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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wrapping Up A School Vouchers Debate

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 2:41 am

Lots of uses of the subjunctive there, spiced liberally with fatalism about how reforms would inevitably be undone. Again, it’s all about the counterfactuals here, and my intuitions agree less with yours than with the libertarian scholars at Cato, Reason Foundation, Independent Institute, PRI, Heartland Institute, Friedman Foundation, and Institute for Justice. Each one of these libertarian think tanks supports vouchers (e.g. Why Conservatives and Libertarians Should Support School Vouchers), leaving the anarchists at LvMI as the outlier. What a coincidence.

Like I said, some anarchists seem to fear small government more than they fear big government.

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:14 am

Tom B., I’m not an anarchist, so it’s silly to claim that I’m trying to say “Smash the state!” with my vote. It would be delusional to think that ruling political elites count all non-voters as anti-statists. For more on the topic of anarchists not voting, see

Tom K., for fully thirteen of the aspects of government control of education that I listed above, you yourself seemed to concede that vouchers would be an initial step toward liberty, and your only argument was to predict that the step would be undone later. That logic works against any proposal to reduce government.

I quote the paper linked above published by the Independent Institute: Their faulty assumptions are that the Hayekian “road to serfdom” is a one-way road for all time and that any proposed reforms that still involve public funding—even proposals that dramatically reduce government’s capacity to commit evil and set the stage for further privatization—will lead to dependency, government control, and decline. If such were the case, however, why did Hayek even bother to write The Road to Serfdom? Why do conservatives and libertarians bother to fight Leviathan if they are convinced it cannot be defeated? In “Trends Can Change,” Mises wrote: “One of the cherished dogmas implied in contemporary fashionable doctrines is the belief that tendencies of social evolution as manifested in the recent past will prevail in the future too. Study of the past, it is assumed, discloses the shape of things to come. Any attempt to reverse or even to stop a trend is doomed to failure. Man must submit to the irresistible power of historical destiny”. The “contemporary fashionable doctrines” Mises refers to are the theories of history and progress advanced by Hegel, Marx, and Comte, but they just as easily could be the doctrines of antivoucher separationists. The “cherished dogma” is the same for both: a helplessness to stop the trend toward greater government power and control. An obvious consequence of this dogma is paralysis. The antivoucherites are afraid to dismantle the government schools because any such effort “is doomed to failure.”

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

“Why push for a step toward liberty instead of pushing for liberty itself?”

Some people are just awesome enough to do both. And others are wise enough to recognize that they’re the same thing.

People have been “pushing” for anarchism for longer than people have been pushing for vouchers. “How’s that working out?”, indeed. I can point to signs of tangible progress for the meliorist-minarchist strategy. Where is there a shred of evidence that anarcholibertarianism is anything other than a consumption good, rather than a means to an end?

You obviously didn’t read, nor are you familiar with Rothbard’s demonstration that the voting-is-consent argument completely undermines the anarchist case

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 10:18 am

Tom K., you apparently didn’t catch the distinction I intended when I said “your abolitionist agenda” instead of “your anarchist agenda”. I’m not accusing you of always being upfront about wanting to raze the building — on the contrary, you’re one of my poster children for how LP anarchists don’t campaign on their beliefs as forthrightly as I do. Rather, I’m accusing you of opposing any reduction in the building’s size that might involve hammering a nail and not just swinging a wrecking ball.

I can tell we’re almost done here, because this is the point where you say there are already enough people willing to hammer nails, and then I say that’s the difference between a libertarian and a CleanHands-itarian.

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm

OK, time to pop up a level and consider:

  • Education is perennially one of the top four or five voter concerns.
  • Replacing government ownership of schools with tuition vouchers is considered too radical a decrease in the size of the nanny state that GOP legislative majorities don’t attempt it, and GOP candidates (like even the “libertarian-leaning” ones for governor here in California) dare not advocate it.
  • Seven out of the eight leading libertarian think tanks that take a position on vouchers support them, and even an anarcholibertarian academic like David Friedman says they would be a “great improvement”.

Nevertheless, the Libertarian Party has never spoken positively about tuition vouchers even as an incremental reform. WTF!?

This is emblematic of why prominent libertarian policy analysts and policy shops want nothing to do with the LP. And it’s also demonstrates how, even now, the LP’s vocal abolitionist minority retains an effective veto power over the official policy positions of the LP.

Brian Holtz // Sep 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm

No charge, Morey — I was just defending myself from Blanton’s complaint @21 that “the general public is far more receptive to some radical ideas than [I] give them credit for”, and that I may be one of the “many LP candidates [who] seem to shy away” from such ideas. My defense was that my campaign site included a range of specific positions that on the whole were more radical than those of Ron Paul or of several prominent LP anarchists.

I have no problem whatsoever with anarchists running moderate campaigns. In fact, I’ll repeat that your TV commercial was hands-down the best Libertarian commercial I’ve ever seen. That’s why it’s first on my playlist of LP commercials.