October 22nd, 2009 :: Permalink
Aloha David ~
That person quoting Reagan was me ... and it saddens me you would suggest it has an undeniable ring of truth to it.
Anyone who believes there is some truth to Reagan's statement that being from the government is a terrifying concept (outside the IRS) does not understand the role of government.
Most Americans support our capitalistic-based system (which is a mixed capitalist/socialist model), although few would argue the private sector can provide all goods and services in society. Libertarians try hardest to make this case but even they admit, at minimum, defense is best provided by a socialistic-model. Their paradigm breaks down on deeper analysis though. I'm not aware of anyone willing to champion, for example, that the private sector should provide fire protection. Let's explore why:
How terrifying would it be to have a fire and then need to search the phone book to find who best to call. While priceless possessions were being engulfed in flames, would you want to waste time searching for the best deal? "You running a fire extinguishing special today?" we would ask.
Although we acted inefficiently in our response to the growing blaze, ACME fire company ultimately showed up at our house and did an adequate job of saving our remaining possessions.
Now the terrifying portion of the incident - the bill. Since this was an individual/private transaction, the cost of the fire station, various trucks and ladder units, and personnel would need to be micro-economically assigned to me. Whoops ... forgot the most intriguing capitalistic features - ACME would need to tack on a small [LARGE] surcharge to all these costs, as the company would need to make a profit and pay their CEO's multi-million dollar salary.
"Mr. Shapiro, thank you for your business. If I can just get your signature on this invoice for services, we can be going on our way. The total you ask ... well, as our receptionist told you, you are lucky as we were running a promotion, you'll save 10% today. Deducting this from your total brings your bill to $45,000. Have a nice day."
Some activities in society do not work well in a capitalistic model. Thus we share costs, provide for the commons, and create a bureaucratic system to manage these challenges.
Government isn't the problem. Red-tape becomes necessary because of human nature. Uncle Barack could easily dump billions into the coffers of struggling financial companies with no strings or red-tape attached. You would call for his impeachment if he did ... because we all believe they would line their pockets rather than use the funds for the intended purpose. Red-tape is our protection against corruption. Forms in triplicate ... one goes to you, one to the agency and one to the agency in charge of oversight.
Consider our public school system. We prohibit teachers from providing private tutoring for pay to their students ... likely because some teacher years ago got creative and learned s/he could leave a few facts out of lessons, then offer night class for double/triple the hourly rate to families willing to pay for advanced education.
We deny the use of classrooms in non-school hours for similar reasons. Building costs are supported by ALL taxpayers, but some crafty and entrepreneurial teachers used access keys to open their rooms on weekends to show porn videos to Adult audiences. They profited from the resources provided by the masses. One argument would be all revenue should therefore be returned to taxpayers; another would be society did not build these school rooms for this purpose.
If Reagan had been honest about our nature and not an ideological hack, he instead would have said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm human and will look to help myself first.' "
Aloha HACK ~
Mahalo for your comments. You asked and then answered, "Why are Hawaii's public schools failing our kids? Meanwhile the private sector is providing kids with an excellent education ... I am sure you will say this is because private school teachers get paid more and therefore, explains the superior education."
You are wrong about what I would say, which ties into my thesis that the public and private sectors are inherently different for specific reasons. If you spend any time around teachers, public or private, you will soon discover most are NOT driven by a profit motive. They teach because they enjoy contributing to the greater good. A similar example is the soldier who dives on a grenade tossed into the foxhole. He doesn't take this action for profit but for a higher altruism to his comrades and country.
Private schools have many advantages over public schools - the biggest being that they get to "select" their students. As both my parents were teachers in the public system, later administrators, and I taught for over ten years, I can attest to the difficulty of trying to teach Keiki who do not want to be there.
I'm sure you know a bit about child psychology ... if you tell Keiki they must eat poi, they generally will resist you simply because you are trying to make them. This works the same for schools. Society says they must go, thus they naturally resist being there.
Private schools are a prize. They have rigorous admission standards; if students do not behave, they are banished to the "public system." They have money, not just to pay teachers better, but for more sophisticated resources. Since they operate in the profit world and compete against other schools for bodies, they must "prove" their worth.
Private schools do not always distinguish themselves solely for superior education; some might focus on religious studies for example. Students at these facilities might not score better than public school students, as their parents pay for the parochial environment.
We have mandated this mission for our public system: you must teach EVERY child - and No Child Will Be Left Behind.
There is not ONE private model that could accomplish this. We demand an infinite number of outcomes from our public educators yet ignore them when they beg for da kine. Classes are overcrowded; parents refuse to provide support for homework or discipline; and as we are witnessing with Furlough Fridays, we don't care about throwing the entire system into chaos.
Do you truly believe students or teachers are concentrating on national test results under these circumstances? Public schools and these dedicated educators are not "failing our kids" as you suggest ... we the public are failing our public schools.