Neoliberalism, My Way (part II)

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  1. Avatar North
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    An interesting list. I’m not in disagreement with a lot of it. Some comments:

    #15: If we allow student debt to be dischargeable in bankruptcy we either guarantee that student loans will become near nonexistent for most students (if issued by private lenders) or we guarantee that they will become a massive sucking hole in government finances (if issued by public institutions). As such I’m deeply skeptical of the idea of discharging student debt that way.

    #20 I think it bears noting that privatized prisons are probably the shining beacon of an area that was distinctly a neoliberal project in the past and turned out to be a terrible policy. Privatizing prisons creates a new interest group agitating in favor of draconian sentencing laws, a new support team for the War on Drugs and results in terrible outcomes for prisoners. It’s a colossal failure in my books. The only defense I can offer is that in other areas, garbage collection for instance, privatization of previously government run services is quite successful with cost savings and improved performance. If neoliberalism is about anything it should be about recognizing that it can’t be one size fits all and fessing up when the results don’t match with the theory.

    #25 I’m similarily quite positive on class/income based affirmative action. Unlike you, however, I’m deeply skeptical of race based AA. It pits minorities against each other, promotes a lopsided failure rate for minority students and worst of all, acts as a subsidy to wealthy families who happen to be minorities. It also poisons a lot of people against liberalism and minorities in general at a disproportionate rate. For the record I’m also opposed to legacy admissions.

    #28 I don’t think I follow you. Free trade seems like a generally good idea. No sticks of US intervention are required. If US companies/citizens invest in a foreign nation and that nations government nationalizes or otherwise steals their investment then no US government response is required. Foreign investors need to lump their failures in order to learn and good luck to that theiving country on getting foreigners to invest there again anytime soon (and woo the sky high returns they’ll have to pay).Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to North
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      #15 Pardon me while I stand to your left, but I think discharge may be doable if it’s attached to a time requirement. Can’t discharge after graduation, but ten years later…

      I don’t think we’re going to see strategic defualts that wait so longReport

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        Will if you add a time requirement my skepticism fades considerably.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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        @will-truman

        I have a friend from law school who worked in mortgages before going to law school. Yes he specialized in giving out sub-prime loans! He also really like Bankruptcy law.

        He had a whole idea (which he hasn’t done yet and probably never will) of paying off all his student debt with credit cards and then declaring bankruptcy at a strategic time on the credit card debt.

        I don’t know how serious or not he was with this idea or even if it would work.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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        An old flame of mine did that a little bit. By accident, though.

        The hard part is getting the credit line.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        Will hit the nail on the head. If you can find a credit card company (or combination of credit card companies) that’ll extend you that kind of line of credit then go for it. They generally won’t, unless you have an amazing job (in which case there’s no reason to go bankrupt). Credit card companies are actually pretty clever about assessing what a safe amount of credit is to extend to a given person (safe for the credit card company mind you- not for the customer).Report

      • Avatar Alan in reply to Will Truman
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        The removal of bankruptcy protections are certainly, and will certainly be recognized as the most harmful, and bad-faithed modification ever to be done to a loan instrument in this country.

        Since the removal of this critical and essential lending mechanism from federal loans, EVERY element of the lending system has been making, not losing money on defaults…and usually making MORE on defaults than loans which remain in good stead. This includes the federal government. It is a defining hallmark of a predatory lending system, is THE primary reason for the inflation we now face, the shameful lack of government oversight, profiteering by the colleges, and the wholesale financial destruction of millions of citizens and increasingly, their family members.

        Adam Smith himself would be the first to agree that bankruptcy is a necessary precondition for a fair, good faithed lending system. To say you “aren’t sure” it should be returned is a most hateful, heinous, and vicious position to take, and I urge you to rethink that thought.

        Regarding private loans: The lending industry promised Congress if bankruptcy were similarly removed from private loans, they would be able to lend to more needy students, etc. etc. Instead of doing this, however, the lending industry almost immediately began demanding cosigners for the loans they made (90%), and the average credit score of the borrowers didn’t change appreciably.

        What does that tell you? What do you have to say to the parents and grandparents whose retirement, real property and other assets are now under real threat from lenders who jacked the loan balances by double, triple, or even far more knowing that bankruptcy was no longer a consumer protection they needed to worry about?

        You’ve been spun by the banker’s fear. You need to snap out of it.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        I assume, Alan, that you are strongly in favor of government issuing (giving away) student loans? I’m assuming this primarily because I can’t imagine why any private lender would issue loans to students if they could just discharge it with a strategic bankruptcy after graduation.Report

      • Avatar alan in reply to Will Truman
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        @north :

        What I strongly support is the immediate return of standard bankruptcy protections to the debt.

        The government is making tremendous money on student loans. forcing them to abide by the same consumer protections that ALL other lenders for ALL OTHER LOANS is what I am for. Bankruptcy protections, at a minimum, must be returned immediately. If they tighten up somewhat regarding what schools can participate, how much can be borrowed, etc, that is probably long overdue.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        Well I think you’re preferred policy would certainly be a powerful way to prevent many students from being able to take on student debt. Private lenders simply wouldn’t lend and government finances being in the stance they currently are there’d be scarce little money to give away to student lending from the public either. That could certainly crank down the price of university as the industry tried to adapt to the sudden money drought but there’d be a lot of unhappy people and it’d doubtlessly exacerbate inequality.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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        @north

        It would cost the government about 70 billion dollars a year to cover public university tuition for all attendees. Considering we pay close to 500 billion on the military budget, the money is not the problem. The problem is the will is not there and if someone proposed the government do this, it would become a culture war fight over who is paying for what and why should the government pay for university tuition.

        I’ve had fights about this on this board.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        Indeed you have Saul good buddy, the arguments remain the same:
        -Do we really want to turn university into high school? Does that make Masters degrees the new university degree?
        -Do we really think the number of people going to university would remain remotely the same if it was free or near free?
        -Do we really think pouring more university into the patronage and waste bloated university system would lower tuition?
        -Do we want to switch from restricting university to those who can pay to to restricting university to those who don’t pass some sort of exam (good luck making one of those that doesn’t produce class and race disparate results?)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        hrm, my kingdom for an edit button, pouring more money.. not university.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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        @north

        The fights I normally see are somehow an assumption that 70 billion for free university tuition would be taking money from the 2/3rds that don’t go to university and giving it to the 1/3 that does with an assumption that said 1/3 is closer to the middle class or above but not really considering that university education is so expensive now that it is beyond the middle class and even the upper-middle class unless we are talking about one kid and grandparents chipping in.

        I suppose the issue is whether one sees university education as a right or privilege. I am inclined to see it as a right. I don’t know why it is so controversial to say that a university education and mass educated class are signs of living in a prosperous, civilized, and sophisticated society. It is something we should aspire to. I don’t like the anti-intellectualism of the “college is not for everybody” argument.

        But to answer your questions:

        1. No but I think this issue has more to do with what is happening in high school. I don’t think it turns a Masters into a new Bachelors. IIRC about 30 percent of Americans have a Bachelors degree but under 12 percent have a “Master’s and/or Doctorate and/or Professional Degree.” That number becomes 3 percent if you look at “Doctorate and/or Professional degree.” I think a “masters is the new bachelors” is more talked about than true. There are also plenty of people who argue against going to graduate school at all costs. As someone who went to graduate school and law school, I would say they are hard but not nearly as bad as all the horror stories I heard. Maybe I just like school…

        2. I think it would remain near same but probably go up. I don’t think it would ever get close to 50 percent but again I question why it is a bad thing. An educated society is a good society. We should want people to be intellectually curious and educated.

        3. As I understand it, tuition began to raise as states began cutting back on the amount of funding they gave to their universities. This was part of the culture war that began in the 1960s with the election of Reagan and the resurrgence of Nixon. It was very much tied to the culture war and resentiments and fears of college students becoming radical leftists because they attended one Judith Butler lecture. Now many state universities are deciding to become quasi-public instead of truly public because they can take less funding for more self-governance.

        4. Probably not.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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        The problem is the will is not there

        I have to push back against this. The idea that we just lack the “will” to do something suggests we want to, as in “I want to lose weight, but I lack the will to eat less and exercise more.”

        Just lacking “the will” also suggests there are no actual problems with doing a particular thing. Yes, we can do that thing, but other things will happen as a consequence, as North suggests, that need to be part of the equation.

        You come closer to the real issue when you say culture war, although I’d like to push back against that phrase, too, because it’s become such a shortcut way to refer to every political disagreement these days.

        The actual issue is differing values. That relates to culture, but is not synonymous with it. And “culture war” can give the appearance–not that you necessarily intend this–of trivializing the value differences, in an “oh, it’s a red state/blue state thing (or urban/rural thing, or some other simplified division).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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        Does the $70b figure include those who don’t go to college now – or go to private school – but would go to public college if it were free? If not, then the final figure isn’t $70b (or even close to it).

        (Though, arguably, if public college became free, perhaps more people would go to private school to differentiate themselves from the unwashed masses.)

        I also agree with Hanley that “culture war” understates genuine ideological differences. I don’t have any cultural animosity towards going to college or the people who do go to college.Report

      • Avatar alan in reply to Will Truman
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        @north :

        A tightening of the lending program is needed badly. If the private loan market went away, that is only proof that it should have never been their in the first place. Schools will bend over backwards to keep butts in the seats, and will lower their price to accommodate this. I will be surprised if many schools actually start sending deserving students away, but even if so, and a lower priced school becomes the only option, I am absolutely certain that the students will be far, far better off going to a cheaper school than being stuck with a structurally predatory debt for an overpriced school.

        I don’t think it will, though. Dischargeable private loans were a fast growing market prior to the bankruptcy bill of 2005.

        For federal loans, I expect about the same results in steady state. The Government will still be very happy to lend, but will not be pleased by defaults as they are today. They’ll see to it that the many joke schools we see now get gone (they have already begun this process it appears, and will probably come up with a nominally adequate way to underwrite beyond that, and I would think would get serious about cracking the whip on the schools to get their time-to-graduate back down to historic levels. When defaults are a money loser instead of a moneymaker, I suspect much more even still will change with the Department’s behaviors to bring down price, loan amounts, defaults, time-in-school.

        That’s the invisible hand. That’s better government. Thats how the system should work. That’s how the people expect it to work. The republicans mock their guiding economic principles by failing to take the lead and get this done. The Neo liberalists, similarly cannot be proud of the big government/crony capitalist monster that was borne out of their ideology.

        There is alot of opportunity, here, for alot of conservatives to demonstrate that free-market economics actually can and do work for the little guy…something that the people really need to see pretty soon, I’d say. They’ve been extraordinarily tolerant to this point. But they will turn en masse soon ala Chile, Quebec, etc., and when that happens all bets are off.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Will Truman
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        Well Saul if university was free I see absolutely no reason why pretty much anyone who had even an inkling of interest would pass up on going. The idea that lowering the cost of education to near zero would have only a moderate upward effect on the demand for education strikes me as unrealistic.

        Since taxes come from everyone and the people currently paying for university are middle class and up this would technically be an upwards wealth transfer.

        I remain unmoved by the idea of education as a right. It’s a good idea to provide education to as many people as practical but a right? eh.

        1. Yeah to each their own on liking school. What I’m fearing, though, is a series of massive public universities with students indifferently slouching their way through since, with this being free and all, why wouldn’t you go? Degree inflation would certainly be a thing. If university is free who the fish would wanna hire some dude who only has a high school degree? Let alone someone who didn’t finish high school.

        2. I still think you’re projecting your preferences on the population as a whole. I remain (perhaps cynically) of the opinion that most people go to school driven by an interest in employment prospects first and a desire for learning in of itself second. Since I think the number of people who’d start going once it was free would be enormous the costs balloon and as you noted the income transfer upwards gets even more brutal. On the other hand we’d fix the employment crisis for post graduate degree holders: there’d be a huge need for more professors.

        2.a That said, if we’re technologically and economically creeping closer to reduced or post scarcity then certainly the idea of most youngsters putting in another four to six years of high school wold be entirely doable. The leisure/nonproductive periods stretch out and the need for productive period contracts. That’s modernity. Long may it continue.

        3. My own understanding is that government funding came first (the war vets bill and the like), universities swelled to absorb the public largess but student costs remained static or declined; then the tide went out on government funding at which point the cost to students skyrocketed.

        4. Well if neither price nor competency is a barrier then I’d double down on my university becomes the new high school expectation. Everyone would be expected to go, you’d be looked at much like someone missing their high school degree is now, the desirable jobs would now become something you needed a masters to get, and people would go through university because it was virtually obligatory.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Will Truman
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        I suppose the issue is whether one sees university education as a right or privilege. I am inclined to see it as a right. I don’t know why it is so controversial to say that a university education and mass educated class are signs of living in a prosperous, civilized, and sophisticated society. It is something we should aspire to. I don’t like the anti-intellectualism of the “college is not for everybody” argument.

