Rome, Gregory, Block, Walter, Journal of Instructional Psychology
Public schools are part and parcel of socialism. This system of economics does not function well. Not in the Soviet Union, and not in any industry in the United States, certainly including education. The present paper attempts to show that education is no exception to this general rule.
Key Words: privatization, private schools, public schools, education, school vouchers, educational socialism
Public schools should not exist in America. Education is not a legitimate function of government. To make matters even worse, the state is a terribly inefficient manager of anything; the classroom is no exception. Despite the mountains of cash and a staggering number of human lives invested in teaching American children in public schools, the endeavor has been an abysmal failure. As such, government education should be seen as the cancer on society that it really is and removed (1). Some proponents of school vouchers have put this plan forward as a means to this noble end, but government subsidy of schools--even of this sort--will have the very opposite effect: it will not lead to greater freedom in the educational arena, but at best only to more efficient educational socialism.
Let us explore why government education is illegitimate. As a first offense, it is funded by coercive taxation (2). Under pain of incarceration, American citizens are shaken down daily to fund the system. Because of this indiscriminate taxation, a significant portion of those footing the bill for public education will never partake of any part of the services provided with these ill-gotten gains; they are forced to pay for the schooling of other people's children. The state tramples on the property rights of every taxpayer funding their equal-opportunity dream. However, this is hardly the only coercion employed in this arena.
Once upon a time, some government hireling decided that the state knew better than any parent under its dominion how and what to teach their children. They made attendance at some recognized educational institution compulsory for every school-aged child. As a result, the government gets to define what a school is and what it teaches; Big Brother is more than happy to do so, because he then gets to dictate the curriculum of any organization begging for the seal of approval. Parents--already taxed to fund a government school system to compensate for their obvious inability to teach their own offspring--are coerced a second time, now forced to educate their progeny according to the state's whim. Again, their rights are trampled. It is for everyone's good to educate the youth, right?
There is an unconscionable conflict of interest at work here. As Young and Block (1999) put it, "The individuals entrenched in positions of power in the state are those who control over what children are taught concerning history, government, economics, and so forth. The result is a citizenry educated by the operators of the state on how to choose the operators of the state!"
Also, the endeavor is not a public good, which can be defined as a one that is "neither excludable nor rival" (Mankiw, 225). For a service to qualify as a public good, it must be impossible to exclude anyone from consuming it once it is produced, and no one person's consumption of the good can detract from any other person's. How does education fare under this test? It is most certainly rival. Therefore, it fails on that one ground. For one thing, if the money is spent on schooling, it is unavailable for anything else. For another, the argument on the part of mainstream economists is that even childless people benefit from the education of other people's children due to the "market failure" of external economies. If these other children are schooled (not the same as educated, but let that pass), then they will be less likely to be criminals, more likely to be gainfully employed, vote intelligently, etc. Since these benefits undoubtedly accrue to all, goes the argument, everyone ought to be forced to pay. …