Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Say again?

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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the "me culture".

Nobody else matters. Just you. America is not a nation of people. It's a nation of individuals. Everyone else can burn in hell and you'll be just fine. Right? Because you're so special.

I didn't see Obama's speech. I don't even live in the US, but I will say that I think "everyone should go back to school" is the smartest thing any American President has ever said in my lifetime. And the fact that a popular president like Obama said it means people might actually listen.

What I think Obama is trying to address is the reality that "safety net" jobs for low educated people, jobs like manufacturing, are gone, and if they come back, they'll never pay as much as they used to. And the US needs to start producing more knowledge workers for a knowledge economy. But the US is way behind in knowledge workers. And in a few decades, if we keep up the current place, America could be the new third world.

But that doesn't effect you at all, right. Doesn't effect me either, because I live in Canada.

Kirbside said...

Wow Anonymous... You obviously are projecting...

Freedom is about deciding to do something because you make up your own mind...

I feel sorry for you that you feel that Obama saying everyone should go back to school is the smartest thing any American President has ever said in your lifetime.

... Dont know how old you are, but if older than I, and Liberal leaning... how about JFK's 1961 inaugural speech where he says "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"?

Reagan has many quotes... one on point here...

"I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves." Often not mentioned is he goes on to say "it is one of our sacred rights to be stupid."

"The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas-a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated."

Americans are free. We are individuals. It is those who are afriad to risk of themselves who long for the collective... They long to be cared for and nutured, and will give up their freedom for that care.

eh--

On a personal note Jamie would have been fine never going to school after high school... She knew more prior to june 9th, 1984 than many college graduates...

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what Kirbside thinks I'm trying to project.

Obama didn't say everyone HAS TO go back to school. At least, that's not what I gather from LR's posting.

I gather that the President was encouraging people to further their educations, and while some might interpret that as "go back to school", for others, it might mean "read a newspaper every day".

Be nobody's holding a gun to your head. Just don't go complaining to your government if you become redundant. Telling people to "smarten up" is actually a very conservative statement.

American culture likes to compartmentalize education. Americans associate education with youth. Other cultures, in particular the eastern cultures, do not associate education with youth. This is one of the reasons I think asian cultures are starting to dominate the world economies.

Honestly, if you want to view the President as the nation's CEO (and doesn't every Republican), then he should rightly be concerned about the quality of his human resources. After all, if you are the CEO of the USA, you can't simply fire those that are under-performing. You have to do something about the bottomfeeders... you can teach them, or you can kill them. The nazis took the latter route, the rest of us are trying to be better people.

Kirbside said...

ah, the revision has started. Obama did not say go read a newspaper... He said everyone should get atleast one year of higher education or career training.... So for those who think he meant read a newspaper... well, he did not.

Now as far as being forced. No, not yet... But I think you fail to acknowledge the points Jamie made in her post... Please reread her post to fully understand it.

Now you seem to be mixing up the issue, and are confused on who would complain if "redundant"

Conservatives would not complain about being redundant, they instead go about finding a way through their issues on their own... They wish to be left alone to be free to make their own way through life...

It is the masses of people the left has made dependant that will complain they are redundant...

would it be nice to force these lemmings to improve themselves? Yes, but as a conservative American I believe it is their right to be lemmings... and many of them will continue to be lemmings and follow Obama's message...

Soon we will see all walks of lemmings trying to get a higher education... How many of them will be stuck in remedial classes for that year?

How many of these lemmings are there? I would imagine that the institues of higher education will not have the capacity to take all of these new found revenue givers... opps i mean students. I would assume Obama wants us to go to school immediately.... or should we be issued education ration cards to decide when we can get an education?

Ah, the nazi's.... I love it when they are mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Jamie,

I'm curious to get your opinion on issues of sustainability.

Sustainability doesn't seem to be a very popular topic among conservatives. There appears to be an attitude that "God will sort it all out", so we don't need to worry about carbon emissions, or resource depletion, or infrastructure renewal, or ecological impacts, or even garbage collection.

I'm just wondering because you seem like a bright cookie with a fiscal, rather than social, conservative bent. Human environmental impact is a very important subject to me. I know the science well enough to know it's not a myth, so I want to hear the fiscal conservative's perspective.

From what I gather, it goes something like this: existing business structures don't want to change their established methods, so they oppose sustainable technologies and deny deny deny environmental impacts. They then convince the God-wing of the party that it's all hogwash and that God is in control.

I -get- that. Nobody wants to be forced to do something that is costly. It's up to people to demand sustainable technologies from businesses, to essentially speak with their wallets. The thing I don't get is why Republican/Conservative leaders don't actively promote sustainability, rather than ignore the issue? Why don't they care?