Macro and Micro Government Power

Michael Williams posted about his opinion on whether local governments should have the right to fine people for unkempt yards. And while, I think that a lot of these city ordinances are getting out of hand, I generally agree with him.

Simply put I like to divide the government into Macro- and Micro-level roles. The Macro-government is the federal government. The micro-government is typified by cities and towns.

the level of control they should be allowed to exert is directly related to the level at which they govern. The feds should be primarily worried about military, economy, and interstate relations. Their concern should be about the larger issues that truly effect our nation as a whole.

Cities can worry about such things as lawn length, dog licenses and neighbor relations. While I think that their should be some very significant checks on many of these ordinances, there is some room for them to consider such laws.

Another level that could be considered is Mid-level government. Counties and States have a concern for more mid-level laws like education and roads. Again we are looking at those items that fall between the federal government purview and the local government.

That is a very oversimplification of things. But I have been wanting to post about this for a while, so I appreciate the unintended encouragement from Michael Williams.

On Apples and Education (A Voucher Post)

I have been wanting to post my opinion on the voucher issue for some time now, but every time I do, I either get inundated with work (I usually blog from work), or I get lost in how to present it. This morning, I finally came up with what I believe is a clever way to present it. So, without further ado…

As a conservative, I generally do not agree with government subsidized anything. I have a problem with government subsidies for health care; I don’t like government subsidies for food; I hate government subsidies for businesses. However, as I have researched the matter, and as it has become common place, I understand the importance that every citizen of our state have an apple every day.

I don’t like that the government has infringed on my right and basically forces me to have an apple every day. But I understand that it is for the overall good of our community. So, despite my reservations, I am generally in favor of the publicly funded apple-a-day program.

However, since the inception of the apple programs, various forces have brought about an interesting twist to the apple situation. The government now only provide golden delicious apples through these programs. While golden delicious apples will meet the requirements of the apple a day program. I personally prefer granny smith apples.

However, because I am so heavily taxed by my government to provide for apple programs, I can’t afford granny smiths from the store. So, I have had to rely on the golden delicious apples to meet my needs for an apple a day. But it would sure be nice to have a granny smith.

We have a Jonathan apple tree in our back yard, and thankfully, the state has provided us with some freedoms to provide our children home grown apples. So, although the government still taxes us for the apple program that our family doesn’t use much. We are able to have more than golden delicious apples.

There is also the issue that one of my daughters doesn’t like golden delicious apples and she really doesn’t like the home grown Jonathan apples. She actually would prefer to have Fuji apples. But again, because of heavy taxation, and the added cost of growing our own apples to meet some of our families needs. I have no option to provide my daughter with Fuji apples nor myself with granny smith apples.

However, due to some great fortune and good timing, we were offered a chance for my Fuji-loving daughter to participate in the gala apple charter program. This is a semi-private, publicly funded apple program that provides additional options to those who want gala apples instead of golden delicious. Other charter programs provide braeburn, cameo, or red delicious apples.

My daughter is enjoying the gala apple program, but she really would like to eat more Fujis. Alas, the Fuji apple charter program is full and we have little hope of getting invited to join the program. So, we will have to settle for the gala apple charter program.

However, there are still Fuji apples available at the market, and my daughter looks longingly at them as we shop. But I cannot buy them for her, because our money is too tight.

However, the government has recently announce that we can now buy any type of apple under a new voucher program. With the voucher, if we choose that golden delicious apples aren’t right for us, then we can by Fujis. But, they will not fund the full price of the Fujis. They will only cover a set amount base on our families income.

Adding up the difference between the cost of the Fujis and the golden delicious. I decide that with a little scrimping and belt tightening, I can provide my daughter with the Fuji apples that she desires. Sure it won’t be easy, but thanks to the government giving my money back to me, I am now able to buy the Fujis.

I don’t like that I have to use the government fund to provide my daughter with Fuji apples, but it is the only way that I can afford it. And since, I have already made the concession that the apple-a-day programs are important and necessary for the benefit of society. I want to get the best apple for my tax dollar. If the best are Fujis, then I want them. However, if I find out that Fujis aren’t the best for my daughter then maybe I will try braeburn, cameo, jonagold, or McIntosh. Actually, it looks like the possibilities for my children are now endless.

There is a problem with the new apple voucher program. The farmers and distributors of golden delicious apples are upset. They don’t want to lose their business. They have the trees well established, and they are prepared to continue to provide the state with their apples. But if the doors for other apple farmers and distributors are opened then they will lose the profits for their businesses.

