In other words, the primary movement of the American polity, over and above the usual back and forth oscillations, is to the right, and this is shifting the terms of the debate on both right and left. Marxist terminology, once common on the left, has now almost completely disappeared, apart from some zombified remnants on college campuses, and Hayek and markets are at least more widely understood than ever -- as Brad DeLong nicely illustrates with this post, "How Much Does the Market Organization of Economic Life Matter?", and its revealing little chart of the results of an historical experiment. And even more telling is this confessional article by Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones, on "Schools and Poverty":
I'm going to get the ed people mad at me again — and I guess I'll add the poverty people too this time — but I continue to think that the biggest problem here is simply that no one has any really compelling answers. Movies like Waiting for Superman (which I haven't seen), along with an endless stream of credulous punditry, keep suggesting that the answers are out there if only we'll fund them and take them seriously. But they aren't.His despair goes beyond the usual left lament that people are maybe tapped out when it comes to yet more tax increases -- he actually begins to question whether the taxes would do any good anyway:
... the tolerance of the middle class for raising its own taxes to improve education is pretty low. One reason, I suspect, is that people have largely lost faith that their taxes are being used for anything useful. If they pay more, they won't get better schools, they'll just get higher teacher salaries as the teachers unions hoover up all the dough.And this is in Mother Jones!
Of course, as Adam Schaeffer says, in the post from which I got the link ("Why Won’t this Pig Fly? We’ve Tried Everything to Fix Education and Poverty. . ."), there actually are some answers or approaches that can address these problems:
We know what improves education, allows success to scale quickly, and saves money as well; a real market in education, aka private school choice, the freer and broader the better. The education problem is intractable only if the government continues to monopolize education services.But getting to such solutions will still require a change in fundamental political mindset -- the hinge of the pendulum still has a distance to go.