Monday, April 21, 2014

Government Kills

Kevin Williamson comments on the negligent death of Jerome Murdough, a poor, mentally ill man in Riker's Island prison in New York. Williamson makes the case that the responsibility for this outrage, and innumerable others, lies squarely with our self-interested public sector bureaucracy.

Mr. Murdough was not sacrificed to Moloch, but to Mammon. Our unionized public sector has vast resources at its disposal, and the principal purpose to which it puts them is its own enrichment and aggrandizement. This is not a case of a few bad apples; it is a fundamental characteristic of the system. The model of management at Rikers Island is by no means limited to jails — it is how we organize our schools, our trash-removal operations, and, in case you hadn’t heard, now our health care.
Rikers Island is an extreme example, but consider the rolling scandal of the United Kingdom’s nursing homes: Patients have been half starved to death, left with festering bedsores so deep that their bones were exposed, given drug overdoses, and more. For these services, the homes were collecting in some cases more than $5,000 a month per patient from the National Health Service, whose eagle-eyed auditors had given high marks to some of the worst ones in evaluations issued just before the scandals became public.

...The worst of it is that the very people who failed in their responsibility to Mr. Murdough — which is also their responsibility to us, the people who pay them — will use this episode and others like it to demand more money, more resources, and more power, approximately none of which will be put to its putative purpose in anything approaching a responsible or effective manner. They talk a good game about looking after the least among us, but the evidence — the hard, empirical, bottom-line evidence — is that they are looking after themselves. They look out for the public in the same way that a rancher looks out for livestock: with an eye toward their own proprietary interests. It is not mere coincidence that many public schools and most public housing projects share a great many architectural features with penitentiaries — or industrial chicken farms. They are warehouses for populations that have to be managed and cared for to the precise extent that doing so serves the interests of their managers.
There are a thousand rationales for that: “Think of the children! Think of the homeless! Think of the elderly!”

Speaking of the failures of union bureaucracies...
Responding to a claim by the NY Times' Paul Krugman that the miserly Texas public school system produces outcomes far worse than the national average, the blogger Iowahawk uses data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress to compare the public schools of Texas with those of the collective bargaining paradise of Wisconsin.

The NAEP is an annual standardized test given to 4th and 8th graders around the country to measure proficiency in math, science, and reading. Participation is fairly universal; if you've had a 4th or 8th grader in the last few years, you're probably familiar with it.

After running the numbers from the NAEP, Iowahawk concludes,

To recap: white students in Texas perform better than white students in Wisconsin, black students in Texas perform better than black students in Wisconsin, Hispanic students in Texas perform better than Hispanic students in Wisconsin. In 18 separate ethnicity-controlled comparisons, the only one where Wisconsin students performed better than their peers in Texas was 4th grade science for Hispanic students (statistically insignificant), and this was reversed by 8th grade. Further, Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohort in all 18 comparisons; Wisconsinites were below the national average in 8, above average in 8.
Perhaps the most striking thing in these numbers is the within-state gap between white and minority students. Not only did white Texas students outperform white Wisconsin students, the gap between white students and minority students in Texas was much less than the gap between white and minority students in Wisconsin. In other words, students are better off in Texas schools than in Wisconsin schools - especially minority students.

A couple of comments -

History professor Fred Siegel considers Paul Krugman an embarrassment and a disgrace and attributes his winning of the Nobel Prize in Economics solely to the economist's antipathy to George W. Bush - a resume requirement for Nobel Peace Prize awardees. Krugman's shoddy, disingenuous analysis (see Iowahawk's piece) confirms Siegel's assessment.

One particularly notable achievement of the Texas public school system was to produce Kevin Williamson.

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