Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Public Policy

A Critique of Private Schools, Vouchers, and the School Choice Movement

One of the big ideas at the heart of the education reform movement in many countries is the concept of “school choice”. The idea is that by allowing parents to choose schools for their children, policymakers can use the principle of market competition to force schools to improve. By forcing schools to compete for students to receive funding, school choice is meant to force schools to make themselves more appealing to parents. In theory, school choice doesn’t even increase inequality, because vouchers can be issued allowing parents to send their kids to private schools that would otherwise be too expensive. This is intuitively appealing, but does it hold up against scrutiny?

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Immigration: What Obama Did and Why He Did It

I’ve had a few readers ask me to do a piece explaining US President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration. I’ll aim to explain what Obama did, why Obama did what he did, and whether or not what Obama did was legal.

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Does the US/China Emissions Deal Make a Difference?

Recently the United States and China agreed to a carbon emissions reduction deal to combat global warming. Under the terms of the deal, the US agrees to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025, while China agrees to reach peak emissions by 2030, and to generate 20% of its energy with zero-emissions technology by that year. Diplomacy is notoriously difficult, and consequently any deal on climate change heartens those who watch international politics. But are these emissions reductions sufficient to avert the worst of what global warming potentially has to offer? I’m not seeing much coverage of the deal from a climate science perspective, so I decided to look into it.

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What do the Midterms Mean? Not Much…

In much of the media’s coverage of the US midterm elections, the focus has been on the number of races won by republican candidates. When we look exclusively at races won, it appears as if the right has scored a stunning victory. The trouble is that in the American political system, power is widely distributed. An individual congressman, senator, or even governor or president can do very little to meaningfully effect policy.  Consequently, when we evaluate what an election means, we need to evaluate whether enough power has been accumulated by one side or the other to meaningfully sway policy outcomes. When we do this at the federal level, we see that the balance of power has remained more or less consistent since 2010.

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Robot Doctors and Internet Professors

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on the American healthcare and higher education systems, noting that they both suffer from rising costs because the consequences of failing to obtain these services are very dire. I argued that while it is quite unfair to deny healthcare or education to people on the basis of their economic background, there are limits to the supply of these services available–limited numbers of hospital beds, doctors, professors, and university places. Consequently, I claimed it made sense for the state to ration access to these services, ensuring that poor people who can make splendid use of them have access by denying access to those who cannot derive the same benefits. It makes little sense to give a university place to a 95-year old over a poor 20-year old, or to attempt to prolong the poor-quality life of a 95-year old at the expense of saving a poor 5-year old. However, it was suggested to me that this argument might rest on a false assumption–namely, that the supply of college education and healthcare might not be supply constrained, or, at the very least, might soon cease to be. I’d like to consider this objection in further detail.

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