Arnold Kling  

Why Parties Won't Deliver

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Tyler Cowen types,

I also think, though, cynically, that the GOP knows that "delivering" on the abortion issue would spell their doom and thus they won't ever do it.

I have thought that this holds for the Democrats and universal health care. They are better off having the issue "out there" than passing a bill. Of course, one could argue that the people would be forever grateful for universal health care if it passed. But I think that any health care system is likely to prove disappointing in some respects, so taking responsibility for it has a large down side.

Incidentally, I see education the same way. Conservatives and Republicans are probably better off having the voucher issue "out there" than having vouchers enacted. I don't think that vouchers can produce an educational miracle. My guess is that what a full-on voucher system could produce, at best, is approximately the same level of educational results at much lower spending.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (9 to date)
Scott Wentland writes:

I think there is a commons problem with this logic. It might be better for the party to keep a certain issue "out there," but individually each politician will vote with the ideology that got them elected. Hence, individual incentives go against the collective good of the party (if you buy that "delivering" would be bad).

There isn't party discipline today like, say, 50 or 100 years ago. Party bosses have relatively little power. Howard Dean can't really convince Hillary Clinton (or any Democratic senator for that matter) to vote against for a universal healthcare bill, even if it's "good for the party." If the party can't deliver on ideology, ever, why have a party at all?

Actually, they will propose laws that give the appearance of helping, but actually make the problem worse. This happened in California with "privatization" of the electric companies. Look at the details, and you will see that it was designed to cause power failures across the state. Either that, or the people who came up with the plan are so stupid that they have no business running their own households, let alone a state.

I could classify illegal immigration as another problem neither side wants to solve. It could be. First, realize that the Mexican illegals, at least, don't want to be citizens -- they just want to work here. Second, realize that Mexico is so corrupt that it won't be solved on their side. Third, along those lines, Mexico makes it all but impossible to get into the U.S. unless you have money -- thus, work visas will have to be available to migrant workers (what they really are) on this side of the border.

Phil writes:

If you get the same level of education at lower spending, can't you use the money saved to *improve* education, and wind up with better quality at the same price?

It's like saying competition won't improve cars -- you'll just be able to get a Chevrolet for half the price.

Is there something special about education where competition will only lower the price but not improve the quality?

Bill writes:
I have thought that this holds for the Democrats and universal health care. They are better off having the issue "out there" than passing a bill

They know they can have it both ways. They can pass the bill, then when problems appear they can blame someone/something else and call for more regulation of personal freedoms.

caveat bettor writes:

I think, with education vouchers, we get more Walmart outcomes and less FEMA outcomes.

Don Boudreaux makes this point on Cafe Hayek today.

Arnold Kling writes:

I'm inclined to think that educational outcomes are largely determined by ability and family background. I'm guessing that for many students, the marginal increment from better schooling methods would be low.

I agree, Arnold. However, we could be providing better education for those who do well, letting them do better -- and know something. Also, we we allowed students to progress at their own developmental pace (rather than the absurd progression according to age), and to learn things that are useful once they got to middle and high school, all students would in fact be better off.

Isaac K. writes:

I waws just in a conference with Jared Bernstein yesterday, and he pointed out that above average intellegence lower class children are just as likely to complete college as below average wealthy children.
What the system needs is to provide opportunity for those who will genuinely benefit from higher education to succeed. While I agree that the present infrastructure of age progression is inefficient, it is still a fairly close approximation to actual learning ability progression. Now we have the ability to compartmentalize it further, but I'm not certain that it's necessary. A more effective and less costly solution would be to enable and encourage children to 'skip' grades by allowing them to test out of subject matter. No adjustments need to be made to the present educational system except to allow what ALREADY happens and to standardize, support, and encourage it on a greater scale.

In my 6th grade Magnet math class (advanced learning 2+ grade levels) we had a kid who was only in 4-5th grade. In high school I took college level courses at 7 AM because they wouldn't let me advance beyond grade level. AP's are already designed to allow students to "test out" of various higher level course [thank you, Dr. Kling]. The structures exist, just let the "education market" be open enough for students to float to their level of "knowledge consumption."

THe problem occurs on both ends. The smart ones aren't allowed to advance like they should, and the less intelligent are made to pass when they shouldn't, making them fall farther behind and drop out of school more. Getting rid of age would get rid of the stigmas invented by some in education and allow students to actually succeed at their own pace.

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