So, they are fighting this new voucher law. They are saying that by allowing people to choose the type of apples they eat that they will miss out on the best apples. They say that some apple farmers can’t certify that their apples are good enough to meet the needs of the apple-a-day program. And that the voucher program will take money away from their farms.

While it is true that some money will be taken from the farms, and that not all farmers are certified, this isn’t an issue to me as an apple eater. What is more important to me is that I get to choose how my money is spent. I get to choose what type of apples are best for me and my family.

If I think that granny smith apples are best for me, and they are, then it is my family that will benefit. But if my consumption of granny smith proves to be gastronomically unfit, then I can easily change to Jonathan apples, I can even return to eating golden delicious apples under the original government program.

Finally, and I say this with the hopes that I don’t offend golden delicious apple farmers. But it seems to me that they have gotten sloppy over the years. I have noticed that it is harder and harder to by an apple without bruises. I even had a worm in my son’s apple the other day. Because they haven’t really had to compete, they have had a monopoly on the apple market. I feel that they have gotten lazy. That doesn’t mean that they are bad people or terrible farmer. It just means that now is a time for them to have a reality check.

As people get frustrated with the quality of golden delicious apples, they can now turn to red delicious or cameo apples for their apple needs. but if the red delicious farmers start making mistakes, then they can start eating granny smiths or whatever suits them. This will force the golden delicious apple farmers and many other apple farmers to work harder to make the best product they can. Thus we will have the best apples to choose from and there will be better education for every one.

I have another fear. I fear that by subsidizing apple sales with a voucher, that the market and farmers will see an opportunity to raise the price of their apples. You see if originally the price of a cameo apple was $3 a dozen, and $2 of that is subsidized by the government, what is to stop the farmer from charging the consumer an extra dollar. After all, they would still only be paying $2 instead of the original $3 per dozen, so they are still getting a good deal, right?

There may also be some farmers who will sell the red delicious for exactly the amount of the subsidy, let just say $2 per dozen. This will bring parent to come by their apples because it is the same price as the golden delicious (in theory). However, at $2 an apple, they can’t quite provide the same quality of apple as other farmers. So, they cut corners. Maybe the cheapen the cleaning process and they aren’t as germ free. Perhaps, they sell slightly smaller apples. Either way, there will be parents who are duped by the cut rate apples, and will ruin their children’s diets.

I also am afraid that the government may start to put too many regulation on apple farmers. Eventually, all apple farmers could be forced to offer nothing but golden delicious apples. Then we will be back to where we started from. And this this program will have done nothing, but to ruin the private apple industry.

While, I have these concerns, it is a risk that I think we should take, because I feel that it is better that parents choose what kind of apples their children will eat. This choice will force all apple farmer to produce the best product for the best price.

… Now back to reality. I think you get my analogy between apples and our children’s education. Sure it isn’t a perfect analogy, but I think that it paints a nice picture. Sure HB 148 isn’t perfect, but it is a nice start in the right direction. I will be voting yes on referendum 1, despite the fact that it goes against my conservative principle, because I believe in a hierarchy of principles. The principle that children must receive a good education is more important than the principle that government should not fund of private organizations.

One final note, you might be interested in John Stossel’s column on Utah’s school voucher debate and vote.

UPDATE:  George Will also ways on on the Utah’s Voucher Referendum. (HT: Dave Oldenburg)

Shadow Children and Government Control

I recently just finished the Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first in the series is Among the Hidden. In this book Luke Gardner is the third born child to his parents in a society where parents are only legally allowed to have two children. This law is enforced by the death of all people who are third born.

This law was create in response to a drought which meant that there was very little food for the people. A group of politicians decided that if they reduce the number of children per couple to 2 children, then they could better control the shortage of food.

However, even after several years of better weather and a situation where food could have been better produced, the law remained in effect. I won’t tell you much more except to say that the series of seven books follows the experiences and lives of Luke and several of his third born friends as they work to overcome this evil power that threatens their lives.

While the books aren’t excellently written and to a certain extent rather predictable, they are fun and exciting to read. But more important than the read is the message that is taught. Simply put, government control over our lives no matter what the reason is not good. The wrong people will get a hold of that government and it will be at the loss of freedom and rights of every citizen.