        You know, not all who adopt the “college is not for everybody” is arguing in such bad faith. To insist that it’s only anti-intellectualism is akin to saying that “college is a right” is necessarily and only snobism: there’s some truth to the claim, but that’s not the whole of the argument.

        When I say college is not for everybody, I’m at most being anti-credentialist, not “anti-intellectual.” I’m concerned more about creating a society in which college is the de facto requirement to get a good job.

        And I don’t think college necessarily brings about the intellectual utopia anyway. I’ve known people who have the BA, though perhaps in a minority, even in the liberal arts, and couldn’t describe to you the causes of WWII, other than to say, “that was the one with Hitler, right?” And while it’s probably much harder if one doesn’t go to college, I don’t think it’s impossible for someone who doesn’t go to college to be an intellectual.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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        @james-hanley

        1. The fear that college professors would create some kind of left-wing army seems to have existed in some shape or form since the 1950s. I don’t know if the reality has ever been there even during the heyday of the 1960s.

        2. Various campus movements of the 1960s do appear to be what acted as a catalyst towards the state defunding movement and the images of this unrest still haunts society.

        3. There is probably something in Judaism and Jewish culture which pushes more towards credentialism because traditional Torah-Talmud learning is done in groups with learned scholars and commentators. This is neither the Catholic or Protestant way of doing things but is closer to the Catholic-Jesuit tradition which likes more formal education over an ideal of a yeoman studying on his own as an autodictat.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Will Truman
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        @saul-degraw

        I suspect you meant that more as a response to me than to James. At any rate, I’ll chime in as if you were addressing it to me.

        1. True. But it’s one thing to say that “college is a hotbed of tenured radicalism and leftist indoctrination” and quite another to say “college is a big investment of resources and time and might not be worth it for the people who go, especially if they can’t get into the good-name programs or if they don’t have the intellectual aptitude.”

        2. I can’t really deny that.

        3. There’s probably a lot of truth to that as well, and I did suggest it’s probably harder to be an “intellectual” without college than with it.

        I’ll also add that my vision for the non-credentialed intellectual isn’t only the yeoman autodidact who sits alone in a forgotten room and comes up with great thoughts to become the next Emily Dickinson. It’s also someone who enters intellectualized arenas, like poetry and open-word meetings, or reading groups. I think it’s possible for intellectual interchange and discussion beyond that which requires credentials a la PHD to enter. But again, I’ll admit that it’s harder to enter an intellectual tradition without the training. And I’ll go further and also admit that just because someone has credentials doesn’t mean they aren’t intellectuals, too.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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        Saul,

        I don’t know how point 1 in your last response relates to what I said.

        I don’t think everyone should go yo college. Am I anti-intellectual?

        If you increase the numbers who go to college, you’re not going to be tapping into very many more intellectually curious kids, nor creating a bunch.

        The one year MA is becoming ever more common. That sounds a lot like the MA becoming the old BA to me.

        Seriously, now, if you plug in a whole big group of additional students who primarily are seeking the credential, that can’t not change colleges.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Will Truman
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        There is probably something in Judaism and Jewish culture which pushes more towards credentialism because traditional Torah-Talmud learning is done in groups with learned scholars and commentators.

        I want to add a little more about that because I’m a little skeptical. I do believe you when you say there’s something about Judaism and Jewish culture that does push toward credentialism and that does so at least in part because of an intellectual tradition associated with Talmudic learning. In other words, I’ll take you at your word that this culture is largely one in which the credentialism and the intellectualism-cum-community discourse are intertwined.

        I do suspect, however, that there are many in that culture who find it easy to take on the credentialism without expressing or living a commitment to the intellectual tradition that, err, traditionally is seen as being part and parcel of it. In other words, in any faith/community tradition, there are going to be true(r) believers and those who get the message in some more attenuated form. And more power to both sets of people, to those who put a premium on gaining credentials and thereby participate in an intellectual discourse and to those who seek the credentials for more worldly and material ends.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to North
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      North,

      As student loans USED to be dischargeable via bankruptcy, was this in fact a problem then?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to morat20
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        Student debt didn’t use to be the size they are now Morat.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to morat20
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        More importantly, it very well may be the case that student loans had these problems in spades prior to becoming non-dischargeable. I should mention first that I actually support making student loans dischargeable, particularly private student loans, but it’s important to be aware of the likely consequences of that (though I’ll say that some of those consequences I view as features more than bugs even as most would disagree).

        Certainly, the federally-guaranteed loans seem to have become particularly expensive to taxpayers very quickly because of the dischargeability issue, and it took only a few years for Congress to start putting in restrictions on dischargeability of federally backed loans.

        As to private loans, it seems like they were indeed quite rare prior to becoming non-dischargeable, and their availability once they became non-dischargeable does seem to have increased fairly rapidly. In fact, prior to them becoming non-dischargeable, the percentage of students going to college at all seems to have held fairly steady throughout the 70s and 80s, only starting to increase in the years after nondischargeability became the law.

        http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_302.60.asp
        While correlation is obviously not causation, an argument could be made that this indicates that nondischargeability made private lenders far more willing to provide loans, which made it a lot easier for students to attend college, which thus led to the massive increase in students going to college.

        OTOH, nondischargeability probably also makes lenders far too willing to loan far too much money, which enables colleges to massively increase tuition, etc., etc.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        Student debt didn’t use to be the size they are now Morat.
        They did not. But I suspect a more profitable venture would be to figure out why college has doubled or tripled in price, and put a stop to that. That would make student debt and whether it’s dischargeable a lot more of a moot issue, at least going forward.

        Telling bankrupt folks they have to keep paying a debt they clearly cannot afford is more of a horses gone, close the barn door situation.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        But I suspect a more profitable venture would be to figure out why college has doubled or tripled in price, and put a stop to that.

        Isn’t this the direct result of more money available because loans are easier to get because the loan risk in negligible since it can not be discharged in bankruptcy?

        Schools charge more because banks are willing to give more (& the fed is willing to guarantee more) and students buy the overly optimistic view that they’ll be able to pay it all back easy-peasy when they land that sweet, sweet job they just know they are going to get.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to morat20
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        I’m enjoying the discussions of student loan dischargeability and don’t have much to add. But I had assumed that student loans offered by private banks were already dischargeable. Is that not the case?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to morat20
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        Isn’t this the direct result of more money available because loans are easier to get because the loan risk in negligible since it can not be discharged in bankruptcy?
        Doesn’t make sense. Borrowing is not free, and price would quickly become a competitive factor (heck, it already WAS — how many students choose to stay in state because it’s cheaper? To do community college, because it’s cheaper).

        That only works if people view loans as free money, discounting repayment or interest, and the way kids pick and pay for schools (and run after scholarships) indicates they don’t. But we see no price competition.

        More interestingly: I went to try to consolidate my wife’s loans for her Master’s degree (circa 2006-2009) — and found while I could, I could not lower the interest rate. I could not refinance. I am *locked* into the 2006-2009 rates. I can choose to borrow from a bank, repay the loans, and owe the bank — but they aren’t student loans anymore.

        My loans from the 90s, however — I could and DID consolidate — dropping the interest rate several points.Report

      • Avatar Alan in reply to morat20
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        The discharge rate when applicable was about a tenth of one percent. Prices are indeed higher today by alot. However, the bankruptcy laws have been tightened considerably to prevent fraud and abuse since then, and some alternatives by way of repayment programs have been put into place that offer far, far more attractive alternatives to “strategic filing”. I frankly am suspicious that such a phenomenon exists to any significant extent except in the business world. Personal bankruptcy is a very unpleasant and humiliating experience…one that I could only imagine the most cynical and asocial among us would even consider for personal finances.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        @morat20

        Something about your comment doesn’t square in my head, but I was up too late & the kid up too early & I need another pot of coffee before I can hope to figure out why.

        If you can expand a bit, I would appreciate it. But if not, I won’t harp on it. I harped enough for one day on the other thread.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        MRS: The gist is this — price is already a factor in choosing a college. Most kids (and I admit, I’m talking anecdotally from the seniors I have known, and by “known” I mean “my wife teaches senior English and I’m stuck at a lot of functions where they talk about college”) seem to view price as a serious factor.

        None of them are sanguine about taking on huge debt, and while they apply all over the country, price is a huge factor in their final decision. Most stay in state, to avoid the out-of-state charge (those that don’t almost universally have large scholarships or full rides). Many attend community college because it’s far cheaper.

        It doesn’t matter that they’re borrowing money, students STILL factor in the price tag. It doesn’t matter how much money you can borrow — they still know what they’ve got to repay, and make choices based on price (along with other factors).

        Not all students, I’m sure — but in my anecdotal experience, the bulk of them have price as a factor. And if price is a factor, school’s should be competing on it. And they are, to an extent (CC is often sold on price) — but costs have still doubled universally.

        If price is a market factor, and many schools compete on it, prices should be going down — unless there’s some floor. But that floor can’t be student loan availability, because student loans have always been around and they’re more expensive to the borrower (in total loans needed and interest rates) than they were 20 years ago.

        So unless students over the last two decades have become price-blind to loans (which does not appear the case, or at least no more so than students 20 years ago), then the availability of loans can’t be the primary driver of increased costs. (Increased costs should be pushing schools to drive them down, to attract more students).

        Some schools it’s things like the label (Harvard, MIT, Yale) — you’re paying a brand-name premium, essentially. But why has my local community college’s costs doubled? Why has Texas A&M’s costs doubled? Too many students applying? (I find that doubtful. You can’t bid up your changes for admission by offering to pay more).

        I don’t know. But if I was going to investigate, I’d start with administrative salaries and administration in general and finish with athletics. (Even as school’s get more expensive, there’s a LOT of downward pressure on professor’s salaries — more and more non-tenured, non-permanent position, more use of post-docs, bigger classes). Athletics has always sucked from the common student’s money, and university administration seems to be working on CEO pay these days.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        @morat20

        That actually helps a lot, thanks.

        I think you are discounting availability of easy money that you don’t have to pay back for a long time a bit too much, but I do think you are right that the inflating costs are likely outpacing the effect of non-dischargeable loans. And I agree that I think there is a lot of top-down effects driving that (excessive staffing & salary bloat, high end campus amenities, excessive subsidization of athletics*, etc.)

        *I always hear that athletic programs bring more money to the school than they use, but like public funding of stadiums, it never really seems to happen in reality. Anyone ever study the money flow?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20
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        @mad-rocket-scientist The USA today has the numbers. They basically point to a couple dozen colleges that make money off of their athletic programs, while the rest have to subsidize it. If you look at football programs specifically, I think you are looking at 50-70 money-making programs, though those numbers are hard to suss out (and they don’t incorporate the Title IX implications).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        @will-truman

        Thanks!Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        MRS:
        Unless you stipulate that for some reasons students were ‘loan conscious’ 20 years ago and have somehow become blinder to their costs (even as the interest rates AND loan amounts needed soared), that really doesn’t fly.

        Student loans have been around a VERY long time. If there’s some mental price discount because it’s a loan, wouldn’t it have been greater in effect 20 or 30 years ago (as the loan amount was less) than now?

        I can’t think of any scenario wherein even a vaguely rational-shaped actor (well, a collection of them) will be less and less aware of the long-term costs of a loan AS the size of the loan increases. Am I more likely to borrow a 100k than 10k? Less likely to see the costs as the size of the loan balloons?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20
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        says:

        morat20,
        try 2006ish. Optimism on long term investments goes with people’s general optimism on the economy as a whole. “Will i get a job” is less about “future job prospects” and more about “current job opportunities”Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        says:

        @morat20

        I’m not discounting your personal experience regarding this, but you do have a localized data set to work from, as you admit. Your sample set may have pain points that are not found across the board.

        This is something that we’d have to look at the nationwide numbers on to form a better idea about.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        says:

        This is something that we’d have to look at the nationwide numbers on to form a better idea about.
        Just be aware — your thesis hangs on the notion that as the size of the loan increases, the perceived costs go down.

        Stranger things have happened and backwards incentives do exist, but that’s a pretty tough argument to sell.

        More sensibly, I think college costs rose AND the necessity of a college degree for a middle class lifestyle rose in tandem. Loans just prevented vast swathes from being priced out of the market, but that was true 30 years ago to. This may have allowed colleges to inflate tuition (they need students need for college was high and thus charged all the market would bear), but lacking collusion THAT should trigger competition on price which should drive the prices back down.

