Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Mom And The Literacy Test

I have friends who grade standardized college admission essays. Believe it or not, this can be done. There are even computer programs that do it. Knowing these friends has made me think of bringing back literacy tests for voter eligibility. And for office holding.

Example: Make fair and credible arguments, both for and against Keynesian economic stimulus.

Responses would not have to match familiar arguments. The point would be that prospective voters prove familiarity with the ideas the political process processes, and think coherently about them.

The other day my mother and I were talking about her grandchildren's prospects, and apropos of my niece's job search (she's a recent PhD who's interested in education policy), I said something about Keynesianism.  Mom, an educated liberal who was old enough to be aware during the Great Depression, and whose doting grandfather edited a newspaper, had to ask me what I was talking about.

Answer: Spending decreases during recessions in the business cycle, because demand for goods is satisfied. Production slows and businesses cut staff. Keynesianism suggests that banks lower interest rates, and that government spend on infrastructure, during times of recession, increasing spending and production by increasing available money.

This is a good idea because it keeps manufacturing exercised, keeps workers who are not party to decisions affecting their livelihoods employed, and is merely a way of timing necessary public works.

It is a bad idea because it does not address economic inequities or possible physical reasons for specific downturns, and it provides funds to businesses and individuals for unnecessary spending, and consequently weakens an economy in the long term by mobilizing limited natural capital for redundant products.

There are other answers, and other questions, but I'd like to insist that my fellow voters have D-minus or better understanding.

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