“Free and Universal Education”

Here’s a good read from Walter Williams: Tragic School Stories. In it, he writes about a book written by public high school teacher Linda Ball, called 185 Days: School Stories.

Williams references a couple of Ball’s days in school:

On Day 167, Mrs. Ball ordered a student to the in-school discipline room for disruption and being in her class without permission. When the student finally decided to leave the room, he told her, “F— you,” and then he swatted her on the head with some papers. In her Day 10 section, there’s a brief story about how respect is earned. Wesley, a student with an IQ of 140, did an outstanding job on a paper about the Enlightenment but completed only half his assignment and earned an F. Jake, a student repeating her class, told Wesley, “I have new found respect for you today.” Failure earns respect.

One theme Williams writes about: Not enough resources for education is not the problem. The problems are that some people do not value education, teachers have no power to hold students accountable for learning (or for maintaining safe and respectable behavior in the classroom) and students can get diplomas without earning them.

Another theme: What are often seen as racial disparities in society are really educational disparities, and not disparities in the education that was provided, but in the education that the person chose to receive.

In other words, is it surprising that a person who has mastered the 12th grade is more desirable of an employee than one who earned respect from peers in school by failing to do the assignments?

Something strikes me as odd though. Near the end, Williams wrote:

The bottom line is that if nothing is done to affect the home life and cultural values that produce the non-learning attitudes and climate that are the subject of Linda Ball’s “185 Days: School Stories,” there’s little that can be done to improve black education. The best that politicians can do is to give parents and children who are serious about education a mechanism to opt out of rotten schools. That option is something the education establishment fights tooth and nail against.

I wonder why that is. Why is it that a teacher’s union that has its members in situations that Linda Ball describes in her book isn’t more open to changing the system too allow them more power to hold students accountable and award degrees only to those who earned them.

Making it illegal for low-skilled workers to compete on price

From a commenter at Cafe Hayek:

Note also that people who are against large retailers because mom and pop shops can’t compete with them on price are all for a minimum wage that ensures mom and pop businesses will never be able to compete on price.

Though, I thought she was going to say, Note also that people who are against large retailers because mom and pop shops can’t compete with them on price are all for a minimum wage that ensures low skilled workers won’t be able to compete with higher skilled workers on price, the one area where they may be able to gain an advantage.

Politicians Get Elected by Turning Your Dreams Into Nightmares

In the State of the Union, President Obama said:

 I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.

Sounds good, since diplomas from those free (well, paid for by taxpayers) and universal (no matter how rotten they are) are worth so much.

Remember, politicians also wanted to spread the dream of home ownership. Also, recall, they turned it into a nightmare for many.

That’s Not Fair

Daniel Henninger has a good op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s recent stumping for the middle class, called Obama’s Peter Pan Economics.

I agree with this:

Mr. Obama is forcing Republicans to defend themselves against the undefinable progressive murk of “fairness”…

Yes. That’s what I’ve been telling friends since the State of the Union. It’s easy to say that you want to do all these great-sounding things to help the middle class when you have a Republican-controlled Congress that won’t let any of it happen. So, you and political kind can say, in upcoming elections, look at those Scrooges who are keeping you from benefiting from our good ideas and few will ask, why wasn’t this a priority when you had more support in Congress?

Henninger saves the best for last:

If in our elections the subject is America, then Republican candidates need to search for their agenda inside the American experience. Forget fair. Start with work. The rest will come.

False Villians

Here are two good posts about where the true power lies in capitalism.

First, Don Boudreaux’s Quotation of the Day, quoting Gordon Tullock on cooperation:

Where the market is broad and there are many alternatives, you had better cooperate.  If you choose the noncooperative solution, you may find you have no one to noncooperate with.

Second, Mark Perry, quoting Ludwig Von Mises and himself on the power of the consumer (this one from Mises, pronounced meezes):

The real bosses, in the capitalist system of market economy, are the consumers. They, by their buying and by their abstention from buying, decide who should own the capital and run the plants. They determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality. Their attitudes result either in profit or in loss for the enterpriser. They make poor men rich and rich men poor.

The consumers are merciless. They never buy in order to benefit a less efficient producer and to protect him against the consequences of his failure to manage better. They want to be served as well as possible. And the working of the capitalist system forces the entrepreneur to obey the orders issued by the consumers.

Here’s Perry summing it up:

Bottom Line: Consumers ultimately run the market economy, and for that we should be thankful. Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is allow producers to run the economy, inevitably with the assistance of their government enablers who help erect barriers to entry and restrict competition for producers in the form of occupational licensing, protectionist trade barriers, artificial limits on the number of firms allowed to operate (e.g. taxi cartels), etc. In other words, the alternative to consumers running a capitalist market economy, is to have producers running an economy based on the corrupt, anti-consumer principles of “crony capitalism.”

When have you heard this? Too often, corporations are cast as the villain. We are told they “control” such and such percentage of the “market” and we are warned about their “powers”.

But what control or power do they really have? Is the corporation that ‘controls’ 50% of the market controlling consumers to accept its products, or are 50% of consumers choosing to buy the products because they find value in them.

Vague statements

As annoying as the Colts whining and the term ‘deflategate’ is, what’s even more annoying is the vague statements made by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick that sounds more like carefully parsed words of someone who’s been caught rather than definitive statements of innocence. I heard a quote on the news that Tom Brady said:

I tested the balls before the game and they felt perfect.

What does that tell us? The Colts are accusing you of preferring to use deflated balls, so wouldn’t deflated balls be perfect? Why didn’t he say, and they felt properly inflated? And Belichick said:

I don’t touch any of the balls before the game, so I don’t know where these allegations are coming from.

What? That doesn’t even make sense. Why not say, I don’t touch any of the balls before the game, so I couldn’t tell you if they were properly inflated? Or, The balls were properly inflated, I don’t know why the Colts are being babies.

Voter Conundrum

Some people have a hard time finding a mate because they operate under the principle that they aren’t interested in someone who would be interested in them. Many voters face the same conundrum. I don’t want to vote for someone who actually wants the job.