Is It The Duty Of The Government To Educate Its Citizens?

Government has no business in education and should get out of it.

This is an essay based on a motion debate that I performed in recently. My friend Chuck Braman and I defended the con side of the debate and argued that it is NOT proper for the government to get involved in education. We won the debate by swaying more audience members to our side, based on votes taken before and after our speeches.

The division of labor was such that Chuck addressed the ethical issues concerned with government involvement in education while I was tasked with providing the economic arguments. His powerful opening statement can be found here; I encourage anyone interested in this topic to give it a read! Below is an essay based on my speech.


Larry Elder makes the point that government education is similar to an item on a restaurant menu that not even the waitress would order. Roughly 11% of Americans send their kids to private school, but nearly 30% of parents who work in public schools do so. In urban areas such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati it hovers closer to 40%. To reiterate, these are government education providers choosing to send their kids to the competing private schools.

What about the government officials themselves? 37% of Representatives send their kids to private school. For US senators, that number is a staggering 45%. President Obama, himself a product of private education, made a big show of vetting DC public schools when he was elected. After all of the hullabaloo, he sent his daughters to the most elite private school in the capital. If government education is so great, why do its biggest advocates avoid it like tap water in Mexico?

The reason is that empirically, government education has been a total failure.

Consider the money, first. Over a 30 year time frame from 1970 to 2010, spending on education increased by 375% while test scores have stagnated. We spent a total of $934 billion on public education in 2013 alone. Overall, the US government spends about 7% of its GDP on education. That works out to a little over $15,000 per head, all in.

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You would think that such figures would mean that we had a fairly educated populace, right? Think again.

The US administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams every 4 years. The test scores out of 500, and is meant to determine how proficient US students are in a variety of subjects. What does the performance look like on these tests for high school seniors, who have been through the rigmarole of twelve years of government schooling?

In history, 50% of seniors place below “basic” and a mere 12% are deemed either “proficient” or “advanced.” In science, 79% of seniors failed to show “proficiency.” In reading, 26% of seniors scored below the minimum. You read that correctly: nearly a quarter of the students that graduate from government education are, for all intents and purposes, illiterate! These stats are all well-documented here and here and here.

Further evidence of the ignorance borne by government schools can be observed in various polls and surveys. For instance, 42% of Americans think that the slogan “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” appears in one of America’s founding documents. That is, they do not know the difference between the Constitution and the Communist Manifesto. Another poll demonstrated that 18% of millennials were not familiar with Soviet mass-murderer Joseph Stalin. The same poll showed that 32% did not know who Marx was. A frightening 42% were probably under the impression that Mao Zedong was an item you might order from a Chinese restaurant, since they were not familiar with the communist dictator and his oppressive regime.

In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy conducted by the US Department of Education found that 14% of adults scored below basic on the exam and qualified as “below basic,” making them virtually illiterate. That’s nearly 30 million people, 45% of which graduated from high school!

Far from being “the bedrock of our democracy”, the US Department of Education came into existence in 1979, during the Carter years. Before that, in 1940, the US had a literacy rate exceeding 97% despite the fact that the population had no more than an 8th grade education. Now, nearly 60% of graduating seniors in the US that enter community colleges require remedial education.

Why is the education system producing such abysmal ignorance, in spite of such high spending? The answer is that government is not suited to educating anyone, let alone impressionable children.

Education is another aspect of raising children. Americans expect that parents will shelter, clothe and feed their children without complete government control; why not allow for the same thing in education? In principle, there is no difference between a child with an empty mind and a child with an empty stomach: both needs ought to be served by the parents, not the state.

On most days, liberals and conservatives alike oppose monopolies and will ask the government to interfere in order to prevent their formation. However, the government education system is a monopoly that exercises absolute control over the quality of teachers and the material that is presented. There are no truly “private” schools since each one exists with government permission. Instead of viewing the parent as a client with needs to fulfill in a market setting, the school bureaucrats see parents as obstacles in their way.

The alternative to coercive, government education is voluntary education on the free market. Advocates for free market education do not trivialize its importance by asking to get government out; we hold that education is too important to let the government in. Free markets allow individuals to patronize those establishments that provide the best value for the cheapest price. This is the way to establish rational, objective standards in education. Government standards, on the other hand, are based on the arbitrary whims of bureaucrats rather than what is actually demanded in the market. According to the prevailing view, an Ivy League scholar with multiple degrees has less ability to teach than someone with a bachelor’s in education “bulletin board” design.

Compare education to another, relatively freer industry: technology. Today we carry within our pockets micro-machines that are more powerful than mainframes that took up entire rooms just 30 years ago! 81% of households below the poverty level have access to these miraculous devices. This technology was created not by government bureaucrats, but by entrepreneurs who sought to make a profit by providing value to paying customers.

What would a free market education look like, you may ask? Coercive government education dominates the industry today and renders this question difficult to answer. As in many industries, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what innovative solutions would be implemented, but there are glimpses that occasionally break through here and there.

The internet allows for low cost teleconferencing, recording and podcasting. People can get lessons on the go, or retake courses that they have trouble understanding. Students can view worked examples on YouTube as effortlessly as their parents can view movies on Netflix or Amazon. Indeed, there is a burgeoning industry for private tutoring which features companies such as Hooked on Phonics, Varsity Tutors, Coursera, Rosetta Stone, Khan Academy, Lynda.com, and many others. The trend is that technology is rendering government education largely obsolete and unable to compete.

Meanwhile, companies like Boeing, Apple, IBM and Google already teach summer workshops and seminars for students free of charge. If government were out of the picture, many tech companies would be able to invest in computer science academies that specialize in teaching the students how to use their best-selling products of today and program the  revolutionary products of tomorrow. It would be a win-win for the companies and the students, just as one would expect in a situation with no coercion. Tech would not only be the only industry that would benefit from such an occurrence, though it would certainly be among the first.

All of this, despite the fact that government continues to tax away our earnings in order to subsidize the compulsive government schools. One can only imagine what things would look like if the sacred cow were put to pasture and people were left free to innovate.

