Tyranny of the Majority

One of the best news programs out there is This American Life.  Sometimes the stories are a bit on the silly side, but every so often, they have some gripping story that you have to listen to from beginning to end.

This week’s story is one such story.

The story is about the takeover of a public school district in New York State by a certain group of people.  The East Ramapo School District has over the last few years become a war zone between two groups, one that has all the power-literally, and one that has no power.  The description of the episode tells it all:

We take it for granted that the majority calls the shots. But in one NY school district, that idea — majority rules — has led to an all-out war. School board disputes are pretty common, but not like this one. This involves multimillion-dollar land deals, lawyers threatening to beat up parents, felony criminal charges, and the highest levels of state government.

The group that has taken over the school district with devastating results are a community of Hasidic Jews.  The story is a clash between the religious and secular, a story of anti-Semitism- real and imagined and public and private schools.

Listen to the story.  I warn you, your blood will boil by the end.

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107 thoughts on “Tyranny of the Majority

      • This is one of those times where I choose not to go that direction.

        State funding (or federal) is massively over-complicated. I’d guess that most school districts that spend money responsibly now, will spend money fairly responsibly if they had the funds directly. Most school districts that wouldn’t still wouldn’t.

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      • The other take from this is that public school funding should not be left to local control for reasons like this.

        THere’s two things about this comment that strike me as underargued. THe first is the implication that state and federal decision-making is cleaner and less liable to be abused than local decision-making (Patrick’s point). The second is that the problematic part of this might not be “local control” but rather the lack of enforcement of laws already on the books (Mike Schilling’s point).

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    • That piece dismisses “A public school site got sold for way below market value to a private buyer who converted it to a yeshiva, based on a very questionable appraisal” pretty quickly. That’s serious graft, and everyone involved belongs in prison.

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    • I have to respectfully disagree. The article takes a common happening like schools facing budget cuts and uses that as the reason things were bad. The article also insinuates that the opposition is basically anti-Semitic and doesn’t want the Hasidm around. As the This American Life story shows, yes there has been some of that, but most of the complaints were based on what the school board did- not the professed faith of the school board members.

      Also, while I don’t always agree with This American Life (it has a more liberal bias, which is not a bad thing, and I lean more libertarian/conservative), they really do crack reporting. It’s indepth journalism.

      Yes, New York state probably starves its schools, a lot of states do. That doesn’t mean the school board is helpless or not trying to make a bad situation worse.

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      • i suppose a reasonable question would be whether the tablet would have written the same piece about a small group of christian dominionists taking over a district and behaving in a similar fashion.

        i don’t think you’d find many takers on that wager.

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      • dhex,
        Did anyone hear of Dover?
        Dennis, when your religious compatriots beggar a school district by forcing a legal battle that they were pretty much doomed to lose — and then cutting and running… Where was “This American Life”??

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      • As points out below – Christian dominionists (a term I had to look up) don’t behave similarly. They want to impose their view of Christianity on everyone, which requires keeping the public school board funded, but behaving the way they want it to. Hasidim don’t really proselytize, and the particular group who seems to be running the school board they don’t care what happens to “everyone”.

        As far as “Where was This American Life” – the intelligent design vs reasonable science people fight is going on all around, there are a hundred places we can read or hear about the latest front. TIL mostly goes for stories that are surprising because they’re not making national headlines.

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      • “They want to impose their view of Christianity on everyone, which requires keeping the public school board funded, but behaving the way they want it to. ”

        Depends on where you are. There are strains of homeschoolers who undertake that effort to deliberately reduce the student population and thus the political clout of the public school system.

        Listening to the under 92 MHz section of the FM band in South Carolina on an extended drive earlier this year, someone (not a caller, but an invited segment guest) on a explicitly religious talk show was discussing how public education was a sin, because all those schools do is teach children how to be ‘little atheists and little islams’. Then, explicitly pressed for homeschooling and giving tips on how to work that logistically and financially. (gave one grandparent the advice to give their daughter, a single mother daughter a stipend so that she could stay at home to homeschool)

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    • This is not much of a counterview. The title is the most aggressive part.

      This is plan and simple – A racist economic and educational attack by a regressive religious group. The goal is to create a religious educational system that only benefits their own. The aftermath on the ‘others’ does not matter. It’s sickening – My blood is definitely boiling

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      • I’d say that its a bit different than the usual thing we see with Christian dominion groups in that we are dealing with two minority groups rather than a majority group and a minority group. Another difference is that the Hasidim are not trying to control the curriculum and force their beliefs on the public school population but are rather limiting the school budget for their purposes. Its not the right thing to do but it isn’t exactly what Christian dominionist groups do.

