(a) a right;
(b) a duty;
(c) both (a) and (b);
(d) none of the above?
I would go with (d), but recent remarks by President Obama quoted on the blog at reason.com take a lean towards (b). I suspect he would sign on with (a) as well and thus give (c) as his answer.
Modern "liberalism" is often characterized by the idea that government should aim to provide individuals with opportunities to realize their "full potential". I am not unsympathetic to this version of "liberalism" but I am with the Reason blogger that going beyond opportunities to mandates is an illiberal move in either the modern or classical sense.
I think the issue, though, is less clear-cut than Jacob Sullum, the reason blogger, makes it out to be. From a classical liberal perspective, or simply from an economic perspective, there is a countervailing issue. Given that we have a well-developed transfer system, and given that high school dropouts differently take advantage of that transfer system and so impose a net tax burden on the rest of the citizenry, pushing them to at least finish high school, and more generally pushing people to obtain enough of the right kind of human capital to at least be self-supporting, becomes optimal in a second best sense. One distortion, namely the moral hazard implicit by the transfer system, gets mitigated in part by another.
Trade-offs everywhere. That's what makes it interesting.
Hat tip: Lars Skipper
It's really quite easy.
1 year ago