A final response from Andrew Coulson


Author: Joshua Thompson

I have been away from the office, and haven't had a chance to post Andrew Coulson's latest reply to some minor critiques I leveled against his Philadelphia Inquirer piece.  Here is my initial critique, Mr. Coulson's response, and my susbequent reply.  I'll give Mr. Coulson the final word, you can read his response below. Many thanks to Mr. Coulson for engaging in this debate, we here at PLF wish our friends at the Cato Institute much success in their work!


Thank you for following up. One reason why pointing out the shortcomings of vouchers serves to promote and protect educational freedom in a state like Pennsylvania is that a voucher offering a bigger per-user benefit will eat the existing EITC education tax credit program. Presented with two ways of making private schooling affordable, most people will chose the one that offers the larger financial benefit. SB 1 would thus almost certainly kill off the tax credit program over time. But Pennsylvania's EITC is one of the better-designed tax credit programs in the nation, is currently the largest, and the state House has overwhelmingly approved a major expansion of it that Senate voucher supporters are blocking. It would be tragic for such a program to be destroyed by an alternative voucher policy that would foster social conflict and the regulatory suffocation of private schools.

As for my objection to the word "bashing," it's due to the connotation of that word: "bashing" implies mindless aggression. Do you think I'm being mindlessly aggressive?

On the tyranny point, you wrote:
I remain unconvinced that vouchers can be equated with "compel[ling]a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves."


1) payment of taxes is compulsory
2) vouchers are funded through taxes
3) vouchers can be used at any of a wide range of private schools espousing different religious beliefs, world-views, ideologies, etc.
4) Many of these beliefs and world-views are intrinsically incompatible with one another–adherence to one necessitates disbelief in others.

Therefore, vouchers certainly can "compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves."

You cite Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, but that is a ruling on the legality of vouchers under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is a separate question not only conceptually but legally. Compelled Support clauses such as the one penned by Jefferson are not always legally equated with the First Amendment. In any event, the legal point is, to me, subsidiary. My concern is with the practical results of such compulsion, which are animosity and conflict among different groups within our pluralistic society. A result well worth avoiding and easily avoidable.

Thanks again for the interesting conversation,