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      • Damon, yes there are many religious people that seem to believe that we could make various flavors of theocracy work despite all evidence to the contrary.

        In the case that you are referring to your theory of libertarianism than you have to realize that you are never goign to get a world where the majority of people hold beliefs similar to you and Citizen on what government should and should not do. You aren’t going to get rid of other ideologies ever. Enacting your beliefs and making them stick in perpetuity despite what other groups want isn’t going to work well. The Drys refused to compromise on Prohibition after people got disastisfied with it and in the end lost big.

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      • Just because a country exists for a long time doesn’t mean that its system of government necessarily works. Its not like there were lots of competing nations in the neighborhood until the Spanish came along. I’m also fairly certain your wrong about how long the Inca Empire lasted for. I think it, like the Aztec Empire, was fairly short lived. Its great expansion occured maybe two generations at most before Pizarro.

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      • Jaybird, I compared Damon’s brand of libertarianism to the Drys because both seek to implement a certain policy choice or set of policy choices in perpetuity despite any opposition.

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      • If the policy that they are pushing is the equivalent of “Jesus H Christ, it’s none of your freaking business if other people are drinking beer, you sheet-sniffing moralizer”, I can’t help but think that you’d be better served using a different analogy.

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      • The High Ideology of government institutions have repeatedly failed throughout the history of man.

        The only difference being how many commoners were killed/died from the practice and how much suffering they created.

        What I am trying to say is, you can enjoy the idealogy of drinking Drano, just don’t spill it, or expect me to partake.

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      • @jaybird

        Most people realize that Lysander Spooner was an absolute crank and rightly so. Anarchy and/or communsalism does not work unless you keep society in really really low levels of development. Extreme libertarianism is just like Marxism. Looks great on paper, fails in the real world.

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      • Which is why many of us have switched from absolutism to particular policy-based libertarianism.

        For example: Prohibition. You don’t have to run as a Libertarian to say “you know what? We should let people drink beer if they want to and they’re above 21 and whatnot.”

        I know that saying “people should be allowed to drink beer” might lead to arguments about how I’m saying that people should be allowed to smoke pot or take birth control if they want to without oversight from the patriarchs, but I’m prepared to have that conversation.

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      • Extreme libertarianism is just like Marxism. Looks great on paper, fails in the real world.

        “Just like” except that one fails because people want some freedom, and the other fails because people don’t want that much freedom.

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      • I meant more that they can look very appealing on paper and in thought experiments but like all policies designed to produce utopia are likely to fail.

        I agree with you that Marxism requires too much oppression and one is too anarchic and I am not quite sure what your point was except to possibly prove that people are not worthy of libertarianism.

        It seems to me that most people including liberals like me want balance, order, and stability. How this is defined is relative though. People who thrive on chaos being good often fail to understand this. This was covered in a recently released history of liberalism that is very sympathetic towards classical liberals of the 19th century but concedes that they often failed to understand that most people disliked market anarchy whether businesses or workers.

        Should people desire and clamor for anarchy? I think this kind of attitude is what causes so many people to view tech 2.0 negatively because they are rather blithe on how “disruption” can be negative to someone. I concede that this is relative though and people will probably cheer market anarchy and disruption when it benefits them and dislike it when it hurts them.

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      • Just because a country exists for a long time doesn’t mean that its system of government necessarily works.

        Fair enough. What’s “works”, then?

        Its not like there were lots of competing nations in the neighborhood until the Spanish came along.

        Um, I’m pretty sure there were lots of competing proto-nations in the area. It was a pretty big area, after all.

        I’m also fairly certain your wrong about how long the Inca Empire lasted for. I think it, like the Aztec Empire, was fairly short lived. Its great expansion occured maybe two generations at most before Pizarro.

        Fair enough, WIkipedia disagrees with both of us.

        “The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century, and the last Inca stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, including, besides Peru, large parts of modern Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and central Chile, and a small part of southern Colombia into a state comparable to the historical empires of Eurasia.”

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      • You would be more of a credit to libertarianism if you stopped focusing on the easy issues which most people on this site agree with you on and started focusing on the really hard stuff like the welfare state, social services, economic regulations designed for worker/employee protection, environmental protection, etc.

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      • I imagine we’ll get there in 50 years or so.

        And then folks like you can argue about how stupidly trivial my opinions on the welfare state, social services, economic regulations designed for worker/employee protection, environmental protection, etc, are and how you wish I’d spend more time talking about libertarianism in the wake of the sexrobot apocalypse.

