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AvatarComments by greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon*

On “Sometimes We’re Wrong

I agree. I am a liberal but I have no delusion that my beliefs have the answer to every problem. In fact I am sure they don't. We need multiple competing ideas/ideologies. And this is why I think the repub party, and many conservatives, are intellectually dead. They start with their solutions(values) , insist they are completely correct and that every problem bend to their fixes.

On “Understanding Markets

But education is fundmentally different then pizza which is why applying the same kind of market analysis doesn't work. Pizza, while a clear good, is not a public good. If teh pizza parlor goes out of business taht is bad for that owner but doesn't affect teh community in a substantive manner. Schools as a public good can't be allowed to go out of business since there is no excess capacity at other schools to pick the students and would leave a community unserved. The "law of economics" around public goods are just different then around consumer goods.


You covered a lot of ground in this post. In terms of the economics section, I always puzzled by the idea of "laws" of econ. At best there are various concepts based on theories. Laws are for physics and math. Economics is to based in political ideas to have true laws. I can't count how many times i have heard people say the Big O's stimulus doesn't make any theoretical sense and isn't based on econ 101. Well you can disagree with the stimulus but Keynesian economics is in the text book and an accepted, if not always agreed with theory.

People do have a way of having input how schools teach their children. Drum role please.... schools boards....ta da. Okay school boards are drab and unfun but, to the loss of us all, Texan creationists have found a way to use them.

But keeping with the econ ideas relating to schools. If I am the principle of a large poorly functioning school and a bunch of kids leave my school to go to other schools through vouchers, the message is far from clear. Did the kids leave my school because of poor teaching or because the text books were 15 years old and i don't have the money to buy more. Did they leave because of gang violence , which as an externality is out of my control or because of a lack of upper level elective classes? Did they leave because schools in poor districts have a chaotic, transient student population or because the teachers are burnt out? Messages are not always clear nor is information always complete.

But to go off on somewhat of a tangent, i am not completely against some kind of vouchers as long as they don't go to paying for religious education. But as you point out, the cost of entering the "education market" is high, so there are few alternatives. So vouchers at most will help at the margins but don't offer enough choice to a massive affect on schools. However implementing vouchers on a massive scale will likely be ineffective due to scaling problems, funding problems and because voucher programs haven't been found to have a large positive affect.

On “Abortion IS subject to the democratic process!

Jay- Do they track the sex of aborted fetuses???


uhhh yeah Dave, if i get your point. Yes i think I and most liberals can tell the difference just fine. However i am not egotistical to think that everybody will think the same way i do. And because somebody disagrees with me does not mean they don't understand or believe in the constitution. People are always going to disagree about the constitution.

PS I actually do think abortion is a privacy issue protected by the constitution. I don’t think the 2nd amendment says there shouldn’t be background checks to buy a gun.


J- But what is the difference between telling you how to live and making laws you don't happen to like.

Taxation w/o rep- Just because we have representation doesn't mean we like what happens. There is no guarantee that our gov, at any level, will do what each individual wants. In fact living in a democracy will always result in people who don't like what is being done. That doesn't mean it is unfair/wrong/unconstitutional which gets back to freddie's comments up thread. The thing we have to separate among things we don't like is, what is unlawful/unconstitutional and things we just don't like.

I live in Alaska i can petition the hell out of my reps in Washington through the intertoobs, mail and phone. In this century being far away doesn't present the same restrictions on communication.


really jay, how does a national government relate to colonization? Are you really suggesting that living in a large nation is equivalent to being colonized? If you are then what is the distance (in miles or kilometers ) that separates a good, local gov from an evil oppressive colonizing government? And that would make our constitution and bill of rights a horribly evil instrument of colonization? And any enforcement of the constitution is colonization. Why are people far away some how acting as “our bettors” and locals all good and noble? It sounds like people who are far away are somehow inherently evil? Can’t people who don’t live near you be good people doing things for good reasons?