Many concerned people may ask: what about the poor? Would they not be able to receive an education if there were no government schools? The critics that take this line seem to forget the fact that most parents, even the poor, love their children and want to see them succeed. In fact, one could argue that the reason some parents may not be as involved in their kids’ education in the first place is because they have been taught by “education theorists” and government policy-wonks that they should stay out of the way and let the state handle it. But I digress.

We can derive solace that education in a free market would be cheaper, since government involvement creates artificial scarcity both by limiting the number of schools that come into existence as well as the limiting the number of educators via certification. Parents would also have less of their income taxed away and would therefore be able to direct more funds into education if they have kids, and this would include the poor. James Tooley and Pauline Dixon have found that even in third world countries, private educators are finding effective means of educating children at a lower cost than the government schools, and with better results.

If there remains a need for education among the poorest, there is always charity. Even with huge amounts of taxation, charities have given millions of dollars to families of low income. For instance, in NYC alone one charity (the Children’s Scholarship Fund) donated $525 million over the past 13 years alone. One can only imagine what that figure would look like if the government were not sapping over $900 billion a year from American taxpayers!

To the extent that a market is free is the extent to which individuals are free to offer value for value, without coercion or physical force. When man has the ability to invest and build without confiscatory taxation or hyper-regulation, he is free to unleash the power of his mind. Imagine what the education industry would like if we allowed the genius of a Steve Jobs, a Henry Ford, or a Thomas Edison to tackle the problem at hand: how to deliver high quality education at the lowest cost.

Education is not a privilege nor is it a right; it is a service, made possible by the effort of those with the ability and the will to provide it.

 

Author: Roberto Guzman Jr

Programmer by trade, writer by passion.

12 thoughts on “Is It The Duty Of The Government To Educate Its Citizens?”

  1. To be honest this did make me question some assumptions, but I still came out on the other side of the reading this as fundamentally believing the government has a role in providing an education to its’ citizens. I could address a lot of things in this post, but I will focus on this first question and explain my point of view to start. I read Chuck’s piece and he opposes the view “it’s the duty of every individual to pay for the education of his neighbor’s children. I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement and here is why: education is a public good. I participate in society, just like my (unborn) child, and just like my neighbors’ children. If we are all expected of us to participate in society, we should be given the functional skills to thrive and interact with others. I benefit from you being educated and providing value to society just as much as I benefit from my own education. It’s in my best interest to make sure all children have the opportunity to be educated. Everyone wins.

    I don’t disagree that the US Education system needs a lot of work. I wouldn’t work for the Department of Education if I didn’t think there were things that needed fixing. Some public schools are great! Other public schools are terrible. The same could be said of private schools. I was fortunate in that I had the choice of going to a great public school. Every child should have the option of going to a great public school and I think it is the duty of the government to provide that as an option. Many families want the best for their children, but not everyone has the financial means to provide that. Even if taxes were cut, we can’t ensure that families would still have enough to provide appropriate education for their child. There is no guarantee that the market would allow for a price point that all families could afford. We would just continue to perpetuate inequality. Another issue, I want to raise, is that while children may be fortunate to be brought into families that love and care for them, there are children whose parents may be incarcerated, addicted to substances, or incarcerated. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen, but it does. How do we make sure that these students don’t get fucked by the poor choices of their parents? Would you want to be in that situation? One could easily say that it’s not my problem, but that kid could easily one day be providing me a value or service in society. A nonprofit could plausibly step in and fix it, but there is not guarantee that would happen, or that these services would be targeted to everyone.

    I think there is a point of diminishing returns to government involvement. I’d be curious to see the study you cited that the US had a 97% literacy rate in 1940. I have a suspicion that those rates are biased towards certain demographics and it’s likely a limitation of the study, but I won’t know for certain until I see it. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you that less could be more, in fact we actually might agree there. I think secondary education is where students could benefit the most from opportunities outside of the government, so possibly 8th grade is the point of diminishing returns in terms of what could actually be learned. It could also be possible that this point is after college. It is unclear where the diminishing returns begin.

    I don’t disagree that there are some plausible market solutions. Many already exist and help supplement government education. Again, some market solutions are great and some are terrible. I think the examples of tech companies stepping in are great examples of how the two can co-exist. And I’m not against that, however, tech companies have the most incentive to specialize in what benefits them most. What incentive do they have to provide a well-rounded education? What incentive do they have to teach basic literacy, numeracy and civics? Maybe they will decide to value this, but we can’t bank on the whims of the market. Companies fall in and out of favor with the market. What happens when droves of students lose their pathway to education when a company goes under? Will their coursework translate to another company? Hopefully that system would develop, but maybe not. At least tax revenue is a (relatively) consistent source of income. Even if a school closes due to under-enrollment, there is some consistency with the type of education one would receive.

    In essence, everyone has the right to the opportunity to an education. It is a service that could be provided through a combination of the government and the market. The government will pick up the slack where the market fails, and the market will pick up the slack where the government fails. However, the government has a greater power to ensure everyone has an opportunity and therefore the government has a duty to provide an education to its constituency.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jes!

    I will address four issues that underlie most of your remarks. These are not chronological, they are just in the order that I thought of them.

    First, there is your statement that: “Some public schools are great! Other public schools are terrible. The same could be said of private schools.” I think this misses the point made by both Chuck and myself that government education is not a voluntary transaction like private education is, so the two are not commensurable. I will briefly reiterate here.

    Government education is funded by tax dollars, so there is force used against the taxpayers to bring it about. Children are compelled to attend, so there is force used against the children. Parents are required to send their kids and cannot choose the textbooks, the teachers or the material that is presented, so there is force used against the parents . Government education, in short, is fraught with force at all levels. Private education, on the other hand, recognizes that education is a good that is provided by a person’s effort. The teachers sell their services to whomever desires them. The parents can choose the school that suits their needs. Nobody is harmed in the transaction.

    To see how invalid a comparison between government education and private education is, consider an analogy. The comparison between government education and voluntary education is similar to the comparison between rape and love-making. If I were to say: “Some rape is great! Other rape is terrible. The same could be said of love-making,” you would probably recoil in horror. In education, the force is less obvious and the scene is less grisly but the same principle operates: one act is voluntary and the other is forced.