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      • “You would be more of a credit to libertarianism if you stopped focusing on the easy issues which most people on this site agree with you on”

        It really sucks to have people agree with you on important issues that affect all Americans, doesn’t it? I mean, how are you supposed to argue with them when they go around being all reasonable and stuff?

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      • It’s weird. Fewer than 100 years ago, there was enough of a groundswell against this “easy” issue to pass a Constitutional Amendment.

        Now? We know that a guy drinking a beer is something so trivially obvious that it discredits my libertarianism to see the wets as more analogous to the libertarians of today than the drys.

        Which of our views that have, oh, 75% of the states supporting it today will similarly discredit libertarians in 100 years? The “easy” answer is the drug war, of course… but I betcha there are some difficult answers.

        Saul? Out of curiosity, which of your views do you suspect your great grandkids will look back upon and think “man, how freaking blind was he? I’m so glad that we’re so much more evolved than he was!”?

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      • Mine personally? Maybe eating meat? Who knows?

        I still think you are dodging the charge and you are also acting like I am defending the war on some drugs and prohibition. I am not. I said we probably agree on most issues regarding privacy and the war on drugs and police prosecution. That has nothing to do with employee rights, worker safety, environmental protection, and the welfare state, all of which I consider necessary for prosperity for the greatest number of people. I am not a neo-liberal “markets” yay kind of guy who thinks that there is a free-market and capitalist friendly solution to all social problems. Socialism does work better for issues like transportation, health and welfare, and education. I do believe that income inequality is a serious issue and that workers have seen their rights and hard fought for advantages being eroded by the rise of the “gig” economy and “independent contracting” replacing employees. I think this will continue to be an issue.

        The reason I push back hard against you is that you seem to think that having a welfare state means having a state that has NSA and the War on Drugs. I see them as separate issues. I believe in public goods, public schools, public parks, public transportations, and the common good. The common good includes ending the war on drugs but it might also mean increasing the power of social workers and funding for social work.

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      • “I said we probably agree on most issues regarding privacy and the war on drugs and police prosecution.”

        Would we have two years ago?

        I mean, I support full abolition of police unions. Is this something that would get you to say “well, yes, I can see why police unions are problematic” instead of “YOU HAVE A 40 HOUR WORK WEEK BECAUSE OF UNIONS!”?

        If we disagree about police unions today, that’s cool. I can wait. We can have discussions in a couple of years about how I’m undercutting myself by talking about police unions instead of whatever topic you want to talk about.

        The common good includes ending the war on drugs but it might also mean increasing the power of social workers and funding for social work.

        How long ago would you have been yelling at me that the common good requires the war on drugs? How the weakest in society need to be protected by the scourge of drugs on our streets, our children protected from drugs in our schools, and our… somethings… protected from the… something… of drugs.

        Or is that something that you think you’d never have believed, as a good progressive? (Just like, as a good progressive, you see the question of Prohibition as a no-brainer?)

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      • , How long ago would you have been yelling at me that the common good requires the war on drugs? How the weakest in society need to be protected by the scourge of drugs on our streets, our children protected from drugs in our schools, and our… somethings… protected from the… something… of drugs.

        Or is that something that you think you’d never have believed, as a good progressive? (Just like, as a good progressive, you see the question of Prohibition as a no-brainer?)

        I can’t speak for Saul of course, but I’m of a similar age as you and I’ve never held the opinion that the WOD was anything other than an abomination. You know, for all that you and Hanley like to whine about stereotype characterizations of libertarians, you hold some odd ideas about what liberals do and don’t believe and when and why. Maybe you’re confusing liberals with Democratic politicians? Granted there’s some overlap on that Venn diagram but they’re not the same thing.

        Now I will cop to changing my views vis-a-vis ssm and LGBT folks in general over the last couple of decades. I was never actively hostile towards them but I definitely considered them strange and was sort of “wtf??” on the ssm issue. Like many, familiarity has bred tolerance, understanding, acceptance, and even affection. I think they call that growth.

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      • And, BTW, alcohol prohibition wasn’t the apparently obvious dunder-headed move it looks like from our current perspective. America was a bunch of god-damned drunks back then with per capita whiskey consumption measured in the gallons per year and some really nasty social ills to go along with it. Sure, it didn’t work out and led to unanticipated consequences and was relatively quickly reversed, but it may be one of those things that needed to happen nonetheless.

