The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Bottom Line

The first bottom line is that if you get pulled away from blogging to go to a meeting, make sure that you hit the "save draft" button, and not the "publish post" button. But, what's done is done, poor spelling and all.

The second bottom line is that I asked Jay for an overarching principle on the logic of the public school system, and he responded by claiming that lawn mowers suck, and should not be purchased at Wal-Mart. This may be a fine system for purchasing lawn mowers, but it doesn't really speak to the question at hand.

The fact of the matter is that the system I advocate created Snapper lawn mowers. The whole of American commerce does not take place at Wal-Mart, after all. Jay wrote:

I'm not suggesting that the feds, the state, the city, or anyone else start subsidizing lawnmowers. Whether or not I toss my cheap lawn mower when it breaks is of no concern to the greater community: Only a handful of people ever have to look at my lawn. But my child--well, I don't have children, so, let's say your child--if your child has had nothing but a disposable education, your child would be little more than a burden on society. Multiply that by the many tens of millions who cannot afford--or don't care enough to find--non-disposable education for their children, and you have not the greatest country in the world, but the dumbest.

But I never mentioned anything about subsidizing education, I criticized control of education and educational policy. I even advocated subsidies for poor families. I think that most people would agree that a government designed lawn mower would be a debacle. It would be similar to the days when we rented big heavy phones from the government and attaching an answering machine was illegal.

But I'm conceding too much here. Jay asserts that competition produces lousy lawnmowers. Even if that's true, it is still better than the alternative, but it is not true. Competition produces wonderful lawnmowers. They're easy to push, they have several settings for getting your lawn picture perfect, and as Jay states, (wrongfully in the negative) they're cheap.

If education had grown as fast in quality as televisions have over the past 30 years, we would likely be much smarter as a society. There is no reason that this cannot be.

Education is a service. Most people have, at some point, been wronged while dining at a restaurant. Perhaps the food was cold, or the waiter was rude, or a hair was found. Most restaurants will go out of their way to offer restitution for such transgressions, and they will generally reprimand (and sometimes fire) the responsible party. They do so because they care about getting your business back. It is how they make money. Services cannot afford to be "disposable." If they are, they will cease to exist as services, leaving their superior competitors to reap the rewards.

I'm still waiting for a reason to support public education. "We don't want tractor builders running our schools" isn't good enough. It misses the point. Competition, first and foremost, provides that which people want. People want disposable tractors, often for very good reasons. No one wants a disposable education, and competition would not provide such a thing.

And, as usual, it all boils down to Jay calling all of you stupid.


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