Public Education

Over the years I have come across more authoritarian options to make the public schools better than I was aware of last time around: longer school hours, year around schools, uniforms, advanced degrees for school teachers, etc. As such, I think it wise to narrow the Education question to just primary education. Leave college out or to another question.

And yes, the old question was extremely biased. Need to work on that.

Anyway, here is a more comprehensive question with less bias:

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Public education is a key component to a successful democracy, or an example of democratic socialism — depending on whom you ask. Regardless, pundits all over the political spectrum claim that U.S. public schools are worse than they should be. They point to better test scores by students all over the world to back their assertions.

Should our system of public education be significantly reformed?

  • Yes, we need more class time. Extend school hours to match standard work hours.
  • Yes, we need more class time. Extend the school year and get rid of the long summer break when the kids forget what they have learned.
  • Yes, we need better trained teachers. Require graduate degrees to teach and pay teachers accordingly.
  • Yes, we need more discipline. Require school uniforms.
  • Yes, divide the school population between academics and vocational ed students via tests like they do in much of Europe.
  • Any 2 of the above reforms.
  • Any 3 of the above reforms.
  • Any 4 of the above reforms.
  • All of the above reforms.
  • No, our system has its problems, but it fosters creativity and universal citizenship.
  • Yes, the schools need competition to keep administrations on the bounce. We need more charter schools and other forms of public school choice.
  • Yes, we need more competition. Grant school vouchers for students who go to private school (at a fraction of the marginal cost of public school).
  • Yes, charge partial tuition for public schools and grant scholarships for poor students. (This gets around the religious freedom problem that vouchers present.)
  • Yes. Sell off the public schools and grant school vouchers for all children.
  • Yes. Sell off the public schools and completely separate school from state. Let charities figure out how to educate the poor.

This is a lot of options, but this is a big question. And since the Quiz is now online only, no need to be as short as it used to be. What think ye?

Censorship

Should I keep the censorship question? It seems dated with cable TV and the Internet as options. If you want to see it, you pretty much can these days. In fact you can see it even if you don’t want to.

The main calls for censorship I see currently are people complaining about non-media corporations buying political advertising. This is an area where the political Right is more for free speech than the Left at the moment (in the U.S.)

Any other good censorship issues active in the U.S.? Otherwise, I think I will remove this category for the next version of the Quiz.

Sex

My old sex question is really dated — it references the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Sodomy and fornication laws are no longer enforced. Whether or not prostitution should be legal is relevant, but what do I put in for authoritarian options?

In the comments below, I would really appreciate some ideas here. Should I keep the sex issue at all? Or are their other sex-related issues more pressing than whether or not to legalize prostitution? (Gay marriage is a biggie, but it doesn’t entirely fit in the libertarian-authoritarian axis.)

Anyway, a draft:

SEX INDUSTRY

If you own your body, why can’t you sell it or images thereof? On the other hand, love and marriage are precious and declining. If cracking down the sex industry would save marriages, then wouldn’t this be worth the price? But is the sex industry responsible for the decline of marriage?

To what degree should the sex industry be legal?

  • None, outlaw pornography AND strip clubs.
  • Much less, outlaw pornography OR strip clubs.
  • Less. Make it harder to get pornography, but allow it for determined adults. For example, all dirty images on the Internet should be behind paywalls.
  • Current law: outlaw and regulate as we do now.
  • More legal. Keep strip clubs and pornography legal, and legalize prostitution as well.

Free Trade

Adam Smith and David Ricardo made a very powerful case against mercantilism, Ricardo going so far as to do a mathematical proof. Yet mercantilist China is fast becoming the world’s economic superpower. Free trade U.S. is in danger of becoming a has been power.

Yes, one can blame overregulation, deficit spending, and perhaps vulture capitalism for U.S.  relative declines. And even though the balance sheet is looking bad, and U.S. employment numbers stink, it is also true that U.S. (and First World in general) workers benefit from being able to purchase cheap goods from rising powers like China.