        Which is hasn’t, which says there’s a ratchet somewhere on the school end. (Hence bloated CEO-style admin salaries and athletic departments)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20
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        says:

        @morat20

        Part of my thesis does. Remember, I agree with you that it is not acting in isolation, I’m just giving it more weight than you are.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20
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        says:

        morat20,
        admin is always easy to point fingers at. but at least around here, I don’t see outlandish salaries for presidents $400-500,000 is a lot, sure… but it’s well cheaper than I expect for a CEO of an equivalent corporation.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        says:

        Part of my thesis does. Remember, I agree with you that it is not acting in isolation, I’m just giving it more weight than you are.
        I literally don’t see the economic mechanism here. Are people loan blind now (to use a term) but not 30 years ago? If so, what changed?

        Are they equally loan blind, but college just got more expensive? (If so, why?).

        Either way, the root cost isn’t some weird myopia about the expenses in a loan. Either people just got flipping dumber, or college costs soared. Loans would have prevented vast swathes of people being priced out as college costs doubled, but that couldn’t have caused the doubling.

        That money’s going somewhere. Where?Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      Let me put a question: Can one emigrate just like a number of folks did with debts in the old world? Are the debts enforceable in Canada or Australia?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Lyle
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        says:

        @lyle

        I don’t know the answer. I wouldn’t be surprised if one’s credit rating followed one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in those countries immigration policies a demonstration that the immigrant will be self-supporting makes it a lot easier to immigrate. But again, I don’t know the answer as to enforceability.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Lyle
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        says:

        Yes, though with increasingly limited reach the further from the developed west you go.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Lyle
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        says:

        From what I know, and this is based on reading random threads on various message boards through the years, no, other countries don’t care about US credit ratings since they have their own system and with most First World countries still having some form of pro-worker laws, there’s not credit checks for a job like in the US in virtually all foreign countries.

        Now, you’d still need to find a job in that foreign country and so on, and in theory, debts would still be enforceable if you came back to the US, but it’s hard to get money from somebody not in your country anymore. Sure, if it’s federal loans, your SS payments and tax refunds and such might be garnishable, but private collections would likely be out of luck since from what I’ve read, most foreign countries look at US judgements as excessive. Shocking, that other First World nations think our justice system is screwy, I know!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Lyle
        Ignored
        says:

        Shocking, that other First World nations think our justice system is screwy, I know!

        If they don’t like it, they can move.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      Thanks for the comments @north . I have a few thoughts.

      #20: In addition to creating an interest group, privatizing prisons probably also errs because it privatizes coercion, and that coercion is not very susceptible to monitoring. I should say I don’t believe privatization is all that ails the prison system. (You’re also right that privatizing prisons is an idea that has “neoliberal” fingerprints, which I hadn’t really thought of before.)

      #25: I’m skeptical of race-based AA, but not as skeptical as you are. Race-based AA can have all the problems you describe (hence my skepticism), but I think one of the problems–wealthier minorities benefiting while poorer minorities (and whites) don’t–is both a problem and a partial good. It’s a problem because AA is supposed to help the disadvantaged. It’s good–or can be good–for two reasons. One, racial discrimination still exists, even for middle-class folks. Two, a middle-class minority with, say, an income of $80,000 is probably more likely to have several poorer relations than a middle-class white person with the same income, or is more likely to live in an underserved area (because of segregation patterns, both self-segregation and quasi-imposed/encouraged segregation by others). The $80K is (more likely to be) spread out more, and their children may need more assistance in college. In that sense, race-based AA can be a proxy for getting at inter-generational poverty. None of that necessarily alleviates your concerns, and maybe there is a better way to ensure opportunity, and maybe in a world of scarce resources, we need to let the minority with an income of $80K fend for him/herself because there are so many others in need.

      #28: My concerns about freer trade were meant to refer mostly back to my first post where I discuss the way neoliberalism is often associated with “open door” or “dollar diplomacy” imperialism. However, the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to say the association is, if it’s there at all, mostly rhetorical. I’m still concerned that some of what’s done in the name of freer trade isn’t necessarily freer trade. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m unlearned in that subject.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to North
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      says:

      #15 I agree completely. That would do the opposite of fixing student debt. The way to fix student debt is to stop having such absurdly expensive colleges. Which is probably going to require all sorts of changes. (I suggest reducing demand by getting a better economy so we don’t have idiotic credential inflation. Everyone doesn’t need a damn college degree.)

      And I agree with #25, too. It would be trivial to create something that functions basically the same way but does not use race, which has the advantage of 1) not creating racists by causing people to believe nonsense about ‘reverse racism’ and how their being put two places back in a list compares with what minorities actually go through, and 2) would also let in the generational poor that are not minorities.

      Something like ‘parents that did not graduate high school’ or ‘total household assets of less than -10,000 dollars’ or ‘an incarcerated parent’. (I can just hear people gearing up to talk silliness about ‘moral hazards’, because future parents would deliberate destroy their lives so that hypothetical children can get slightly better odds of getting into college.)

      Affirmative action is sorta why ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ should be in different political parties. (I say this as someone that is a mix of both.)

      Liberals should care about opportunity of success being equal for everyone, and hence should be against things that try to fix the tilted opportunity of success in life of blacks by tilting the opportunity of success of getting into college the other way. That would, quite obviously result in racial intolerance, and is two wrongs trying to make a right. Liberals should care about the fact that black people often *go to shitty grade schools*, and fix that. And they should fight legacy admissions while they’re at it.

      Meanwhile, progressive should care about taking everyone forward. If they wish to more the poor forward, let’s make sure that people who are starting further back get added bonuses along the way…but that has nothing to do with race.

      But because they’re together, we get affirmative action, a weird incoherent mess of liberal and progressive that’s pretty hard to justify.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        “#15 I agree completely. That would do the opposite of fixing student debt. The way to fix student debt is to stop having such absurdly expensive colleges. Which is probably going to require all sorts of changes. (I suggest reducing demand by getting a better economy so we don’t have idiotic credential inflation. Everyone doesn’t need a damn college degree.)”

        I think that the issue which you point out a bit is that there are a whole clusterfuck of problems.

        Again, what is the purpose of education especially higher education. If there purpose of education is to produce a mass educated society with critical thinking, writing, and reading skills? Shouldn’t we want more people to go to college? I think the idea of a mass educated class is a sign of a progressive and enlightened society, not one of a decadent society. Of course this does lead to issues about how people with advanced degrees generally want jobs that match said degrees and we might not be able to provide for this.

        There is also the issue of why, when, and how colleges and universities became more expensive? Federal guaranteed student loans are big part of the issue unfortunately because it does create a moral hazard where colleges and universities can raise their tuition without consequences. What I wonder about is why the federal government felt there was a need to create backed student loans? This happened in the 1980s. Was college tuition going threw an increase bubble then as well and did many students (and their parents) feel drowend?

        And getting back to the not everyone needs to go to college issue. Are there any examples of societies that have successfully decrendentialized without going through a serious decline? I think people will go for not having a mass educated class but only if it can be done in a way that ensures good middle class lives Right now the evidence still shows that getting a college degree significantly raises wages and reduces chances and levels of unemployment. If you can transfer that security to people without college degrees, I think you will find people stop attending in our numbers. If not, I think everyone goes to college or tries to is here to stay.

        “Affirmative action is sorta why ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ should be in different political parties. (I say this as someone that is a mix of both.)”

        I think people are just going to need to embrace their inner-descriptivists and deal with the fact that liberal has changed into meaning something in the United States (and Canada) beyond 19th-century free market, classical liberalism.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @saul-degraw

        Liberalism is not just whatever people who call themselves liberals happen to believe. Because liberals claim to not just have surface political preferences (which is just what affirmative action and any other policy is) as well as allegiance to certain sorts of principles. At least some of the preferences will conflict with some of those preferences and there is good reason to distinguish between the liberal and progressive camps on the left side of the aisle. What this means is that while there is a sense in which liberal is often used interchangeably with progressive or leftist, it is an imprecise way to talk because there are real and deep ideological differences on the left. And their current alliance need not persist. One way we could imagine a realignment going is by uniting the left and right neoliberals on one side and the populist wings of both parties on the other.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @murali

        1. Words and concepts change. Artificial used to be one of the highest compliments a person could get. Charles II praised the architecture of Christopher Wren as being artificial. It just meant “made with human skill.” I can’t think of any English speaker who would use the word artificial as a compliment. Now artificial means to mimic and be false and not real.

        2. While I generally think of politics as being a circle more than a line, I still think there are substantial differences between the left and right populists in terms of policy goals and ideals to make it hard for them to join and unite. I see people calling for a joining of Occupy and the Tea Party but I think their policy preferences are different enough to prevent them from happening. The neoliberal left and the more populist left still have more in common than the populist left and the populist right much of the time. I don’t consider myself a neoliberal but I am not a full out radical either. I believe in a mixed-market economy and trust Capitalism for many things but not for some very major things like health care and the justice system and wages. I dislike the zeal of market anarchists and purists who are all about “disruption disruption disruption” without pausing to think whether it is good or not or what the real human costs are. We live in a world where capital is so strong that there are non-compete clauses in the contracts for sandwich makers and that is highly problematic.
        So I am closer to the populist side but I still find the communalism and ardent anti-consumerism of the far left to be silly as well. So I am very much a welfare-state liberal.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @murali
        Liberalism is not just whatever people who call themselves liberals happen to believe. Because liberals claim to not just have surface political preferences (which is just what affirmative action and any other policy is) as well as allegiance to certain sorts of principles. At least some of the preferences will conflict with some of those preferences and there is good reason to distinguish between the liberal and progressive camps on the left side of the aisle.

        Exactly.

        Liberals demand equality, freedom, justice, etc, for people. This starts with caring about the most obvious inequality of ‘prejudice’, and can make it all the way down to income inequality. To find out what liberals think, take a libertarian, and strip out caring about corporation regulations and remove any idea that taxes have anything to do with freedom and a few other weird ideas. Whatever tiny grain of political opinion is left in that libertarian, that’s liberalism. 😉

        Progressives, OTOH, think that the government can be used to solve societal problems. Sometimes these problems are the same as the problems liberal see, sometimes they are not. The basic idea is that government should continually change to try to keep up with society and try to produce a better world. ‘Progressive’, not liberal, is the opposite of ‘conservative’.

        Progressives are needed by liberals, because they’re are often out there making a fuss about lack of equality and freedom *before* liberals notice something. Liberals often have a status quo bias. I mean, for an example, banning gay marriage was obvious sexual discrimination, and it *always* has obviously been that. How long did it take liberals to notice? Forever.

        OTOH, progressives often then attempt to solve the problem in stupid ways. Affirmative action is a stupid way to solve racism. Prohibition is a stupid way to solve wife-beating. Etc.

        Progressives are the rabble-rousers within the government. They are the people who notice problems first and start yelling about them and trying to fix them, often by using duct tape and baling wire, before liberals show up and say ‘What the hell is going on here? Do this the right way, you idiots. The actual problem is this thing over here, not what’s you’re messing around with.’ And progressives reply ‘Well, nice of you to *finally* realize this thing we’ve been saying is an injustice actually *is* an injustice and show up and help. Took you long enough.’.

        What this means is that while there is a sense in which liberal is often used interchangeably with progressive or leftist, it is an imprecise way to talk because there are real and deep ideological differences on the left. And their current alliance need not persist.

        Yeah. Progressives and liberals should not really be enemies, their goals are usually compatible, or at least orthogonal. As I said above, liberals don’t consider taxes and regulation some sort of horrible affront to freedom, so even if they don’t care about, for example, auto safety, they have no problem with progressives making laws about it.

        But there are a few places where *how* progressives want to do something should rankle liberals. Places where attempting to fix problems tilt things slightly towards ‘injustice’ or ‘lack of freedom’.

        And there actually are ‘progressives’ on the right already. The problem is that those progressives are deeply, deeply misinformed. They are the group called ‘the religious right’, and they think they can solve societal ills, or, rather, problems they think are societal ills, in a completely delusional manner that has no knowledge of history.

        (Of course, those progressives, are, oddly, in a party with a bunch of hardcore conservatives and…’reductists’? Whatever you call people who want to make the government very small very fast, which isn’t really ‘conservativism’, which would be staying the same or slowly changing in either direction. Anyway, the religious right progressives are confusingly in them same party as those people, prompting people like Maddow to constantly point out how the right seems to want *really really* intrusive government in a few places.)

        One way we could imagine a realignment going is by uniting the left and right neoliberals on one side and the populist wings of both parties on the other.

        We could imagine that, but only if we were completely stoned. 😉 I’m not entirely sure the what the ‘neoliberal’ side of the right is, but the populist wing of the right are sometimes kooks, and often slightly racist. Even dropping the kooks and racists, they’re still sorta dumb and poorly informed, so you can’t realistically stick the Tea Party and Occupy in the same party, no matter how funny that might sound. (I’m not saying that Occupy is incredibly well informed, but they at least care that facts exists in the real world.)