I still don't think Ross or others on his side have addressed the idea that the right to legal abortion is a privacy issue. States, towns, etc do not have the right to take away constitutional rights. If abortion foes want to come out and say they see no right to privacy in the constitution , which I think many do, then they should do so. And then take the heat from the right, middle and left that they know they would.

Viva 9th amendment baby!

On “Judging is Hard

I don't think it is controversial that courts, especially at an appeals level, involve themselves in policy. Cases that get appealed or to the Supremes do so because there is ambiguity in the laws or how to apply them. No legislature is ever going to come up 100% clear laws that cover every situation. So courts are there to interpret the law. Voters and legislatures can make laws to deal with issues, but until then somebody, the courts, have to rule on cases. And some of the issues judges deal with are narrow , persnickety issues that probably are best dealt with in the legal system.

The other associated issue is that courts, by protecting rights can stand in the way of an angry mob trying to oppress a minority. Conservative judges, like Roberts, Scalia, etc. tend to said with the powerful like business interests.

On “Misunderstanding Markets cntd.

mike- utopias are wonderful to believe in. How many of the c0untries that perform better then us in education have such a system? how many of them have strong public education systems?

On “A Lose-Lose: The Outing of Publius

Whining Whelen's excuse is even funnier given that the post Publius and others ripped him was for ignoring a basic reality( the supreme's do consider policy) that he , as a lawyer and former gov employee damn well knew.

He's projecting onto publius his own faults.

On “Misunderstanding Markets cntd.

Just to pick out one point in this debate. Exactly how many private schools are there for kids in most if not all harsh inner city environments to go to? Somewhere between zero and not a hell of lot. Ritzy private schools are usually far away from slums and gritty urban scenes, and for that matter rural poverty.

I grew up in suburban NJ and there were quite a few richy rich private schools. They were all in exclusive suburbs. It would have been extremely difficult if not impossible for kids in the various nasty inner city areas to go there.

There is just not as much choice in schools in reality as school choice proponents often suggest. And where there is there are often few slots for kids for distant areas.


Jay- FWIW- Some college programs actually impart a knowledge base that is needed for a profession. I know my “solid state school” ( we don’t even have a D1 football program) did at a undergrad and grad level. I not only could not have entered my profession without said knowledge but I have relied on it and the various other skills I learned in statist indoctrination camp college.


E.D.- You could also mention that there are many reasons why schools perform the way they do, aside from the actual school. Also choice is limited in schools from grade to HS, by location, transportation, etc. While i can choose whatever potato chip is in my market for the same cost of going to the store, school choice is limted by other factors.

Defenders of free markets as a cure all would be well served by trying to look at each situation as unique (like the real world) and assess what are the market factors in that specfic situation.

John-We could make college or trade school free or on a sliding scale depending on income to all who want to enter. That would solve the problem.

On “making things up, public education edition

Mike- I think teachers have an incentive to have good school. they want to feel like they do a good job. Incentives are more then about just money. Most of the teachers i have known, and especially those teaching in hard core poverty areas want to do a good job. They are working their butts off and want to see their kids do well. That is incentive.

I don't think a market analogy or solutions works that well because education is not potato chips. Most kids and parents want to go school in a place they know and with their friends. It is nice to open up schools for choice but it is not like buying a consumer product. How many kids and their parents are willing to travel long distances to go to a school where they don't know anybody and where they may be treated poorly based on stereotypes. A few will but most won't. The consumer in this case does not have a wide variety of choices with known quantities, but vastly limited choices that could have high costs and uncertainties.

Teachers, as a general statement, i think are open to new ideas. What they don't want is to get screwed and they want to have a voice in those choices. I am also not sure lack of innovation is the problem in our system. there are cultural factors ie: americans often view smart as equaling nerd, elitist dork, and a percentage of americans think the flintstones was a documentary.

There is quite a bit of research on what makes good schools. Smaller class size helps a lot for younger kids. Head Start works well. School lunches help hungry kids preform better , etc.


