Friend or faux?

At some modest risk of over-simplification Id suggest that the political right thinks of the Declaration of Independences All men are created equal phrase as meaning equality of opportunity, while to the political left it means equality of outcome or condition. This explains why the recent spread-the-wealth comment during the mercifully-just-finished political campaign drew both the negative response of the right and the fervent support of the left, because it addressed the re-distributionist goal of equal financial outcomes and rejected the concept of individual opportunity to compete, succeed or fail to greater or lesser degrees, and thereby create unequal financial outcomes. It also explains such phenomena as the recent public-schooling interest in something called Outcome-Based Education, which seeks to have all students demonstrate, via preferred portfolio or less-preferred testing, the same outcome-level of content mastery, as opposed to traditional education which seeks primarily to equalize inputs even though differently skilled or motivated students will individually do better or worse with the same level of, for example, per-pupil funding. You can read a more detailed explanation of outcome-based versus traditional in Wikipedia. As history in Vermont actually played out, the temporary infatuation of edu-crats with OBE, primarily in the 80s, was swept aside in the 90s by a left-dominated Vermont State Legislature in favor of a less Leftist and more traditional equality-of-input (funding) goal, which was made more attractive to them by packaging it in a state property tax which, for the first time in history , would reverse the budget-first-rate-setting-second principle to one in which assessment and rate (and therefore total tax) are arrived at by government independently of any voter-approved spending plan, thereby encouraging spending to rise as long as rapidly increasing property values triggered constant upward re-appraisals and collections, and only pennies in occasional legislative-ordered rate reductions. OBE hasnt permanently gone away; in various states and cities, edu-crats are now arguing that in the pursuit of equal outcomes some school districts need more money-per-pupil than others, so that their lower-achieving students can supposedly be made equal to their higher-achieving non-peers in adjacent districts. For now, however, the Left in Vermont is more enthusiastic about equality of dollar input (raised via a policy of tax-the-rich-towns-to-subsidize-the-poorer-ones) than the equality of educational outcome. Educational theory isnt the only area in which the local Left hasnt done their usually predictable egalitararian-outcome thing; educational practice is another, as the statistics for public educators putting their kids into private schools show. It brings to mind the well-known (but dont test your recent high school grad on this) quote from George Orwells 1945 Animal Farm, that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than the others. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy comments thus: The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite, in this case for educators who tout the supposed virtues of a public education which they make sure that their own children dont have to experience. And there are other areas, both theoretical and real. On the theoretical side you might consider, for example, the proposal of gubernatorial candidate Symington (as you read this, she may well be gubernatrix-in-waiting) to create a new governmental agency charged with moving locally-grown foods from organic garden to local-vore table, in an effort to cater to (no pun intended) that 20-or-so percent of the population which deems such consumption preferences important enough to enable government to manage; hardly a truly egalitarian initiative. Or, on the practical side, what about the widespread re-interpretation of planning and zoning rules to enable the sorts of development favored by the gentry-left governmental and quasi-governmental-subsidized, mostlyand to disable private-sector construction initiatives for housing or business. Nationwide surveys, even those taken in Vermont, invariably show overwhelming percentages of ordinary families aspiring to a single-family-home-on-as-large-a-lot-as-possible, in an effort to achieve domicile-equality with those who already have one; and yet planning and zoning policy, as enforced through subjective re-interpretation of older regulations, is employed by local boards, with solid voter and governmental support, to prevent just such an egalitarian outcome. Maybe Vermonts gentry leftists arent so spread-the-wealth egalitarian after all? Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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