        If there’s a realignment, the way I see it is the liberal/libertarian on one side, and the progressives/left populists on the other side. Yes, that means the right almost disappears. But, that’s why there would be a realignment, because the right went off the deep end.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        And, of course, I’m speaking like progressives and liberals are literally different people, which is not the case. Almost everyone on the left values liberal principles to some extend, and almost everyone on the left is progressive to some extent.

        Everyone basically agrees it’s okay to restrict freedom a *little* for society to be better off. That is, after all, what ‘government’ is. If you don’t agree, you’re an anarchist, and can’t be properly placed on the left or the right. Likewise, everyone agrees the system can’t be perfectly just, and defining ‘just’ is a matter of debate also.

        OTOH, no one is 100% progressive, either. That would be communism. Actually, past communism. It would be some sort of weird utopian hive mind or something, without free will. There is no way for the government to solve *all* problems.

        The question is to what extent people are willing to let ‘we need to solve this problem’ override their liberal principles, if the two are in conflict. There are liberals who think that there’s a hard and fast line that the government should never cross, there are progressives who will always side on ‘fixing problems’, and there are people who it varies from issue to issue, that might be okay with some sort of temporary economic injustice to remedy some problem or another, but would not be okay with restrictions on speech to remedy the same problem. (I’m the latter sort, but I usually call myself progressive. Although, apparently, according to this post, I’m mostly neoliberal! I’m suspecting that ‘neoliberal’ just means ‘progressive liberal’.)

        And the same sort of thing happens with the religious right, but it turns into ‘to what extent do I let my religious beliefs interfere with my conservative principles that the government should infringe on personal freedom as little as possible’, and the answer is often ‘completely’.Report

  2. Avatar morat20
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    says:

    When it comes to primary and secondary education, I pledge to start with the admission that I really don’t know what ails it.

    Poverty. Seriously. With the rare exception (which it generally due to something solvable, like firing a crazy superintendent) bad schools are schools full of really poor kids. Good schools are filled with middle class kids or rich kids.

    A bad school is going to be full of dirt poor kids who live lives of grinding poverty, 99.9% of the time. You can take the best teachers and all the money in the world and give it to that school, and it won’t get much better, because the school is a symptom not the cause.

    But since grinding poverty isn’t exactly addressable through pedagogy, and throwing up your hands and saying “The problem is the students are poor, their parents are poor, and school is rarely a priority in face of the day-to-day problems of life” is not technically a solution, people offer all sorts of things. And indeed, they work individually. Take the exceptional kid with parents who can push past those ‘real life’ problems and send her to a good school, she’ll do dandy. But that solution won’t scale, because the real difference lies at home and not at the school.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to morat20
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      says:

      @morat20

      Darn it! I was all prepared to disagree with you after reading your first couple of sentences. But after reading the rest of your comment, I probably agree. I am interested in what can be done on the margin, but as you (in my opinion rightly) point out, “people offer all sorts of things. And indeed, they work individually,” but they don’t scale.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20
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      says:

      Poverty. Seriously. With the rare exception (which it generally due to something solvable, like firing a crazy superintendent) bad schools are schools full of really poor kids. Good schools are filled with middle class kids or rich kids.

      Yeah, I find it strange people sit around trying to figure this out. It’s like being completely baffled about the water from the sky. ‘Where does that come from?! How is that happening?!’

      Almost no successful school is mostly full of poor kids. Almost no failing school is mostly full of middle class or rich kids. There are, of course, schools that are a mixture, and those can vary. And there are weird exceptions…schools that fail because of idiot administration, or schools that somehow succeed anyway, but 90% of the differences is attributable to the wealth of the majority of the student body.

      Correlation does not equal causality, of course. For a while I was sure the problem was schools were being badly funded in poor areas, but that’s not true, or at least it’s not true *enough* to explain the huge difference. (It does, however, make NCLB even more malicious, and being somewhat underfunded can’t *help*.)

      And it seems unlikely that bad schools somehow telekineticly suck the wealth out of their student’s families.

      So that leaves us with a fairly simple conclusion as to why schools fail. And no way to solve it within the educational system.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        Part of the problem is there is indeed a rather lucrative market in selling the notion of American school failures. There are bad public schools.And they can be truly awful, awful, awful.

        I’d never dream of claiming otherwise. But most schools? Just fine. Everything can be improved, but test scores, college admissions, material covered — we just as well as the rest of the first world (it’s those dirt poor schools, the sort of poverty nations with more robust social systems don’t have, that drag us down). You see a lot of “kids don’t learn X” today — for some reason diagramming sentences is a big one, but kids today tend to learn Calculus, computer programming, and have access to arts and music that was a lot more rare back when diagramming sentences was apparently a huge part of schooling. 🙂

        But the bad schools — and the parents who want their kids out of them — it’s compelling. You want to help them. Society SHOULD help them. But I get really, really suspicious of solutions that start with “5% of schools are awful, the first thing we should do is change 100% of schools”.

        Why? Why do we need to change the 95% that work? They ain’t broke. Improve them, sure. But why do we want to radically overhaul what works, rather than focus on the places it doesn’t?

        It smells like a scam, no matter how honest the folks behind it might be. And I think people are right to be conservative about it, distrustful — why should we make radical changes that are unnecessary for the vast majority, instead of changing only the problem cases?

        (My thoughts on vouchers are more complicated, and boil down to “It’s really hard to balance an individual’s education against the possibility of further reducing the education of those left behind. I’d have to see specifics and think about it a lot”. My view on charters is “I think they should be really heavily regulated, because it seems a lot of them are in it for the money and tend to screw kids, and a lot of times it seems cities that experiment with them don’t seem to place many safeguards”)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        Question – perhaps we should have boarding schools?

        Just thinking out loud here, but if the biggest hurdle is grinding poverty, and it is a hurdle because bad parents are fishing useless or worse, and the good parents are trying but utterly exhausted, perhaps we would get the most bang for our buck by focusing on the kids, and hard.

        Get them out of the home & into the school full time. Bad parents can still be useless, but have less ability to mess with a kid. Good parents will miss their kid but will have one less mouth to feed, so less stress, and perhaps more opportunity to do better (less stress can lead to better decisions, etc.).

        Such a program would certainly cost more, but would it be worth it? If we could break the cycle of poverty for 25% of those kids, would it be worth the extra cost?

        And yes, I recognize it is horribly paternalistic/nanny-ish, but in some cases…Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        MRS,
        Depends on how many kids you’re willing to let the school kill.
        It’s pretty easy to make a difficult course regimen.
        Getting people to try hard enough to succeed is always the tricky part.

        I still find the idea of a boarding school much more palatable than “here, take my daughter, she’ll make you a good wife.”

        … with questions like these, I find myself hardpressed to stay within typical American Isolationism. You may find this reflected in my answer above.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Yay I get a shout-out. To clarify, I don’t think we can do anything to get universities to stop having business and accounting departments but I do hope that apprenticeships can eventually take over. Germany seems to have a good system for apprenticeships including in fields like banking and finance. Part of our problem though is that we have a justified fear of anything resembling tracking. I don’t know if America is socially capable of doing tracking in a way that does not devolve into being based on economics and race. And the race part would be there if not talked about.

    Now to the rest of your post.

    “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 think Morat is largely right. Poverty is what ails education in the United States. The best American public schools can and do produce students that can compete internationally on all those metrics that cause our elites to fret. The problem is that poorly performing school districts are often home to poor students with chaotic home lives and situations and good chances of knowing food insecurity. There is also some interesting issues on psychology. I’ve read many articles about parents from poor or working class backgrounds want their kids to just be quiet and not ask the teacher questions if they don’t understand things. Middle and upper class parents teach their children to ask questions, be curious, and be the social equal of the teacher.

    There is also the fact that most school districts in the United States tend to be very homogeneous economically. You can have some Unified School Districts but this requires kids to have long commutes sometimes for school. Cities are still the most economically diverse. In my experience, middle and upper-middle class urban dwellers are cool with sending their kids to public elementary school but generally have a change of heart once their kid enters middle school because that is when the potential of violence and pregnancy starts (unless your kid gets into the good schools that require tests). People theorize my generation will be different but I am doubtful.

    Some of my friends in college grew up very poor but spent most if not all of their K-12 career in very elite and fancy private schools. They generally did this because their parents recognized how smart they were and were willing to hustle for scholarships and/or some benefactor spotted them by luck and gave them charity. It is rather disheartening that this is the best we can do.Report

  4. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    With some minor exceptions, I agree with almost all of this, though I’m probably a bit firmer in my support for some positions, and less firmer on others. Certainly my opposition to paternalism is closer to “categorical,” though I’m ok with at least some indoor smoking bans and restrictions that I think can more properly be considered “public health” issues or at least “right to not be forced to smell like smoke for going to work” issues. My biggest disagreement would be this:

    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.

    As a practical matter, every voucher program of which I’m aware would be quite heavily means-tested, and rightly so. Because of that, I don’t think it’s possible that it would result in the reverse-transfer that concerns you. Additionally, in most voucher programs, the value of the voucher is typically at least somewhat less than the full amount of per pupil spending in the student’s district (in Louisiana, the voucher is 90% of that figure; in Milwaukee, it seems to work out to around 60%). What that means is that at least in theory, the school the student leaves should be left with slightly more money per pupil, although the political process is a wildcard for whether this actually happens.

    On the other hand….

    #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.

    That was me!Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mark Thompson
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      says:

      My big issue with vouchers is this:

      1. Schools seem to rise tuition to whatever it is now plus size of the voucher unless they have an ulterior motive and those seem to be fundie schools that want to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize. I have a First Amendment issue with public money being used to support religious schools especially when it can be used for public schools.

      2. Conspiracy might be too hard a word but the people who seem to push hardest for vouchers often think that public education is fished beyond repair and wonder about whether government can do anything right. They seem too opposed to the idea of public education in general over using vouchers as a temporary measure while we fix our schools.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        There’s a lot of money in public education. A LOT. It’s like SS, in the sense that there’s so much money there that even the thought of taking 0.1% as profit is mega-bucks.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Schools seem to rise tuition to whatever it is now plus size of the voucher unless they have an ulterior motive and those seem to be fundie schools that want to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

        I haven’t seen any evidence of the former, though I have no doubt that they do increase tuition somewhat. More importantly, means-testing ensures that in any given school, voucher students will be a minority, and the effects of the marginal increase in demand are spread out over the entire school – in other words, at worst, the non-voucher students in the school wind up subsidizing the overwhelming majority of the difference between the voucher amount and the cost of attendance. I’m not aware of any voucher program that permits schools who accept vouchers to charge discriminatory rates for voucher students; in fact, the Milwaukee program at the very least requires participating private schools to accept the vouchers as payment in full of tuition. But even if it were true that private schools just increased their tuition by the amount of the voucher, then the worst case scenario would be that there would be no incentive for anyone to take advantage of the voucher program – the program would be no worse than a nullity.

        Regarding the “ulterior motive” issue, it’s worth mentioning that the Milwaukee program requires that voucher students be permitted to opt out of any religious instruction. Additionally, keep in mind that private schools often have lower per-pupil costs than public schools to begin with, with the exception being the elite (and generally admittedly secular) private schools. The majority of those private schools of course are not “fundie” schools, but instead are Jesuit Catholic schools that in my experience tend to keep the evangelization to a relative minimum. My local Catholic high school, for instance, seems to limit its religious education to a once-a-year theology course, which for a nonbeliever strikes me as qualitatively little different from taking a course on Greek mythology.

        And even for the more exclusive secular schools, participation in a voucher program can make sense. Many of those schools have always had scholarship programs for low income students, and voucher programs may well allow them to expand those programs significantly.

        I have a First Amendment issue with public money being used to support religious schools especially when it can be used for public schools.

        I understand this objection, but I think it’s at best an incomplete objection, and at worst an inconsistent objection. It’s incomplete because there are ways of structuring voucher and school choice programs that don’t necessarily involve religious schools and/or that require voucher students to be exempted from any religious instruction. It’s inconsistent because it’s functionally not a direct subsidy of the school – it’s a subsidy of the student, and it’s not at all difficult to structure a voucher program in a way that makes this indisputable. Functionally, there’s no difference between a voucher and a student receiving a Pell Grant to attend Notre Dame, to which virtually no one objects.

        Another way of structuring school choice programs makes this even more clear – school choice programs can be structured as tax credits under which lower income families receive a tax credit equal to x% of their local school district’s per pupil expenditures, provided that they show that their child is not enrolled in public school but that they have expended that amount on their child’s education. In such a system, it can’t even be said that it’s public money being used to support a religious school because the student’s parents/guardians are paying for their child’s education out of their own pocket as they see fit and then just receiving a general tax credit for “educational expenses.”