    This dovetails into the second thing I want to address, which is the concept “public good” that you mention. What exactly is a “public good”? No definition is offered, but the implication seems to be something approximate to: “something that is good for everyone in society or some select sub-set of society.” But society does not exist as a separate entity from the individuals that comprise it. Society is a metaphor for a group of individuals, and to treat it as a beneficiary in transactions that involve one’s effort and property is to muddy the issue.

    To be clear, “good” is a statement of value. Value can only apply to living things. Living things exist as individuals. Thus, the beneficiaries of the good must ultimately be individuals. Because a “public good” does not name the exact beneficiaries involved, it evades the central questions: who gets what and at whose expense? When transactions do not refer to the exact debtors and creditors involved, some men get something at the expense of others. This gets us back to the objection to point one that I made earlier.

    Thirdly, I want to mention rights. You claim that education is a right, and I disagree. The theory of rights is a child of John Locke, the English philosopher of the Enlightenment. It was picked up by the American founding fathers and later developed explicitly by Ayn Rand. The theory of individual rights is the distinctly American contribution to political philosophy.

    A right is a freedom to act in a given social context. It is both an ethical and a political concept; it bridges the two fields. The only fundamental right you have is the right to life, the right to self-sustained action. All other rights that exist, such as the right to free speech or the right to private property, emanate and derive from that original, fundamental right. Most importantly, a right allows you to take specific action and cannot guarantee you access to specific objects or products. A right is not a guarantee to any particular service provided by others, because to recognize such a thing as a right would be to relegate those who provide the service to a serf-like existence.

    This is recognized in the American Declaration of Independence, which is the philosophical manifesto of the USA. It states that man has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Note the precision involved in the use of the word “pursuit”: you do not have a right to happiness, but rather a right to pursue said happiness. Pursuit is self-generated action, free from coercion. Since groups exist only as an agglomeration of individuals, groups do not have any rights, only individuals do.

    Finally, I want to end with a long statement that reveals some of your implicit philosophical premises. You said: “Another issue, I want to raise, is that while children may be fortunate to be brought into families that love and care for them, there are children whose parents may be incarcerated, addicted to substances, or incarcerated. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen, but it does. How do we make sure that these students don’t get fucked by the poor choices of their parents? Would you want to be in that situation? One could easily say that it’s not my problem, but that kid could easily one day be providing me a value or service in society.”

    There is a lot here, perhaps more than you imagine. In just three sentences, your statement embodies three different philosophical premises!

    Your statement about an “ideal world” is interesting, as it’s actually a Platonic way of looking at things. On this view, the way things ought to be should conform to an ideal scenario where everyone has enough and nobody goes without. Your statement about helping kids that have been affected by the poor decisions of their parents is a statement of altruism. It says that one ought to place the needs of others above one’s own; in this case, one ought to sacrifice for the children of others. Your statement about a kid “one day providing me a value” is a statement of utilitarianism. It says that we ought to perform some sort of moral calculation to determine whether the person is a net positive or not, and act from there.

  3. Hey! A few thoughts or criticisms of your article:

    What about the government officials themselves? 37% of Representatives send their kids to private school. For US senators, that number is a staggering 45%. President Obama, himself a product of private education, made a big show of vetting DC public schools when he was elected. After all of the hullabaloo, he sent his daughters to the most elite private school in the capital. If government education is so great, why do its biggest advocates avoid it like tap water in Mexico?

    Most members of congress are far wealthier than your average American. In 2012 the base salary for all members of the US House and Senate was $174,000 a year. Few than 3% of Americans earn that much. And this doesn’t even count additional income from book selling, speeches, and gifts from lobbyists. People will always be able to pay for better private education than what the public system can offer. Nobody denies that. But this is not an argument to privatize all public education.

    What’s actually amazing is how few of our representatives put their kids into private schools given their immense wealth. The median net worth of a member of Congress was $1,029,505 in 2013 — a 2.5 percent increase from 2012 — compared with an average American household’s median net worth of $56,355….

    https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/01/one-member-of-congress-18-american-households-lawmakers-personal-finances-far-from-average/

    The reason is that empirically, government education has been a total failure.

    Wrong. To say government education has been a “total failure” implies it has always been a failure, throughout every year of its existence, and in every single public school. That’s not the case. In fact, there are many more success stories for government education than failures. Universal government education helped decrease illiteracy rates, and for over a century provided education to millions who would otherwise not afford it.

    In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy conducted by the US Department of Education found that 14% of adults scored below basic on the exam and qualified as “either illiterate or barely literate.” That’s nearly 30 million people, 45% of which graduated from high school!

    Far from being “the bedrock of our democracy”, the US Department of Education came into existence in 1979, during the Carter years. Before that, in 1940, the US had a literacy rate exceeding 97% despite the fact that the population had no more than an 8th grade education. Now, nearly 60% of graduating seniors in the US that enter community colleges require remedial education.

    According to Our World in Data, the literacy rate in the US in 2003 was 99%. The “barely literate” quote is nowhere to be found in the link to the National Center for Educational Statistics you gave, and it defines the 14% of US adults who read at the below basic level as “no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills.” In other words, these are people who can read, they just really suck at it. A huge problem no doubt, but one that better public education can fix, not no public education.

    Education is another aspect of raising children. Americans expect that parents will shelter, clothe and feed their children without complete government control; why not allow for the same thing in education?

    Because the average American makes less than $30,000 a year and the average tuition for private school is $10,000 per child, per year. Even if it were half that, it would still be unaffordable to the majority of Americans. This would make educating your kids something out of reach for tens of millions of Americans, effectively turning education into a luxury item only the upper half of income earners can easily afford. And for many of those who could afford private education, it still might be difficult. Some poorer families would decided whether they’re going to send their kids to school this year, or buy health insurance, or buy a new car.

    Compare education to another, relatively freer industry: technology. Today we carry within our pockets micro-machines that are more powerful than mainframes that took up entire rooms just 30 years ago! 81% of households below the poverty level have access to these miraculous devices. This technology was created not by government bureaucrats, but by entrepreneurs who sought to make a profit by providing value to paying customers.

