Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
Justin M. StoddardThe Language of Markets
Posted at 4:29 pm on April 14, 2011, by Justin M. Stoddard

Diane Ravitch of NYU talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Click here for the podcast and the supplementary information.

Here’s the money quote from the very end of the discussion:

I think the problem with what I would call a market language rather than a market process is that, too often, government policy takes the language of markets, which is fundamentally about incentives, which is what this is about, and then tries to graft them into institutional arrangements where there’s no market process. There’s bureaucracy or government mandates, and the incentives are supposed to then be tailored and tweaked so that it looks like…acts like a market, because it has these incentives. And, the problem is without the full range of effects, it doesn’t work at all.

It reminds me of the California energy market, when they tried to use incentives to allocate energy, but they didn’t have a market. It was a government created market. And, it seems we’re are doing that in education, that the main beneficiaries are the people who, as we talked about earlier, who fund the…who create the circular add-ons, the consulting, the training, all the bells and whistles. They don’t get to the students. And, yet, it has the language of markets, so people like me are going to be lured into thinking, ‘well, they’re incentives, so it’s just like a market.’ But, it’s not. And, there’s no fundamental process that allows those market improvements to take place.

[Cross-posted at Shrubbloggers.]


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Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
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