Mike- I recognize competition and the free market are the conservative miracle cure for everything, but many people don't actually think they always fix every problem. In fact education on a large scale doesn't seem to me to be that amenable to competition as a cure all. In fact starting with a solution without listing the specific problems seems backwards. Poverty ha been shown to have a powerful effect on school achievement, so any attempt at fixing schools in poor areas will have to aim at poverty. The Great Society programs of LBJ cut poverty rates drastically. Head Start, a government program, has been shown to improve school performance. However Head Start has been seriously underfunded under repub admins.


uhhh, yeah, like facts matter.

Amongst the stupid things critics of public education say is how they point to other countries where kids do better then ours. Yet those countries have public education. So they are in effect saying "Public education doesn't work and i can prove it by showing how effective public education is around the world." D'OH.

On “Anonymity

This was childish reaction by a buy , ed, who was pissed at having his crappy logic and questionable knowledge pointed out. It really doesn't take much to see why somebody might want to stay anonymous. And there is no good reason to out him. If eddie didn't like the criticism he should have responded to the substance instead of engaging in a petty personal attack.

On “al Obamaiya: The President’s Cairo Speech

Morning Joe wouldn't raise the average IQ in a room of 5th graders.

On “Doubling Down

Most on the pro-life side don't have a problem with the right to privacy since they don't seem to get the ideas involved. I would guess most people in general think there is an explicit right to privacy in the constitution and also don't see how legal aborotion in based on that right. The Right/ pro-life side is filled with those who want gov out of their life but have no problem controlling others.

"No, at root, the trouble with Roe and its progeny has always been that it drew an arbitrary line as to where personhood begins"

The court, or if it went to a legislature, would have to have specify some time before birth when to make abortion legal or not. Unless they made it completely legal or illegal. Distinctions have to made to create any sort of legislation. So this is not a problem, but just the ways laws are made. In Dred Scott they did not have to specify who was a person or citizen other then saying everybody is. It was only there racism they led them to even see the option of saying blacks weren't people.

On “Terror Talk

Damn misspellings, just assume all the words are spelled correctly. The government really should have saved me from a response with incorrectly spelled words.


I think there is quite a bit of info out there if people really want to dig into it. Unfortunetly soem of gets boiled down into partisan debates and scare tactics.

On “Flip a COIN

Good discussion of the topic. COIN is just brutally hard and risky and the neo-con's have never wanted to see or understand that.

The only issue i had with this is, you don't really discuss how success is defined which is always difficult in COIN situations. Democracy? Dead bad guys? Our own dictator? And what are the long term consequences of a successful COIN? While COIN can be won, sometimes, does that set up problems 20, 30, 40 years down the road. It is easy to find situations where empires were maintained in the short term, which just led to a worse break up down the road. It is not clear to me that a COIN situation is often worth the cost of fighting, given the risks and costs.

On “Corrugated Degree Factories

There is certainly an aspect to college as a way to get a better job. I spent a lot of today, sitting at my desk, not working all that hard, watching guys across the street ripping of a roof and starting to put it a new one on. While some of them may make good money that kind of work is hell on a body.

College does provide/build many useful work skills. But part of the college experience should IMHO be about becoming a better educated person. Now i know somebody is already thinking of saying that college or education does mean your are not a nit or know anything or are right. But education as an ideal is still worthy even if it not particularly popular. This is country where a significant number of people dislike experts, believe in creationism and berate smart people as elitist. So while college as a sort of trade school is fine, there should be more to it then that.

An organized body of study covering a wide field of ideas, led by others who have made the same journey, sounds like a pretty good way to get yourself learned.

On “faux serious introspection

To one of the godless, these arguments always sound like, how dare you have a different theological view. Yours is obviously wrong and you are a dunderhead for not seeing it. I respect Larrison, but I think he whiffs on this one. Then again abortion polarizes many people. Then again, again, criticizing the religion of Democrats is completely fair game.

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