Saturday, September 01, 2007

It's still a socialist plot

At Crooks and Liars, Steve Bennen linked to Paul Krugman's "A Socialist Plot" op-ed and quoted the following passage

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

They’d have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren’t available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

So let’s end this un-American system and make education what it should be — a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America’s education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.

O.K., in case you’re wondering, I haven’t lost my mind, I’m drawing an analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled “The Middle-Class Welfare Kid Next Door,” is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will “displace private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage.” […]

But thinking about how we’d react if they said the same things about education helps dispel the fog of obfuscation right-wingers use to obscure the true nature of their position on children’s health. The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care.
While I agree with Bennen that this is an excellent analogy that should be used to point out to Americans the intellectual bankruptcy of acting as if labeling something "socialist" is automatically a refutation of it, it's also important to realize that "free market" ideologues will look at Krugman's column and believe it in actuality means that we should do away with public education, too.

Take, for instance, Neal Boortz. He's fond of saying that public education was listed by Marx and Engels as one of the essential planks of communism and considers this to be an argument against American public schools (which he calls "goverment schools".) Both communists and the American federal government want to use public education to brainwash children, according to Boortz, which is why he is favor of privatizing schooling and other measures of "choice" such as vouchers and homeschooling.

I find it terribly fascinating that Boortz - who speaks on such matters quite authoritatively - can manage to miss the simple point that the same sort of reasoning can be applied to his own position.

The "choice" movement is itself championed by Christian Reconstructionists who consider themselves Christian libertarians.

Mainstream outlets like the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post are finally starting to take note of the influence Rushdoony and his followers have exerted for years in American conservative circles. But a second part of the story, of particular interest to readers of this magazine, is the degree to which Reconstructionists have gained prominence in libertarian causes, ranging from hard-money economics to the defense of home schooling. "Christian economist" Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law and star polemicist of the Reconstructionist movement, is widely cited as a spokesman for free markets, if not exactly free minds; he even served for a brief time on the House staff of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988, when Paul was a member of Congress in the '70s. For his part, Rushdoony has blandly described himself to the press as a critic of "statism" and even as a "Christian libertarian." Say what?
So where as Boortz is worried that public education is a secret communist plot to brainwash our children (as opposed to a democratic measure meant to provide all citizens the tool they need to be free and functioning citizens), he's oblivious to the fact that his own point-of-view is shared by people whom he loathes (Boortz frequently criticizes fundamentalists) and who have already explicitly stated that their goal is to brainwash children into their cause.

"So let us be blunt about it. We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God." - Gary North

Boortz also seems to have overlooked that Enlightenment champions of capitalism - such as Thomas Paine - were advocates of public education well before Marx.

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