Still, theory and results seem a bit at odds. How does the Law of Comparative Advantage work when applied to a country which has a welfare system, a minimum wage, and workplace safety regulations? How about when one country subsidizes an export? Which is closer to the free trade optimum: one country subsidizing an export with not response, or the importer imposing a tax equal to the subsidy?

And even if tariffs are still destructive, how do revenue tariffs compare with other taxes? All taxes have a price.

I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions. I suspect there are some economists out there who have redone Ricardo’s proof with some of these complications added. If so, I’d be interested in some references. In the meantime, I have become considerably more sympathetic to the protectionists and anti-globalization advocates than I was when I first wrote the Quiz.

So, an attempt at a more balanced question (to replace the old Subsidies question).

FREE TRADE

The classical economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo made compelling cases for free trade. Specialization and comparative advantage benefit all trading partners. But did their proofs take into account the modern welfare state, minimum wages and pollution regulations? Are first world nations such as the U.S. giving away their seed corn to rising mercantilist powers such as China, while hurting their working classes in the bargain? Then again, what of the complexity, corruption and crony capitalism which arises when the government tries to offset foreign export subsidies with retaliatory tariffs, counter subsidies, etc.?

What should the U.S. trade policy be?

  • Continue as currently, more or less.
  • Get rid of all tariffs, quotas, and export subsidies.
  • Aggressively enforce existing trade laws, retaliating against foreign subsidies which hurt domestic industries.
  • Increase tariffs and/or pull out of some/all of our trade agreements.
  • Implement an all out industrial policy.
  • Get rid of the existing reams of tariff schedules and trade agreements, but tax imports implicitly by having a national sales tax. This sales tax could replace Social Security taxes, the federal income tax, or both.

Hmmm, not as many options as I have for some V7 questions, but perhaps this is a good thing. Note that I do not go from most authoritarian to least or vice versa. The last answer is probably the most libertarian, yet if follows the most authoritarian. Confusing?

Hard Drugs

When I was young and single, I agreed with the libertarian position on drugs: legalize them all. Now that I am older and a parent, I must admit that I don’t want a crack house down the street — legal or illegal. Some of the hard drugs, especially the uppers like cocaine and meth, can induce violence even without the black market component. Marijuana users, on the other hand, present no extra danger to others. So I want to separate marijuana from the hard drugs issue.

That said, making the hard drugs universally illegal does subsidize a criminal underground, an underground dangerous enough to turn Mexico into a failed state. There are good arguments for legalization other than natural rights arguments.

So, for the next edition of the Quiz, I want to go fine grained on the options, to see if people are interested in attempting to balance between the dangers of criminal gangs vs. out of control neighbors.

HARD DRUGS

Hard drugs such as cocaine and opiates are dangerous, both to the users and those around the users. They are addictive as well, so the “right to choose” argument is weaker than it is for softer drugs like marijuana. On the other hand, making these drugs illegal subsidizes dangerous criminal gangs, and diverts users from the dilute forms (coca leaf tea, smoked opium gum) to the more concentrated forms (crack, heroin). Finally, because discrete drug use is operationally a victimless crime, we require police state tactics in order to have any chance at successful enforcement.

Should we change our laws against hard drugs?

  • No. Keep the laws we have on the books, and enforce at current levels.
  • No. Keep existing laws and extend vigorous enforcement. Treat rich white users as harshly as minorities caught with hard drugs.
  • Increase the penalties for possession to those for dealing so the courts don’t have to prove intention to distribute.
  • In addition to existing enforcement, seal the borders so cocaine and opium cannot get into the country.
  • Keep the laws, but back off on some of the more aggressive police state tactics. Instead, seal the borders and search for the drugs at border crossings instead of doing dangerous no-knock searches on citizens.
  • Yes. but legalize the more dilute forms only (cf. coca leaf, smokeable opium).
  • Legalize hard drugs for licensed users only. (Like Timothy Leary’s proposal. License drug use like we license drivers and pilots.)
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users only.
  • Legalize hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only (Nevada, Indian reservations…), like we do for casino gambling today.
  • Legalize dilute forms of hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only.
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all forms but to licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all hard drugs period. Punish those who cannot handle their highs and hurt others.