    The government funded research into the original internet backbone in the 1960s, starting with ARPANET, and then with the government funded National Science Foundation Network’s backbone to eventually get us the modern commercialized internet we know today. This is what allows these “miraculous devices” to communicate. Public money funds a tremendous amount of research and development in technology and medicine that private companies actually profit off of. So you’re just wrong if you’re trying to make a sweeping historical claim that all of our technology was developed entirely in the private sector with private money. The federal government spends almost $140 billion a year on research and development.

    If there remains a need for education among the poorest, there is always charity. Even with huge amounts of taxation, charities have given millions of dollars to families of low income. For instance, in NYC alone one charity (the Children’s Scholarship Fund) donated $525 million over the past 13 years alone. One can only imagine what that figure would look like if the government were not sapping over $900 billion a year from American taxpayers!

    Charity would certainly help the problem, as it already does for college students. But it’s not a reliable solution, since it will inevitably result in only helping some children and not all. Public education is the safety net that allows no one to fall through it. But I’m not arguing that public education has no problems. Of course it does. I’d make sure teachers are paid on performance and that their tenure depends on it. I’d offer financial incentives for kids to do better in class, like paying them to get good grades. Failing schools would need to be fixed with new management. I have no problem with a private sector competing with public schools so long as they meet government standards and I’m open to the idea of parents who pay for their kid’s private education to be allowed to not have to pay taxes on education since they’re taking their kids out of the system, costing it less.

    Also, many of the problems with failing students are due to the fact that many parents don’t do a good job motivating their children to be educated. They don’t build within them a thirst for knowledge, and when you get millions of families like this it creates a culture of apathy and willful ignorance. I went to a high school in the inner city across the street from a housing project, and I can tell you, about 20% of the students there were really bad apples, coming into class late, disrespecting the teacher, interrupting the class, and they ruined it for everyone else. It created an atmosphere where nobody wanted to learn and there was an incentive to misbehave. That’s a big part of the problem. If students were behaved and if they had a desire to learn, the public education that exists now would be sufficient for many of them to graduate with proficiency in all the major subjects. Bad parenting is to blame as much as bad schools are.

    Education is not a privilege nor is it a right; it is a service, made possible by the effort of those with the ability and the will to provide it.

    Access to education is a right, like access to healthcare—in a first world country that can clearly provide it. Liberals need to start saying it that way, because education is indeed a service. It’s the access to it that is the right.

  4. Hello Thinker,

    Thanks for your interest and thoughtful comment. I have a few additional things to say to address some of these points. I will take them in order.

    But before that I want to ask: how did you come across my blog? Perhaps I know you? It is odd to see such a long comment from a complete stranger. Feel free to email me directly (rg255g@gmail.com) if you prefer to keep your identity a secret. I checked out your blog last night briefly and you appear to be quite prolific.

    The wealth of politicians is not in dispute. I agree that politicians are quite wealthy and many of them want to buy the best education they can for their kids. What is revealing, though, is that the same individuals that champion the funneling of public tax dollars into government education do not use the product that they insist on keeping around. The point is not that they can afford private education, the point is that they demonstrate a preference for private education over public education. Rather than let Americans keep their tax dollars and patronize a potentially immense free market in education, these individuals insist on bleeding the taxpayer dry for shoddy outcomes. Their private, dollar-based vote differs from their public, virtue-signalling vote.

    I disagree with your claim that saying it is a “total failure” means that it has never done a good thing, ever. We gauge success and failure with regards to a specific goal. If I run a race with the goal of winning and lose, I was a failure. That is, I was a total failure with respect to that goal. One may argue that I improved my personal time or lost weight, but those are different goals and are quite independent of my winning the race. A person, to use another analogy, cannot be “somewhat” pregnant. They are either pregnant or they are not.

    So what is the goal of government education? To provide the best education that it can, given the resources it has. I think that it is true that a) there have been individuals who have benefited from government education AND b) government education has failed as an alternative to education provided voluntarily on the market. Great things can be achieved if you are willing to ignore costs, which the government does when it gets involved in education. In the private sector, programs get scrapped when they do not deliver results. In the “public” sector, more money is flushed down the toilet in the mistaken belief that “my gang could have done it better” or “just a few more dollars would have done the trick.” The issue is not that most people get “some” education and a subset go on to do really well. The issue is: would the results be even better if the government schools were closed and education was exclusively provided by the market. It may make a person feel better when they lose a race to have beaten their personal record, but they still lost. It may seem like a partial success that some children succeeded after finishing government education, but the costs (taxpayers’ money and individual rights violations) do not justify it.

    I also take issue with your claim that “Universal government education helped decrease illiteracy rates, and for over a century provided education to millions who would otherwise not afford it.”

    Government education is a fairly new phenomenon in the western world in general and the United States in particular. Comprehensive public education was not adopted in the United States until the late 19th century, and yet observe the tremendous economic and political progress that was made since the colonial era. The Department of Education was not created until 1979. If you look at the history of Great Britain, a similar story holds: government education came late to the game and people flourished without it for centuries.

    Literacy rates were improving well before government created compulsory education and likely would have diminished regardless of government intrusion, as would the cost. There are at least two reasons to think this would be the case. First, as technology improves and society becomes more complex, there is a greater need for education in the marketplace. People, then, will find it lucrative to enter the field since there are profits to be made. With more educators, competition would then lower the cost. Second, the creation of capital goods and labor-saving devices bolstered productivity in the 19th century. More wealth meant that children could spend their formative years learning rather than working on a farm or in a factory.

    As an aside, leftists and other opponents of the free market claim that capitalism created poor working conditions, fraught with Dickensian child labor. The truth is that child labor was a fact of life before capitalism and is still a fact of life in those parts of the world that have not adopted market reforms.

    You are correct that the barely literate quote does not appear: this was a mistake on my part in editing my essay. I have replaced the words “barely literate” with the term “below basic” that the link uses so as to be more accurate. Thanks for being vigilant and pointing out the error!

