Neoliberalism, My Way (part II)
[Note: This is the second part of a two-instalment series. You can read the first installment here. – tk]
by Gabriel Conroy
In the last installment, we introduced my basic concept of a new Neoliberalism, and looked at what that would mean for the welfare system as well as labor and corporate regulations. Now, let us look at its potential effect on education, civil liberties and international relations.
#12: My ideas on education are vague. When it comes to primary and secondary education, I pledge to start with the admission that I really don’t know what ails it. I tend to believe that standardized testing, at least as it’s practices now, doesn’t work. I also tend to believe that teachers unions often are part of the problem although perhaps there are ways in which they can be part of the solution. When it comes to higher ed, there’s just a lot I don’t know.
#13: I’m probably willing to support the idea of charter schools, in the abstract, as a qualified good. But I think it needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. In some districts, charter schools might work well. In others, they might not work. Some schools may be better than others. Others may be worse than the problem they’re meant to solve.
#14: I’m very suspicious of voucher programs. From what little I know of them, they seem more like a way to transfer money from the poor to the middle class and upper class. But I’m open to being convinced I’m wrong.
#15: I’m not sure whether I really support making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. The idea sounds like a good one, and it ought to be explored. But perhaps a continuation of the contingent income repayment plans, perhaps with some tweaking to make it easier to pay and to make the final forgiveness of loans less of a tax liability.
#16: I do support engaging with Saul De Graw’s (at the OT) idea of encouraging apprenticeships for people who wish to go into business. I envision apprenticeships would be an alternate, and less expensive, path to working in business. Of course, we would have to ensure that the apprentices not be merely exploited. And I would not abolish business programs in colleges. Apprenticeships can often require connections, and colleges could be a way for those not privileged to have connections. Also, I believe that most business programs represent bona fide academic disciplines and have no objection to including them in what colleges and universities offer.
#17: I support phasing out tenure at higher education institutions and replacing it with multi-year contracts that provide for academic freedom. If tenure is phased out, I might support robust faculty unions to help enforce “academic freedom” provisions in the contracts, but there might be other ways to ensure adequate enforcement. Under a scheme in which tenure exists, I oppose most faculty unions, especially when they represent both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty. No phaseout, however, should affect those already granted tenure.
#18: I support disestablishing as much as possible the state’s ties with religious institutions. I would narrow most of the exemptions given, for example, to religious institutions from following otherwise generally applicable laws. but I’m not sure exactly how far I would go. When it comes to limiting not-for-profit status for churches, which often perform public, charitable services, it’s a trickier issue.
#19: I oppose the draft and I oppose compulsory national service and for the same reason in each case. It’s involuntary servitude. I suppose I would reluctantly support the draft in truly exigent circumstances. But I’m not sure what those circumstances would be. It behooves me to be particularly cautious about supporting any draft since at 40 years old, I’m probably past draftable age and would not have to bear the fear and uncertainty that military drafts bring about.
#20: I oppose privatized prisons.
#21: I oppose “stop and frisk” policies.
#22: I support citizen review boards for police and perhaps an automatic federal civil rights investigation whenever, for example, a police officer kills someone in the line of duty. The latter was an idea from someone at the OT, but I forget who.
#23: I support legalizing same sex marriage.
#24: I support re-enacting the 1965 Voting Rights Act provision lately struck down by the Supreme Court. The reenactment might apply its review policies nationally, possibly requiring outright federal review of all states’ changes in voting regulations, or perhaps positing a formula that on a rolling basis targets states or parts of states that are shown to have a pattern of discrimination in that area.
#25: I’d want affirmative action to be pursued, when possible, with a strong focus on class differences. However, I am still mildly supportive of race-based affirmative action, or at least some forms of such affirmative action. I usually oppose strict quotas–although I understand strict quotas aren’t used very often–but I probably support many other measures. I support race-based affirmative action because it can be a good proxy for determining such phenomena as intergenerational or community poverty, under the hypothesis that even a well-off member of a minority is likely to have family with economic challenges he/she has to support or to live in a neighborhood that’s under-served. I also still support race-based affirmative action because I’m still suspect that a person of color otherwise similarly situated to a white person will still face the possibility of discrimination based on race that the white person does not.
#26: I generally oppose “paternalistic” policies like former NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large-sized sodas. My opposition is “general” and not categorical. Smoking bans in public places, for example, have their ridiculous extremes, but they seem to have “worked” in some ways. At any rate, I’ll frame my opposition as a presumption that “paternalist” policies are automatically suspect because they limit choices and because they often in practice function as subsidies for rent seekers. But I can be convinced in a given case. And I’m much more inclined to tolerate them if they’re done on the local level rather than the state or federal levels.
#27: I support ending or at least curtailing the war on drugs. That does not necessarily mean flat-out legalization, although I do support legalizing “soft” drugs like marijuana and LSD and decriminalizing “hard” drugs. But the most important thing is doing away with the “war” components of it: the huge disbursement of federal funds for enforcement; the militarized law enforcement that comes with it (but perhaps is not completely attributable to it); and the mandatory minimums. I may support shifting resources to treatment for addiction over punishment, but I am wary that things done in the name of “treating” people might actually be coercive and not always that much different from punishment.
#28: I support freer trade, but per my disclaimer above, I’m wary about how the US might enforce “freer trade” in other countries. It’s one thing to remove or lower tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. It’s another thing to keep in reserve the stick of US military intervention to protect the interests of American property holders. I’m not sure how to balance those two problems in a way that is equitable.
#29: I’m coming around to supporting open, or at least more open, immigration policies. I’m not fully there yet and I’m not sure when or whether I ever will be. But it seems like the right thing to do from a humanitarian and moral perspective. In the meantime, I probably support the Dream Act as a flawed, but ultimately desirable law. Also in the meantime, we should keep a proper perspective. The “bad” effects of immigration (legal or illegal) are likely not nearly as bad as restrictionists say they are, even though the claim about bad effects is not entirely specious. The bad effects of immigration restriction or deportations, however, are probably much, much greater both for those directly restricted or deported and for those undocumented people who live under those restrictions and their families.
#30: When it comes to war, my preference, which most people probably claim to share, is for less war. And I oppose armed intervention in most cases. However, I realize tt’s easy in retrospect to criticize others for opposing a war that turned out to be justified. It’s also easy to criticize others for supporting a war that turned out to have a flimsy justification.