The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Want Something Fixed? Make Sure Important People Have Skin In the Game

What do bad schools and the Iraq war have in common with each other?  Neither gets fixed properly because important people have no skin in the game.

1) Because the elites and their kids friends mostly do not go to public schools, almost no one they know or care about is getting a lousy education because of public schools
2) Because almost  no one they care about is getting a lousy education in public schools, it is not that urgent to them to fix public schools.

This is similiar to the reason the Iraq war did not get stopped:

1) Because the elites and their kids/friends mostly do not serve in the military, almost no one they know or care about is/was getting killed or maimed in Iraq.
2) Because almost no one they care about was/is getting killed in Iraq, the elites did not care enough to stop the Iraq war from going on for years and years.

Principle: when elites are not affected by a problem they have a lot less incentive to fix the problem.

Solution: don’t let elites opt out of things like military service and public schools if you want problems with both (illegal wars, not enough body armor, bad schools) to be dealt with properly and in a timely manner.

Originally published January 7th, 2008.


The Deeply Broken American Police System




  1. Jeff Wegerson (affect/effect Nazi)

    “are not effected by” 5 million Google hits
    “are not affected by” 46 million Google hits

    Still this one was better:

    “who are effected by policy” 3 Google Hits (1 yours)
    “who are affected by policy” 756,000 Google Hits

  2. tjfxh

    It’s not just the “rich,” by which I assume you mean the people who never has to ask what something costs. The “well-to-do” are increasing moving into enclaves, often gated, and many middle class people are moving to the exurbs, effectively isolating them from society at large. This mimics the earlier white flight to the suburbs, but now that the suburbs are becoming the new ghetto, that’s over. The US is increasingly becoming a divided nation, and now it’s not only the poor but ordinary folks that are getting the short end of the stick. That is bound to have political repercussions, as the populist tea party movement shows.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Woo, I’m a 3 in 756,000!

  4. Requiring our elites to have their children attend public schools probably wouldn’t help the situation too much. They’d just do what most folks do – find a good school district to live in. We don’t fund schools nationally, we do it at the state and local level. Poor states, and poor municipalities, tend to have lower school budgets.

    It’s not a rational way to fund schools, but we do it anyway.

    Still, it’s true of Iraq, and I think you could now use the health insurance “reform” effort as another example.

  5. marcopolo

    If there were a draft, there’s no doubt we would have a had a serious national debate before invading Iraq. But the American people have decided they’re against shared responsibility and that they prefer not to make sacrifices for their country: they want other people’s children to do that for them.

    Similarly, when it comes to health care, they want and expect the very best in the world, but aren’t willing to pay for it with their taxes because, I guess, they worry about someone else ‘getting over’ on the system (and everyone loves a Saturday night hooked up to a dialysis machine, right? Wooo-hooo!).

  6. marcopolo

    …sorry: that should read – ‘make sacrifices for the military industrial complex and politician’s cronies’…’they want other people’s (largely brown or ill-educated white) children to kill other people’s (mostly brown) children for them’. I’m getting sloppy.

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