        Conspiracy might be too hard a word but the people who seem to push hardest for vouchers often think that public education is fished beyond repair and wonder about whether government can do anything right. They seem too opposed to the idea of public education in general over using vouchers as a temporary measure while we fix our schools.

        There are a lot of assumptions about people’s motives here that seem really unfair. Back when I was in law school, I tried to go to the Supreme Court arguments for Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (we just missed the cut, but wound up getting to see the entirety of the second argument that day, which was the major death penalty case Atkins v. Virginia). There were a rather large number of people outside the courthouse protesting very vocally in favor of vouchers that morning, mostly wearing IIRC canary yellow t-shirts. All or almost all of them were lower income African Americans from Cleveland. I’m quite certain that vouchers weren’t part of some ideological anti-government crusade for them – they were a tangible way of bettering their childrens’ lives.

        But more importantly, I don’t see why the alleged motives of voucher proponents matter in the least. Vouchers are either a good idea or they’re not. Who gives a crap whether folks with an anti-government narrative think they fit that narrative? The fact is that it’s possible to make any given policy fit any number of possible narratives. I can certainly make vouchers fit a civil rights narrative. I can also quite easily make them fit a progressive safety net narrative.

        That doesn’t mean that vouchers are necessarily a good policy, or that there aren’t good reasons to oppose them if you have certain values. The point instead is that the fact that they can be used to fit someone else’s narrative is not a reason to oppose them, just as the fact that they are inconsistent with someone else’s narrative would not be a reason to support them.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        2. Conspiracy might be too hard a word but the people who seem to push hardest for vouchers often think that public education is fished beyond repair and wonder about whether government can do anything right.

        I disagree. The people who push the hardest are parents who want to send their kids to better schools, but cannot afford to move or pay private school tuition. Those people’s voices just don’t tend to register with people who are busy debating about this in the abstract.

        As per usual, conversations about the poor tend to be less about the actual poor and more about proxy battles between right and left.Report

      • Avatar Dand in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw

        I have a First Amendment issue with public money being used to support religious schools especially when it can be used for public schools.

        Does this apply to colleges as well?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @mark-thompson

        I have no doubt about what you observed but do you think it that it is a majority of African-American parents that support vouchers? I have to agree with @morat20 above. It is very hard to balance the needs and rights of the individual with the needs and rights of the masses/majority in these situations. There are also plenty of arguments to be made that school districts can be improved by making them more economically mixed because the middle class parents won’t let the schools become horrible. This will come with its own set of problems of course.

        The evidence you martial for vouchers is potentially circumstantial, anecdotal but obviously highly powerful. Some one opposed to vouchers can probably martial equally compelling evidence though. School reform via vouchers and charters received huge pushback in Newark according to an article in the New Yorker from a few months ago. There has also been huge anger and disappointment at the “reforms” being pushed by Rahm Emmanuel in Chicago. So much so that the President of the Chicago Teachers Union was considered likely to beat him in a primary (even though Rahm had much much more money) until she needed to bow out because of a cancer diagnosis.

        So every side gets to martial in their experts, their sides, and their anecdotes and we probably all pick these based on our pre-dispositions.

        The same thing seems to be happening with the debates over Affirmative Consent laws which are seriously dividing the intellectual/writing left. On the pro-side you have Ezra Klein, Amanda Marcotte, Amanda Hess, and others. On the con side, you have Jon Chait, Michelle Goldberg, many Harvard Law faculty members, and other writers. You can’t deny the progressive or feminist bonafides of Michelle Goldberg or Amanda Marcotte. A person can use their arguments to feel better about their opinion with the law and to feel like they are not being horrible for having their opinion.

        Pardon me, I’ve been feeling cynical lately.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        You left out Freddie Saul, he’s on the against side to though it must be killing him to be agreeing with Chait.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @north

        I did not intend for my list to be exhaustive or complete. I can’t remember if I read Freddie’s thoughts on the subject or not. I probably did. You are probably right that he really loathes agreeing with Chait.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        There was a study published by the Department of Education during the Bush administration (so not necessarily biased towards public education). I regret not having a citation for this but I’ve been unable to locate it on their website.

        Anyway it compared performance on standardized tests between public and private schools using a statistical technique to correct for self-selection bias — better students going to better schools because they chose to as opposed to the school producing a better result. The conclusion was that there was no significant advantage to private over public. Any apparent advantage was a case of of better students going in and better students coming out. In one class of private schools — Protestant Parochial (think Evangelical) — the private schools performed more poorly in science. Big surprise there; it’s not as if they were really trying.

        The conclusion here that no one wants to admit is that maybe busing really was the right approach.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        A majority of the state’s white voters would prefer to send a child to a public school, but black voters prefer charter schools by a narrow margin. While only 31 percent of whites choose charters, 48 percent of Blacks feel the same. Public schools are favored by whites, 51 percent to 43 percent.

        Black voters are also more likely than whites to support school choice vouchers which would allow children to attend private schools using taxpayer funding, 54 percent to 36 percent.

        “As education issues continue to make headlines here, voters are mixed on their reactions,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While there are traditional party-line differences, what really stands out is the difference between Black and white voters. African-Americans, while not otherwise supportive of Gov. Christie, are generally behind his plans for charter schools and vouchers.”Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (2011)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        Here’s a pretty critical look at the history, efficacy and social ramifications of busing.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @road-scholar

        More recent studies have been done that compare students who were selected into charter schools via lottery with those who applied for the lottery but weren’t selected, which takes away the bias you’re talking about.

        The key takeaway from the studies seems to be that charters in rural and suburban areas don’t differ much in outcomes from public schools, but that in urban areas they tend to do better than public schools. There’s variation, of course, charters aren’t magic bullets.

        But the fact that it’s in urban areas where they’re most effective makes white opposition that much disturbing, especially when coupled with snide comments like Jesse Ewiak made recently about how those parents don’t know the difference between publics and charters.

        What I see is a lot of white people inadvertently maintaining the status quo by demanding solutions that don’t look like they have a chance in hell of succeeding, while black parents are demanding something that is achievable and has at least some positive effects.

        And the teachers’ unions probably are a significant part of the problem (not the major part, though). I say this as a teacher’s union member and former contract negotiator–teachers resist being seriously evaluated on their teaching,* want as much autonomy in the classroom as possible,** and want higher pay, rather than the same amount of total teacher pay spread out among more teachers.*** Charters can break through those particular problems, at least to some extent.
        ____________________________________
        * There are some good reasons for this. Teaching is very difficult to evaluate–a bad teacher may get higher test scores from a set of good students than a good teacher gets from bad students, and student evaluations have been demonstrated to be useless as a measure of teaching. The uncertainty can make a perfect smokescreen for firing teachers for other reasons. Nevertheless, the resistance to evaluation can keep poorer teachers around longer.

        **Some autonomy in the classroom is good. I’m suspicious of top-down models that say everything should be done in a particular manner. However some methods are better than others, and teachers’ attachment to a particular method is often more dependent on their familiarity and comfort with it than on whether it’s effective.

        ***If the public is only going to pay X for schools, then for whatever portion is going to teachers, in general they’d rather have it more concentrated among a smaller set than distributed among a larger set. Of course that thinking leads to larger classes, which teachers also don’t like, so there’s a limit. But in general teachers can get away with asking for more pay and asking for more teachers without getting professionally or publicly embarrassed, so why wouldn’t they do so? After all, their real ideal is in fact to have both. But more teachers at higher pay is exactly what the public seems lease willing to pay for. And white liberal insistence on that least likely outcome maintains the status quo for low income urban blacks.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @will-truman

        That’s an interesting article, as well as the other two articles of which it’s a series. I look forward to reading them. Thanks for calling them to our attention.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, @james-hanley , I know I’m a bad person because I don’t believe we should destroy the structures of public education and give it away to privatized for-profit institutions simply because some studies shows that some students may be better off.

        I’m just as terrible as a slave owner. A terrible, terrible human being.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        But again, no I don’t black people know the difference between charter and public schools. I don’t think white people do. I don’t think Asian people do. I don’t think Hispanic people do. I do think what people mostly know is they’re told what schools are “good” and what schools are “bad” and that the African-American community has been told for a generation by members of both parties that fixing public schools is urban areas is hopeless because of those evil teacher unions, so the only way to do is to get your kid in these charter schools, otherwise they’re doomed.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        No joke, I do think you’re a bad person. You have no personal stake in this issue to compare with the personal stake these parents have, but you disdain them for not having the knowledge you have, and would have your preferences for their children’s education override theirs.

        The arrogance that takes, and the lack of respect for others and the willingness to override other people’s life choices–the apparent belief that you can make better choices for their lives than they can–are all nasty characteristics. Your tyranny is the tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of the oppressed, that C.S. Lewis warned us about.

        Oh, yes, I think you’re a bad person. And I think if you ever got your hands on the reins of power you’d be dangerous, because you seem to lack any sense that your ideas of what’s best for others could possibly be wrong. That kind of certainty tends to see no appropriate limits to action.

        You can scoff, of course. Who am I but some random ass on the internet. But I speak in all sincerity. When you write I am reminded of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

        They will become timid and will look to us and
        huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue
        such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell
        them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God.

        Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Mark Thompson
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      says:

      @mark-thompson

      Thanks for your comments (including your response to @saul-degraw ). As far as vouchers go, I apparently need to learn more. I had thought they operated mainly as a property tax rebate, which would help only those who owned real property. I had also thought–and I still suspect–they result in less money being spent to those who don’t opt for vouchers.

      If the vouchers are means tested, and especially if they’re not offered as rebates for property taxes, then I’m more favorably disposed toward them. I’m still concerned about possibly siphoning funds from public schools, but at the very least I’d need to know more.

      Finally, two points:

      1. You’re right, in response to Saul’s argument, that the subsidy is to the student and not to the religion/institution (although the institution does benefit, it seems to me), and you pointed out that one program requires an opt-out option for religious instruction (which I hadn’t known about). But….in practice, I imagine it’s hard for the student to actually opt out, and I also imagine that the religious instruction, in at least some cases, does intrude into the non-opt-outable portion of the educational experience in a way that is more totalizing than, say, student life at Notre Dame University. Also, there’s the “money is fungible, blah blah blah” argument.

      2. You make a point that the schools which voucher-receiving students attend tend to have lower per-pupil cost. I imagine there are a lot of reasons for that, but one reason could be that students with special needs or “problem students” who wouldn’t be admitted to the private/parochial school must go to public school, and that fact perchance contributes to driving up costs at public schools.

      None of these points necessarily negates your arguments in favor of vouchers, but I’m still concerned. And perhaps most of that concern is based on my own ignorance of how voucher systems work.Report

  5. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Regarding teachers unions it is important to note there isn’t actually any evidence they systematically make education worse. Sure there are crazy ass anecdotes. But many states, about half as i remember, don’t have teachers unions. Many of the states at the top of education stats have teachers unions and plenty of the states in the bottom don’t have them. In short there is nothing I’ve seen that show teachers unions, on the whole, make the Ed of kids worse. I could even dredge up the links to a fairly sophisticated study showing no difference to maybe a slight advantage in Ed performance in schools with TU’s compared to non-union states.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak
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      says:

      “Regarding teachers unions it is important to note there isn’t actually any evidence they systematically make education worse.”

      This is true. On the other hand, it’s equally true that there isn’t actually any evidence that they systematically make education better. And yet for every guy arguing that we should do away with them, there’s another arguing they should be given whatever and fully protected.

      I really do feel like teacher union debates are one of the many areas that we pretend are about education but are really about other pet issues, with an emphasis on all sides that the kids we’re pretending to care about can go f**k themselves.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Well yeah. But it they don’t actually seem to hurt education then the push to get rid of them seems a lot more about just generic union busting. If getting rid of a union isn’t actually going to help then why waste effort on it. Even if they don’t help Ed, that isn’t really the reason for having teachers unions. Unions exist to give workers the ability to collectively bargain so they can get a better deal. I’d suggest workers who get better pay, treatment, etc tend to be better workers. This seems pretty obvious but in odd cases, like unions, all of sudden becomes crazy talk.

        In general pitting workers rights against some popular subset of teh public is a tactic of the rich and powerful to squelch workers rights. ( ahh my dearly departed leftie dad woudl be proud of me) Still often true though.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I pretty much agree with this. We can debate whether public employees should have the right to unionize (I think they generally should) without allowing our position on that debate to dictate our conclusions about a given practice or policy.

        Where the pro-teachers’ union folks often go astray is that they elide or ignore that unions exist to protect the interests of their current members (not potential future members, which is an important point) and those interests do not necessarily align with the interests of those they’re supposed to serve. If the teachers’ union opposes something, it is automatically assumed that the opposed policy or practice is motivated primarily by anti-union animus or must be bad education policy because anything bad for teachers’ interests cannot be good for the interests of their students.

