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Full School Choice In Nevada

By Sara Scarlett
June 15th, 2015 at 11:36 am | No Comments | Posted in education, US Politics
As of next year, parents in Nevada can have 90 percent (100 percent for children with special needs and children from low-income families) of the funds that would have been spent on their child in their public school deposited into a restricted-use spending account. That amounts to between $5,100 and $5,700 annually, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Those funds are deposited quarterly onto a debit card, which parents can use to pay for a variety of education-related services and products — things such as private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, books, tutors, and dual-enrollment college courses.
Notably, families can roll over unused funds from year to year, a feature that makes this approach particularly attractive. It is the only choice model to date that puts downward pressure on prices. Parents consider not only the quality of education service they receive, but the cost, since they can save unused funds for future education expenses.
I’ve been wanting to see how a full school choice model will work and now we finally get a chance. It’s a profoundly egalitarian model that gives access to all whilst still allowing the markets to function freely and obliterating the flailing government monopoly on education. Despite record investment in education, the USA’s public school system remains an inconsistent, mediocre, zipcode lottery.
School choice interests me because it’s one of the policy areas that should be loved by Libertarians and Social Liberals alike. To me, it’s a policy that schould distinguish the Social Liberals from the Social Democrats. The way it will be enacted in Nevada, it makes the State’s poorest completely equal with the majority of the Middle Classes. The more affluent Middle Classes will still be able to top up these funds, of course, but this is a hitherto unknown level of education equality. Local government ensuring equality of access to services whilst fully exploiting the benefits, decentralisation and pluralism of the markets. This should be the dream of a Social Liberal. Sadly, SLF’s declared hatred of monopolies never seems to extend to failing government monopolies…
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Kennedy’s Legacy & The Leadership Election

By Editor
June 5th, 2015 at 2:28 pm | No Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A difficult article for Liberal Democrats, and unwisely inaccurate to personalise the issue to Kennedy so much, and so soon. But the underlying issues raised are there all the same. Collins, as a project New Labour man is more sympathetic to the Lamb-cause than Farron-project. No surprise there. I’m not entirely sure he gets either right.

Farron will be more left-wing and populist than Clegg. Clearly. I’m not sure it’s correct though to presume that means a return to the Kennedy era. Kennedy’s Party was relatively left-wing because the Labour Party wasn’t. It was populist because it seemed to help win by-elections. It would be difficult to ascribe anything as uncouth as a deliberate strategy those events. Kennedy for example while more left himself, was very happy to sponsor groups and MPs that were not and build the ground for the change that came.

Farron on the other hand has the vision thing. He does seem to know where he’s going and wants the Party to come with him. He wants to lead a revolution not chair factions with a vaguely common purpose.

Whether or not this revolution is actually capable of achieving, let alone wielding power is not clear. Will for example Farron find himself scrapping with a Burnham-led Labour Party for a handful of Guardian readers? heralding another decade of majority rule by a centre-right minority. Or will a few good crises enable him to do to Labour what Labour did to the Liberals? Perhaps both?

Lamb, I agree is more pragmatic, more clear about his comfort with being in Government. More comfortable with compromise and coalitions. He is more classically liberal in the Orange-Book mould. But he’s not offering a grand strategy for a return to power, let alone holding on to it. He has set out his ‘liberal vision’, but one it’s rather hard to see as distinct, other than being less left-wing.

His Leadership campaign so far for example appears to be classic populism. Principally a mental health revolution, and mobilising the suspicion the Party’s significant gay rights lobby has about Farron’s theological views.

The Lamb critique then is not dissimilar from one Collins makes about Kennedy. What do you do if you get there? With ‘if’ very heavily underlined.

Clegg got there and promptly set about imploding. In part due to the internal contradictions of the Party. In part his lazy indifference to doing very much about them. In part due to the difficulty in selling something that amounted to being ‘a bit like the others, just more liberal’. Then switching tack mid-term to being little more than a brake on the ‘nasty Tories’. Trying to run a ‘keep the bastards honest’ pitch works better if you’re not one of the bastards. It doesn’t work at all if you cack-handedly manage to make honesty the antithesis of your personal brand.

Neither Lamb or Farron have that problem, quite the opposite. But the Liberal Democrat Party, after a string of avoidable scandals made much worse by the Liberal Democrat Party, still does. On that issue Farron has a track record of asking questions and leading reform. Lamb of avoiding getting embroiled.

In respect of the full package then, a vision, a sense of the organisation needed to deliver it, underlined by values that are applied consistently, arguably Farron is more the Blairite. Lamb the more Kennedyesque. Neither though will be repeating history. Both are very much their own people better judged in that light, responding to events today, than by comparison to circumstances and Leaders past.

Collins should avoid the temptation to view absolutely every political problem through the narrow prism of his own experience of the Labour Party.

Liberalism and the European Union

By Alex Chatham
June 2nd, 2015 at 2:30 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in EU

The European Union is not a very liberal organisation. It is constantly on the look out for ways to interfere with how people live their lives and how businesses run their affairs. Membership does commit members to the rule of law and a single market.

If if the EU isn’t the organisation liberals want, would it be best to leave?

Out of the EU, Britain may find itself even less liberal than it currently is as it throws up a protectionist blanket to protect British jobs. The country could find itself adhering to directives it disapproves of just to access trade with Europe. And it would have give up the opportunity to  push the EU in a more liberal direction.

There are no easy answers to these issues. What they do is force liberals to think hard about what their political philosophy is all about.

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RIP Charles Kennedy 1959 – 2015

By Sara Scarlett
June 2nd, 2015 at 9:23 am | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Absolutely shocking news this morning. Charles Kennedy was taken far too young. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. My heart especially goes out to his young son.

Charles Kennedy was the Leader who spearheaded the LibDems’ opposition to the Iraq War. One of the main reasons I joined the LibDems in the first place was because of this principled stance and on this issue, Charles Kennedy’s instincts were proven absolutely correct.

Rest in peace.

Conservative Government: liberal scorecard

By Alex Chatham
June 1st, 2015 at 2:30 pm | No Comments | Posted in Conservatives

From time to time, it is worth judging the Governemnt on a liberal scorecard. So, how are they doing so far?

They score well on their commitment to significantly reduce red tape but poorly on their plans to monitor the public as part of the campaign on terrorism.

Here re are some suggestions on how they might up their liberal score:

  • Abolish some Government departments. Vince Cable wanted to abolish BIS before he got to run it, so that would be a good start. Other departments suitable for  the chop are Sport, Media and Culture, DECC and if you wanted to be very radical Education. After all John Stuart Mill argued that Government should fund education but not provide it.
  • Reform the Licence fee. Why are we paying a poll tax to consume entertainment?
  • Draw up a constitutional settlement that allows people to run their own affairs.
  • Stop telling people how to live their lives.