Across the Great Divide?

by Harry on October 8, 2007

Suppose that you see the divide between private and state schools as the major institutional instantiation of educational inequality (to forestall objections from our American readers I should say that such a vision seems deeply mistaken in the US, but entirely reasonable in the UK). How would you address it? One way would be to abolish private schools by law, a demand that has occasionally been considered by the very far left in the UK, though nobody has really explained how it would work. My guess is that smart people could work out the effects of a sudden increase in the state school population of 7%; I doubt that much of the expertise in the private sector would come along. Another way would be to tax private schooling (or at least remove charitable status). I once calculated the real effect of removing charitable status, which worked out at about 5% on school fees. High enough taxes to make a real difference seem to me abouot as politically feasible as abolition.

So there must be a third way, right? A smart and politically savvy policymaker would reorganise the state sector so that it could accommodate former private schools with ease, and then use a combination of guilt-tripping moral suasion and concrete incentives to persuade existing private schools, one by one, to join the state sector on equal terms. There’d be no hoo-hah, and you wouldn’t get any credit from the left, but you’d have found a way to entice the expertise the private sector has into the state sector, and, maybe, some of its clientele. You might even, eventually, be regarded as a visionary by your former critics. Or, maybe, you just wouldn’t care about that; you might even find their criticism of you as a right-winger who favours market solutions and is friendly to elitism as an asset. I’ve hesitated to say anything about this for fear of undermining Adonis with implicit praise, but now that the enormously more influential Mike Baker has pointed out what’s going on, I can at least link to him. Story here; Mike Baker (excellent as ever) here.

Yglesias on Weber on Cohen

by Henry Farrell on October 8, 2007

This bit of quote-fu from Matt Yglesias “nails it”: Go read.

Alesina and Giavazzi have a point

by Henry Farrell on October 8, 2007

Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi at “VoxEU”:

Our point is that the goals that are traditionally held dear by the European left – like protection of the economically weakest and aversion to excessive inequality and un-earned rewards to insiders – should lead the left to adopt pro-market policies. What has often been the norm in Europe from the 60s until recently – heavy market regulation, protection of the status quo, an enormous public sector which rewards not the very poor but the most-connected and requires highly distortionary taxation, universities which often produce mediocrity in the name of egalitarianism (while the very rich get a good education anyway, somehow) –all end up decreasing efficiency and justice at the same time. … A good example can be found in the labour market. In Italy, Spain, and France, the labour market is split. The young are hired with temporary contracts which offer no social security and no prospects. When the contract expires, the employer opts not to renew it, so as not to run the risk of having to convert temporary hires into permanent employees who would de facto immediately acquire the right never to be fired. Reforms that eliminate this duality by making the entire labour market flexible with an appropriate scheme of unemployment compensation would not only reduce unemployment but, most importantly, would favour the really poor and the young entry-level workers.

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Apocalypse Pretty Soon

by Scott McLemee on October 8, 2007

The dollar will collapse no later than one week from today. As of noon on October 15, you will not be able to buy a loaf of bread for $100,000. That’s the optimistic scenario. The crash may come sooner than that. It might be Thursday. It sounds like Thursday will be bad.

Yeah, things are heating up again in LaRouche-land. The Youth Movement kids haven’t been out in force singing on Capitol Hill much over the past two or three months. But it’s clear that supporters are now being pushed into a frenzied state, more even than usual. At the website where ex-members get together, plans are being made to send one true believer a loaf of bread as soon as the deadline for disaster passes.

No doubt it is an utter and total coincidence that The Washington Monthly will soon publish an in-depth article on recent developments in the organization.
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Staged war photos

by Chris Bertram on October 8, 2007

There have been quite a few blogospheric discussions about staged war photographs (Iraq, Lebanon) and whether it matters whether they were staged if they reveal the truth. Here’s something to check out when you have a bit of time …. Errol Morris has a blog, “Zoom”: at the New York Times devoted to photography. He has now published two parts of a three- (or four-) part essay concerning whether Roger Fenton, one of the earliest war photographers, staged a famous picture of cannonballs on a road in the Crimea, as alleged by Susan Sontag. In “part one”: , Morris gets the opinion of the curators and art historians on which of two Fenton pictures was taken first; in “part two”: he gets his compass out and his feet dirty by going to the Crimea and finding the exact stretch of road. In comments to part one, his own readers offer their solutions to the photographic puzzle. (via “FineBooks”: thanks to PdB.)

Blasts from the past

by John Q on October 8, 2007

I’ve been working a bit on the Political correctness article in Wikipedia and I ran across the best “PC beatup” story ever, starting with a claim from last year that nursery school students in Oxfordshire had been banned from singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Among the ramifications were the foundation of a new political party (with a plug from Harry’s Place), and worldwide circulation leading to a claim in the Adelaide Advertiser that “black coffee” had fallen under a similar ban. Having visited Adelaide recently, I can assure anxious coffee-addicts that this is, like the rest of the story, a load of old bollocks. (I will admit that “doppio” has displaced “double-shot short black” in Australia over the last few years, a boon to addicts like me who are really in a hurry for their fix).

Going back even further, I once ran a contest to find a Mark Steyn column without either a gross error or a distorted or misattributed quotation. There weren’t any entries, though I gave an award to Tim Dunlop for coining the term “Steynwalling” (failure to respond to repeated demonstrations of error). But now thanks to Tim Lambert and TBogg, we have a winner. It’s Steyn himself, who states “incidentally, I stopped writing for the (New York) Times a few years ago because their fanatical “fact-checking” copy-editors edited my copy into unreadable sludge.” (John H has a little bit more fun with Tim’s debunking here)

More bloggingheads

by Henry Farrell on October 8, 2007

This time with “Jennifer Martinez”: of Stanford Law School, on international human rights law (she has a fascinating “piece”: in the new _Boston Review_ on the lessons of nineteenth century anti-slavery courts for modern tribunals). Also, the CHE‘s Footnotes blog has a brief “Q&A”: with me on blogging and my hidden cult-stud past. I imagine I’ll be taking a break from bloggingheads for a bit after two sessions in rapid succession, so fingers crossed, no more self-promotion posts from me for a while …