It was great to have a discussion with my daughter and my wife (both who have read the books, long ago) about how easily we can lose sight of what is important all because of a drought or security or other disaster. It lead me to thinking about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. Roosevelt’s intentions were good. He wanted to help the people in a time a great trial. However, his deal with American became the biggest disaster of our country’s history.

We are slowly losing more of our freedoms to the government. The more time that passes with the new deal mindset in government, the more our will be like the lives of the citizens in Haddix’s fictional world. Sure, Haddix’s governmental control was a lot faster spread than ours is. However, it shows that power in the hands of government isn’t ever a good idea. It should also stand as a warning at how much of a slippery slope we are on.

I strongly encourage everyone to read the books. If you have children, have them read it too; it is juvenile fiction and a fairly easy read. After your children have read it. Have a great conversation about how government can become our worst nightmare.

P.S. You see that I couldn’t even last two weeks without talking politics. Oh well, I am sure there is a lot more politics to come.

Charter Starter

At the beginning of the year, I registered my children to be in the random drawings to get into one of four charter schools near our home. While, I am interested in a better academic experience, and in choosing a better school for my child. I honestly was just enrolling into anything and everything I was willing to drive my child to.

So, the four candidates were North Star Academy, American Preparatory Academy, Channing Hall, and Summit Academy. Each of these had pros and cons, but honestly I figured that they would be better than the current public education that my children were getting, and provide a more rounded experience for my children than homeschooling. Let’s take a quick look at my thoughts on each of the schools (note that they are listed in order of proximity to our home).

North Star Academy
This was perhaps our first choice of all of the schools. Yes, it was simply because it was the school closest to our home, but I was sure that it would provide better than the public school. Also, we have neighbors who have children attending this school and that makes it easier to carpool. However, it seems that this school also offered a great curriculum and format for our family (including a non-traditional 10-month school year).

American Preparatory Academy
One of the things I liked about this school was a strong emphasis on reading. However, other aspects of the philosophy and approach had me nervous. I don’t know that I can give concrete reasons. However, it just seems to me that the approach is more of a “you’re-okay,-I’m-okay” mindset. And I want my children to understand that there are rights and wrongs in this world. I also know one of the teachers, and frankly, I am not sure she is someone I want teaching my children.

Channing Hall
The only thing that I really liked about this school was that it offers the International Baccalaureate Program. This program offers an excellent preparatory school program for secondary education. From this, I would assume that they provide a great education for elementary level as well. However, the school does appear to be a little too “private-school” like to me. But that is just a mere personal impression based on the web site.

Summit Academy
Perhaps our least favorite school for a couple of reasons. The first was that this is the farthest away from our home. Second, this school has a strong emphasis on homework. My wife is bothered by too much homework. She feels that if a teacher can’t do it in class then he probably isn’t a very good teacher. Plus, she feels that too much work can be detrimental on children; they need their play time too. During an open house visit they held back in March, we learned that this school offers a teacher and an instructor for each class. The teacher provides the primary instruction, while the instructor works more individually with each kid (in groups) to help them reach their potential. I really like the focus on working with kids at their level.

The Winner Is…
Well, I am hoping it is my daughter who is attending this school. However, the school that offered us a position at their institution is Summit Academy. Yep, as is my luck, I always get my least desired pick.

We were able to get in because they added a junior high program to their school. In relation to this addition, they also added another class for each grade. Thus, to fill the classes, our kids were selected.

When I got the phone call, I was both excited and nervous. I had committed my wife to having our kids go to a charter school if we managed to get accepted. However, I really didn’t feel right to keeping her to that commitment. So, I opened it up to each of the three kids are who school aged.

The oldest, PandaMae, has been pretty determined for a year now that she wants to home school, so she will not be going. The youngest, BO, was a question mark, but ultimately he decided that he wanted to home school again. The middle child, Miss Jo, was the only one who had any interest in public school, so she and I had a long talk. Finally, after explaining to her that they had an orchestra program and she could learn the violin. She eagerly agreed to go. Not to mention that she wasn’t keen on the idea of her assigned teacher at the public school.

So, tomorrow I get to take my daughter to her first day at a charter school. I am eager to get involved in the program and to help my daughter do her best.

Miss Jo has always had an attitude that she will do as little as she can get by with. “Just enough” is almost her motto in life. I am hoping that this more rigorous academic program will teach her to put her best foot forward and to work hard, to do more if you can, and to make it your best work. Only time will tell, but I am excited and nervous for this change.