        On the other hand, the anti-union folks ignore that there is in fact a lot of overlap between the interests of teachers and the educational interests of their students, and what’s more, teachers are in the best position to see how things work in the classroom.

        That tenure may or may not be a good policy does not mean that teachers’ unions are inherently good or bad for education policy – it’s quite possible to oppose tenure but support teachers’ rights to unionize, and vice versa.

        Point being that whether or not teachers should have a right to unionize has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what is and is not good education policy, or at least it should have nothing to do with what is and is not good education policy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Teachers unions are, in a sense, like any other union: their primary goal isn’t to make their business better, but to promote (and guard) the interests of their members. If making education serves that purpose — which it arguably does, which is why teachers unions have worked for many education reforms — then they will work towards that. If it doesn’t, they won’t.

        In other words, whether teachers unions make education better is irrelevant to the justification of their existence. Whether they make education worse is relevant, of course, but better is not.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        That tenure may or may not be a good policy does not mean that teachers’ unions are inherently good or bad for education policy – it’s quite possible to oppose tenure but support teachers’ rights to unionize, and vice versa.
        Texas has teachers unions, but no tenure.

        The attacks seem the same.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @morat20 Of course, but that’s kind of my point (and, I assume, Tod’s). There’s really no good reason why opposing or supporting tenure (or any other position on an educational topic) on grounds of educational quality should be dictated by one’s position on whether teachers should have a right to unionize (or vice versa), yet that’s how people treat these questions. The activist classes have created a situation in which any discussion of educational policy quickly becomes a proxy battle over whether unions should or should not be allowed to exist.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        It’s generally instructive to look at, historically, why a union arose. And then ask yourself “Would that situation, or one similar, reoccur?”

        Obviously the days of company goons breaking heads is long past.

        But in terms of teacher’s unions (many of which are forbidden from striking, I understand. Texas’ certainly are), they don’t even exist to negotiate pay or benefits (the teacher retirement system in Texas is a joke, because the Leg views it as a piggy bank. The union can do nothing). But any teacher who has had a run in with a parent who “knows someone on the school board” or “knows the principle” suddenly finds the union incredibly useful, because they provide the push-back that it’s rather hard or impossible to do for yourself.

        So should they have a union? I dunno. All I see the Texas union’s doing is trying to minimize administrator and parental meddling in the classroom (something that both already have a large say in), forcing it to be a public affair. (And really, if you want to make classroom changes — to curriculum or grades of a given student or how the class is taught — going through a formal and open process seems far superior to quiet verbal orders. Less subject to…abuse)Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    #17. Tenure is already well on the way to extinction at universities. However, there is really nothing like multi-year contracts that provide for academic freedom as of yet in most places. How would they work? How long is multi-year? And how would they provide for academic freedom if the university could simply decide not to renew the contract when it’s up over the same sort of academic freedom issues written into those provisions?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      Maybe a 3-5 year direct term contract?

      I agree with you here. Universities build up reputation by having a core of faculty around for a long term. It is hard to attract students if the faculty changes every three to five years. You can have long term adjuncts who just want to hold on to their class schedules or you can have a lot of tenured professors but I don’t see why universities would think it is good to hire someone for three to five years and have them move on. I suppose they can extend or give a new long-term contract but eventually that is going to be like tenure.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Pardon my cynicism but attract students with faculty? C’mon, the only things universities need to attract students is facilities and a reputation for being a fun place to party.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Elite colleges also have such an inbuilt reputation that the faculty doesn’t really matter that much. I suppose its possible but I never encountered anybody who wanted to go to a particular college because it employed a particular professor.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @north

        There are plenty of people who go to school to actually learn still.

        Though Lee might have point on the reputation of the schools that these students go to is what really draws them in. I still think even Harvard would take a blow if their entire faculty swapped every 3-5 years.

        On a more economic viewpoint, it just seems more costly to do 3-5 year contracts. You can extend that reopens negotiations and if those fail, you have to scramble to find a new faculty member on a short notice, etc. Classes might need to be cancelled and then students are angry because they are not graduating on time.

        At-will can end at anytime but it can also theoretically last for a long time.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I still think even Harvard would take a blow if their entire faculty swapped every 3-5 years.

        On a more economic viewpoint, it just seems more costly to do 3-5 year contracts. You can extend that reopens negotiations and if those fail, you have to scramble to find a new faculty member on a short notice, etc. Classes might need to be cancelled and then students are angry because they are not graduating on time.

        Please note that mulit-year contract doesn’t necessarily mean that there will indeed be a “swap” every 3-5 years. Maybe the contract is renewed. Also, the prospect that negotiations might fail could be a sign in favor of renewing the contract.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      @rufus-f

      However, there is really nothing like multi-year contracts that provide for academic freedom as of yet in most places. How would they work? How long is multi-year? And how would they provide for academic freedom if the university could simply decide not to renew the contract when it’s up over the same sort of academic freedom issues written into those provisions?

      Those are really good questions, and I don’t have a lot of answers, although I think 3-5 years is a good ballpark for what my ideal world would call for. As far as protecting academic freedom, as well as freedom of speech (not, in my opinion, the same thing)? I’m not sure. Maybe in that case, I would support a faculty union to help ensure it. But at any rate, a 3-5 year contract provides some stability that the semester-by-semester adjunct doesn’t have, and such adjuncts have little to know formal protections for academic freedom anyway.

      I also suspect that the superstar professors, who publish a major monograph every 4 years and who attract all the grad students, will be well taken care of when their contract comes up for renewal.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Out of all the government functions that people want to privatize, prison, police, and judicial functions are the most mysterious. The history of private justice tends to be really bad and isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of privatizing the police and judicial functions of the state. At least government courts, police, and prison are theoretically limited by the Bill of Rights on how they can treat suspects and the accused. Private police won’t even have theoretically limitations besides what their clients are willing to pay for.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Is there really much advocacy for privatized judiciary or police?Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      There is a lot of support for privatizing law enforcement among the hardcore libertarian set. Personally, I’ve never seen the point. It’s just a reset, of sorts. Most of our present structures began as informal or private and over time evolved into something official. There’s no reason to think that this wouldn’t happen again.

      At the same time, I cannot really understand the progressive bugaboo for private prisons. What exactly are private prisons doing that public prisons are not? Yes, private prisons often lobby for criminal justice provisions in service of their bottom line, but so do law enforcement personnel and prison guards and their unions and the politicians at the top of the whole shitty system.

      The whole civil forfeiture industry should be proof enough that private jails and prisons are not some singular evil that stand apart from the general evil of the whole of law enforcement and corrections.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to j r
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        says:

        JR, the specter of lobbying for the government to make more prisoners was very distinctly a private prison phenomena. Yes in theory a public sector guard union could have done the same but it wasn’t much of a thing until prisons were privatized. Note that a public prison is in no danger of going out of business and that eliminates pretty much the only incentive a public prison guard union has to lobby for more prisoners. All else being equal a public prison guard union would like to see a half full prison- easier to manage. It’s once privatization enters the picture and jobs are actually in peril if business isn’t drummed up that the incentives really warp. Especially since, in addition to the union, you also now have a private prison company jingling a purse.

        Also note that on a humanitarian scale privatization gets really grotesque. Public prisons at least vaguely hand wave at rehabilitation and humane standards. Private prisons would cut prisoners beaks off and store them in breadbox sized stacked cages if they could. Prison privatization was a very arch neoliberal thing and it was a very neoliberal failure- which, I add, is why many neoliberals aren’t in favor of it any more.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r @north

        I don’t think most people spend much time thinking about whether prisons and law enforcement should be privatized or not. This allows companies to sweep in privatize while no one is looking. Usually they do so by promising that privatization will not cost taxpayers a dime. This often gets critiqued as the rise of “poverty capitalism” because it just creates another unbreakable lock in the many things that keep people poor:

        http://www.npr.org/series/313986316/guilty-and-charged

        People are being charged for their constitution rights. This is a disgrace. And absolute disgrace.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r @north

        This is the logical conclusion of decades on how taxes are evil. Government still needs to get money from other sources:

        http://www.chicagoappleseed.org/the-coming-fees-crisis-poverty-capitalism-in-the-courts/Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r

        I agree with @north here, not surprisingly, but I will add that I don’t find privatized prisons to be the “singular evil that stand apart from the general evil of the whole of law enforcement and corrections.” Of course, I went out of my way to say I oppose it (and not other aspects of the criminal justice system), so it’s fair to call me out for privileging my opposition to it in my list of policy preferences.

        But rest assured, I do believe our criminal justice system fails on so many levels. And in theory, I’ll even agree with the suggestion a while back in other threads (I forget if it was from @saul-degraw or from @leeesq ) that ideally, we could be more like the Scandinavian systems. I don’t think that’s particularly possible as a practical matter, but I can dream.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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        says:

        Private prisons are a progressive bugaboo because they create uniquely perverse incentives. The more prisoners, the more money a private prison makes. This creates too many incentives to increase the number of people in prison in order to maximize profits. There is also the issue of prisoners in private prison being used as a source of cheap or slave labor for corporations when the jobs could be held by non-convicts for higher wages. The entire incident in Pennsylvania with the kids getting put into jail by brought judges sums up all liberal fears about private prisons.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        JR, the specter of lobbying for the government to make more prisoners was very distinctly a private prison phenomena. Yes in theory a public sector guard union could have done the same but it wasn’t much of a thing until prisons were privatized.

        Private prisons are a progressive bugaboo because they create uniquely perverse incentives. The more prisoners, the more money a private prison makes. This creates too many incentives to increase the number of people in prison in order to maximize profits.

        This is exactly what I’m talking about, the claim that perverse incentives with regards to prisons are mostly a function of privatizing prisons and not almost entirely a function of prison itself. That narrative, however, is demonstrably false. For one thing, private prisons only house somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand of the close to two million people in state and federal prisons. And private prisons are themselves the result of an overcrowding trend that begun well before there was any private prison to lobby for more incarceration and tougher sentencing.

        Also, private prisons have been a thing for only about the last twenty years or so, yet take a look at this LA Times article from 1994: http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-06/magazine/tm-19528_1_prison-guard

        The Big House That Don Novey Built : WORKING THE PR, SPREADING BIG BUCKS, A CANNY UNION BOSS DEMANDS MORE PRISONS AND TOP PAY FOR HIS GUARDS

        Novey has taken a small, listless public employees union and forged it into one of the most powerful political organizations in the state. He and the guards union pour millions of dollars into political campaign coffers. And, to the dismay of critics, they get results. For instance, the union helped put Republican Pete Wilson in the governor’s office in 1990, spending nearly $1 million. In 1992–the most recent year for which data is available–the union’s political action committee contributions to candidates were topped only by those from the powerhouse California Medical Assn. And the guards’ largess wasn’t restricted to Republicans that year. Its $60,000 contribution to the war chest of Democrat Willie Brown, the flamboyant and influential speaker of the Assembly, was the seventh-largest during his ’92 reelection race.

        Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r

        the claim that perverse incentives with regards to prisons are mostly a function of privatizing prisons and not almost entirely a function of prison itself. That narrative, however, is demonstrably false

        I can sign on to that, and most of what you say in the following sentences. But I still oppose privatizing prisons.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to j r
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        says:

        For instance, the union helped put Republican Pete Wilson in the governor’s office in 1990, spending nearly $1 million.

        <sarcasm>How far we’ve come in 25 years.</sarcasm> I’m not saying that a million dollars won’t still get you some attention, but fairly hefty multiples of that are being spent on the Colorado governor’s race this year, a state with less than a seventh the population of California.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r
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        says:

        @j-r
        This is exactly what I’m talking about, the claim that perverse incentives with regards to prisons are mostly a function of privatizing prisons and not almost entirely a function of prison itself. That narrative, however, is demonstrably false.

        Everything you say is correct, however, private prisons add another perverse incentive to the table: In addition to a bunch of public employees that might want larger prisons and hence more people in jail, you also now have rich prison *owners* that want more people in jail.

        It doesn’t matter how perverse the incentives are to start with…add the ability to take massive profit (In addition to a bunch of salaries) out of it and it become worse.

        A powerful lobby with an idiotic goal in politics can do a lot of damage. A rich person with an idiotic goal in politic can do a lot of damage, I don’t know if it’s more or less than the lobby. But put them together with the same goal and you get even *more* damage.

        And it’s not helped by the way we proportion districts by population, because we consider prisoners when drawing them, even if they can’t vote. So there are districts that are huge prisons, and the guards and local people living off the prison, and, well, that’s a real state congressional district. Might even be a real federal congressional district.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Two forms of private judicial functions are arbitration and mediation. While one can rightly be skeptical of binding arbitration written into the fine print of lengthy consumer contracts, there is nothing inherently wrong with these methods when entered into voluntarily.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        The courts here are very positive about mediation. I think it is pretty wide spread trend. Alternative Conflict Resolution is growing whether done by mediators or judges. It takes pressure off of crowded court dockets and often leaves people with a settlement they are happier with. However any settlement still has to stand up and/or be approved by court. So it’s private in some sense but still has to exist within the courts.

