Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
Lambson: So the governor's veto of the sex-ed bill means that, at least for now, the debate has been full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I would rather that policies change systematically in the direction of more liberty not just in education, but in everything. That failing, I've gotta love gridlock.
Bagley: This wasn't a debate about nothing. Honest sex education bears directly on the health, safety and well-being of our children. Our fact-free Legislature made sure that opponents of their bonehead "abstinence only" law didn't get a full hearing, for the simple fact they would have shot holes in the fiction that information turns children in ravenous sex fiends. The only thing left for reasonable people to do was bury Gov. Gary Herbert under an avalanche of calls, emails and petitions. I, too, love it when people rise up and demand their liberties from an oppressive, overbearing, out-of-touch Gayle Ruzicka ... I mean government.
Lambson: The Legislature shouldn't be making the decision for everyone anyway. In my wildest libertarian dreams I envision a world where education is provided by the free market. Let parents decide where to send their children. Of course, since people have been taught in government schools that without government schools we would all be barefoot and illiterate, government control of education is probably here to stay. That is what makes these debates so full of sound and fury and, ultimately, you are right that they are not about nothing.
Bagley: Really? My government education must be deficient because words fail me.
Lambson: Care to elaborate?
Bagley: Just trying to wrap my mind around "Glenn Beck Elementary Education Institute: Forming young minds in Freedom Jell-O Moldsâ¢ ($29.99)." For the life of me I can't think of a single developed nation that doesn't offer public education. And the only global, privately operated, education system that comes immediately to mind are the Islamic madrasas, which are funded by fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabists. See my concern?
Lambson: There would also be room for the "Al Gore Elementary Education Institute: Creating the next generation of environmental terrorists." There might even be an "Adam Smith Elementary School: Teaching principles of limited government and liberty," and a "Franklin Roosevelt Elementary School: Teaching that it is fine to run roughshod over principles of limited government and liberty." The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. If you don't believe that the resulting diversity of ideas would tend to favor the best ideas, whence your faith that the political process will do better?
Bagley: Really? One of these days I'm going to write an essay titled "Why I Lost My Libertarian Faith." In a nutshell, Libertarianism is long on intellectual thought experiment but short on real world workability because it doesn't "get" people.
In the meantime I'm going to curl up with a book that has created quite a stir in your field of economics; "Why Nations Fail," by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. http://whynationsfail.com/summary/
Last week's Top Comment is from RossGa: My point is simple; we can't on one hand have a ridiculous approach to sex ed, and then wonder how to get the abortion rate down. Lack of sex ed leads to higher abortion rates.