Good Schools Coming — in 10 or 20 Years (Maybe)

Kaya Henderson has gotten great reviews for her work as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. Test scores are up during her tenure, though not as much as the hype. But take a look at this vision in an article on her departure:

Henderson cautions that improving schools that had long struggled does not happen quickly. And even with the school reform efforts over the the past decade, it may still be another decade — or more — before anyone can declare something approaching victory.

“There will be a day when every school in the city is doing amazing work and you won’t have to enter a lottery, you literally could drop your kid off at any school and have them an amazing experience. I believe we’re within reach of that, probably sometime in the next 10 or 20 years,” she says.

Good schools “sometime in the next 10 or 20 years” – “probably”? Can you imagine a private-company CEO promising that his company would be good at its core business “probably sometime in the next 10 or 20 years,” after his retirement?

No wonder Albert Shanker, the first head of the American Federation of Teachers, said back in 1989:

It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: it more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.

Indeed, we have in each city in the United States an essentially centralized, monopoly, uncompetitive, one-size-fits-all school system that has been stagnating for more than a century. As I wrote in the book Liberating Schools,

The problem of the government schools is the problem inherent in all government institutions. In the private sector, firms must attract voluntary customers or they fail; and if they fail, investors lose their money, and managers and employees lose their jobs. The possibility of failure, therefore, is a powerful incentive to find out what customers want and to deliver it efficiently. But in the government sector, failures are not punished, they are rewarded. If a government agency is set up to deal with a problem and the problem gets worse, the agency is rewarded with more money and more staff — because, after all, its task is now bigger.  An agency that fails year after year, that does not simply fail to solve the problem but actually makes it worse, will be rewarded with an ever-increasing budget.  What kind of incentive system is this?  

This is ridiculous. Every form of communication and information technology is changing before our eyes, except the schools and the post office. It’s time to give families a choice. Free them from the monopoly school system. Give families education tax credits or education savings accounts. Make homeschooling easier. Let them opt out of the big-box school – and get their money back – and watch Khan Academy videos. 

Children spend 12 years in government monopoly schools. If they don’t get started right in the first couple of years, they’re running behind for life. It’s just not right to tell parents to wait 10 to 20 years for the tax-supported monopoly schools to start educating decently.

Posted on June 30, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Complicated Clinton Organization

Where did Hillary Clinton’s campaign get the “I’m with her” slogan that Donald Trump criticized last week? I saw this in the Washington Post:

Ida Woldemichael, a designer who came up with “I’m with Her” for the Clinton campaign,…is a graphic designer who worked for the Clinton Foundation before joining the campaign about a year ago.

Not that the Clinton Foundation is any kind of tax-exempt, dictator-supported, $2 billion advance team for the Clinton campaign.

Posted on June 27, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses nanny state regulations and Philadelphia’s soda tax on WHDT’s World News

Posted on June 24, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Chile’s Success Story on Television

A new documentary series, “Improbable Success,” looks at countries that have thrived by implementing free-market policies. The series is currently running on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which are found across the country, from WJLA in Washington, D.C., to KBFX in Bakersfield, California. (Sinclair stations are variously affiliated with all major networks.) This weekend, including at noon Sunday on WJLA, host Emerald Robinson will look at Chile’s economic growth since its reforms around 1980. Experts on the show include Jose Pinera, Ian Vasquez, and Richard Rahn, along with several Chilean entrepreneurs. Last week featured Estonia; next week, Switzerland. 

Jose Pinera with Emerald Robinson

Posted on June 17, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses libertarians v conservatives on Haus Rules with Michael Hausam

Posted on June 15, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Cuba, Venezuela, and the Eternal Shortage of Toilet Paper

Marketplace Radio takes a look at the challenge of filming movies and television shows in Cuba, focusing specifically on Showtime’s “House of Lies” starring Don Cheadle. The episode is titled “No es facil” – “It’s not easy.” The title appears to be a description of doing business in Cuba, and also of filming a show about doing business in Cuba. As Marketplace’s Adrienne Hill and show creator Matthew Carnahan explain:

Camera equipment was shipped from Germany because it couldn’t be sent directly from the U.S. Even basic supplies – “there’s not hammers and toilet paper, and things that people need.” 

