Maintaining failure in education

Over at Cato @ Liberty, Andrew Coulson argues that we should return to the student-to-teacher ratio of the 1970’s. As Andrew notes, achievement has not budged despite a steady increase in education spending a doubling in employment. His assumption is that such increases have not had any effect and that “there’s no reason to expect it would fall if we pared back the government school rolls.”

Perhaps he is wrong.

Any good economist knows that there are seen and unseen effects of every action. It is seen that the level of achievement has remained relatively the same over the past few decades despite an avalanche of spending. What may be unseen, however, is the movement of the level of achievement. If you are confused, imagine someone on a treadmill – they may be moving but they are not changing position. This is caused by the runner’s forward propulsion being offset by the equal and opposite movement of the treadmill’s conveyor belt. To continue the analogy let’s pretend that the level of student achievement is the runner and the treadmill’s conveyor belt is the infusion of taxpayer money. It is quite possible that the level of achievement could have fallen sans the increase in spending, just as the runner would be changing his position without the treadmill nullifying the force of his legs.

To many libertarians and opponents of public education this may not be a friendly argument because it requires one to admit that, to some degree, spending does affect achievement. However, accepting this argument as correct would also lead one to conclude that the increase in the level of achievement as a percentage of each dollar spent is very low – a compelling example of poor government efficacy. As I see it, that the government must steadily increase spending merely to maintain a failing system is a much more damning argument against government control of education than any other.

The voting compromise

I’m sick of the “that candidate just doesn’t have a chance” meme. So I’m going to discredit it.

Often times people tell me that my preferred candidate can’t win, that people have to unite on someone they agree with 70%-80% of the time for the sake of beating someone they agree with only 10% of the time. Well, let’s play a numbers game.

Let’s say there are 50 voters who generally agree with each other. Five decide to vote for the underdog candidate. Of the other 45, 20 of them – less than half – say that they are going to support the establishment candidate because the other guy just can’t win, even though they agree with that candidate far more. Winning, they say, is more important than the ideal candidate (many would argue about what the precise definition of winning is, and that you can never win if you compromise). Remember now, this is less than half of the remaining voters.

At this point, the establishment candidate wins 45-5. Anyone see where I’m going with this? If you do, you’re either an uncompromising voter, or you’ve been cured already. If not, keep reading.

A second scenario has the aforementioned 20 voters having a bit more faith and following the first five in voting for the person they support the most, avoiding a compromise. Suddenly we are at a 25-25 tie. And there goes that argument, one-fell-swoop.

Now many people will claim that it’s not that simple; that the dynamics brought on by such things as closed primaries make it easier for the base of a party to select a candidate that is too far outside the mainstream. This, of course, is said only by people who are not part of said base, and disagree with you anyway.

Haley Barbour and free labor

It is highly unfortunate that it took a natural disaster for a prominent member of the Republican Party to understand the benefits of free labor. Indeed, it was in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour came to appreciate the influx of labor, both legal and illegal, to help the ailing state. With hundreds dead and billions of dollars in damage, Mississippi was on its knees. In an interview with Peter Robinson from the Hoover Institution, Governor Barbour attributed much of the success of the recovery effort to immigrant workers.

I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been for the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild, and there’s no doubt in my mind some of them weren’t here legally. Some of them were, some of them weren’t. But they came in, they looked for the work. If they hadn’t been there, if they hadn’t come and stayed for a few months or a couple of years, we would be way, way, way behind where we are now.

The entire Katrina recovery effort owes much of its success to President Bush, who suspended the Davis-Bacon Act in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina stating that it would “result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals.” The act, implemented in 1931 to intentionally stifle competition in the labor market and keep blacks out of work, was also suspended by George H. W. Bush in 1992 in response to Hurricane Andrew.

It strikes me as odd that Republicans support a free labor market in times of disaster but otherwise turn immediately into protectionists with an asinine immigration policy.  There are a few, however, who get it, such as Arizona Representative Jeff Flake.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Conservative bigotry on gay marriage

The past week has had me pulling my hair out reading the conservative backlash against Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. Conservatives often cite the Constitution, limited-government, personal responsibility, freedom, etc. But now they’ve been hooked in the mouth by their hypocrisy.

The truth is, conservatives believe in the freedom so long as they agree with what you are doing, and that’s not freedom at all. As many conservatives tend to be Christians, they seek to legislate their morality onto the masses; this is, quite clearly, the origin behind the anti-gay marriage movement. Now, while the lay conservative may cite the Bible (“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20:13) more professional conservatives, the ones that know we do not operate under the Christian Republic of America, must attempt to circumvent their religious motives and argue from another avenue. In doing so, quite clumsily I might add, they further prove their ignorance on history, the Constitution, and law in general and inadvertently admit their hypocrisy and bigotry for all the world to see.

Take this, from a post on RedState:

Judge Vaughn Walker’s Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision is being hailed as a sweeping victory for same-sex marriage advocates and crushing blow to supporters of the traditional definition of marriage as it has been since the existence of the institution.

Notice the word “traditional.” Where in the Constitution does it denote that we must enshrine tradition into our laws? If I recall correctly, slavery was a tradition for quite some time. Traditionally, women weren’t allowed to vote. If we are to protect tradition we must immediately revoke women’s right to vote and enslave all people of African descent. Clearly, this is not what the author wants. What he really means is the Christian definition of marriage. He cannot admit to this, however, lest he be a theocrat.

Other rants just make me laugh, such as this post also at RedState in which the author, in a fury of anger, contradicts himself several times:

There is absolutely zero evidence that the people who drafted and ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution intended to prohibit the people of the United States from being able to recognize though the democratic process what marriage is – a union of a man and a woman.

I find poetic irony in a conservative – the breed of politico that never leaves home unarmed of the “America is a Republic, not a Democracy” meme – espousing “the democratic process” aka mob rule. Or is he:

For reasons of pro-creation and parenthood, to start with, but also for reasons of faith and morality, for some of us, any marriage other than such a union can never be, whatever society says, a “marriage” at all.

At this point I cannot contain my laughter, and confusion abounds. As the author points out, society is not fit to tell him the definition of marriage. But it is fit to define marriage through a constitutional amendment. Uhm…

Looking more locally on the radar, Steven Osbourne writes at Bearing Drift:

…theoretically the federal government could tell the Catholic church that the equal protection clause applies to married men who wish to join the ranks of the Catholic priests, despite the fact that the Catholic church restricts that office to celibate members.  Although this example may seem far fetched, what Judge Walker has done here has opened a door that could lead to much more government control over religious institutions, which would be a violation of the first amendment.

His ignorance here is astounding. The Walker decision stated that the government, as an issuer of marriages, cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. Nowhere does it state, imply, or give way to the possibility that the government can intrude into private religious practices.

Conservatives are supposed to believe in freedom and liberty for all. Clearly, such is not the case.