Government mandated 'fairness' is rarely the optimal solution

Thanks to Al Gore, Central Ohio has achieved a record total snowfall during February, 2010: 29.8 inches as of February 27, surpassing the previous record set in 1910. School closings as a result of this snowfall present an interesting illustration of what happens whenever the government attempts to run a system "fairly."When I was growing up in rural Upstate New York, our school never closed for snow, in part because the community was prepared for it, and in part because not as many students were bused to school. The district provided some busing, but it was not mandatory. If some roads were treacherous due to ice and snow, the students who were bused from those areas simply missed school that day. The school did not close unless most students could not get there, which never happened. I recall one stretch of winter when one of my classmates missed a full week of school because his quarter-mile lane had drifted shut, and the road leading to the lane was also impassable for the bus. He was the object of much envy that week, especially from those of us who walked to school.

This year, the rural Ohio district in which I live has closed 7 times so far due to snow, although most of the roads in the district have been open and more than passable. So why was school canceled? How are things different now? Today, the district is required to provide transportation for all students outside of a certain radius. If any road where buses could travel is dangerous or is impassable, the district will not assume the liability for transporting students living along that road. If those students can't make it to school on a district-provided bus, then the only "fair" solution is to see that no one goes to school that day.

But how is that "fair?" Only in that everyone has an equivalent outcome - no school - and in the toddler school of government-think, equal and fair mean the same thing. However, an adult needs to ask what is fair about disrupting the education of the majority of students who could make it to school because of the needs of the minority who wouldn't have state-funded transportation that day?

Taking it a step further, how is it fair to bus-riding students whose parents would assume responsibility for transporting them during inclement weather, to tell them "if the state can't (or won't) pay for or provide your transportation, then you lose the opportunity to go to school today." Wouldn't it be more fair to the presumed purpose of providing a free public education to keep the school open for the majority, and address the absence of the minority through extra time to complete the work missed, or some other reasonable accommodation?

The lesson in this is that government bureaucracies are equipped to think only in cookie cutter terms because of the misbegotten notion that equality under the law requires absolute sameness of outcome. The playground complaint "That's not fair!" takes hold to such a degree that if (name the service) can't be provided to everyone, the state cannot, in "fairness," provide it to anyone.

These Ohio snow days, when most roads have been clear by 9:00 AM, have become for me an indicator of what will happen if the government monopolizes healthcare in the same way that it has monopolized education. On snow days, parents do not have the option of willingly transporting their children to school because school is closed; how many patients will be denied the option to pay for their own medical care because the government has closed that option, since not everyone is able to pay?

Students who could walk, or whose roadways are clear are refused entrance to the school because the district is not providing transportation to other students; how long till more specialized procedures are denied to those who need them because the government cannot make them universally available, whether because of cost or local demand?

Closing school for the day by definition disrupts a student's education, yet students in inaccessible areas are not given the option of doing their schoolwork via the Homework Hotline or some non-traditional method even though that would actually address their educational needs; how many patients will be subjected to medical care by-the-book when they really need different diagnostic or treatment procedures, because a medical bureaucracy is incapable of that kind of creative thinking, or won't pay for anything other than "usual and customary" procedures?

That wouldn't be fair, would it?


Thanks to Al Gore, Central Ohio has achieved a record total snowfall during February, 2010: 29.8 inches as of February 27, surpassing the previous record set in 1910. School closings as a result of this snowfall present an interesting illustration of what happens whenever the government attempts to run a system "fairly."

When I was growing up in rural Upstate New York, our school never closed for snow, in part because the community was prepared for it, and in part because not as many students were bused to school. The district provided some busing, but it was not mandatory. If some roads were treacherous due to ice and snow, the students who were bused from those areas simply missed school that day. The school did not close unless most students could not get there, which never happened. I recall one stretch of winter when one of my classmates missed a full week of school because his quarter-mile lane had drifted shut, and the road leading to the lane was also impassable for the bus. He was the object of much envy that week, especially from those of us who walked to school.

This year, the rural Ohio district in which I live has closed 7 times so far due to snow, although most of the roads in the district have been open and more than passable. So why was school canceled? How are things different now? Today, the district is required to provide transportation for all students outside of a certain radius. If any road where buses could travel is dangerous or is impassable, the district will not assume the liability for transporting students living along that road. If those students can't make it to school on a district-provided bus, then the only "fair" solution is to see that no one goes to school that day.

But how is that "fair?" Only in that everyone has an equivalent outcome - no school - and in the toddler school of government-think, equal and fair mean the same thing. However, an adult needs to ask what is fair about disrupting the education of the majority of students who could make it to school because of the needs of the minority who wouldn't have state-funded transportation that day?

Taking it a step further, how is it fair to bus-riding students whose parents would assume responsibility for transporting them during inclement weather, to tell them "if the state can't (or won't) pay for or provide your transportation, then you lose the opportunity to go to school today." Wouldn't it be more fair to the presumed purpose of providing a free public education to keep the school open for the majority, and address the absence of the minority through extra time to complete the work missed, or some other reasonable accommodation?

The lesson in this is that government bureaucracies are equipped to think only in cookie cutter terms because of the misbegotten notion that equality under the law requires absolute sameness of outcome. The playground complaint "That's not fair!" takes hold to such a degree that if (name the service) can't be provided to everyone, the state cannot, in "fairness," provide it to anyone.

These Ohio snow days, when most roads have been clear by 9:00 AM, have become for me an indicator of what will happen if the government monopolizes healthcare in the same way that it has monopolized education. On snow days, parents do not have the option of willingly transporting their children to school because school is closed; how many patients will be denied the option to pay for their own medical care because the government has closed that option, since not everyone is able to pay?

Students who could walk, or whose roadways are clear are refused entrance to the school because the district is not providing transportation to other students; how long till more specialized procedures are denied to those who need them because the government cannot make them universally available, whether because of cost or local demand?

Closing school for the day by definition disrupts a student's education, yet students in inaccessible areas are not given the option of doing their schoolwork via the Homework Hotline or some non-traditional method even though that would actually address their educational needs; how many patients will be subjected to medical care by-the-book when they really need different diagnostic or treatment procedures, because a medical bureaucracy is incapable of that kind of creative thinking, or won't pay for anything other than "usual and customary" procedures?

That wouldn't be fair, would it?


RECENT VIDEOS