What important permutations have I missed? What bias needs to be removed?

 

Marijuana

States across the land are passing medical marijuana provisions, and many in the mainstream media are calling for outright legalization. Opinions on the harder drugs (cocaine, opiates) are significantly different. So for version 7 of the Quiz, I think it’s time to split the drug question.

(Well, actually, medical cocaine and opiates are legal today, and have been all along. But they have been strictly controlled. California’s medical marijuana program is something of a free-for-all, a near legalization.)

Marijuana

Marijuana is in many ways as soft or softer a drug than currently legal drugs. It is far less addictive than tobacco, and induces far less belligerent behavior than alcohol. Making marijuana illegal is Prohibition all over again, an enormous subsidy for gangs and organized crime. Then again, marijuana does have health hazards, and long term use can cause paranoia and resistance to”working for The Man.” Can we field an army with marijuana legal?

Should marijuana be legalized?

  • No. Keep current laws on the books.
  • No, and crack down on states which de facto legalize marijuana through lax “medical marijuana” laws.
  • No, and expand enforcement. Throw the book at rich white users the same as we do with poor blacks.
  • Partially. Legalize medical marijuana, but with a stricter definition of medical than California uses.
  • Partially. Use California’s medical marijuana laws as a national model.
  • Decriminalize only. Make marijuana possession and dealing a fineable offense, with fines in proportion to amount found.
  • Yes. Legalize marijuana outright, but tax and regulate it like we do hard liquor.
  • Yes. Legalize mariuana and don’t regulate/tax.

What options have I missed? Is my prelude too biased?

 

Health Care

The current version of the Quiz has nothing to say about health care. Talk about a glaring omission! No wonder why Quiz2D is being eclipsed by newbie quizzes, including the execrable Political Compass. Time to remedy the omission. Here is a shot at a health care question. Please feel free to throw rocks/make constructive suggestions in the comments.

HEALTH CARE

Medical costs are exploding, bankrupting individuals, corporations, and governments. Some blame the excessive use of insurance: moral hazards, lack of shopping, blizzards of paperwork. Others blame lawsuits and/or excessive licensing requirements. Liberals point to lack of preventative care for the poor, and emergency rooms clogged with poor people who cannot get care elsewhere. Recently, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”), an incredibly complicated piece of legislation which many on both the right and left believe is a mere stepping stone to socialized medicine.

What should we do about exploding health care costs?

  • Give ObamaCare a chance. Stay the course.
  • Stop messing about. Enact British style socialized medicine now. (Government single payer, but legal private practice.)
  • Everyone should have equal health care. Enact a Canadian style single payer system. (Paying doctors out of pocket illegal.)
  • Repeal ObamaCare and go back to what we had before, perhaps with some tort reform.
  • Repeal ObamaCare and have an individual tax deduction for health insurance instead of requiring people to go through their employers to get the tax exemption.
  • Repeal ObamaCare and replace tax free employer provided health insurance with a capped tax credit. (A tax credit gives the working poor incentive to buy health insurance. A cap gets rid of the subsidy for “Cadillac plans.”)
  • Repeal ObamaCare  and the employer provided health insurance exemption. Instead, give all citizens a health insurance voucher sufficient to buy a catastrophic health insurance policy. This better insures the poor, which leaving it to the market whether to pay ordinary medical bills out of pocket or buy more than catastrophic coverage.
  • Repeal ObamaCare, the employer provided health insurance exemption, Medicare, Medicaid, and most restrictions on practicing medicine. Let nurses handle the mundane illnesses. Let pharmacists recommend and sell medicines to the already diagnosed without requiring expensive prescriptions.