        Mediation is a good thing. Mediators are wise and handy people. Not a coincidence but i used to do mediation in child protective matters.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        In the civil sphere possibly but in the criminal justice sphere definitely not. Law enforcement and the execution of judgment is a state responsibility.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Yes, the courts remain as a fallback, which surely strengthens the ADR structure by enhancing the incentive to seek a reasonable settlement. Which may not help when you’re dealing with unreasonable people, but, then, what does?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        in the criminal justice sphere definitely not. Law enforcement and the execution of judgment is a state responsibility.

        Not always rightly so, in my opinion. When someone harms me, it an offense against me, not against the state, no matter what the state–the coldest of all cold monsters–would have me believe.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I think the reason that the State takes over is because we want to avoid revenge as much as possible. I see the state taking over in criminal matters as trying to move away and prevent blood feuds and “eye for an eye” types of justice.

        Also private justice as a very ugly history in the United States with lynching. How do you allow for private criminal justice actions while also trying to prevent mob rule and lynchings?

        Many lynchings were done against the wrongfully accused but some or many were probably done against people who were guilty of the crimes they were accused of and this does not make the lynchings more right.

        And you have a right to a civil action against your attacker even as the state pursues their case against the criminal defendant.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        To be fair, I totally support arbitration between equal parties and as a voluntary agreement. I do not support binding arbitration in contracts of adhesion.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        What Saul said. Private justice tends to get messy and bloody fast. By making criminal justice a strictly state responsibility you avoid this. If the victim is unsatisfied, they can pursue an action in tort. Many criminal offenses have a counterpart in tort.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @james-hanley @saul-degraw @leeesq

        There’s a lot I don’t know about binding arbitration, but I’m not prepared to say it’s presumptively wrong, even when it’s between unequal parties or in situations where choice is less voluntary than we’d like it, like contracts of adhesion.

        Perhaps the civil law system offers really good remedies for the various kinds of harms that, say, a credit card company or an employer might do to the less powerful person. And the less powerful person could theoretically secure legal representation and get a hefty damages payment. And getting that payment would yield the double good of compensating for specific injuries and proving a disincentive to others from harming people. All to the good.

        But the civil law system has some real drawbacks for the less powerful person. They seem like more of a crap shoot to me. Lawyers are expensive. Maybe contingency lawyers would cut the cost to the plaintiff, but I doubt all cases are equally attractive to such lawyers. Civil cases, if there’s not a compromise, can last years. Also, civil cases are public affairs. If I sue my employer and the suit goes far enough, the case is theoretically Googleable, which means that when I apply for a job and a prospective employer Googles my name, he/she will see I’m the type of person “who sues his boss.”

        So maybe in some cases, binding arbitration is a way to get a half-loaf, or a quarter-loaf instead of the iffy prospect of getting a whole loaf. In that sense, binding arbitration probably reaffirms wrongs that would be better resolved in open court, via tort and other law, but it does seem to bring opportunities for the less powerful person that civil law doesn’t seem to offer.

        How about a compromise situation. We could still permit arbitration and call it “provisionally binding.” In a contract of adhesion or in an employer/employee situation, we could identify the more powerful subject (the cc company, or the employer) and state they are bound by the arbitration result. The less powerful subject (the cc holder or the employee) can appeal to the civil courts, but would bear an additional burden of having to demonstrate the “provisionally binding” arbitration decision was unfair or inequitable. (There may be equal protection problems with that, inasmuch as it creates certain classes of subjects that have different rights/prerogatives in the courts. But I wonder if that could resolve at least some of Saul’s and Lee’s objections.)Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I should stress that I wrote my last comment about civil law and not criminal. When it comes to criminal, I share Saul’s and Lee’s concerns. But I’d like to hear James flesh out what he means before I decide whether I agree with him or not.

        If he is only saying that some things are considered crimes–offenses against the state or against society–that ought not to be, then I’m probably on board, at least theoretically (depending on what we’re identifying as crimes). But he seems to be saying something instead of, or at least in addition to, that. Is he saying that a lot of crimes against persons are better resolved through the civil court system? or that they’re better resolved through private mediation or arbitration? If so, then I’d have to chew on that idea. I’d certainly agree in some cases, such as the “criminal breach of contract” laws that were used to coerce people into long-term labor agreements in the South early in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

        But if someone criminally wrongs me, I may not have the resources to marshal my own civil suit, but the state might. And maybe relying on criminal enforcement edges too dangerously to the point of empowering the state to pick on people.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @james-hanley : Not always rightly so, in my opinion. When someone harms me, it an offense against me, not against the state, no matter what the state–the coldest of all cold monsters–would have me believe.

        This only works if you view the state as some alien other imposing its will on the people, like the Cardassians occupying Bajor, rather than acting as an agent for the people collectively.

        Sometimes the offense is against you personally, like some kind of dispute with a neighbor. Other times it’s clearly against the state as a corporate entity — think Cliven Bundy. But most crimes aren’t like either of those situations. It’s somebody doing something bad that they shouldn’t ought to do and the victim had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, if someone is driving drunk and slams into your car it’s not as if he was aiming for you personally. And all the other people who could have potentially been struck by the cretin have an interest in seeing him punished as well as other cretins hopefully being deterred from engaging in similar behavior.

        Even in the case of someone targeting you specifically he’s still proving himself as someone capable and willing to engage in that sort of behavior and so we all have an interest in seeing punishment and the appropriate agent for that is the state.

        Perhaps this logic would be more palatable to you if you substitute “community” for “state.”Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I should say that although I probably disagree with James here, he did say “not always” and not “always.” (I should have acknowledged that in my own comment, too.)Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I acknowledge that as well but I spent the bulk of my post addressing the situations which he would seem to be talking about.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Fair enough. And your examples were pretty good, too.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I find it curious that people automatically jumped to assuming vigilante justice. It wasn’t the court system that I critiqued–it was the idea that the state had been harmed instead of the individual.

        One could take that David Friedman’s route and argue for private law enforcement and courts (although I wouldn’t–I think such things would inevitably become de facto states, and eventually de jure ones), or one could just say we use the existing court system but treat more–maybe most?–offenses as against the victim rather than the state. I’m not sure what that would look like in practice, but there is a significant theoretical/philosophical distinction between saying “the state vs. James Hanley” and “John Smith vs. James Hanley.”

        (And of course some perps have no means for compensating victims, while others can terrify victims into not pursuing a case, so one can certainly argue the state should at least play a backup role there.)

        This only works if you view the state as some alien other imposing its will on the people, like the Cardassians occupying Bajor, rather than acting as an agent for the people collectively.

        Fallacy of the excluded middle. The democratic state is neither some alien other nor the agent of the people collectively.
        1. We all know some people are far more represented than others.
        2. Collectives are constructs, not entities–they have no mind, so they can have no will.
        3. The accurate aggregation of the will (preferences) of the various individuals within the collective is an impossibility, both in theory and in practice.
        4. Even were these problems overcome, there would still be a principal-agent problem.

        So while, no, a democratic government is not an alien power like the Dutch ruling Indonesia, it is also not synonymous with “the people,” or “the collective will,” or “the community.”

        And all the other people who could have potentially been struck by the cretin have an interest in seeing him punished as well

        That sound superficially reasonable, but underneath it lies the spectre of punishing people for hypothetical outcomes. But even if we set that aside, we’re still talking only about a subset of the whole people, and I haven’t argued that a subset of the whole can’t share a particular interest. And, as @gabriel-conroy noted, I didn’t say “always.” As a pragmatic matter, even someone from my perspective could argue that when “enough” people are at risk and individual enforcement is ineffective, then it’s appropriate for the state to enforce.

        Perhaps this logic would be more palatable to you if you substitute “community” for “state.”

        It must have been a long day of driving if you thought that might work for me! 😉
        1. The community is also a collective, with all the problems mentioned above.
        2. Communities don’t make decisions, their local governments–the state, or at least an arm of the state-does.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        (And of course some perps have no means for compensating victims, while others can terrify victims into not pursuing a case, so one can certainly argue the state should at least play a backup role there.)

        Isn’t that the system we already have, to a large extent? A victim presses charges, perhaps in part because he/she doesn’t have the resources to secure a liable verdict in a civil suit. Don’t police/the state generally defer as a matter of practice to the victims’ wish to press charges or not?

        Now, my understanding comes from years of watching cop dramas, so maybe it’s skewed by a quasi-idealized sense of the way the law probably works, but maybe does not.

        I guess my question is, what are some examples of disputes that ought to be treated, at least in the first instance, more as a civil suit and not a criminal suit?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        In domestic violence cases it is common for the state to press charges regardless of what the victim wants. This is done to take the pressure off the victim and make them less susceptible to intimidation. Of course that isn’t perfect by any means but it does prevent a fair number of charges going away simply because the anger of the moment passed.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @greginak

        Thanks. I didn’t even think of/know about that.Report

  8. Avatar ScarletNumbers
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    says:

    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.

    I don’t see how teachers unions are part of the problem.

    Can you elaborate on that?Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to ScarletNumbers
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      says:

      @scarletnumbers

      Here is where/how they might be, but I’m open to conceding the point. First, unions as others have pointed out above, are their primarily to protect their members’ interests as workers. Teachers unions are their to protect their teachers first and foremost in their capacity as workers: to secure higher wages, better benefits, etc. Very often, that interest as workers coincides with the teachers’ professional obligation and commitment to teach and look after the best interests of their students. But not always. And sometimes, if they teach in a financially strapped school district or city, higher wages might take away from money that could be spent on students.

      The example I have in mind is the Chicago Teachers Union and its recent strike to secure the pay raise even though the city probably couldn’t afford it. I don’t fault the CTU for seeking a pay raise. That’s it’s job, reinforced by the fact that Illinois law, as I understands it, forbids the CTU to try to negotiate for other things that might actually help students directly. I also realize the CPS board is inept and tone death: they voted themselves a raise at about the time they pled a dearth of funds to honor a prior contracted raise. So the CTU is certainly not all the problem by a long shot. But it seems to make things worse.

      I also suspect that unions deny principals the flexibility they might need to discipline underperforming teachers. There are plenty of stories of arbitrary principals who go after people who are doing a good job, and I don’t want to deny that those teachers need protection. And I’m not opposed to tenure–which I understand at the high school level is more like a requirement to show cause for firing and not the lifetime almost guarantee that tenure represents at the university level. But my understanding is that some very bad apples are protected by the union. Not because the union is bad or even, but because it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

      Now, part of what I had said in the OP was that teachers’ unions could also be part of the solution. Maybe teachers’ unions can work out a way to focus more on their members’ interest in and commitment to teaching. I think any union leader who wants to do that to the exclusion of demanding yet another pay raise in a financially strapped district has her/his hands full. But maybe it can work.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumbers
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    says:

    I oppose the draft and I oppose compulsory national service and for the same reason in each case. It’s involuntary servitude.

    I don’t feel involuntary servitude is a good enough reason to oppose the draft.

    I am in favor of the draft because I feel the armed forces should be a representative cross-section of the demographics of this country (besides age). As it stands, the current US Army skews poor, rural, southern, and Christian. I feel that if the armed services represented this country as a whole, Washington would be much more judicious in its use.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to ScarletNumbers
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      says:

      @scarletnumbers

      Well, if it can be demonstrated that the draft is indeed involuntary servitude, then the draft has a huge 13th amendment problem on its hands. But my understanding is that the draft has been ruled legal–I don’t know the legal history behind it, but given that we’ve had the draft, even in peacetime, off-and-on since the 13th was ratified, I think I’m safe in assuming it’s been so ruled. Therefore, the courts are probably on your side when it comes to “involuntary servitude” not being much of a problem.

      As for the draft creating a representative cross-section of our country and about the salubrious effect such representativeness would have on the US’s use of the armed forces, I’m skeptical for the following reasons.

      First, it’s not clear to me that the representation skews in the way you suggest it does. I don’t have the numbers, but I imagine a lot of urban minorities are in the (skewed) mix as well, in addition to the “poor-rural, southern, Christian [read: evangelical?]” you mention. But since I don’t have a cite, either, I’ll leave that aside.

      Second, my sense is that almost any draft is corrupting and inegalitarian. To my knowledge, most of the drafts the US has implemented have had exceptions for certain favored populations, such as students, or conscientious objectors, or (at an earlier time) provisions for hiring “substitutes.” In addition to explicit exemptions, there is the possibility that someone might contest their induction, and might have a very good chance of doing so successfully, if they can secure good legal representation, and good legal representation is easier to come by if someone has enough of the ready to pay for it. But all that aside, with no exemptions and a strict regime that admits of no or very little legal objections, I suspect we’d still have a situation where the senator’s son or a relative of one of his or her closest 100 friends can get a more favorable, less dangerous position in the military.

