Teachers in Los Angeles Confront Privatization—the Heart of Today’s Neoliberal Conventional Wisdom


Almost a decade ago, I was sitting in the audience at a national meeting when a prominent Democrat endorsed neoliberalism—the idea that the private sector can do better than the government.  I might have expected this speaker to defend government services, but instead he expressed what sounded to me like the conventional wisdom as it might have been voiced at an Aspen Institute cocktail party of the so-called “theory class.”  There was no reasoning, no sense that evidence was necessary. He merely assumed we all agreed: “We can’t support vouchers,” declared the speaker, “but charter schools are OK because they  aren’t really a form of privatization.”

In their book, American Amnesia, the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson describe how such conventional wisdom can somehow become acceptable despite plenty of contradictory evidence.  Writing about the emergence of a bipartisan neoliberal consensus beginning in the Reagan era and continuing…

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