For the record, I favor the second to last option, coupled with a bit of tort reform and deregulation.  There is no way to have every permutation of subsidy, tort reform and deregulation in a reasonable sized quiz. Note that many options don’t say what to do about Medicare or Medicaid. Health care could be a quiz all its own. Maybe I should make one…

Government Provided Welfare

For Version 6 of the quiz, I had a question on overall government spending, and one on retirement. This time around I want to be more specific. Federal spending includes welfare, military, entitlements, law enforcement, farm subsidies, and more. Cannot cover all the bases in reasonable length quiz, but I think hitting the biggies individually is in order. Welfare is a biggie. It is so big that it deserves to split into multiple categories, at least:

  1. Retirement/Social Security. Already in V6, but I think it should stay in for V7. It is both a middle class entitlement and welfare for the working poor.
  2. Public Education. The upper middle class would probably save money if it were privatized, but what would happen to the children of the working poor? So I declare it a welfare program.
  3. Health care. The big issue of the day. Medicaid is considered welfare, but given that we are debating healthcare in general as a nation, and Medicaid changes are part of Obamacare, healthcare related welfare deserves its own question.
  4. Other welfare: food stamps, monetary aid, earned income credit, childcare, public housing, etc.

Not sure if we should have a separate question relating to government care of the severely handicapped, but I think the welfare question should not address this topic. The issue is welfare for those who could theoretically work.

So how about:

OTHER WELFARE PROGRAMS

Work is not always available, or the pay is not enough to live on. Bad decisions and bad luck happen. Without some time of safety net (either public or private) people suffer even in a wealthy society. On the other hand the existing welfare programs are accused of encouraging sloth, fornication, and other unproductive habits. And government welfare as a whole is bankrupting the nation. Finally, many people are falling through the cracks of the existing system. Though the government spends billions, many poor people still suffer today.

Should we change or eliminate our government welfare system? (For the purposes of this question, don’t consider Social Security, healthcare programs, or public education, as we cover those elsewhere. Also, do not consider government aid for the truly handicapped as part of this question; let’s just consider those who don’t need a caregiver or be institutionalized.)

  • Keep the current programs of food stamps, monetary supplements, public housing and child care as is more or less.
  • We need more welfare. Repeal the welfare reforms of the Clinton era.
  • Even pre-Clinton welfare was too stingy. Expand and/or add to existing programs and promote them more aggressively.
  • Trim existing programs.
  • Block grant the programs and pass responsibility to the states.
  • Pass responsibility to the states without block grants. (Cut federal taxes and let the states raise taxes as they see fit.)
  • Replace federal welfare and tax deductions with a basic income guarantee (unconditional free money for all adult citizens). Let the states and/or charities handle the outliers.
  • Eliminate all government funded welfare. Let private charities care for the needy.

 

 

What have I missed? Is this too long-winded? As a rule I do intend to be a bit more long-winded as I want to include more options, including some creative options not currently in the public policy debate.

Note that in the ordering above, I didn’t go from most government to least government monotonically. Instead, I started with the status quo and then grouped similar answers. I’m thinking of alternating between ending with the extreme libertarian answer and the extreme authoritarian answer to reduce bias. This does require more careful reading than the original quiz, but this is going to be a web only quiz. The original quiz was designed for booth deployment, where the test takers are impatient.

What think ye? Please comment below.

Keep the Importance Question?

Currently, in version 6 of the Quiz, after you answer all the issue questions, you are asked to rate the importance of each issue on a 1 to 5 scale. Furthermore, you cannot see your results until after you do the rating. When I do test runs of the Quiz, I find answering all these a bit tedious. But my perspective is not a user’s perspective.
How does this feel to those of you taking the Quiz for the first time? Is this a useful input of your opinion? Or do you feel the issues are equally important more or less? For the next edition of the Quiz, should I:

  1. Keep the importance question as is?
  2. Keep it, but default all the answers to 3, so users who wish to skip over it can?
  3. Get rid of this question?