      Is all that inevitable? I believe it is, or at least super-likely.

      Third, I question the notion that by conscripting a diverse enough array of people, the congresspersons and presidents will be more judicious in their use of the military. I question it because 1) judicious use of our military doesn’t seem to have been in evidence when we had the draft and 2) it’s kind of a cruel experiment to say, we’ll draft all these different people on the chance that it’ll encourage our representatives to be wiser. Those two reasons, I admit, are both speculative, and the first is partially undercut by my first and second claim in this long comment about how representative things are/were/could be. But I am a bit skeptical.

      All that said, I realize your position is shared by many, and although I strongly disagree with it. I can’t dismiss it out of hand.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        Just as I can’t dismiss yours, even though I don’t agree with it.

        As for your use of the phrase “involuntary servitude”, I had forgotten it appears in the 13th amendment. My mistake. However, by definition someone who is drafted isn’t being forced into involuntary servitude. Otherwise the draft would be illegal.

        most of the drafts the US has implemented have had exceptions for certain favored populations, such as students

        This is true. I would end the student deferment, or at least limit it to the current semester. No more perpetual student deferments.

        I suspect we’d still have a situation where the senator’s son or a relative of one of his or her closest 100 friends can get a more favorable, less dangerous position in the military.

        This is a very good point and I feel this would be a problem that would be very difficult to get rid of. I would still rather have a Fortunate Son* serve in an “easy” position in the military as a draftee, rather not be in the military at all.

        *The CCR song of this title was written about David Eisenhower, who was both the grandson of a former president and the son-in-law of a president-elect.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        A few years ago on American Idol, this bouncy teenage girl sang Fortunate Son, totally upbeat and with a big grin on her face (video). Obviously nobody involved with the show had bothered to tell her what the lyrics meant, and she was too young to know. I still burn with rage when I remember it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        It sounds like she was celebrating that she *wasn’t* one those fortunate sons. Which is a bit weird. For a singer. Of that song.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        A friend of mine always sings Fortunate Son at karaoke.

        Whenever he can get back here because he has leave from the Army, that is. But he’s aware of what the song means and the irony.

        There are all sorts of songs that are sung oddly and out of context. It annoys me when ‘Cabaret’ from Cabaret is sung in an actual upbeat manner. That is not a happy song, dammit. It’s supposed to be sung with a painted-on smile and dead eyes.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        Just to be clear, I would rather have the Fortunate Son serve an “easy” position than not serve at all.

        @davidtc

        It annoys me when ‘Cabaret’ from Cabaret is sung in an actual upbeat manner.

        In the revival of Cabaret, Alan Cumming sings it in such a manner. Then again, his version of the Emcee is a bit more over-the-top than Joel Grey’s.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        @davidtc

        In the interest of accuracy, the name of the song is “Willkommen”.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        @scarletnumbers

        I just noticed your response just now. First, I didn’t know that about the CCR song. And while I, too, “would still rather have a Fortunate Son [citation omitted] serve in an ‘easy’ position in the military as a draftee, rather not be in the military at all,” it’s still an unfair situation and calls to mind the spectacle in the 1980s and 1990s over which politicians had and hadn’t used special influence to get into the coast guard instead of the more dangerous branches of the military. It’s still unfair.

        Second, this,

        However, by definition someone who is drafted isn’t being forced into involuntary servitude. Otherwise the draft would be illegal.

        needs to be proved. I find it difficult to state that the draft, “by definition,” is not involuntary servitude. It is, after all, a policy that compels people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t choose to do, and that something is often life threatening. Now, I admit, the draft is not the textbook definition of involuntary servitude. Chattel slavery is. But it’s not slam out of the ballpark, either. It’s not taxation, or jury duty, or the health insurance mandate, or energy-saving light bulbs, or fair-share dues payments. To me, the draft is close enough to the line that its defenders at least need to demonstrate that it’s not involuntary servitude. (That is, if they feel the need to convince me at all. If they don’t, then I guess they don’t bear that burden.)Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to ScarletNumbers
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      says:

      We want the government to do X, so we can use you as a human sacrifice to achieve that.

      That doesn’t strike me as good moral logic.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Government is what we choose to do together. Under penalty of law, when necessary. Otherwise, we can’t get everybody to all do it together.

        (I say this, but I am not 100% opposed to a draft. Under the right circumstances, anyway. Which I don’t see anything approaching necessitated at present.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Government is what we choose to do together.

        No, Will. I’m going to say that’s not even close. We do any number of things together without government. Government is a means–although not the only one–of forcing others to do what we want them to do.

        Telling ourselves that it’s what “we” “choose” “together” is how we pretend that we’re not forcibly dominating others.

        Or if I may use some examples, we incarcerate black men at much higher rates than white men for the same crimes. If that’s what “we” choose to do together, then black men must be choosing that, too. “We” chose together to deny gay people the right to marriage, so gay people must have chosen that, too.

        I find those examples nonsensical, and think it’s much clearer to say that “we” don’t in fact makes these choices–someone, or some subset of us, makes these choices, but they only amount to “we” if some folks are defined out of the “we.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I probably should not have switched from sarcasm to earnestness in the same same comment, parentheses or no..

        The juxtaposition of “we choose” and “under penalty of law” (and “can’t get everybody”) was meant to signify the contraction more than it apparently did.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        If human sacrifice saves even one life, it’s a worthwhile policy.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        I think your issue is using “moral” and “logic” together.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        “We want the government to do X, so we can use you as a human sacrifice to achieve that. ”

        OK I will take the bait.

        If we make the statement- “We want the government to do X, so we can compel you to do Y” seems a bit more accurate of a comparison.

        Or is the argument that any form of coercion is illegitimate, equal to human sacrifice?

        It just seems like “coercion” is being used as a trump card against legitimacy, some inviolable line against which nothing can venture. I don’t think that withstands even the simplest moral test.

        Property itself is coercively defined, and collectively defended. Without some logic by which we can separate legitimate coercion from illegitimate, the argument itself collapses into absurdity.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @lwa-liberal-with-attitude

        Do you suspect that I equate every conceivable demand of the state with death?

        If your answer is “no,” then you’ve answered your own question.

        If your answer is “yes,” then further conversation with you is pointless.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to ScarletNumbers
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      says:

      I don’t think it’s seriously possible to dispute the fact that the draft is a kind of involuntary servitude. But that may very well be the best reason to have one, at least as opposed to an all-volunteer, standing army.

      It seems to me that at least one cogent argument against the use of drones is that it makes military adventurism too cheap and therefore too easy to justify. I have to wonder — and I’m not claiming to know the answer — whether the all-volunteer force might feed into the same dynamic. After all, you can excuse casualties on the basis that they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. It also seems to me that a large part of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era consisted of draft-eligible folks, quite rationally, chanting “hell no, we won’t go!”

      Now you can certainly object that the existence of a draft didn’t prevent us from going into that war, nor was the anti-draft sentiment sufficient to end our involvement (being stuck in a losing quagmire did), but the opposition was strong enough to effectively end the draft once we had pulled out. It left a really bad taste in our collective mouth.

      Now we’re apparently in an era where going to war, in reality if not in actual name, is cheap and easy-peasy. Sometime during the Iraq war one of the leading Dems — I want to say Charlie Rangel — floated a proposal for a small war surtax. It went nowhere really fast. Apparently the idea of shared sacrifice in times of national crisis, which is what that war was sold to us as, is no longer au courrant among the war hawks.

      War shouldn’t be easy and it shouldn’t be cheap — for anyone. It should mean telling people who don’t want to fight to pick up a gun and telling people who don’t want to pay for shit to pony up. And if you can’t make that fly then apparently the cause isn’t sufficiently dire.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s at least possible that a conscripted army may be used more wisely than an all-volunteer one. I don’t think that’s the case, and as you point out, having a conscripted + volunteer army didn’t prevent the US from entering Vietnam (but again, if I’m honest, there were other issues at play in the early 1960s that led to intervention, too. And once intervention has happened, it’s hard to pull out, conscripts or no conscripts).

        But let’s assume that having conscripts might indeed enwisen policymakers when it comes to interventionism. Conscription still has the problem of compelling people to do something they would otherwise choose not to do. And that something often–not always, but often–involves participating in a life-endangering endeavor, and even if the fact of conscription makes policymakers wiser on the margin, they will still authorize such endeavors.

        The “shared sacrifice” argument works very well, in my opinion, when it comes to things like war surtaxes. But some also brought up that argument in their half-hearted gestures to bring back the draft. I say “half-hearted” because I don’t really believe most of them supported the draft but instead just wanted to embarrass Bush Jr. I’m all for embarrassing warmongers, but the argument that we need to force young men (and women) to bear a risk in the hope that forcing them to do so will teach the warmongers a lesson seems faulty.

        I admit you weren’t going that far. In your comment you weren’t advocating for the draft in Iraq. And as I read your comment, you weren’t even advocating for the draft per se. You were simply suggesting that a conscripted army might be used more wisely than an all-volunteer one.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not sure if “more wisely” is what I’m aiming at here so much as “well-supported publicly.” There’s a libertarian argument that I find attractive that asserts that any conflict truly worthy of engagement with attract enough volunteers that a draft isn’t necessary. And yet that theory seems to have failed as well in the case of Iraq. Then again, many have noted that the Bush administration, in reality if not officially, engaged in a kind of backdoor draft by not allowing soldiers to leave at the end of their enlistment contract (yes, the contract has that provision).

        The other thing about a volunteer force is that it’s just better, higher quality, more professional. That sorta cuts both ways. On the one hand, all else being equal, if we’re gonna fight winning beats losing. But again, does it make the decision to fight too easy?

        Finally, there’s the issue that warfare, like practically everything else we do, has become much less labor intensive thanks to technology. Perhaps the draft as a deterrent or at least an element of the decision matrix is an idea lost to time.

        As you may have surmised I’m not categorically opposed to military action. But akin to the Clintonian formula for abortion as “safe, legal, and rare” I want it winnable, well-justified — or at least well-supported — and rare. And I guess I’m just thrashing about, quite likely in futility, for some structural formula to make that more likely.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        any conflict truly worthy of engagement with attract enough volunteers that a draft isn’t necessary. And yet that theory seems to have failed as well in the case of Iraq.

        I don’t understand this. It seems to rely on the assumption that the invasion of Iraq was “truly worthy of engagement.” Am I reading you wrong, or do you think it was?Report

  10. Avatar Alan
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey Fellas…If, horriby it was found that a college had installed an underground Apparatus much like a hamster wheel, and was secretly forcing illegal immigrants to power it, and live in the same space. Like the company towns of the twenties, these people found themselves into ever increasing debt for various misdeamenors, such that most would likely be stuck there for decades.

    If that were discovered to be occuring, I suspect that you all would find it fascinating, and would spend months or years arguing about it…hopefully to some future benefit…

    It’s hard to predict what all would transpire following such a discovery…But one thing is certain: that hamster wheel would be closed and locked down the same day it was discovered, and probably removed and buried within 3 days (the colleges are quite snappy about dispatching scandals I’ve noticed)…

    Well…on the student loan issue- while I don’t dispute that the next system for financing college is important, but to do so in a way that neglects the fact that millions of people are being hurt horribly by it in a manner that involves fraud, deception, ommisions of fact, and violations of good faith that rises nearly to the level of the exagerrated example above.

    Its fun, sexy, and possibly lucrative to be the guy whos plan wins the day, I know…but these are issues that have timescales on the order of years or even decades. The citizens cannot endure this much longer, and I would say the timescale is in months…not even years I suspect.

    So everyone here appears honorable, and should at least agree that whatever the future higher ed financing system might win the day…we absolutely MUST under ALL circumstances, return at a minimum, the standard bankruptcy protections whose removal no one can defend. If I am wrong, please show me why.

    If ai am right, I would say that you all, who clearly have some sort of heft in your real worlds on this issue, have a duty to pipe up within Academia, and make sure that that, at least happens? I would think that this would be as natural a thing for honorable, informed gentlemen like yourselves to do as holding the door for someone.

    David Brookes spent quite a few minutes badmouthing the Occupy Wall Street crowd back in the day, he held nothing back…to the point where one would swear that he believes them to be suffering from “inequality” (note the lack of qualifier). Never theless, at the end of his diatribe, he said “but yknow….student loans really should be treated the same as all other loans as far as bankruptcy goes” (or something to that effect).

    The borrowers are pinned under the wheel, you guys are there, close enough to touch them. Do you really mean to tell me that you can’t be bothered to assist in lifting the bus off their heads. because you are busy determining a better color for its next paintjob?Report

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