Journalists have stopped reporting on the privations of socialism in Cuba. But Hugo Chavez was a great admirer of Fidel Castro and the society he built, and he wanted to give Venezuelans the same thing. And of course he did:

Venezuela’s product shortages have become so severe that some hotels in that country are asking guests to bring their own toilet paper and soap, a local tourism industry spokesman said on Wednesday….

Rest well, Comandantes Castro and Chavez, while your people dream of toilet paper. And hammers. And soap.

Posted on June 13, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

McConnell, Gingrich Differ over When Trump Must Start Being Civil

Following up on my comments Monday about Donald Trump “changing his tone,” I note that this week prominent Republicans are offering different timetables for Trump beginning to act like a leader instead of an angry score-settler.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, “My advice to our nominee would be to start talking about the issues that the American people care about and to start doing it now. In addition to that, it’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with or with various minority groups in the country and get on message. This election is eminently winnable.”

Note that, as I pointed out Monday, McConnell is not hoping for the 69-year-old Trump to change his actual character or his vast ignorance about public policy, just to “get on message” and listen to his campaign consultants. But he wants it done now.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker is a bit more lenient: “He’s got this defining period that’s over the next two or three weeks where he could pivot, can pivot, hopefully will pivot to a place where he becomes a true general election candidate.” Corker also refuses to say whether the candidate he supports is fit to be president.

Former speaker Newt Gingrich, perhaps remembering his own verbal stumbles, offers a much longer leash: “I am confident the Trump campaign, from the convention on, will be remarkably inclusive and will do much better with minorities than [Mitt] Romney did in 2012.”

So Gingrich gives Trump a full six weeks to start presenting himself as a serious, civil presidential candidate not focused on personal slights and ethnic insults. That’s very generous.

But as I wrote Monday, 

When Republicans say that Trump must change his tone, they are saying that they want him to conceal his character for the duration of the election. But he’s a scorpion, and they knew that when they picked him up.

Perhaps along with changing his tone, Trump could change his policy positions: Support free trade, not trade war; sensible immigration reform, not walls around America; religious liberty, not Muslim immigration bans and spying on mosques; fiscal responsibility, not more money for the military and for transfer programs. Now that would be an attractive pivot.

Posted on June 8, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

What Does It Mean to Ask Donald Trump to Change His Tone?

As Republicans fall in line behind Donald Trump, despite their misgivings, many of them are urging him to “change his tone” as he moves toward the general election. But is a change in tone sufficient or even honest?

Last Thursday, announcing his endorsement, Speaker Paul Ryan said, “It is my hope the campaign improves its tone as we go forward and it’s all a campaign we can be proud of.” Former Republican nominee Bob Dole says, “I can already see sort of a shift with Trump. He needs to start talking (like) he is about to be president.” Asked about Trump’s repeated comments that offend Hispanic voters, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says, “I hope he’ll change his direction on that.” Republican chair Reince Priebus says, “I think there’s work to do, and I think that there’s work on tone to do. I’ve been clear about that…. I think he gets it…I think you’re going to see the change in tone.”

But what does “change his tone” mean? These pleas don’t ask him to change his policies. He has proposed, among other things, building a wall on our southern border, deporting 11 million Mexican-Americans, banning Muslims from entering the United States, blowing up U.S.-China trade, forcing American companies to stop manufacturing products overseas, torturing suspected terrorists and killing their families, not touching entitlement benefits, ending our 200-year-old policy of birthright citizenship, “loosen[ing] up” libel laws to make it easier to sue newspapers, and much more. He has also supported, in the recent past, single-payer health care and the largest tax increase in world history. Are Republicans OK with those policies as long as Trump changes his tone?

He remains, as George Will puts it, an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man.” He insults Mexicans, women, disabled Americans, Muslim Americans, and so on. Are Republicans comfortable with that man having the nuclear codes, as long as he tones it down?

For the past 11 months Donald Trump has been making his character, temperament, and egotism very clear. I wrote in January that “not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign,” and that “he’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat,” and I have seen no reason to change that assessment. Indeed, I don’t think Trump’s endorsers disagree with it. They just seem to value party above the future of the republic and their own complicity.

There’s a folk tale that goes something like this: A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across the river. The frog is reluctant because he’s afraid the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion assures the frog that he would do no such thing, pointing out that then they would both drown. The frog agrees. As they are crossing the river, the frog feels a searing pain in his side. “What did you do that for?” the frog demands. “Now we’re both going down!” The scorpion replies, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.” 

