So last night's speech on the state of the economy. First impression: We're going to do everything at once: recover from this downturn while simultaneously hitting every item on our wish list! And how will we pay for it? Well, defense will be cut a lot, and the rich people will pay for the rest. After all, they have an endless supply of money, so taking more from them in taxes won't in any way affect their expenditures elsewhere. (There's a little straw in my restatement, for the sake of illustration, but show me where else we were told the money's supposed to come from. When the President said that he and his advisors had already started going through the budget "line by line" and had found places to cut $2 trillion over the next ten years - by the way, always extend your time horizon too far to be checked, and don't say whether your cuts are cuts or simple lower increases than currently planned - the only places he mentioned were defense and "big agribusiness," if memory serves.)
In other words, typical (post-Cold War) Democrat.
But then Pres. Obama reached the part where he "challenged" every American to commit to at least one year of higher education, and I was brought up short. Who the bleeping bleep does he think he is, telling me I should seek more education?
It so happens that I want more education. But I want it for me, not to fulfill some putative "duty to my country," as an earlier generation's or a different nation's politicians might have told me it was my duty to produce more children.
If this nation was founded on anything at all, it was founded on the right of individuals to chart the course of their lives. My high school government teacher, the gifted and beloved Mr. Grover, may he rest in peace, illustrated it in time-tested fashion by swinging his arm and walking toward a student - demonstrating his right to swing his arm until the point where it intersected with the student's nose. Of course, the principle he was demonstrating was the limit of an individual's rights, but whether he intended it or not, he was also demonstrating the right to do something other people consider silly or stupid.
Unfortunately for interlocuters who might insist that education is an unalloyed good or that its lack is costly to society, Heinlein, in his late work Friday, posits an independent California in which the government has noted that college grads make a premium over non-college grads. The inequity is quickly corrected by awarding everyone a bachelor's degree, and there's great rejoicing. Except that now, it's being observed that people with master's degrees are making more than those with mere bachelor's degrees, so there's a ballot initiative in process to upgrade everybody to a master's, backdated some years. What's the purpose of "challenging" everyone to seek more education than they have at present? If they're adequately educated to do their current jobs, what's the plan? The newly unemployed aren't lacking education; they're lacking jobs because the jobs aren't there at present. Prior to this downturn, unemployment was below the level considered to be "full employment"; education doesn't seem to be the problem. So this "challenge" does nothing except up the ante for what's required for a given job. Why? To provide more jobs for teachers? Are they pounding the pavement in disproportionate numbers?
In other words, from both a practical and a philosophical standpoint, it's a stupid idea. Encouraging education - sure, why not? While we're at it, let's encourage fewer abortions and more fruits and vegetables in the diet. But either to mandate these things (which Obama stopped short of doing) or to present them as a "duty" (which he did imply) is overstepping government's proper bounds.