Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the analogy holds

So first, I have a new post up at Balloon Juice about private school vouchers.

Second, via his little Twitter sidebar, I see that Matt Yglesias and Ned Resnikoff are chatting about it. Yglesias says, regarding my piece, "I think it's absurd to write about school choice without talking about housing policy. The non-poor have lots of choice!" To which Resnikoff responds, "Not sure I understand what you're getting at. Is this about picking a school district to live in?" To which Yglesias replies, "Exactly -- the non-poor have school choice by choosing where to live, the poor aren't allowed to move to good school districts."

First, in my defense, posts should only be so long, particularly when they are at somebody else's digs. I'm a guest at Balloon Juice. There's much that could be talked about in terms of housing policy, sure. I will talk about it sometime I'm sure. But for now-- I think Yglesias is actually reinforcing my point. Yes, indeed: the non-poor have more choices in life than the poor. This is not the damning criticism he seems to think it is. Think again about transportation. Not only do the rich have the ability to not ride the bus, they have the ability to choose a Honda Civic or a Ferrari or a team of sherpas to carry them around. Do the rich have more options? Yes. Yes, of course. I don't see how that's an argument for voucherizing public programs.

Like me, Yglesias supports universal access to quality health care. Does that mean that, if we get it, the rich will suddenly stop having more options? Of course not. They'll have the option to jet to France to get medical care or to see some New Age shaman or just go to different doctors that those receiving socialized health care can't. I don't understand how this lack of "choice" is any different from the poor's inability to pick up sticks and go to public schools in Palo Alto. Yes, things are better for the rich. Yes, that entails more choice. It sucks. I can think of some ways we can change that, and I'd like to implement them, but they involve dramatically changing our system of resource distribution. If Yglesias is asking for that, then I like him more already.*

*Note to my endless cadre of emailers: more than I already do. I have written many more words of praise for Yglesias in my life than I have words of criticism. Look it up.

Update: See E.D. Kain for a sympathetic but different perspective.

Update II: Yglesias in comments:
Short of radically changing the distribution of income (though that could be be) is radically changing housing policy. In prosperous suburbs all across the United States it's generally illegal to build the kind of apartment buildings full of small dwelling units that poor people would be able to afford.
I'm on board!

9 comments:

Matthew Yglesias said...

Short of radically changing the distribution of income (though that could be be) is radically changing housing policy. In prosperous suburbs all across the United States it's generally illegal to build the kind of apartment buildings full of small dwelling units that poor people would be able to afford.

I think that has to be an important part of any egalitarian agenda in America. We've become a country where it's not just that rich people live in bigger houses than poor people, but poor people literally can't afford to live int he same political communities as the prosperous.

Freddie said...

Totally onboard. Let me update.

Anonymous said...

I call anxiety of influence.

Freddie said...

For this post? Or for the Balloon Juice post? The Balloon Juice post didn't have anything to do with MY, really.

Anonymous said...

I'm Harold Bloom and I've read too much to have to be specific.

No, seriously, I'm just being flippant. I often think the way you treat Yglesias exhibits the competitive anxiety of the usurping underdog. But you never don't make substantive points at the same time.

Liam said...

Why not radically reorganize the way public schools are funded? Couldn't the federal government fund school districts in such a way to bring their budgets to an equal level? You could calculate funding based on property value rather than local tax revenue to prevent municipalities from deliberately reducing tax levels to force the Federal government to carry the burden. That way, every neighborhood could be one with a good school.
I'm not anyone with any kind of public policy or legal experience. Is this a thing that is ever discussed? Is the "Lazy Public School Teacher" to influential a trope for this idea to have widespread support? It seems to me such a thing would be quicker and less costly to implement a program that had a housing-construction component, although a federal public works project has benefits of its own, of course.

Liam said...

quicker and less costly to implement a program

Oops. Should be "quicker and less costly to implement than a program".

Phil Perspective said...

Doesn't MY realize the housing situation in this country is the way it is for a reason? Duncan Black(aka Atrios) talks about it often enough. Stuff like red-lining. Plenty of discrimination. You name it.

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