Unfortunately this phenomenon extends beyond the bureaucratic hell that a city government must be. It seems it exists even in what I would imagine would be the least likely of all places for it to be: libertarian think tanks. I personally know several Cato staffers, for example, who are staunch anarchists, and yet, apparently from a need for Cato to appear “inside the beltway,” they often put out some seriously milquetoast policy recommendations.
Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, also staffed by a few anarchistas, provides another example. In private conversations with Vicky Murray, she has told me that she thinks school and state should be entirely separate. Yet, in her capacity as Goldwater’s Director of Educational Opportunity, she writes articles like this and this. It is understandable that Goldwater would want to pander to their financial base, which consists mostly of traditional conservatives, but it’s disappointing, nonetheless. Does taking a half-assed approach really "defend liberty"? (I'm actually not sure what, if anything, defends liberty nowadays. I am more and more convinced that Stirner is right when he says that all freedom is self liberation and must be taken.)
All of these issues were really brought into stark relief for me by the article they published today, which complains about Arizona’s salary grid for teachers. The article’s author, John Wenders, points to a school in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they “began tying teacher bonuses to students’ Stanford Achievement Test results. In just one year, overall student achievement increased 17 percent, and teachers received bonuses up to $8,600.”
I can’t believe that the article’s author, an economics professor, cites this literally incredible statistic so unquestioningly. As someone versed in economic theory, Professor Wenders should know better than most that incentives matter. I submit that the amazing 17 percent increase was probably achieved via some combination of cheating (and I specifically mean teacher cheating, not student), “teaching to the test”, statistical anomaly, and perhaps a small amount of legitimately better teaching.
I think that, in publishing this article, Goldwater does a disservice to themselves and the cause of liberty. Unfortunately, the article that should have been written, and the article that I can only hope Vicky Murray probably wanted to write – that schools should be entirely private and then the salaries of the teachers would suddenly no longer be a political hot-button – is one that we’re likely never to see. I think that’s a shame.