Truly Private Schools

The editorial in the July REASON ("A Textbook Case of Bunk") started out well but was ultimately very disappointing. It is helpful to have the figures showing real increases in public school expenditures while results are deteriorating and the figures showing that private schools cost much less than public schools. But the analysis of the reasons for the dismal performance of the public schools and the suggestions for improvement ignore a critical point.

The fundamental reason for the public schools' failure is not their monopoly status; it is their public, that is, government status. There are sometimes monopolies in the free market (in the sense of one supplier for a good or service), but they don't necessarily provide bad, overpriced products or services—if they did, they'd probably quickly lose their monopoly status. In fact, if the public schools weren't a protected monopoly, they'd fail in the true business sense, and the failure would be much more evident—they would lose students by the millions. It is only because they are a government-run and -subsidized monopoly that they survive.…

The editorial concludes that "if public schools were paid by their customers, on an even footing with private schools, only then would real reform be likely." I submit that if schools are really paid by their customers on an even footing with private schools, then they would be private schools—and that is what we should aim for. Tax credits or vouchers may move us toward that goal, particularly by helping parents, children, and teachers to become independent of the public school system, but they are at best a small first step; they don't fundamentally change (or, better yet, eliminate) the institution of public schools.…

Sara Baase
La Mesa, CA

Satellites Sale Sequels

I read with interest your "Fair Weather" article (June) and have several additional points.…

One of the arms of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Ocean Survey (NOS), is looking for new horizons because it has botched its job of providing coastal charts so bad that most people who need them use Department of Defense charts. NOS is planning 10 regional marine centers and would take over all marine forecasting responsibilities. Private enterprise better hurry, or there won't be much left!

Also of interest: There is a National Weather Service Employee Organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO. This group has long been critical of NOAA/NWS scientist managers, claiming the government spends enough money on weather but in the wrong areas for the public good. Recent testimony before a congressional subcommittee makes interesting reading. The union was active in getting resolutions passed in both houses of Congress preventing sale of the government's weather satellite without congressional approval, despite the Office of Management and Budget's A-76 procedures.…

D.J. Kava
Beaumont, TX

The Road to Privacy

I don't remember having seen the "post office box" concept applied to the computerized billing of road users ("Hong Kong Paves the Way for Automatic Tolls," Trends, June). Buying and reselling ID numbers (requiring an easily changed car option), together with buffering the user from the original biller, could provide almost as much privacy as immediate cash payment. A user might also choose to buy several ID numbers.

David Hudson
Norwood, MA

Sobering Thoughts

There was one small portion of the Spotlight on John Dinkel (July) that bothered me—the off-the-cuff dismissal of anti-drunk-driving laws.

I believe that, contrary to Dinkel's opinion, "those who habitually drive with a few drinks under their belts" are problem drivers. A person playing Russian roulette in the privacy of his own home is minding his own business. When he leaves his house and starts pointing that loaded weapon at everybody else, it is my business. My rights—not only as a driver but even as a pedestrian—are violated by the chance a driver takes by drinking.…

There is no guarantee that the person who has had no difficulty driving after two, three, or four drinks for 20 years will retain his immunity to the debilitating effects of alcohol. All drivers who have caused accidents have therefore had a first such accident; that they might have been driving for 20 years or more before it happened should merely be accepted as extraordinary good fortune for the people not killed.

As with Henry Hazlitt's parable of the seen and the unseen, the statistics on deaths are visible and seen, but there is no way we can be made aware of the people who were not killed because an intoxicated driver spent a few hours in jail instead of on the road. As both a driver and pedestrian, I accept the inconvenience of having to prove my sobriety in order to reduce the risk of allowing an inebriated driver on the road.…

Dan Karlan
Waldwick, NJ

Free Costa Rica?

The sidebar in "The Freedom Factor" (July) lists Costa Rica as among "politically free" countries. That listing is miles away from the reality of it all. This country is second in the per capita amount of foreign aid it receives because of insane policies devised in the United States and carried out for the last 40 years. Costa Rica is the most falsely ballyhooed country in the Americas. It is the worst administered, the most crooked, the laziest, and so on far into the night.

Martin F. Lyons
Costa Rica, C.R.

Shaking 'Em Up At the Local Level

Your magazine is the most enlightening there is on the market today. I usually take it to my local union hall (Laborers 427) and let my fellow union members thumb through it. It's an attempt to let them know the other side of the picture and not just the same old union demagoguery.

Charles D. Phillips
Sioux City, IA