Saturday, October 1, 2022

Hypervigilance is not the price of liberty

When it comes to resisting government encroachment, eternal vigilance is important. Hats off to the many libertarians, liberty-loving homeschoolers, and others who are always diligent about emphasizing this point.

But they can take it too far. Yesterday on The Tom Woods Show (at the 34:30 mark), Corey DeAngelis gave an answer to those on the right who oppose school choice out of fear that government strings will accompany government money.

My simple response to that is that we can’t make perfect the enemy of the good. … Because whether we like it or not, in the current situation we don't have utopia. We have 9 out of 10 kids stuck in government-run schools today that are totally controlled and operated by the government. And out of the 60 or 70 existing school choice programs in the nation, and throughout U.S. history, there’s never been a school choice program that forces any family to take the money. … 

If you were forced to take the money and the regulations, I’d be against it. But there is no program, from what I can tell, that has ever existed that has forced families to take the funding.

So it’s a cost-benefit decision that each individual family should be able to make for themselves. But at the same time, you shouldn't be able to tell another family that they can't make that cost-benefit decision for themselves.

And the other part of this is that, look, the government can regulate private and home education already.This is not a school choice issue; this is an issue of electing the politicians who are going to trample on your rights or not. I mean, look at Oregon in 1922: they outlawed private education in Oregon. Thankfully, three years later the U.S. Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters ruled that “the child is not the mere creature of the State” and thankfully overturned that authoritarian law. …

But there's another doomsday scenario that is I would say more likely than what is being argued by some libertarians who say that school choice could lead to government control of private education. And that scenario is that we have 9 out of 10 kids going to government schools today. They're being indoctrinated to grow up to vote like little socialists later on in life. And when they go through that process they're more likely to vote to regulate private and home education in the future. We should be more concerned about that than giving families the choice to accept the money or not today. And the benefit of doing that and having school choice and giving families that option is that you've built a broader coalition to fight back against those future calls for regulation: You get more people experiencing private education, you'll have a bigger “special interest,” if you will, to fight back against tyrants’ calls to regulate private and home education. And then the other benefit is if more people are using private and home education in the short run, then the idea will become more mainstream. If the concept is more mainstream, the rest of society should be less likely to call to regulate it. So both of those things work in our favor and those are arguments as to why we should support school choice and allowing families to have the choice to take the money or not.

Look, I’m with you. I’m an anarcho-capitalist. I don’t want any government involvement in anything, particularly in education. But if we’re going to spend the money, and if we're in a scenario where we already are spending the money, then we’ve got to make decisions about incremental reforms that are going to work in our favor to reduce government control of our lives. And a policy reform that's working right now that we're winning on is school choice. My takeaway is that we should take the W or else we're going to be stuck with the L.

And what's funny to me is, we've mentioned Randi Weingarten a couple of times already, is that she's repeated the same argument on Twitter: oh, you know, school choice is going to control private education. Do you think Randi Weingarten is some anarcho-capitalist libertarian who just hates government involvement in private education? No, absolutely not. Randi Weingarten loves big government. And she’s only repeating this argument because she knows that if it gets more traction and is successful in blocking school choice, well then she's going to keep her gravy train going and kids are going to continue to be stuck in government-run institutions that are controlled by her union. So when you're on the side of Randi Weingarten in this debate and the teachers union, you're probably on the wrong side and you’re probably overthinking things.

And by the way, every single policy reform (and so does the status quo) has a set of costs and benefits associated with it. As Thomas Sowell once said, “there are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.” And there are trade-offs with every policy solution that's proposed and the status quo has trade-offs as well. And what people are doing when they're fearmongering about school choice policies is they are focusing on potential future costs of the school choice policy while ignoring all of the huge guaranteed costs that already exist today of cementing the teachers union monopoly. We’ve got to make these types of decisions and I think parents are in the best position to make these decisions for their own kids. And because they're not forced to take the money and families can make the cost-benefit decision to accept the funding or not, I think we should allow them to have that choice.

Vigilance is healthy and reasonable. Hypervigilance, not so much.

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