        Firstly, just to find out what would really happen. The drug legalization movement has a powerful argument in it’s arsenal in being able to point to alcohol prohibition as an example of why it’s a bad idea. Secondly, it can be argued that given the state of affairs wrt to alcohol consumption prior to prohibition, the country really benefited from hitting the big red reset button of prohibition and subsequent repeal. It at least jumpstarted the shift in public perception of excessive consumption, making it less of a normalized behavior.

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      • Dude, I was busy trying to think of an appropriate response to your first comment and wondering how to come up with an explanation of the differences between growth, evolution, and mere movement (and failing, mostly) when I see that you wrote a second comment that brings us back around to ground I’m much more comfortable on.

        I understand the point behind Prohibition. I understand the impulse that says “you shouldn’t drink.” I’ve got a handful of alcoholics in my ancestry and stories from the descendants that explain how awful it can be to have a handful of alcoholics in one’s ancestry. I know (or think I know, anyway) what the impulse is hoping for: “if you stop doing this bad thing, we can go back to the way it was supposed to be.”

        But there’s this whole issue underneath that of how it isn’t quite your business, really. To what extent can I tell you what to do? Lemme tell ya, as someone who feels, in his bones, that you don’t have the right to tell me what to do, I struggle with trying to figure out where I get off telling others what to do.

        Even as I understand the impulse.

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      • , it’s called “negative externalities.” When what you’re doing has negative effects on my life I definitely have the jurisdiction to tell you to cut it out. And, by extension, if in general an activity can be shown to have negative consequences for people not engaged directly in said activity then the State at least potentially has an active interest in regulating or curtailing that activity.

        And that was the situation with alcohol (and still is, really). It wasn’t ever really about “your drinking is screwing up your life.” It was “your drinking is screwing up my life” or “your drinking is screwing up the lives of your family, friends, employees, employer, neighbors, etc.”

        In principle, drug/alcohol prohibition is entirely capable of being justified. In practice it just doesn’t work.

        Now let me back up just a bit here. It’s completely justifiable assuming the negative externalities are inevitable. It’s also potentially justifiable if there’s no other reasonable means of mitigating the consequences if those consequences are of sufficient severity and occur with sufficient frequency.

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      • Negative externalities can be grounds for government action, but an outright ban is not generally the right response. There’s probably a margin where the case can be argued, but that case is probably somewhere around anthrax, not alcohol.

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      • It wasn’t ever really about “your drinking is screwing up your life.”

        Respectfully, that’s not accurate. One can read the memoirs of my great grandfather, or take a close look at the WCTU, and see how much of the temperance movement was morality based.

        ,
        I’m not sure you’re really setting up a fair test. Here on these pages I’ve had a few liberals chastise my comments about economic regulation by saying “of course we don’t want to regulate prices and quantity of produced goods,” but in fact the liberal position was in favor of regulating those not even as long ago as prohibition–definitely into the ’50s, and one could even say into the ’70s, with Nixon’s wage and price controls. (Yes, Nixon was a Republican, but he was also the president who said “We’re all Keynesians now.”)

        So I’d say evidence of movement by liberals in the libertarian direction is a fair argument for Jaybird to make.

        But what you seem to be saying is, “I won’t take you seriously as a libertarian unless you can make a satisfactory argument on the issues where we differ most.” I don’t think that’s really a proper standard. That’s a good case on which to play mutatis mutandis and imagine Jaybird had pitched that one at you.

        +

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      • “Here on these pages I’ve had a few liberals chastise my comments about economic regulation by saying “of course we don’t want to regulate prices and quantity of produced goods,” but in fact the liberal position was in favor of regulating those not even as long ago as prohibition” Hell, James, that’s going on right now, even as we speak, in my state-at least the pricing. Trying buying gas or repair related materials after a storm. Try buying a generator when there are power outages. Demand is up, supply is down/flat. Prices would normally go up, but NO..that would be gouging…and is illegal.

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      • , I don’t think we really disagree much if at all in principle. I’m just pushing back against the argument advanced by Jaybird which, to be frank, strikes me as possibly the weakest libertarian argument out there. The “you’re not the boss of me” line is also pretty popular with my ten-year old daughter and, to be honest, the ensuing conversations feel very similar where you have to patiently explain that rules generally have good reasons behind them even if it’s not immediately obvious to you. Which certainly isn’t to say that every law or rule on the books is justified or well-crafted but that it really isn’t generally about telling people what to do for the sake of telling people what to do. I actually lived in such an environment for a couple months in Navy boot, so I know the difference.