    But let’s talk about literacy a bit. Much of your third point hinges on how we define “literacy.” I am unfamiliar with the source that you cite and how they classify literacy. I must persist in my characterization of “below basic” as synonymous with “barely literate” or “illiterate,” if you will. If you look at the categories, a person that scores Basic “can perform simple and everyday literacy activities.” Someone scoring Below Basic, is in a category below this, meaning that they are unable to perform simple, everyday literacy activities. To deny such a person as illiterate seems to me to deny the existence of illiteracy itself. Apart from those in the Below Basic category, consider that over 40% (almost half) are below Intermediate. If you consider that about 5% of students suffer learning disabilities according to one study, that means that the great bulk of these students are biologically capable of doing well in school and yet they are emerging mediocre after 12 years of government schooling. You also evaded the various other statistics that I provided which demonstrate that across the board, both standards and results have dropped. In your whole post, with all due respect, this section is the weakest since it is a clear apologia for the poor results of government education.

    You also seem to hold the view that education is intrinsically expensive. This is false, education is made expensive by government interference in the market. Everybody recognizes that education is important, so there is a large demand, and yet the supply is artificially restricted by the government in the form of occupational licensing, mandates on what is to be covered, and the political pull of the teachers’ unions. Additionally, government scholarships and grants funded by taxpayer largess provide a nearly limitless wellspring for colleges and universities, which then raise their tuition costs since the government blithely “funds” thousands of students that would not otherwise go to college. In other words, government inflates the demand of college applicants with entitlements. From the perspective of the student, a similar situation to health care obtains: when there is a third party paying the bills, it becomes easy to disassociate the cost of your education from what you are receiving. The result is rampant price inflation.

    I disagree with the view that government is a patron of technology. Government is an agency of force, and as such does not contribute to the formation of ideas. If you examine the great inventors you will see that what fueled their work was a selfish desire to produce value or learn more about the world around them. People cannot think or create at the point of the gun; force stymies thought. Consider the question: what came first, government infrastructure or the private sector? The answer is clearly the latter, since there had to be a private sector producing goods for the government to tax away in order to “build” anything. Even if government labs created the “backbone” of the internet, the fact is that it was not made accessible to the common man at an affordable price and a high quality until entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs used their genius and business acumen to monetize it and make it profitable.

    The real lesson to learn from the comparison to technology, by the way, is that the tech industry is relatively unregulated compared to education and it provides cheaper goods at a lower cost over time compared to the stagnant nature of education. Only now, as market-based education resources on the web such as Khan Academy and Coursera disrupt the industry, do we see innovation in education.

    It is true that without government education, there could be a scenario wherein some children do not go to school. For those people, charity is the only proper means for getting an education if their parents are unable to provide one. Charity is voluntary, and therefore moral. Government employs the use of force to achieve its ends, and taking from one citizen to finance the schooling of another is immoral. Our society is founded on the classical liberal notion of individual rights, not the Marxist / Kantian / Christian doctrine of self-sacrifice to one’s neighbor.

    Bad parenting, it is true, does contribute to students performing badly in school. But government education encourages this behavior since it teaches parents to defer to the state and the teachers. The view that it is government’s responsibility to provide people an education undermines the parents’ responsibility to ensure their kids have a respect for education.

    I’ll close by agreeing with you that access is a right, if by access we mean the ability to buy and sell in a voluntary market. The market, insofar as it is free, fulfills this criterion.

    Rob

  5. Let’s just stick to the arguments.

    the point is that they demonstrate a preference for private education over public education. Rather than let Americans keep their tax dollars and patronize a potentially immense free market in education, these individuals insist on bleeding the taxpayer dry for shoddy outcomes. Their private, dollar-based vote differs from their public, virtue-signalling vote.

    As I mentioned, people will always be able to pay for better private education than what the public system can offer. Nobody denies that. But this is not an argument to privatize all public education. That’s my whole point.

    So what is the goal of government education? To provide the best education that it can, given the resources it has. I think that it is true that a) there have been individuals who have benefited from government education AND b) government education has failed as an alternative to education provided voluntarily on the market.

    Public schools are largely funded by the tax revenue from local school districts. In poor districts where the tax revenue is low, many public schools are sub-standard, because they lack the funds to provide better services. In affluent areas where the tax revenues are higher, many public schools are great. That’s why more than half of our federal politicians send their kids to public schools, even though most of them are millionaires who can clearly afford excellent private schools. This is actually an argument for how good public schools can be, if they are funded.

    And for your (b) your only argument it seems to be is pointing out the failures of public education that is largely due to poor districts who are lacking funding and are substandard.

    In the private sector, programs get scrapped when they do not deliver results. In the “public” sector, more money is flushed down the toilet in the mistaken belief that “my gang could have done it better” or “just a few more dollars would have done the trick.”

    The private sector has numerous cases where dollars were wasted on non-producing projects. That’s how companies fail.

    The issue is: would the results be even better if the government schools were closed and education was exclusively provided by the market. It may make a person feel better when they lose a race to have beaten their personal record, but they still lost. It may seem like a partial success that some children succeeded after finishing government education, but the costs (taxpayers’ money and individual rights violations) do not justify it.

    The answer is no, not necessarily. Close all government schools, and end the laws that make education mandatory until 16, and you will have millions who cannot afford to pay for private school, and/or do not want to go. Instead they will be taught whatever their parents think is worthwhile, but in a lot of cases they won’t be. This will inevitably result in less people getting an education.

    If you look at the history of Great Britain, a similar story holds: government education came late to the game and people flourished without it for centuries.

    Flourished? I wouldn’t call medieval Europe or GB an example of human flourishment. Most people lived in poverty and were illiterate until about 1800. In the US school districts were local initially but education was mandatory for many of them in there area even before federal laws required all children to go to school. This increased literacy at the local level via public education. I’m not saying it was the only thing, but it was a major factor.

    The truth is that child labor was a fact of life before capitalism and is still a fact of life in those parts of the world that have not adopted market reforms.

    You mean government reforms that forbid child labor. The free market does do that.

    You also evaded the various other statistics that I provided which demonstrate that across the board, both standards and results have dropped. In your whole post, with all due respect, this section is the weakest since it is a clear apologia for the poor results of government education.

    The source I used was Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/literacy/
    It defined literacy as “the ability to both read and write a short, simple statement about one’s own life. Literacy rates are determined by literacy questions in a census or sample survey of a population, in standardized tests of literacy, or via extrapolation from statistics about school enrollment and educational attainment.”

