Private Schools, Equality, and Liberty

by Harry on November 13, 2003

In my role as Adam Swift’s unpaid publicist I want to point out this piece in The Telegraph (you have to register, but its free, quick, and easy, and there’s lots of other good stuff). Swift explains — to Telegraph readers, remember — why the standard arguments in defence of private schools don’t work; either because they appeal to false values, or because they appeal to correct values but are beside the point. A great challenge to private schools — and kudos to John Clare, the Telegraph education editor, for running it. (For Americans who don’t know it the Telegraph is the furthest right of the UK newspapers, so this is a particularly incendiary piece for it).

Vox pop

by Chris Bertram on November 13, 2003

Catherine Bennett has “a column in todays’ Guardian”:,3604,1083907,00.html making the points I made yesterday about the HFEA report on sex selection. She has a great opening paragraph:

bq. Here are some things that people think. The majority of people, anyway. People think that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the best books ever written. People approve of the reintroduction of capital punishment (lethal injection, for preference). People want fox hunting banned. Their favourite song is Bohemian Rhapsody. People believe in ghosts and are in favour of identity cards. Their favourite meal is fish and chips and they feel sure GM food is a very bad thing. Almost half of them don’t think the MMR jab is safe. People underestimate the hygiene complications of preparing a Christmas turkey. They have never heard of the European Constitution. They think parents have the right to know the name and address of any sex offender in the neighbourhood. They think parental selection of a baby’s gender is so awful it should be banned.


by Kieran Healy on November 13, 2003

Jim Henley defends SUVs by comparing them to his recently much-improved level of fitness:

bq. Now consider a common complaint against sport-utility vehicles: Most people who buy them don’t need that much power … A comparison with personal fitness is suggestive: SUVs are anaerobic strength vehicles; high fuel-efficiency cars are aerobic. Vehicle power is like muscle power: When you need it, you need it. Maybe you have to cart a new refrigerator home. Maybe your area reliably gets one bad snowstorm a year. (In the D.C. metro area, whenever a snowstorm hits, the call goes out for SUV and four-wheel drive owners to ferry hospital workers to their jobs.) Maybe you go camping twice a year or once a week transport supplies to your Cub Scout pack.

It’s a nice analogy as far as it goes. The problem with it is that it breaks down once you consider any of the other virtues we might want vehicles to have. Extra weight-training notwithstanding, Jim’s new biceps are unlikley to cause him to flip over onto his side as he jogs round corners. Nor were Jim’s target weight and diet specially designed with the assistance of the government to help keep his employer in business. And even though I don’t read comics much, Jim is not significantly more likely to kill me if I accidentally bump into him in DC. (Max Sawicky might be a different story.) It’s reasonable to say, as he does, that “As with physical fitness, there is value in maintaining the capacity for marginal exertion well beyond the daily norm. And as with physical fitness, having the extra power available may inspire you to change in ways you didn’t anticipate — you do more because, well, you can.” But Jim can have that extra power available without inconveniencing or endangering others, and he won’t accidentally misuse his strength to crash into a snowdrift once a year in DC, either — the only off-road adventure many SUVs ever have. So I don’t think the comparison holds up. And indeed, a quick glance at the new Jim shows that he’s chosen to strike his own aerobic/anerobic balance well towards the aerobic end of things.

How not to do PR

by Brian on November 13, 2003

From Jeb “Compassionate Conservative” Bush:

bq. It looks like the people of San Francisco are an endangered species, which may not be a bad thing. That’s probably good news for the country. (AP Nov 12: link via Atrios)

As the old cliche goes, some of my best friends are San Franciscans, so I’d be a little disappointed if someone wished them to be endangered. Fortunately that wasn’t what Jeb really meant.

bq. Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre later explained the governor’s thinking: “The Cabinet was talking about endangered species and everyone knows that Republicans are an endangered species in California.”

So Jeb thinks it’s a good thing that Republicans are endangered in California. Well that’s OK then. I certainly don’t have any Republican friends out there. I suspect the only thing in danger though is Mr DiPietre’s credibility.