Charter schools now educate more than half as many children as attend private schools, and are responsible for a major increase in the fraction of American students attending schools that their families choose. Yet for all their growth and visibility, the basic question of whether charter schools have been delivering on their promise of higher-quality education, especially for underprivileged students, remains remarkably open. Getting closer to an answer requires a thorough review of what we know and what we don't about the charter sector.
Americans are constantly bombarded with arguments for universal access to a four-year college education. Such degrees certainly contribute to mobility and prosperity, but a great deal of evidence from around the world also shows that a high-quality vocational-education system can help people rise into and through the middle class. While we strengthen our higher-education system, it is also time to reconsider vocational education and to revitalize and modernize career and technical education in the United States.
American economic policy since the Great Recession has combined a fervent belief in the power of assertive macroeconomic stimulus to spur economic growth with a willful blindness to the negative microeconomic effects of burdensome taxes and regulations. In one sector of the economy after another, this peculiar mix of errors has undermined the prospects for prosperity.
Everyone remembers that the Clinton administration attempted a major reform of American health-care policy in 1993, led by First Lady Hillary Clinton, and that it failed and left Democrats adrift on health care until Obamacare's enactment almost 20 years later. But few observers have noted how little changed about the left's aims in those two decades. In its overall structure and many of its finer details, Obamacare is extraordinarily similar to Hillarycare. Those similarities will make it difficult for Clinton to put any distance between herself and the unpopular health law as she runs for president, and they may also offer hints about how she might propose to change it.
Health care accounts for more than a sixth of the American economy, yet it has been more impervious to disruptive innovation, especially of the sort that improves productivity and value, than almost any other part of our economy. But in some corners of the health sector, where some degree of competition and innovation remains possible, the tide may finally be turning.
Social Security began running a cash deficit in 2010, and on its current course it will continue running such deficits indefinitely. The program's trust funds can still support retirement benefits through the next decade, but if Congress waits until then to make reforms, policymakers will have to choose between massive tax increases or sharp benefit cuts. If Congress acts sooner, and begins to transform the program into a vehicle for universal individual savings, it can restructure Social Security to make it solvent and secure in the long term while strengthening the economy.
America's major cities are almost universally governed by liberals—and almost universally governed very poorly. The state of the cities should offer conservatives enormous opportunities, but the right is not well situated to capitalize on those. It is well past time to change that. A conservative urban agenda could strengthen both America's cities and American conservatism.
The political debate over climate change has long resembled a contest to see which party can discredit itself more. Liberals have seized upon outlandishly improbable climate scenarios to urge a drastic and counterproductive left-wing economic agenda, while conservatives deny some straightforward evidence to avoid confronting the need for even modest policy steps. Of the two, conservatives are doing their cause the greater harm. Taking account of the basic facts about climate change would undermine the left's crusade and point the way toward letting technology and markets address the risks we confront.
The massive growth of domestic oil production in recent years is the closest thing to an energy revolution we have seen since 1973. The new oil boom has transformed the political landscape around energy, but has also sparked a fierce new policy debate. The stakes in this debate are high, and it is being waged with much heat, but clear logic and sound evidence have both often been in short supply so far.
Addressing the environmental threats and risks that America and the world now confront, including climate change, will require the same kinds of tools that have helped us face challenges and make the most of opportunities throughout the modern era: Above all, we must preserve a generally prosperous, dynamic economy capable of responding to any future changes in the climate (or anything else). By approaching environmental policy with humility, we can remain flexible, ready, and able to respond to whatever challenges the future might hold.
Support for a carbon tax has become the height of fashion among some on the right, and an express pass to "strange new respect" from the left. But the case for the carbon tax is a shell game. The range of designs, prices, rationales, and claimed benefits varies so widely — even within many individual arguments for the tax — that assessing the actual validity of most discrete proposals becomes nearly impossible. Whatever you think about climate change or environmental policy, a carbon tax would be a bad deal for America.