        If your ancestors hale from Northern Europe or some parts of Africa you very likely inherited a gene that allows you to digest milk in adulthood. But in most parts of the world lactose intolerance is the rule rather than the exception and, for instance, in Japan milk and cheese are considered gross and not fit for human consumption. Alcohol is sorta like that. Most cultures across Europe and Asia have a long tradition of alcohol consumption and over time the individuals that couldn’t drink responsibly were largely weeded out of the population to the point where alcoholism was considered a kind of moral failure. But the natives of North America had no such history and so they have a much higher susceptibility to alcoholism and less ability to drink responsibly. A few hours north of my home is a reservation called Pine Ridge where the tribal government has banned all alcohol. Given the particulars of their situation I’m hard-pressed to argue they’re wrong to do so. Alcoholism has been devastating to our Native peoples, costing many lives, destroying families, and robbing them of their dignity. Libertarian principles ring pretty hollow in comparison.

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      • See here’s the thing: “I’m just pushing back against the argument advanced by Jaybird which, to be frank, strikes me as possibly the weakest libertarian argument out there. The “you’re not the boss of me” line is also pretty popular with my ten-year old daughter and, to be honest, the ensuing conversations feel very similar where you have to patiently explain that rules generally have good reasons behind them even if it’s not immediately obvious to you.”
        It’s not that it “isn’t generally about telling people what to do for the sake of telling people what to do”, it’s that the telling is because it’s FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. You’ve pretty much nailed my point. Thanks! Daddy gov’t/society has said “you have to do this”. I’m an adult, not a child.

        And you’ve nicely pointed out the fact that gov’t/society IS INDEED the boss of you/us because they CAN and DO ensure compliance of their rules by force. Just like a child misbehaving and being punished.

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      • Road Scholar,

        I have to agree with Damon here. If you say the weakest libertarian argument is “you’re not the boss of me,” I’d say the weakest liberal argument is “it’s for your own good.”

        The externalities argument does put you on much better ground, but it’s also very easily over-applied. If we want to eliminate all externalities, we’ll need to rigorously regulate every single aspect of people’s lives, right down to the expressions on their face; in fact, even to the aesthetic appeal of their faces–mandatory plastic surgery for everyone who’s not born beautiful! Of course that’s pushing it to the point of the absurd, and I’m not suggesting any liberal wants to regulate every conceivable externality. I’m just pointing out that the externalities argument is not itself a knock-down argument because externalities are ubiquitous and range from the devastating to the trivial.

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      • Damon,

        I’m in agreement with you about “price gouging,” but I’d say there is a difference between wanting to control prices only in times of emergency vs. wanting to plan the whole economy via comprehensive price and production controls. The latter treats controls as an ordinary matter–the fundamental basis of the economic system–while the former treats controls only as an unusual, extraordinary, matter.

        They’re wrong, yes, but not as wrong as their grandparents.

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      • The “you’re not the boss of me” line is also pretty popular with my ten-year old daughter and, to be honest, the ensuing conversations feel very similar where you have to patiently explain that rules generally have good reasons behind them even if it’s not immediately obvious to you.

        Ah, but here is the rub:

        You’re not my dad.

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      • for instance, in Japan milk and cheese are considered gross and not fit for human consumption.

        …uhh, what? That’s news to me.

        …granted, we don’t like what passes for cheese and milk in America, but that goes for much of the rest of the world.

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      • There is plenty of good cheese made in the United States. Check out Cowgirl Creamery.

        Every country has their companies like Kraft and Hersheys which are just as large. I don’t understand why it is acceptable to say that they represent the norm in the U.S. but not the rest of the world.

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    • Since there seems to be some confusion over my comment, I’ll elaborate, although Patrick was pretty close in his response to my comment “There are differing opinions on that. :)”

      But let’s address my first comment about “democracy” being great. “Democracy” is used when the majority gets their way over the minority. Object to that new law? “Democracy has spoken!” Of course things change when you’re facing the point of the spear. When a state, for example, decides to ban SSM, the outcry is “We can’t allow this, minorities have rights!” Odd, that the same people say both depending upon the issue? If “democracy has spoken” then by definition, anytime there is a vote and the majority wins, minorities are getting hosed. I’m trying, perhaps poorly, to point this out. It seems to go unrecognized quite often.

      So on to my “differing opinions” comment: North and Lee both said, essentially, Democracy is the best that’s been tried. I’d happen to agree with that, but others might argue differently. My point was not that other forms of society have worked well in the past but that people nowadays might think some other form of gov’t was better, be it theocracy, monarchy, what the Brits have, total anarchy, etc, or that people disagreed with Winston Churchill’s comment, because, Winston was stating an opinion, not a fact.

