November 16, 2006 1:31PM

Milton Friedman’s Passing

I am deeply saddened to hear that Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate economist, champion of market education reform, and a truly wonderful human being, has passed away at the age of 94.

Dr. Friedman’s writings on education policy, both individually and with his wife, Rose, were the seminal theoretical works of the American school choice movement. And with each passing year, the evidence supporting that theoretical analysis has mounted.

He believed that the system of education most compatible with a free society was one in which families were free to determine how and where their children were educated, and in which every family had ready access to the educational marketplace. Though an economist, and someone who believed that market provision of education would be more cost‐​effective than state‐​run monopoly schooling, he did not base his case for educational liberty on dollars and cents. He simply argued that government‐​operated schools were not only unnecessary to a free society, but were, in fact, incompatible with it.

Though best known for the products of his keen mind, his poise and personal character were no less impressive. When I first met him at a conference in 1998, a protestor hit the then‐​86‐​year‐​old in the face with a cream pie. He shrugged it off as though it were routine. Though inundated with endorsement requests, he refused to attach his name to anything that he had not written himself unless he had personally read it and agreed with it 100 percent. He made it a point to never say anything about a person in private that he would not be willing to say in public.

He was a man of integrity, humor, intelligence, candor, fortitude, and humility. I will miss him.

November 16, 2006 11:15AM

Havighurst on Healthy Competition

In the most recent issue of the health policy journal Health Affairs, Duke law professor Clark Havighurst reviews Healthy Competition, authored by Mike Tanner and me. I believe the full review requires a subscription, but here are some excerpts:

“One of the book’s most interesting and original policy ideas would have Congress allow consumers to select a health plan regulated by a state other than their own…

Healthy Competition provides extensive and creative suggestionsfor expanding the role of cost‐​conscious consumer choice in both Medicare and Medicaid…

“Other provocative libertarian ideas laid out in the book include the authors’ argument that federal regulation of prescription drugs and medical devices may cause more deaths than it prevents. In this case, they provide persuasive responses to concerns that an unregulated market would wreak havoc on patients, observing how private researchers and other groups already certify or otherwise test and confirm the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs for various off‐​label uses.

“Finally, the authors strongly criticize policies that foreclose a market for transplantable organs, citing evidence that relatively low payments would increase the supply of organs, saving thousands of lives…

Healthy Competition…is a valuable challenge to the health policy community to take health policy debates to a moral plane where consumer welfare and individual freedom are given more than just lip service.”

Havighurst does have criticisms of the book, such as that it “ignores the challenging practical problems of integrating [health savings accounts] with various kinds of health insurance.” 

I found that part odd, since Healthy Competition spends some ink discussing how the rigid insurance requirement makes HSAs unworkable for many consumers. We argue that Congress should eliminate that requirement entirely, which “would allow anyone to combine an HSA with their existing coverage, instantly making HSAs a feasible option for millions” (p. 70). 

In fact, I’ve always regarded that proposal as eminently compatible with the suggestions that Havighurst and Mark Hall have made about integrating HSAs and managed care

November 16, 2006 11:11AM

What Do They Call the Republican Party?

The New York Times reports:

Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, …said that Republicans held 14 seats by a single percentage point and that a small investment by [Howard] Dean [head of the Democratic National Committee] could have put Democrats into a commanding position for the rest of the decade…”There was a missed opportunity here,” he said. “I’ve sat down with Republican pollsters to discuss this race: They believe we left 10 to 20 seats on the table.”

Rahm Emanuel, the architect of the Democratic victory, “More resources brings more seats into play. Full stop.”

The Democrats did not have the resources to fund both an all‐​out congressional effort and Howard Dean’s party‐​building work in red states.

In 2002, 90 percent of Democrats in Congress voted to prohibit fundraising of so‐​called soft money by the parties. Had that ban not been enacted, both parties would have had millions more to spend in 2006.*

I conclude McCain‐​Feingold cost the Democrats 10 to 20 seats in the House.

* If we simply compare 2006 Democratic party receipts to their 2002 fundraising for the pre‐​general election period, the sums are nearly identical. However, that is a false comparison. From 1994 to 2002, the sum of party soft money raised by the two parties doubled for each midterm election. Hence, if we compare 2006 Democratic party funding as it is to 2006 Democratic party funding as it would have been without the soft money ban, we can safely conclude the Democratic party would have millions more to spend in 2006 absent McCain‐​Feingold.

November 15, 2006 4:45PM

Wisconsin’s “Sensenbrenner Tax”?

Wis​Pol​i​tics​.com reports that the Wisconsin Department of Transporation is proposing to hike a number taxes and fees to pay for various transportation related projects.

Among them, “a $10 ‘federal security verification fee’ for state driver’s license and ID cards to cover the $20.7 million cost of implementation of the federal REAL ID Act.” WisDOT also proposes doubling the fee for issuance or renewal of the state ID card from $9 to $18.

Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner pushed the REAL ID Act through Congress.

November 15, 2006 3:36PM

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

The forces of educational stagnation have launched a comprehensive attack on school choice in Arizona. The ACLU‐​and‐​friends lawsuit in September against the state’s new education tax credit was followed yesterday by a challenge to two new voucher programs. This is the first time that the education establishment has dared to turn its fire on school choice programs that help disabled and foster‐​care children. This recent move signals panic among school choice opponents, who now begrudge a few thousand of the most disadvantaged children in Arizona a choice in education, along with everyone else. Hopefully the court will go with recent precedent in Kotterman vs. Killian (1999), where the Arizona Supreme Court upheld personal donation tax credits, and find that vouchers supporting parental school choice isn’t government support of religion (which AZ’s anti‐​Catholic Blaine amendment prohibits).