolence element although benevolence and mutual self interest guided by price are on a collision course. Also the professional collective special interest promotes the benevolence in a categorical fashion rather than an incremental fashion,

    (6) if the final result is that the do-gooder benevolence proposition through the collective based special interest results in law then we have a constant friction going forward between the collective based proposition transposed onto a large decentralized economy based upon mutual self interest guided by price (households functioning together rather than separate) and the result, for example, is what Friedman is discussing regarding high teenage and black unemployment regarding minimum wage aka “living wage” laws.

    • Very nice comment Mr. Heasley. That’s an interesting thought on the disembarking point, or maybe it’s the origination point – the family unit.

      Benevolence is one of Smith’s four moral sentiments that we all strive for. That may be why.

      It sells and provides cover for bad results, making it that much easier for special interests to create and retain rents.

      Unfortunately, even for do-gooders I don’t accept that benevolence is their true motivator. If it was, then they would take more interest in understanding the results of the propositions they support. They might listen to folks like Friedman more.

      Rather, I believe that they support such propositions without much interest in the true results because supporting the proposition serves their own self-interest to want to appear to be benevolent.



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