Saturday, May 28, 2005

The right question is does freedom work?

I recently had a fascinating discussion about how to improve public education. An abbreviated excerpt starts with a quote: "A major study conducted by Boston College researchers shows Europeans are the world's best mathematics and physics students at the high school level, and that their American counterparts perform well below the international average in both subjects."

To which the unexpected reply was "It's astonishing how those Socialist, far less religious countries, can have better educational systems isn't it?"

Me: "American public education is a socialist system. That's the problem."

Him: "So facts are irrelevant. You just hate public education on 'principle'."

Me: "The facts aren't irrelevant. Our socialists are not as good as European socialists. That is a fact."

Him: "So it all boils down to your irrational fear of the government. Who do you think runs the local government schools?"

Me: "There is no irrational fear of government. Individuals making their own decisions will make better decisions than some centralized group making decisions on their behalf. We have an obligation to provide the resources for every child to have an education. Given the resources taxpayers allocate to education, parents will make better decisions about what is in the best interest of their children than some central committee. The right question is does freedom work?"

Him: "Seems like the socialist systems in other countries are can it be socialized education that is the problem...central committee stuff works pretty well in these other countries."

Me: "This isn't about proving that markets work. Every day of your life you experience the reality that when consumers have choices quality goes up and costs go down. When consumers don't have choices the opposite happens. You understand that."

Him: "I disagree with your view that Americans can't do anything well unless a private corporation profits."

Me: "You really have a distain for the free market. You don't believe freedom works, so you have to control the decisions that parents would otherwise make in the best interests of their children."

Him: "No I don't."

Me: "You can not claim you believe freedom works, and then turn around and say you do not trust people to make decisions about their own lives and the lives of their families. You either believe freedom works, or you believe the state has to make decisions on behalf of people because they will not make wise choices for themselves."

Him: "The error in your thinking comes from the belief you seem to have that public schools are not run by individuals. By using the word "state" over and over, you ignore the fact that these are real Americans just like you and I, running these schools. They are parents and citizens just like everyone else."

Me: "You want to believe that freedom works, though you are not sure what is wrong with socialism. And you argue that public education is based on freedom, but you don't trust parents to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children."

Him: "It's only your assertion that socialism and freedom are not compatible. A socialized system such as public schools is run by the citizens who use the system. Nothing could equate freedom more than such a system."

Me: "Socialism and freedom are mutually exclusive. The more you have of one the less you have of the other."

Him: "Thanks for continuing to present your nonsensical assertions."

So there you go. I'll admit I am still amazed.

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