Megan McArdle of Asymmetrical Information, in a March 19 list of “basics which seem obvious” about U.S. public education (and with which I otherwise mostly agree):
24) To h— with rich people: if you’re in, say, the top 5-10% of the income distribution, you ought to get the same help educating your kids as my parents got, which is to say none.
While I realize that for some people, the wealthy getting poorer is a feature rather than a bug, this would still decrease net utility in our society. Unless our society gets a lot of net utility from watching rich people suffer, and while this may be true, judging from our tabloids, I’d prefer not to believe that we as a nation are that petty.
All right, zinging someone with a cherry-picked, 16 month-old quote is pretty petty too. But this sentiment expresses a type of libertarianism that I don’t recognize. I know that despite her pseudonym, Megan’s not particularly orthodox, and neither am I: I agree that half the battle for a mass voucher system will be “getting the pricing right” and I don’t see any problem with regressive pricing (however achieved) if that gets the votes. If we can tolerate near-perfect price discrimination in higher education, we can tolerate it in primary and secondary.
But when did this disdain for “rich people” become a “basic that seems obvious?”
UPDATE: Megan responds but misses the point: “Then there’s the taxation is theft crowd. I’m sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I’m not that sort of libertarian.” (See also Why Children are a Special Libertarian Case from January 2006.) Actually, I don’t think anyone on the earlier comment thread said that “educating poor children is immoral,” though Blackwing1 did say that “steal[ing] money from Peter to pay for Paul’s children’s education … is, simply, morally evil.” What’s firing up the commenters is the “obvious” proposal to exclude the rich for being rich.