Monday, June 23, 2008

The Problem with Centralized Authority

The town I live in (Wellesley, MA) wants to build a new high school, and the State Treasurer Tim Cahill objects to the cost. The state government is providing some funding, as it typically does for school building projects, but the town is willing to fully fund the incremental cost of all the bells and whistles that Mr Cahill objects to.

Why, you might ask, is the cost of these add-ons a state issue at all? Why not let local residents decide what kind of high school to buy? According to the Boston Globe, Mr Cahill explains his position as follows:

One community should not be able to provide better opportunities for kids versus another community just because they have the money.
In essence, Mr Cahill does not want the residents of Wellesley--a group with higher-than-average income--to spend their own money on their children. I suppose it is better for them to buy fancier cars or spend more on dinners out at tony restaurants. But better school facilities? Absolutely not!

Mr Cahill's one-size-fits-all principle has many implications. For example, why should wealthier parents be allowed to hire tutors for their kids? Or give them private music lessons? Or send them to pricey summer camps? If Mr Cahill thinks that people should not be able to spend their own money to improve the lives of their children, the Wellesley High School is only the first step of a much larger project.