      Side note: Now, as to whether or not a gov’t structure “works”, we could get all bogged down into that argument, but I’d argue that something “worked” if it lasted for any significant amount of time. And by that measure, western democracy hasn’t been around that long at all. Whether or not it worked well is a different point entirely.

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      • And of course there are different types of democracies, some of them leaning more toward “the majority gets whatever they want to get” and others leaning more toward “here’s a bunch of things that the majority doesn’t get to do even if they want to.” Libertarians do tend to like that latter style a bit more.

        One of these days, though, I’m going to do a thorough read up on the charter cities issue, which is quite popular in some libertarian circles, and write a good–or at least long–post on the issue. Maybe at long last someone’s found something better than constitutionally-constrained democracy, but maybe it’s just another pipe dream.

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      • When you write that, make sure you populate the charter city with the same people referenced in the OP; or make them strident Occupy leftists, or Tea Party Palinistas.

        In other words, real Merkins.

        No, I only wish I was being snarky. Because that’s the trouble with any form of political system, is the people who have to operate it aren’t necessarily interested in pursuing it to the same outcome as the system designers.

        Sometimes people have differing views of what “justice” looks like and can make any system create justice, or injustice.

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      • LWA,

        The interesting thing about charter cities is that the intention is for the designers to be the operators. Think Dubai, as perhaps our closest contemporary example. That is, I think, the most fundamental difference, is the lack of designer/operator split. They’re not planning to be democracies except in the sense that you can vote with your feet if you don’t like them.

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      • Wouldn’t the republican form of government clause in the constitution get in the way of charter cities in the US? I know there are gated communities and places like the Disney town but they can’t get away with abolishing locally elected government as far as I can tell. Same with Glenn Beck’s town in Idaho?

        They also probably could not get away with saying that they are above state and federal laws.

        The big thing abut Dubai is that the UAE is not very democratic to begin with. That makes Dubai a rather easy charter city.

        I would also say that seafaring is likely to fail.

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      • I think its pretty easy actually, to craft a political system that works great when everyone agrees to it. What happens to dissenting minority voices is usually the problem.

        Which is kind of the problem in the original post here; you have at least one triumphalist faction refusing to acknowledge dissenting voices or compromise. And triumphalism tends to breed its counterpart in the other factions.

        I at a loss, actually, as to what political system would create justice when more than a small minority outright demand injustice as their goal.

        Which is where I come back to the idea this is a cultural problem, of fear and loathing between groups rather than some systemic failure.

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      • , the republican form of government explicitly refers to state governments. It, as far as I know, has never applied to local government or even been that rigorously interpreted. Technically, a state could decide to adopt a parliamentary system with a Hereditary Governor to fulfill the ceremonial jobs and it could still be a republican form of government. If you don’t call a monarch a monarch, is it still a monarchy? A state could argue that they aren’t a monarchy, they just decided to keep the role of governor hereditary like it was done in the Dutch Republic with the House of Orange.

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      • Saul,

        Advocates seem to be looking outside the U.S. for locations.

        But I think a person could set up a private contractual city in the U.S.

        I do wonder how a charter city would deal with people creating suburbs.

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      • , its also a problem with basing the school budget on a local property tax. In a school district where most people don’t need the schools because most kids are in private schools or the adults don’t have school aged children for the most part, there is serious reasons to vote for a lower school district. According to the New York magazine article, East Ramopo has about twenty-two thousand Ultra-Orthodox kids outside the public schools and 8,000 kids inside the public school district. If it was a more even split than you have a decent argument on why the Ultra-Orthodox majority should support public education but three-fourths of the kids are in private schools. That changes the equation a lot in my mind. The demographics are so tilted in favor of kids in private schools that it seems at least a little unfair to ask the Ultra-Orthodox to basically subsidize the education of public school kids through taxes and not have any say about it while paying for their own kids education out of their pockets.

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      • Charter cities always strikes me as a bit funny a concept. I mean it’s so explicitly 19th century a concept. Singapore, Hong Kong, Dejima in Nagasaki…on some level the colonial cities like Boston or New York were also built out of the same ideas as charter cities. One could also look at the variety of SEZ based cities that basically fall under the same rubric of carving out more liberal economic rules inside a different state.

        A lot of Southeast Asia’s major port cities sort of developed in this way, as concessions made by local rulers to Imperial powers, with greater freedom of trade, etc. I don’t think the problem with a charter city per se would be democracy or lack thereof (though, one would note that both Singapore and Hong Kong are not exactly liberal), but rather if you emphasize operator-governance, then you’d probably be creating a situation that will eventually lead to rent-granting by the ruling class in one form or another.