Please respond in the comments. Thank you.

Issues for the Next Quiz Edition

The burning issues of today are considerably different from those of 1999, when I wrote the first edition of Quiz2D. The last change to the Quiz was in 2004, and that was primarily a rewording of the previous question set, attempting to make the tone a bit less strident.

Think of this post (and other posts under V7 Update) as forum thread kickoffs more than blog posts. Feel free to add your comment even for months old posts. I want opinions from a wide range of people – from liberals to conservatives, from libertarians to totalitarians – on what subjects the next edition of the Quiz should cover.

Property Rights Issues

I originally called this axis the economic axis in accordance with the traditional Nolan Chart, but gun rights are more of a civil liberties issue than an economic issue. But gun rights do fall under property rights; you can use guns to defend your property. This is why America’s political Right tends to defend gun rights more than the Left does. (But we do have plenty of examples of liberal gun rights defenders ranging from the early Robert Heinlein to the Black Panthers. Gun rights are a civil liberty issue as much as it is a property issue. It’s just that today the defenders of property rights are the louder defenders of this right.)

Some possible issues for the updated Quiz:

  • Guns
  • Healthcare
  • Affirmative action
  • Eminent domain
  • Monetary policy
  • Welfare
  • Unions
  • Education
  • Civil asset forfeiture.
  • Bailouts
  • Environmental regulations
  • Workplace regulations
  • Contract enforcement
  • Farm subsidies
  • Consumer protection
  • Trade policy
  • Wealth transfers (either by progressive taxation or other means such as a universal stipend)

What have I missed? Which of the above do you consider the most important? The least important?

Personal Liberty Issues

The person liberty issues have perhaps changed even more than the property issues since I last changed the Quiz. Since I created the first edition of the Quiz we have had the War on Terror: monitoring, torture, and humiliation by the TSA. In parallel, many police departments have moved from the Mayberry Sheriff to the Imperial Storm Trooper school of law enforcement. And then we have Hollywood and the music industry wanting to have storm trooper rights of their own in order to crack down on pirates.

Back when I first wrote the Quiz I had a hard time coming up with enough personal liberty issues. Today, I could come up with many more. Maybe I’m becoming more liberal. Anyway, the current list off the top of my head:

  • Surveillance
  • No-knock arrests (storm trooper policing)
  • Torture/Detainment (of foreign combatants)
  • National Service (military draft or mandatory bedpan service…)
  • Rights of the Accused (perp walks, rough treatment in jail before trial, delayed trials, etc.)
  • Punishments (Three Strikes laws, etc.)
  • Immigration
  • Copyright
  • Marijuana
  • Hard drugs
  • Sex Industry (porn, strip bars, prostitution)

What have I missed? Which of the above does not belong?

Issues Left Out

I have intentionally left out some major hot issues of the day because they don’t cleanly fit into the Nolan Chart political model.

Consider global warming. Currently, action on the issue comes mainly from the Left. But this is not inherently a Left/liberal issue. One could call for a carbon tax on purely conservative grounds: an excuse to get rid of the income tax, a tax on the enemies of the U.S. (if on oil), a tax which is not on labor or capital, but a sharing of God-given resources. One could imagine an ultra progressive Leftist (say, Lyndon LaRouche) attacking environmentalists as reactionary. We should turn Earth into a socialist Trantor, or be building artificial habitats on Mars or some such. In light of such sci-fi views, staying on Earth and preserving nature as is is a conservative, or even reactionary, position.  That climate action is associated with the American (and Western European) Left was a choice by the respective factions. It could have gone the other way.

The same holds for some other controversial issues such as abortion and military intervention. Maybe I’ll have a future post delving deeper on why I have avoided these issues in the Quiz.

But maybe I should include some of these anyway, but just not use the results for scoring. Might gather some interesting data: how many eco-conservatives are there? How about pro-life liberals?

What do ye think? Worth recording? Or would this make the Quiz too long? Please discuss in the comments below.