    As far as evading your stats, as I mentioned, all they demonstrate is the need for better public education, not no public education. And look, I’m not against private education. If you can afford to send your kids to private education, go ahead. I’m even open to allowing you not to have to pay taxes for the local school board. But private education is out of reach for the majority of the poor, and so there’s where public education comes in: it’s to ensure all have access to education.

    This is false, education is made expensive by government interference in the market. Everybody recognizes that education is important, so there is a large demand, and yet the supply is artificially restricted by the government in the form of occupational licensing, mandates on what is to be covered, and the political pull of the teachers’ unions.

    Not really. It varies from state to state what private schools are required to do. The state isn’t a total monopoly on teachers and material. The requirement by states for private schools to participate in Regents competency testing is a good thing. It ensures private school kids aren’t learning nonsense and can pass standardized testing. Without things like this, a private school could teach kids the flat earth theory as “science.” The market approach to education as the sole model fails, because it will fail to ensure all children have an education.

    Additionally, government scholarships and grants funded by taxpayer largess provide a nearly limitless wellspring for colleges and universities, which then raise their tuition costs since the government blithely “funds” thousands of students that would not otherwise go to college. In other words, government inflates the demand of college applicants with entitlements. From the perspective of the student, a similar situation to health care obtains: when there is a third party paying the bills, it becomes easy to disassociate the cost of your education from what you are receiving. The result is rampant price inflation.

    We need to build more colleges, including private ones, and let online universities take some of the new people, to allow more competition. And we need price controls on public universities, and particularly in healthcare, which all other modern countries do.

    Government is an agency of force, and as such does not contribute to the formation of ideas. If you examine the great inventors you will see that what fueled their work was a selfish desire to produce value or learn more about the world around them. People cannot think or create at the point of the gun; force stymies thought.

    Of course it does, because the government is often in the position of wanting better ways to do things, like send data, and as such, it innovates to find ways to do this. That’s how the internet backbone was invented. You falsely think that selfishness is the only thing that can motivate someone to innovate. And people who work for the government are not at the point of a gun in the US. This is not North Korea. Government invented the internet which powers the modern world economy. And the world wide web format was developed by people working for CERN in the 1980s, which was a government funded particle accelerator. Plenty of things commercially useful have been developed by governments.

    Consider the question: what came first, government infrastructure or the private sector? The answer is clearly the latter, since there had to be a private sector producing goods for the government to tax away in order to “build” anything.

    So? I’m not arguing for communism. Certain things are not commercially viable for the private sector and we’d miss out on a lot of technology and services if things were solely privatized.

    Even if government labs created the “backbone” of the internet, the fact is that it was not made accessible to the common man at an affordable price and a high quality until entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs used their genius and business acumen to monetize it and make it profitable.

    The internet wasn’t intended as a commercial enterprise when it started. Entrepreneurs like Gates and Jobs basically made billions off of an infrastructure that was publicly funded.

    The real lesson to learn from the comparison to technology, by the way, is that the tech industry is relatively unregulated compared to education and it provides cheaper goods at a lower cost over time compared to the stagnant nature of education. Only now, as market-based education resources on the web such as Khan Academy and Coursera disrupt the industry, do we see innovation in education.

    They are completely different industries. What works in one may not necessarily work in the other. Deregulation is not the magic fix all to every sector’s problems, as much as you free market types want to believe.

    It is true that without government education, there could be a scenario wherein some children do not go to school. For those people, charity is the only proper means for getting an education if their parents are unable to provide one. Charity is voluntary, and therefore moral. Government employs the use of force to achieve its ends, and taking from one citizen to finance the schooling of another is immoral. Our society is founded on the classical liberal notion of individual rights, not the Marxist / Kantian / Christian doctrine of self-sacrifice to one’s neighbor.

    Actually no, the US Constitution’s preamble says one of the purposes of the US government is to “promote the general Welfare”. This is to ensure the society runs smoothly. And charity is not a reliable solution, since it will inevitably result in only helping some children and not all. Public education is the safety net that allows no one to fall through it.

    As far as your morality claim, it depends on your moral philosophy. If I disagree with your moral philosophy, then your moral claim is only relevant to those who agree with your philosophy.

    Bad parenting, it is true, does contribute to students performing badly in school. But government education encourages this behavior since it teaches parents to defer to the state and the teachers. The view that it is government’s responsibility to provide people an education undermines the parents’ responsibility to ensure their kids have a respect for education.

    Most parents, again, do not have the money to send their kids to private school or time to home school their kids. Deregulating education standards and privatizing it all will open up tons of shitty private schools on the market, and many poor people would have no choice but to use them because schools are not like barber shops or pizza stores. You’re not going to get one on every block, where you can easily shop around as the market intends. You’re going to have limited choices, especially in poor areas, and with zero standards or oversight, some could be far worse than the worse public schools in terms of education quality. And some will be scams, like Trump University. Just watch John Oliver’s expose on charter schools from last year about the problems of diverting public money to private schools when there’s little oversight.

    I’ll close by agreeing with you that access is a right, if by access we mean the ability to buy and sell in a voluntary market. The market, insofar as it is free, fulfills this criterion.

    There arguably is no such thing as a free market.

  6. Sure. Keep in mind this is my blog though, so terse commands (“Let’s just stick to the arguments”) in reply to my attempts to be friendly are a no-no. I’d like this to stay civil and that tone is not civil. If you’d like to remain anonymous that is fine, just say you want to argue and remain anonymous, politely. I would appreciate it, though, if you do not presume to tell me how to do things on my blog. Thanks in advance!

    I numbered my responses to make it easier to follow, and adopted your pretty quotation style to make it abundantly clear that I am not trying to dodge anything.

    As I mentioned, people will always be able to pay for better private education than what the public system can offer. Nobody denies that. But this is not an argument to privatize all public education. That’s my whole point.

    (1) We agree that the hypocrisy alone is not enough to result in a fully privatized education system, but that was never my argument. It is further evidence that the government education system generally pales in comparison to the private education system. You agree with that assessment, yes?