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      • I’ve enjoyed reading Romer’s work on the topic, but there does seem to be some magic underpants gnomesing going on with some of the processes. Part of it is partly a matter of resources and preventing these things from starting out as a means of rent-seeking or at least selective regulatory environments. Now there’s some connection between, say, how cooperative self-regulation and/or voluntary certification regimes and sustainable tourism development goes, but that hardly works on the scale necessary to establish a self-sufficient urban economy.

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      • I’d say a combination of 19th century and futuristic sci-fi, perhaps. But, yeah, I get where you’re coming from. I’m intrigued by the idea conceptually, but as much as I hate the cheap-ass “underpants gnomes” phrase (so designed to end debate, not enhance it), I’m not sure it’s unfair in this case. I think there’s a lot of basic political problems that aren’t being addressed–there’s a tendency toward classic utopian thinking. But that’s why I’d like to dig in deeper, to take a closer look to see what isn’t there in their arguments, what I think they’re missing.

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      • the republican form of government explicitly refers to state governments. It, as far as I know, has never applied to local government or even been that rigorously interpreted. Technically, a state could decide to adopt a parliamentary system with a Hereditary Governor to fulfill the ceremonial jobs and it could still be a republican form of government. If you don’t call a monarch a monarch, is it still a monarchy?

        I’m not actually seeing any constitutional bar to a state operated by ceremonial monarchy, even specifically called a monarchy. A ‘republic’ form of government seems, in my mind, to mean that the voters(1) choose the actual leadership…if a state wants to have a non-elected *symbolic* position, that’s allowed, whether they call that person a ‘governor’ or a ‘king’ or a ‘poet laureate’.

        I seem to recall there are actually people proposing that Hawaii recreate their throne (as a purely symbolic position) via state constitutional amendment, but I can’t find anything about that now.

        (Oh, and before anyone get confused…yes, states can give out titles of nobility. They don’t, but they can.)

        1) Of course, people often forget that, constitutionally speaking, citizens do not have the right to be voters. So requiring a ‘republic’ form of government isn’t quite as useful as people think, because a state could just say that only certain people could vote. (As long as it wasn’t one of the classifications that constitutional amendments forbid discriminating on.) It would seem plausible to basically create a hereditary house of lords, along with an actual monarch, by making those people (and just those people) ‘the voters’, and have them, essentially, elect themselves.

        …at some point it might be a good idea to pass a constitutional amendment giving the hypothetical ‘right to vote’ to all citizens.

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    • Yep. I love hearing people scream about education in America as if it were a monolithic entity, because bluntly put — education is about as locally controlled as it gets. And whatever is mandated to schools is done by the state to boot.

      Lunch standards and special ed stuff is about as far as the federal fingers go.

      People have this weird view on public education — like all school districts are the same — pay the same, operate under the same rules, use the same curriculum, everyone has tenure (my state doesn’t have it at all), are funded the same…

      Seriously, school boards get to pick administrators and superintendents. They can literally make or break your district, and it’s comprised of a handful of people who were selected in a VERY low-turn out election that 95% of their district probably didn’t realize actually occurred, and the sorts of people drawn to the position are…diverse.

      My local school district spent almost a decade with 5 members (of 12 total) who got themselves elected entirely because they wanted to get Creationism on the curriculum. Of the 5, 2 had school age children (all in private schools), the other three were childless or if they had children, they had long sense left the nest. All 5 were members of the same church, whose pastor/reverend/whatever had urged them to run — and urged the church to get out and vote.

      A congregation of perhaps 200, counting kids and people who rarely attended, is enough to swing a school district election in a town of 20,000 people.

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      • For what it’s worth, I support local control because it seems to me that the choice is between “having the people you’re talking about have local control only” and “having the people you’re talking about having seats on the national board in charge of everything”.

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      • But Jaybird certainly if we had national school policy then only the best people would be elected to the position and determine policy!

        Oh wait, it would be under HHS and none of them would be elected at all? Um.

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      • Fewer but better elections could fix this problem in most cases. Rather than have the school board be run by an independent elected body, you have it run by the city council or the county. At the very least try to schedule elections for the ones most people show up for.

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      • Largely true, until NCLB
        Man, I don’t know anyone — liberal or conservative — who doesn’t hate NCLB. I know teachers hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I’m not sure what the actual plan was, but the resulting law and implementation seems designed to drive teachers to drink, students to check out, districts to fail, and basically turn education into a festering pile of refuse.

