Jewish World Review July 4, 2002 / 24 Tamuz, 5762

Bob Tyrrell

Bob Greene
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The vindication of a truly original thinker


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | One of the greatest minds of the 20th century has, in the early years of the 21st century, been vindicated!

In the 1950s, Nobel-Prize winning economist Milton Friedman began arguing for using vouchers to end the public school monopoly. I first read his argument in "Capitalism and Freedom," his classic treatise on the free society and the limits of government published in the early 1960s. Since then, many of his economic ideas have gained wide acceptance where once they were derided as antiques.

Even his prejudices in favor of limited government have gained popularity. Yet for 40 years, vouchers have remained in limbo, thanks to the alarums sounded by the school unions, the public school bureaucracies and assorted representatives of the bien pensant. Their most devastating argument has been that vouchers are unconstitutional. Thus, no further discussion was necessary.

Aside from Friedman's ardor for debate (he has established a foundation to promote vouchers) and that of a few like-minded advocates, the discussion or possibly implementation of vouchers was stifled. However, on June 27 in a decision that may be as historic as Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decided that there is nothing unconstitutional about vouchers. Let the test begin. Let free citizens with vouchers send their children to the schools of their choice. Let us see if competition improves the schools of the land, as Friedman has been predicting.

The Court's decision (Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris) upheld Cleveland's plan to give poor citizens government vouchers for tuition at any school enrolled in the city's voucher program, whether it be public, private or parochial. Opponents of the plan had argued that tax dollars spent at parochial schools ran afoul of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which opposes Congress' establishment of a religion.

The argument is historically ignorant, but that has not stopped it from being used for generations to oppose government monies seeping into religious institutions and more recently to kill off voucher programs.

I say it is a historically ignorant argument because, when the Constitution was drawn up, some of the states already had established religions. That is to say that state tax revenue was flowing in places such as Virginia to an established church.

In the original 13 colonies, state taxes supported no fewer than three religions, the Anglican, the Methodist and the Dutch Reformed. What the Constitution's Establishment Clause was meant to do was to oppose federal tax revenue establishing a national church in America. By mangling the Founding Fathers' intent, beginning in the 1940s, so-called progressives and liberals have managed to create the great and essentially phony controversy between the separation of church and state.

Just last week, it led to the absurdity of a court in San Francisco banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schoolrooms because of the Pledge's "controversial" passage. Now, however, questions regarding the constitutionality of school vouchers have been laid to rest.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the Cleveland voucher program was a "program of true private choice" because parents, not the government, direct their tax-supported vouchers to schools. Another argument, made by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, noted that state money has been finding its way into religious institutions for years, Pell grants to college students who go to religious institutions, Medicaid payments to Catholic hospitals.

With the constitutionality of vouchers now established, governments can get on with testing Friedman's belief that vouchers will create competition for the school system and in so doing improve public schools through competition. Always the optimist, Friedman does not believe public schools have to be inferior schools.

In Milwaukee, Wisc., where a school choice program was launched years ago despite arguments against its constitutionality, student test scores in all grades have risen even in public schools. In Florida, where a newer school choice program has been adopted, the number of failing public schools dropped from 78 in the program's first year to four a year later.

Vouchers still face challenges in some states. Thirty-seven states still have 19th century laws that forbid using tax dollars in religious schools. Ironically, these laws were established not to "separate" church and state, but more pointedly to hobble Catholic immigration to the United States. The first was passed in Massachusetts in 1854. It was a creation of that bete noire of all good liberals, the Know-Nothing Party, which had come to power promising to "Americanize America." Do the opponents of vouchers now join the side of the Know-Nothings?

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.

06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
02/21/02: Mike Tyson: Made for Washington?
02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies . Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The Godphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy

© 2001, Creators Syndicate