August 2004
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Day August 21, 2004

My book addiction…

I have an addiction to books, and now that Will Baude and Heidi Bond have gone public, I feel safe acknowledging my problem. I disabled “one-click” ordering on Amazon last month, because it was entirely too easy to read a reference or review and think, “oh, I need to read that.” There’s a bookcase in my living room which is stacked with books waiting to be read…and we won’t discuss the rest of the house.

Like Will, books and reading are an essential part of my daily routine. I can’t imagine not reading at some point during the day. I often turn down lunch opportunities in order to dine by myself and read. I get grumpy if my schedule doesn’t allow at least some time to read and think. When I visit someone’s house and they have bookshelves, I find myself drifting over to their shelves, to see what they read…see if there’s anything I need to read.

I’d go on but the chair by the window looks comfortable, and I’ve got a few more pages of Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution to go…

Chris Craft 1952 El Capitan Express Cruiser 33′ for sale

IMG_1291-smallI’m finally selling my boat. Purchased in 2000 by Carl Lipo and myself, the Free Spirit has given us immense pleasure. But given Carl’s departure to teach at California State University, Long Beach, and my involvement with a startup company, I can’t give the Free Spirit the time and attention she deserves.

So I’ll be advertising the boat in a number of localities, including probably eBay in the very near future. But you, dear reader, have a chance to buy her first!

The Free Spirit is a 33′ Chris Craft El Capitan Express Cruiser from 1952. During our ownership, the boat was mostly used on Lake Washington and Lake Union, with occasional trips through Puget Sound. During its lifetime, the Free Spirit has journeyed to Desolation Sound and throughout the inland waters.

Moorage is covered and in the fresh water of Lake Union; we “inherited” the slip from the previous owner and a new Seattle-based owner would be well served by simply assuming the moorage from me. Insurance is sometimes difficult with older boats, but we have been lucky to have Hagerty Boat Insurance assume coverage of the Free Spirit, and I’ll be happy to give the new owner details on the policy, etc. The new owner assumes ownership on site; shipment to a new location or new moorage will be your responsibility.

The boat is ideal for Chris Craft or wooden boat enthusiasts. Free Spirit has never been a show boat, with the careful restoration and constant attention that requires, but neither has the boat been neglected. Minor work on engine batteries and ignition is usually required after periods of non-use, but the boat and engines are otherwise reliable. We have greatly enjoyed owning Free Spirit, and hope to find new owners that will enjoy her as much as we have.

I’ll discuss price and arrangements with any seriously interested parties. Here’s a photo album with detailed photographs, taken Aug. 14th of this year.

Charter schools and the slippery slope

Strong opposition to charter schools and vouchers on the part of Democrats undoubtedly has much to do with garnering teacher’s union support. But in addition, I’m coming to believe that “slippery slope” dynamics also underlie this whole area of debate. Re-reading Eugene Volokh’s paper “The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope” (Harvard Law Review 116, 2003), it seems evident that charter schools are an example of a “basic equality multi-peaked slippery slope.”

Multipeaked slippery slopes happen when separate groups each prefer the extreme position to compromise positions. Equality comes into this when the compromise position is perceived by each as violating equality or fairness of treatment. Volokh uses the voucher example, but it seems equally applicable to charters. One extreme is no school choice — the state only funds public schools. The opposite extreme is total choice, with some funds going to religious schools with whose ideology many may disagree. Intermediate solutions range from “no school choice is best, but better total choice than discrimination against religious schools” to “total school choice is best, but better no choice than discrimination against religious schools.” In the center is “secular school choice is best, but we can live with funding of religious schools.”

The ensuing dynamics show that supporters of secular school choice (via vouchers or charters) will come to regret their selection since a minority of voters exhibit an antipathy to unequal solutions, and will tend to drive the vote to one or another extreme. Thus, voters who might ordinary support some form of school choice, but do not believe public funds should be given to religious schools, should vote for no school choice in order to avoid the slippery slope to “total school choice with public funding.” The risk of the slippery slope depends upon the amplitude of the extreme “peaks” and thus the number of voters willing to support inequality of choice. It’s also likely that the risk depends upon the likelihood of judicial review overturning an unequal solution.

This is a powerful argument against pragmatic experimentation with school choice — if you believe that public funds should not be used for religious education, then you should restrict your educational reforms to the public schools. This doesn’t mean that school choice can’t and shouldn’t be implemented within the public school system, however.

To my way of thinking, the creation of a supply-and-demand market for quality within the school system, by allowing mobility of students to schools of choice (perhaps based upon academic qualifications) could create the needed reform pressure. Especially if combined with teacher pay incentives not only to create quality teaching environments, but with bonuses to implement those programs in less-desirable schools, there’s no reason why we can’t use market forces to improve education while still retaining public ownership and control over education. And, we could avoid the “slippery slope” result of abandoning our children to uncontrolled and often socially regressive curricula given the agenda of some for charter and private schools.