    I did some further reflection on this point and noticed that you fixated on politicians but did not address the behavior in government school teachers. Recall that these people also send their own kids to private school at a higher rate than the general population and they are not generally wealthy. I will reiterate your point that this does not refute government education, but it is concrete evidence that government schools are crummy.

    Public schools are largely funded by the tax revenue from local school districts. In poor districts where the tax revenue is low, many public schools are sub-standard, because they lack the funds to provide better services. In affluent areas where the tax revenues are higher, many public schools are great. That’s why more than half of our federal politicians send their kids to public schools, even though most of them are millionaires who can clearly afford excellent private schools. This is actually an argument for how good public schools can be, if they are funded… And for your (b) your only argument it seems to be is pointing out the failures of public education that is largely due to poor districts who are lacking funding and are substandard.

    (2) That’s not entirely true, because states get money from the federal government for education as well, and the federal coffers are filled from countrywide taxation. On a more fundamental level, though, money is not the only factor that determines the quality of a school, whether public or private. Even in wealthier districts where the government schools are a higher quality than the poorer districts, the students would be better served by private schools.

    The basic reason that government schools are inferior to private schools is not money, but rather because they are not market facing. They are not market facing because they are predicated on the use of force at all levels. The teachers and administrators set the curriculum without parental input. The students are compelled to attend, often against their will. The taxpayers must foot the bill, regardless of how sharp the students are when they graduate. This is not a winning formula for an industry concerned with improving the mind. Minds cannot function properly when compelled.

    The private sector has numerous cases where dollars were wasted on non-producing projects. That’s how companies fail.

    (3) Yes, but when that occurs quality businessmen either ax the projects or they hemorrhage money. Government-funded projects are parasitic on the private sector, which enables them to live longer and waste even more money. The only thing that can dislodge government projects are political pressure groups that advocate to fund their projects, instead. Profit and loss provides an objective standard by which we can assess a project’s value and government has the ability to evade this.

    The answer is no, not necessarily. Close all government schools, and end the laws that make education mandatory until 16, and you will have millions who cannot afford to pay for private school, and/or do not want to go. Instead they will be taught whatever their parents think is worthwhile, but in a lot of cases they won’t be. This will inevitably result in less people getting an education.

    (4) I would not advocate closing government schools overnight. In the long run, though, people would be better served with free-market (see reply (2) above). You will likely see greater education variety in the form of techniques used and subjects taught. I also doubt that you would see fewer people getting an education, since many that endure 12 years of government schools emerge with lackluster skills. Can we really say that such people are “educated?” Even if fewer people were educated (which is possible, but again, I doubt it), you would have higher quality education for those that did receive it. There is the added benefit that force would not be used against otherwise peaceful people by the government, illegitimately, whatever the education “level.”

    Flourished? I wouldn’t call medieval Europe or GB an example of human flourishment. Most people lived in poverty and were illiterate until about 1800. In the US school districts were local initially but education was mandatory for many of them in there area even before federal laws required all children to go to school. This increased literacy at the local level via public education. I’m not saying it was the only thing, but it was a major factor.

    (5) The problems with medieval Europe stem from factors outside of education. Science was in its infancy. Superstition was rampant. People generally followed the otherworldly Christian philosophy and turned their backs on happiness here on Earth. Not until the rebirth of reason in Europe, commonly known as the Enlightenment, did standards of living improve. The Enlightenment led first to the Scientific Revolution, which provided man a this-worldly Epistemology, and then to the Industrial Revolution, which celebrated man’s achievements in this life. Laissez faire capitalism was born out of the Enlightenment. Capitalism’s implementation led to greater productivity and longer lifespans in the west. Capital goods led to higher crop yields and greater efficiency. Only in this context did “education” for children ever become a thought in the mind of the common man, let alone an expectation. Read Ludwig von Mises, Frederic Bastia, Henry Hazlitt, or if you prefer a more modern source, Deirdre McCloskey to see this documented ad nauseum.

    I had made this point earlier with my remarks about government coming after the private sector, but you do not seem to fully appreciate it (or you simply evaded it). Wealth is not created by government, but by human ingenuity and trade. To attempt to cut off the result (greater societal wealth) from the source (the freedom to think and trade) is a grotesque contradiction.

    You mean government reforms that forbid child labor. The free market does do that.

    (6) See (5) above. Government programs had nothing to do with removing child labor, only greater wealth could achieve such a thing. The leftist view that government regulations ended child labor is easily refuted by looking at third world countries like Bangladesh, where government bureaucrats tried to outlaw child labor without first possessing a free market. The result was rampant child prostitution (see here for more details). The reason is that one cannot separate wealth from its ultimate source, freedom, and expect to get anywhere.

    The source I used was Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/literacy/.

    It defined literacy as “the ability to both read and write a short, simple statement about one’s own life. Literacy rates are determined by literacy questions in a census or sample survey of a population, in standardized tests of literacy, or via extrapolation from statistics about school enrollment and educational attainment.”

    As far as evading your stats, as I mentioned, all they demonstrate is the need for better public education, not no public education. And look, I’m not against private education. If you can afford to send your kids to private education, go ahead. I’m even open to allowing you not to have to pay taxes for the local school board. But private education is out of reach for the majority of the poor, and so there’s where public education comes in: it’s to ensure all have access to education.

    (7) Like most things, literacy falls on a continuum. I do not personally think writing a simple statement qualifies as being “literate.” Testing literacy with standardized tests written and approved of by the government seems to me equally dubious in its assessment. What does a government bureaucrat know about what constitutes a valuable education? Observe the fact that while successful students entering university are at least somewhat acquainted with computer programming, the majority of government schools fails to even offer instruction on this subject. Instead, they struggle to teach children basic mathematics and reading; these subjects have been around for centuries. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and government schools have no good way to determine what skills are useful and which are not; only the market can achieve such a monumental, abstract task.

    As a side note, whether you realize it or not your position is against private education, because in practice no private sector can dislodge the government. See my remarks in (2) and (3). Government is parasitic on the private sector, ignores cost, and even defines which private schools can compete with it.

    Not really. It varies from state to state what private schools are required to do. The state isn’t a total monopoly on teachers and material. The requirement by states for private schools to participate in Regents competency testing is a good thing. It ensures private school kids aren’t learning nonsense and can pass standardized testing. Without things like this, a private school could teach kids the flat earth theory as “science.” The market approach to education as the sole model fails, because it will fail to ensure all children have an education.