        I recall one middle school in our district whose entire marks as a school boiled down to approximately 5 students out of several hundred. Those five kids got tutored out the wazoo. I know one elementary school ping-ponged on ratings depending on the incoming ESL sizes each year…hard to keep your reading scores up when the number of ESL kids varies from say 10% to 30% in each grade.

        Anyways, in the end — nobody cares whose on the school board (or even the state boards) except education professionals and people with an axe to grind. Doesn’t matter how often or seldom or when you have the elections, nobody cares unless there’s a high-profile screw up.

        Maybe I’m just cynical — I’m from Texas, whose state board has been headed up by a dentist and creationist, and whose love of completely pants-on-head stupid textbooks is infamous.

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  1. The NY state constitution seems pretty clear on the subject. (1) The legislature is on the hook to provide for a system of free public schools. (They seem to have delegated most of the details to the state Dept of Ed, a not-uncommon practice.) (2) No public money may be spent, directly or indirectly, excepting for examination and inspection, to support any school operated or directed in whole or part by a religious denomination, or teaching any denominational doctrine. Surely there’s a process for challenging the board if they’re in violation of one or more rules, laws, or the constitution?

    New York’s constitution doesn’t say anything about the adequacy of the schools, nor about local control, although I assume the former is implicit. I live in a state where the constitution puts the legislature on the hook for funding a system of “thorough and uniform” free public schools, and also requires the legislature to create local districts that are to be in charge of instruction. Many western states have some variation on the “thorough and uniform” bit. Colorado finished up a lawsuit that dragged on for years initially brought by the rural districts arguing they needed much more state money for the “uniform” part (the ruralistas lost). The legislatures in both Kansas and Texas have been spanked by their respective supreme courts fairly recently over spending too little to accomplish their equivalent of “thorough”.

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    • The WA courts just kicked the legislature in the teeth for failing to meet their obligation with regard to funding public schools. Seeing as how eager the legislature is to trim school budgets first whenever they want to raise taxes, I think this is a good thing. We really need some kind of state constitutional amendment that prioritizes budget concerns. No trimming the school budgets while remodeling the capitol building & the governor’s mansion.

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      • Unfortunately this doesn’t really stop legislatures. I mean the Texas State Legislature has been whacked REPEATEDLY by the courts for failing to live up to its constitutional responsibilities in terms of school funding, but they keep doing the same damn thing. It’s basically budgeting by lawsuit.

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      • One of the worst consequences of the 1960s from a liberal prospective is that all sorts of liberal, progressive, and minority groups got use to trying to get what they want from the judiciary rather than the legislative process. Its understandable because the structure of American and state governments plus the large conservative population in many states rigs the game against minority groups or liberal groups but its not really a working strategy. To effect liberal or progressive change you really do need control of the legislature and executive.

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      • Yeah, that was one of the big criticisms of the lawsuit. How will the courts enforce it? Fines would have to be applied to the legislators directly, rather than the body as a whole, to have any effect, which I don’t think is legal. Otherwise the courts would have to manage the budget to a degree, and then you have a separation of powers issue.

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      • The Colorado case, at least, started out as the small, rural, poor, very conservative school districts suing for a bigger slice of the pie. Eventually the bigger, richer, urban/suburban districts joined in to make the case about the size of the pie, not how it was sliced.

        It was a long drawn-out affair. At first, the state argued that interpretation of “uniform and thorough” was up to the legislature. That went up to the supreme court, who said “Maybe, maybe not, go ahead and have the trial.” The district court’s decision was that the pie was indeed too small, by somewhere between $1B and $4B per year. That went up to the supreme court, who said “We’ve decided that it’s up to the legislature after all.”

        I think that decision was political, without question. Due to TABOR, the state legislature can’t raise taxes. Finding another $1B per year most likely meant the end of state funding for higher ed; finding another $4B per year most likely meant the end of higher ed and withdrawing from Medicaid.

        And just to keep things interesting, in the federal lawsuit against TABOR on the basis of the Guarantee Clause, plaintiffs have been winning little things: the District Court and the 3-judge panel of the Appeals Court have said this case is enough different from precedents to proceed; the full Appeals Court declined the request for rehearing. I believe the Supreme Court filing, if defendants go that route (which seems likely), is due by sometime in October. My bet is the SCOTUS will deny cert and the trial will begin around the middle of next year.

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  2. We wouldn’t allow Taliban schools teaching bigotry, hatred, and suppression of women in the middle of America. Why exactly do we allow another fundamentalist religious group to be exempt from our education laws?

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  3. Hey! Remember when I wrote about my town and it’s own Hasidic population? Everyone points to East Ramapo as what we don’t want to become, for whatever that’s worth…

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