When Republicans say that Trump must change his tone, they are saying that they want him to conceal his character for the duration of the election. But he’s a scorpion, and they knew that when they picked him up.

Footnote: If anyone reads this as an endorsement for Donald Trump’s principal opponent, they should check out my references to her in The Libertarian Mind.

Posted on June 7, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

#NeverTrump Republicans Have a New Choice

Not since the nomination of arch-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 have so many Republicans been so dissatisfied with the presumptive nominee of their party.

Almost all observers, including me, dismissed Donald Trump’s announcement of his presidential candidacy last summer as a stunt that would go nowhere. “Performance art,” I told friends. Then he started talking — he called Mexican immigrants rapists, disparaged John McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war, mocked a disabled reporter, called for a ban on Muslim immigration. With each new utterance, we assumed his campaign would tank.

We were wrong. Late in the game, Republicans took aim at him. National Review magazine gathered 22 writers for an “Against Trump” cover story. Sen. Marco Rubio #NeverTrump T-shirts on his campaign website. Gov. Rick Perry declared him “a cancer on conservatism.“ Gov.Bobby Jindal called him “substance-free,” a “power-hungry shark” and an “egomaniacal madman” in a 10-minute philippic.

Johnson-Weld could be most politically experienced third-party ticket ever.

Faced with Trump’s apparent triumph, many have come around. RubioPerry, and Jindal have all endorsed him. But a few conservatives and Republicans refuse to rally around a man they consider un-conservative, dangerous to the American republic and unfit to be president.

Most notably, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and outspoken Sen. Ben Sasse joined The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and activist Erick Erickson in searching for a serious conservative  to run a third-party campaign. They didn’t expect to win, but they believed such a candidate could keep conservative ideas alive and give #NeverTrump voters a reason to come to the polls and vote for Republican candidates for Senate and House of Representatives.

But three months after the third-party talk began, no serious independent candidate has stepped forward. Kristol, Erickson and others variously appealed to Romney, to Sasse, to former Sen. Tom Coburn, to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and to retired generals. No one was willing to take on the thankless task.

Still, over Memorial Day weekend, Kristol tweeted “There will be an independent candidate — an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” The world waited with bated breath. And then the name leaked: David French, a lawyer and writer for National Review. An intelligent conservative, to be sure, and quite possibly a better potential president than either Trump or Hillary Clinton. But he’s no Romney or Sasse, and he would have little prospect for raising big money or even getting on many state ballots, deadlines for which are rapidly approaching.

But something else also happened over Memorial Day weekend: The Libertarian Party gathered in Orlando and nominated two former governors: Gary Johnson of New Mexico for president and William Weld of Massachusetts for vice president. It’s an impressive ticket: two of the most libertarian governors in memory, with more public sector executive experience than either Trump or Clinton, the first ticket with two governors since the Republican campaign of 1948, perhaps the most politically experienced third-party ticket ever.

You’d think the #NeverTrump Republicans would shout “Hallelujah!” Yet they’ve been strangely quiet. Here are two former Republican governors, both re-elected in a Democratic state and a swing state, both with a record of accomplishment. And most specifically for the #NeverTrump crowd, both men of good character who are fit for public office and have thought seriously about public policy.

True, they’re not conservatives. They’re libertarians. Or at least libertarian-ish, as some more radical members of the Libertarian party grumbled. They both supported gay marriage even before many Democrats. Johnson wants to legalize marijuana — Weld supports legalization for medical use — both want to rethink the failed drug war. They’re pro-choice. And perhaps most galling to some conservatives and neoconservatives, Johnson wants a new foreign policy that rejects endless war and futile attempts at “nation-building.

Still, compared with the erratic and dangerous Trump and the self-proclaimed “government junkie” Clinton, the Johnson-Weld ticket seems like a no-brainer for principled conservatives and Republicans. They believe in limited constitutional government. They want to cut taxes, spending and regulation and eliminate unnecessary agencies. They support free trade and liberal immigration policies. They would be less likely to expand and abuse executive power than either Clinton or Trump. And if they can raise money, get serious media attention and make an impact in the polls, they can ensure that there’s still a political space for Americans who believe in less government and more freedom.

Time’s up for the NeverTrumpers. There’s not going to be a serious conservative third party. On November 8, they’re likely to find three names on the ballot: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Gary Johnson. They’ll have to choose.

Posted on June 3, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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