Don Marti

Fri 06 Mar 2009 09:54:04 AM PST

Confiscating educational property?

Just reading, the Heritage Foundation's site that advocates school choice programs. School choice is a good idea. If parents can move their kids from school to school instead of being required to attend a certain school, schools have to get better. I hope that Congress isn't able to sneakily cut the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, as they're being lobbied to do by the teachers' unions.

Of course, the NEA could always hire the same fake-Libertarian lobby groups that the IT industry does. Re-frame the single-school mandate, and call the student/school relationship the "educational property" of the incumbent school. After all, the patent system is supposed to be a government program to promote progress, and so is the school system. The big players in the IT industry lobby for pro-trust policies, such as extending patent coverage to software, where it clearly does no good, and call their government-granted privileges "property." Other privileged large organizations could do the same. All of a sudden, letting kids go to an alternate school is Government Confiscation of Educational Property.

Kids who are in high school today don't remember the IT market of 1994-1995, when I started using Free Software. Your other choices were the old DOS-based Microsoft Windows, never very stable; the Macintosh at its overpriced, flaky, low point; Microsoft's new, too pricey for a beginner if you needed the tools Windows NT; or a variety of overpriced, over-complicated Unix versions. Fortunately, our market got the equivalent of a charter school with the availability of Linux and BSD, along with all the GNU tools, Apache, and more. And the large incumbents cleaned up their act. Today, the mass-market versions of Microsoft and Apple OS products are reasonably priced and stable. Most of the Unixes have faded away, but Solaris is still trying to out-Linux Linux. Everybody has gotten better.

That wouldn't have happened without the free software scene, the charter school of IT. But today, the fake-Libertarian lobby groups are still trying to set the software market back, with funding from the IT equivalents of the NEA. When Congress puts a large organization in a privileged position using the law, that organization's power might as well be state power. Using the law to force people to interact with a large incumbent organization is wrong, whether you call it regulation or use your fake-Libertarian sophistry powers and call it "property." There's a difference between lobbying for something that's good for business, and lobbying for something that's good for a business. But, of course, startups and charter school students don't have the lobbying budgets. Don't they have any tar and feathers in DC any more?