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Let’s Please Bring Free Markets to Bear On Education

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Let’s Please Bring Free Markets to Bear On Education


kid in school

Few things are more out of whack in this country than our education system. I like to use the word “learned” as opposed to “educated” when weighing whether or not someone is a dumb ass.  This country is flooded with educated people, but learned people are harder to find. Why is that? Sit back Dear Reader, grab a beer, some Doritos and listen up.

Today’s story focuses on two concepts: individual liberty and responsibility. Our society has certain universal values. One of which is the storied Faber College motto; “Knowledge Is Good.” Because knowledge is good and everyone agrees it is good, politicians want you to like them, so they propose government funding for education. Sounds good right? However, as Dean Wormer would surely attest, “education” is not synonymous with “knowledge.” With government funding comes government management of education and government rules. Not good. Here are some “Rob Rules” for you to remember, they are universally applicable to all people in practically all situations; 1) when individual liberty is diminished in favor of the collective, bad things happen, and 2) when citizens abdicate individual responsibilities in favor of the state, the Prosperous Road of Happy Citizenry merges into the Road to Serfdom.

An Education Delivery System (“EDS”) is any mechanism that allows people to learn ( by the way, I made this term up, so you won’t find the term “EDS” in any scholarly journals). It’s hard for most people to visualize an EDS any different from what it is now, perhaps because they are products of the current system.  They are stuck in a single paradigm of government funded (and controlled) EDSs. It is as though they are spirits trapped in some sort of otherworld and can’t see what is so clear to those of us who have historical perspective and faith in the enterprising spirit of American capitalism.

colonial america map

Many scholars believe the literacy rate in Colonial America among freemen was higher than the literacy rate in America today.  There was a free market in education and virtually no government funding of schools.  Children were initially taught at home usually by their mother. The bible was a great instrument for learning because most of the stories were known to the child before he learned to read. Protestantism demanded a personal relation with God and thus biblical literacy to achieve these ends. Churches  were  great centers of learning, as each denomination founded its own schools.  Children mastered difficult subjects at a much earlier age than students today. Most students today have had little exposure to these same subjects.  A very common curriculum was instruction in Latin, Greek, classical history, great works of literature, philosophy, Old and New Testament, astronomy, mathematics, surveying, navigation, accounting, bookkeeping, natural sciences and contemporary foreign languages. Pre-teens translated Greek and Latin into English (one of my colonial ancestors, a 15 year old Scottish Presbyterian tutored other boys in ancient languages to make a bit of pocket money).  Colonial newspapers were littered with private tutors and school masters advertising their services. Families often pooled resources and shared the costs of tutors. There were philosophical societies, itinerant lecturers and voluntary associations devoted to various disciplines of learning. Many foreigners were “blown away” by the level of knowledge that these provincial colonials possessed. I mention all this because there will be those naysayers who say a private system of free market education “is impossible, it will never work.” But it already has worked at a time when there were not 1/1000th of the resources and tools available today.

public school

No doubt, there are those socialist thinkers who will say, not every family is equipped to provide for their children’s education. This is a nice way of saying “some people are fat, lazy and stupid” and therefore all education must be reduced to the lowest common denominator such that everyone who is not fat, lazy and stupid won’t have any “unfair” advantages over fat, lazy and stupid people.” Just like socialism strives to make everybody poor so that they will be equal, government run schools strive to make everyone equally stupid (I know this sounds harsh, but I am employing my wily rhetorical skills to make you think).  There is no question that some families are ill prepared to the task of taking responsibility for their children’s education, but that is because they have never had to do so. Let’s look at what would happen by just ending public schools tomorrow. Market driven forces will improve the delivery system for education and drive down the costs. Due to technology, virtually any child can learn any subject without leaving his bedroom and with absolutely no government expense. Moreover, just like in colonial America, there would be a myriad of methods of learning and interacting with learned people dispensing their knowledge. Delivery systems would compete for business, driving out inefficiency and allocating resources directly to the consumer and the consumer’s preferences. Those who have never taken much of an interest in their children’s education, abdicating their responsibility to the government run school system, suddenly will do so. For those that doubt this, you have little understanding of human nature and the power of market forces. Moreover, the amount of private sector benevolence flowing towards education support would be staggering.

Ask yourself if the current government managed education system is not a form of bondage and your children are not slaves to a system that rewards “educrats” at the expense of your children? Your taxes pay for a system that is broken. Your children cannot pray in school or be taught the tenets of their faith. You the consumer have very little or no choice in what or where they are taught, not to mention when they are taught and by whom. Radical nonsense like Critical Race Theory is slammed down their throats, and it should be quite clear that teacher’s unions do not care about your children. See this Jesse Watters Interview and ask yourself how can it even be possible for the government to spend on average $17,000/year for 13 years on each student, and have this be the byproduct of $221,000? If the consumer was in control and chose his EDS for his children, not one person in America would fail to answer any of Jesse Watters’ questions.

dry cleaning

If you had a choice between taking your laundry to a government run dry cleaners or a mom and pop dry cleaners, which would you choose? Nobody would choose the government option! It would cost more, your shirts would get ripped, torn and lost. Customer service would suck, and you would have to fill out 8 pages of forms every time you picked your shirts up. What would you think of a government policy that mandated that you had to take your laundry to a particular government dry cleaner based on where you lived? You couldn’t even choose between several government run dry cleaners. Oh yeah, you go to jail for refusing to abide by this system.  If this outrages you, our government run school system is no different. So, if we don’t trust our shirts to the government, why do we trust our children’s education?

Can you think of any non-regulated goods or services in America where you can’t get exactly what you want with relative ease among a multitude of options? Need a plumber, there are thousands of choices. There are 100 different types of paperclips you can buy at Office Max. Want a movie, click a button and it pops up on your screen. The free market provides you with anything you might need with amazing efficiency. The services that suck are the ones where the government provides funding to “help us.” There is no service that people want more than for their kids to be well educated. It boggles the mind the choices the  private sector would create if we ended the government run public school system and put power into the hands of consumers where it belongs.


Rob Smith

Rob Smith is a lawyer and Managing Director of Chartwell Capital in Richmond, Virginia. He is mean as a snake and likes to kick little puppies when he see them. He also enjoys making children cry and tripping old ladies. He is extremely superficial and shallow. His favorite pastimes/hobbies are pissing people off, littering and being obnoxious.

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