It’s Almost as If There’s a Moral Underpinning
Every now and then, patterns emerge from my scattershot reading habits. Here’s Jeff Jacoby on public education in America:
Americans differ on same-sex marriage and evolution, on the importance of sports and the value of phonics, on the right to bear arms and the reverence due the Confederate flag. Some parents are committed secularists; others are devout believers. Some place great emphasis on math and science; others stress history and foreign languages. Americans hold disparate opinions on everything from the truth of the Bible to the meaning of the First Amendment, from the usefulness of rote memorization to the significance of music and art. With parents so often in loud disagreement, why should children be locked into a one-size-fits-all, government-knows-best model of education? …
But we should be concerned. Not just because the quality of government schooling is so often poor or its costs so high. Not just because public schools are constantly roiled by political storms. Not just because schools backed by the power of the state are not accountable to parents and can ride roughshod over their concerns. And not just because the public-school monopoly, like most monopolies, resists change, innovation, and excellence.
All of that is true, but a more fundamental truth is this: In a society founded on political and economic liberty, government schools have no place. Free men and women do not entrust to the state the molding of their children’s minds and character.
A similar thread, it seems to me, runs through this snippet of Peter Robinson’s interview with Milton Friedman:
ROBINSON: Here’s the argument some economists make against a tax cut. Again, quoting Robert Solow: “Tax reduction, especially income tax reduction, fattens the disposable income of households. Most of it flows into consumption; only a small fraction is saved. The choice between debt reduction and tax reduction as ways of disposing of a budget surplus is mainly a choice between adding to investment and adding to consumption, between provision for the future and enjoyment today.” So, according to this argument, you cut taxes and all you’re going to do is enable the American people to go on a brief, giddy spree.
FRIEDMAN: It will enable the American people to do what the American people want to do, not what Bob Solow thinks they ought to do.
ROBINSON: But you’re making a moral argument, not an economic argument.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, that’s a moral argument, absolutely. Are there any other arguments? Fundamentally doesn’t it all come down to moral arguments? What’s an amoral argument?
I’m tempted to ask why the same people who believe that it is wrong “to impose my view” — as John Edwards put it in his own expression of asininity — believe that they can impose personal budgets. The answer’s too easy, though: They’re just fine with the government’s imposing views and budgets, and out of some delusion, they’re persuaded that they’ll be able to grab the reins.