10.6.11

TECHNOCRAT SMACKDOWN.  Three questions for discussion.  First, Michael Munger uncovers "Refreshing honesty from one of the commissars in the dark hierarchy of the education-industrial complex."  The dean of the college of education at Chapel Hill observes the separating equilibrium that has emerged in the public schools (best summarized, by Megan McArdle, as "your good school comes bundled with granite countertops") with alarm.
The concentration of adult-supported students in charter schools and voucher-funded private schools will virtually ensure their success - and enable advocates of these alternative schools to tout their superiority.

On this path, we will, indeed, end up with two school systems.
Professor Munger suggests that to the commissar, the duality of No Child Gets Ahead implied by No Child Left Behind is a feature.
Therefore, it is more fair to have a system where all students fall well short of their potential than to have a system where some students escape the trap of poverty and the cycle of educational failure.
Seriously.
Because, remember, the research the commissar cites shows that kids without adult advocates are GOING TO FAIL EITHER WAY. The only actual question is whether we let kids who DO have adult advocates succeed. Dean McDiarmid does not want that to happen. Again, why?
Next, a Don Boudreaux post at Cafe Hayek that has stimulated a lengthy bull session.
I have a question for anyone who believes that a single-payer health-care system (where the single payer is government) will reduce the quality-adjusted cost of health-care: will a single-payer pet-food system (where the single-payer for pet food is government) reduce the quality-adjusted cost of pet food?  That is, under a single-payer pet-food system (with government as the single payer) will consumers be better supplied, at a lower cost, with pet food than consumers are supplied today with a free market, myriad-payer system for the provision of pet food?
The analogy might not be exact, but price discovery is something that markets might do more effectively than technocrats (one dimension of the comparison) and competitive evaluation of risk might be less costly than monopoly evaluation of risk, well-intentioned and public-spirited risk managers notwithstanding.

Last, Betsy Newmark wonders how many politicians it takes to change a lightbulb.
If fluorescent light bulbs are so darn wonderful, than let people choose them. There is a bill in Congress, the "Bulb Act," to repeal the 2007 law. This could be a real winner for Republicans. They should get behind the bill.
In the absence of repeal, consumers are stockpiling 100 watt lightbulbs. (Must check on something. Cold Spring Shops headquarters uses the 90 watt energy saver version, except in ceiling fittings that have the fluorescents.  Are the 90 watters also going to be banned?)

I'd have more faith in the wisdom of technocrats offering me tax incentives to drive a different kind of car or telling me what kind of lightbulbs I may use if I saw more technocratic expertise applied to, e.g., timing the traffic lights in my neighborhood so I'm not being encouraged to speed to make the next light.)

SECOND SECTION.  Virginia Postrel.
If you want to know why so many Americans feel alienated from their government, you need only go to Target and check out the light bulb aisle. Instead of the cheap commodities of yesteryear, you’ll find what looks like evidence of a flourishing, technology-driven economy.
Yes, but ...
What matters, from a public policy perspective, isn’t any given choice but the total amount of electricity I use (which is itself only a proxy for the total emissions caused by generating that electricity). If they’re really interested in environmental quality, policy makers shouldn’t care how households get to that total. They should just raise the price of electricity, through taxes or higher rates, to discourage using it.

Instead, the law raises the price of light bulbs, but not the price of using them. In fact, its supporters loudly proclaim that the new bulbs will cost less to use. If true, the savings could encourage people to keep the lights on longer.
Go, read, and understand.

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