Tag Archives: government schools

Shifting the Burden of Explanation

A lot of people get angry when somebody suggests privatizing some or other government service. For example, someone who opposes government-run schools is accused of opposing all education, period. Not a rigorous line of thought. But it’s common.

Why do some people propose privatization? It’s not because they’re against the service. It’s because they think the private sector will do a better job providing that service.

If anything, because theory and data usually side with privatizers, the burden of explanation actually lies on those who favor government provision of many services. Why support more expensive and less effective schools, or mail service, or health care, or rail travel?

Mises briefly touches on that disconnect in his short 1927 book Liberalism (that is, liberalism as the word originally meant):

If I am of the opinion that it is inexpedient to assign to the government the task of operating railroads, hotels, or mines, I am not an “enemy of the state” any more than I can be called an enemy of sulphuric acid because I am of the opinion that, useful though it may be for many purposes, it is not suitable either for drinking or for washing one’s hands.

-Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradition, p. 18.

Regulation of the Day 116: Doodling on Desks

Many government schools have zero-tolerance policies. They are supposed to help discipline rowdy students. But they are inflexible. Too inflexible.

Alexa Gonzalez, 12, was arrested and put in handcuffs for writing “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)” on her desk in green marker.

Seems a bit much. At the very least, she should be made to clean it off. Maybe given a day of detention. But haul her to the police station in handcuffs? Overkill.

The child is not described as a trouble maker. But now she has a criminal record. At age 12. This will not help her when she applies to college in a few years. Or when she applies for a job during high school.

Ms. Gonzalez is not the only victim of one-size-fits-all zero-tolerance policies. The CNN story linked to above also mentions the plight of Chelsea Fraser. As a 13 year-old, she was arrested and handcuffed for writing “okay” on her desk.

CNN notes a third child who met the same fate. She is known in court documents as “M.M.”

In Chicago, 25 students were arrested because of a food fight. Arrested. Try detention next time. Let the punishment at least be in the same order of magnitude as the crime.