Public Investment in the Melting Pot

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 16:47:51 +0000

I thought that Eduardo Porter's editorial in The New York Times today was relevant to our discussion of education finance. His thesis:

[R]acial and ethnic diversity undermine support for public investment in social welfare. For all the appeal of America’s melting pot, the country’s diverse ethnic mix is one main reason for entrenched opposition to public spending on the public good.

He cites a number of studies to support this thesis. His conclusion is of the form that we should overcome the challenge:

Globalization presents the United States with an enormous challenge. Rising to the test will require big investments in the public good — from infrastructure to education to a safety net protecting those most vulnerable to change. Americans must once again show their ability to transcend group interests for a common national cause.

What if we could work smarter rather than harder? Why do all differences (here, group interests) need to be transcended? Why can't the easiest ones be acknowledged and accommodated, saving this rather difficult process of "transcending" for the few places where it is most critical?

Question for you: what are those issues where you support more individual choice, and what are those issues where you think we need to do this sort of "transcending?"