In which Jasper hyperventilates about school vouchers
Megan McArdle, in the midst of a series of posts about education reforms, goes off on her fellow libertarians:
I can’t say I’m thrilled to find that there is a statistically significant minority of my ideological quasi-brethren lining up to tell me that it’s a terrible idea to try and help poor kids with the school system. For one thing, my interlocutors say, the driving factor in the quality of a school is the quality (for which, read Socio-Economic Status) of its kids. And for another, it’s immoral to take money from people to educate someone else’s children…I’m sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I’m not that sort of libertarian. Children are a perennial problem for libertarians, but what it boils down to is this: children (and to my mind, the severely disabled), have positive rights. They have a right to be fed, educated, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care on someone else’s dime. And if their parents abdicate this responsibility, then it passes onto the community, including the state, even if none of us asked said parent to reproduce. So arguing that educating poor children is immoral . . . well, I hardly know what to say, except remind me not to get into a lifeboat with you.
You go, girl!
Commenter “Norm” on the thread opines thusly:
Liberals, of which I am one, desperately want to improve poorly performing schools. We just don’t think these schemes will work. It’s not that we hate markets, it’s that we have seen markets approaches fail time and time again at solving this very sort of problem.
Hey Norm, what about that “scheme” called American post secondary education? Unlike K-12, college level schooling in the US is not characterized by uniformity, centralization, lack of choice, geography-based assignment, etc. Rather, post K-12 in the US is characterized by diversity, specialization, choice, and, most importantly, competition. Universities compete fiercely with each other, and customers are free to vote with their feet. Indeed, post-secondary schools in the US are allowed to go out of business, and many do so each year. They do not, like elementary and high schools, possess a guaranteed pool of customers that insures their survival as long as babies continue to be born in their “territories.”
Moreover, American post-secondary education — in contrast to American K-12 — not only stacks up well against international competition, but is inarguably the world’s finest university system by any measurement. That’s right, the American education sector characterized by a widespread requirement to compete for customers is the world leader. The American education sector that is characterized by an utter lack of necessity to compete for customers is a world lagger. Funny, that.