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Reblogged:Left, Right; To-may-to, To-mah-to.

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Image by The National Cancer Institute, via Unsplash, license.
Over three months ago, government officials across the country started locking things down in a panicked response to the beginning of the corona epidemic. These lockdowns were sold to the public as a temporary measure to keep from overwhelming hospitals. But we all know where that went, as someone from Illinois quipped on Twitter: "Day 110 of 15 days to 'flatten the curve.'"

This is bad enough, and I am glad that the good folks at the Ayn Rand Institute have argued in editorials and at length that a major part of preparing for the next pandemic will be defining the role of the government ahead of time.

But the problem is much bigger than that: Our government has played the role of central planner for so long that nobody bats an eye anymore -- much less offers an alternative. Our educational system is a case in point and the epidemic has just given us a stark example.

Ever since the early stages of the epidemic, the schools have been closed. Locally closing schools for a short time is a common method of dealing with disease outbreaks. But children do not appear to be as susceptible to this disease or as prone to spreading it as adults. Keeping the schools closed -- indefinitely and everywhere -- makes no sense as a policy: The government shouldn't continue such school closures as a means of controlling the epidemic.

This question is complicated by the fact that our education sector is mostly socialized. Even with a proper policy regarding the epidemic, we have the government improperly running the schools, and so we have news stories like, "Florida Department of Education Orders Schools to Reopen to Students 5 Days a Week in August," and what a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution it is:
Those requirements include ensuring services that are legally required for all students, such as low-income services, English language learning and accommodations for students with disabilities are all maintained next school year, the order states.

That means that the only option for schools to not be physically open in August is if local Department of Health officials say schools cannot open, according to the emergency order.

The order also means that school districts cannot schedule certain students to spend part of their time in school and part of their time at home, as educational leaders in several First Coast counties have indicated they are considering. Every student must have the option of being in school five days a week. [bold added]
This might sound relatively harmless, and even flexible, in the sense that the order isn't forcing all the students -- say children whose parents are high risk or not convinced that children don't spread the disease -- to physically attend school.

But it does override some slightly more flexible plans at the county level, such as the one my county has proposed that incorporates students being in classes part-time during periods of increased spread of the virus. The state plan removes that from the table, which would probably result in pressure on the county health department to close the schools completely during those times.

So we have an order that sounds like it forces every public school student to attend class in a building in the fall, but doesn't -- and that sounds like it will keep schools in session, but probably won't. So, on top of the many crimes of a government-run education system, we now see what little creative thinking and flexibility there still was being quashed by top-down planning.

Probably the strangest part of this "emergency order" is the following:
The emergency order comes the same day President Donald Trump posted a tweet emphatically stating "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"
The government shouldn't be running schools at all, nor should it be operating anything by decree. Interestingly, even though Trump's general sentiment happens to be right here, the wrongness of rule by force is on full display: This loyalty-signaling decree actually will make it more likely that schools will end up closed altogether in some parts of Florida, if the epidemic becomes unmanageable there.

This is but icing on the cake. The real crime is that so many parents have been lured by price or forced by taxation into these schools, which were (and will) always be insulated from market forces and subject to the whim of bureaucrats. The fact that these same parents will be made less able to plan their time is a direct result of this centralized control and the lack of options caused by the existence of government schools in the first place. (It's hard to compete with "free.")

Forcing all schools to open is not fundamentally different than forcing them all to close. The real solution is to free the schools to operate as best as the needs and judgement of the parents and students at each particular school indicate, along with the freedom enjoyed by paying customers in any other free industry to seek alternatives when they are not satisfied.

-- CAV

P.S. This reminds me of how conservative states deal with the question of labor unions. Rather than leave companies and employees free to unionize or not, they interfere with freedom of contract in the opposite direction, in the form of "right to work" laws.

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