    (8) Education, like all discrete goods and services provided by individuals, is not immune to the laws of supply and demand. I made that case in my prior post with an explanation (occupational licensing, inflated demand, etc).

    To reiterate my earlier points in (2), (3) and (7), the government is a de facto monopoly on education. It determines which schools can compete. It sets the curricula. It licenses the teachers. Pluralism in education, wherein some there is a mix of government and freedom, is unstable and drifts towards monism in education (either full government control, as they have in Germany, or complete free market education as they had in the United States prior to the 1870’s).

    Also, the standard by which you are gauging whether “the market approach” succeeds or fails is a completely altruistic one that calls for some people paying to educate the children of others. Such a standard, aside from demanding sacrifice, shifts the responsibility of educating children from parents (where it rightfully belongs) to the state (where it does not).

    We need to build more colleges, including private ones, and let online universities take some of the new people, to allow more competition. And we need price controls on public universities, and particularly in healthcare, which all other modern countries do.

    (9) This is an economically illiterate statement. Price controls result in shortages when the supply of students remains constant or increases, which it will for the foreseeable future. Your proposal attempts to ape the free market by artificially creating competition, but fails to achieve this end because it undermines the moral prerequisites for capitalism. Economic competition results when people act in their own self-interest, keep the fruits of their labor and trade with others. Taxing people to prop up an even larger government school system will further choke funds away from the private sector and result in a true government monopoly in education.

    The use of the word “modern” is interesting. It is a weasel word meant to imply that a free market is primitive and that central planning is the state of the art. Read a history of the 20th century or Mises on the “Socialist Calculation Problem” to see that this is absurd.

    Of course it does, because the government is often in the position of wanting better ways to do things, like send data, and as such, it innovates to find ways to do this. That’s how the internet backbone was invented. You falsely think that selfishness is the only thing that can motivate someone to innovate. And people who work for the government are not at the point of a gun in the US. This is not North Korea. Government invented the internet which powers the modern world economy. And the world wide web format was developed by people working for CERN in the 1980s, which was a government funded particle accelerator. Plenty of things commercially useful have been developed by governments.

    (10) Regardless of whether we live in North Korea or the United States, government’s essential feature is the use of physical force. Not all governments are equal, it is true. Some governments (such as North Korea) are improper and exercise powers that they should not. Other governments, such as the United States, come closer to the proper government role of protecting individual rights.

    You evaded everything I wrote regarding government and innovation. Government is not an enterprise concerned with innovation. Government exists as a result of taxes collected by actual, productive industry. In order for government to have any “wealth,” there must first be something to tax. Note that I am not an anarchist: government is necessary to remove physical force from society. With that said, government action does not create positive value; it removes a negative, non-value.

    If and when government scientists produce something, it is with wealth that has been expropriated by force from nonviolent people in the private sector. Consider the mafia boss that comes to my home and steals my cash, only to use some of that money to put on a block party for the neighborhood that he “protects.” Is he “feeding” the neighborhood? Sure, but with stolen goods that he had no business with.

    So? I’m not arguing for communism. Certain things are not commercially viable for the private sector and we’d miss out on a lot of technology and services if things were solely privatized.

    (11) “So” sounds like an evasion to me. Thanks for being explicit about it!

    On your communism point, see (9) again: pluralism (the mixed economy in this case) is unstable and will collapse into a monist (socialist / communist) system.

    If something has value to someone, they are free to patronize it in the market. Nationalizing all the wealth in the country to produce some cool gadget would not justify the property rights violations involved.

    The internet wasn’t intended as a commercial enterprise when it started. Entrepreneurs like Gates and Jobs basically made billions off of an infrastructure that was publicly funded.

    (12) That could not be further from the truth. Gates started his company in his garage. Jobs was a visionary that designed the iphone. Both men created inventions that revolutionized their field and provided people living today with tremendous computational power at a cheap price. Over 90% of Americans below the poverty line walk around with supercomputers in their pockets thanks to these men, and the risks that they took.

    They are completely different industries. What works in one may not necessarily work in the other. Deregulation is not the magic fix all to every sector’s problems, as much as you free market types want to believe.

    (13) This is an interesting remark. What is deregulation? Freedom. What do you contrast it with? Regulation, i.e. force. This statement amounts to saying: “you free market types think that freedom is the answer to everything…you think it can fix all of society’s ills.”

    This is a package-deal fallacy. You are equivocating between what is best in reality and what is best according to some Platonic standard. Magic fixes do not exist in reality, and such a standard is not rational. I never stated that freedom was the solution to every problem on the books. There are cases, such as dealing with criminals, where force is a better response. I will say, though, that force is inappropriate and ought to be supplanted by freedom when we deal with peaceful individuals who seek goods and services offered by others.

    Actually no, the US Constitution’s preamble says one of the purposes of the US government is to “promote the general Welfare”. This is to ensure the society runs smoothly. And charity is not a reliable solution, since it will inevitably result in only helping some children and not all. Public education is the safety net that allows no one to fall through it.

    As far as your morality claim, it depends on your moral philosophy. If I disagree with your moral philosophy, then your moral claim is only relevant to those who agree with your philosophy.

    (14) The Preamble to the Constitution is the introduction; it states what the Constitution aims to do in principle and the rest of the document provides the concrete steps to be taken to achieve such ends. If the general welfare clause were to be read the way you propose, what basis would there be for the specific, enumerated powers and restrictions that permeate the rest of the document? If you want to understand the philosophic foundations for the United States, look to the Declaration of Independence, which is more a manifesto than the Constitution. That document explicitly specifies that the founders followed the classical liberal tradition of John Locke and saw government as a means to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” By design, the US government is not a Marxist, nanny state.

    See (8) on why your standard for assessing what is a “reliable solution” to education is a destructive one.

    On the morality point, I disagree. You are advocating the view that morality is whatever some individual or group says it is. I think that morality corresponds to an objective concept that exists independent of whatever the polls or some supernatural entity, say. Morality provides man with a code of values for living life. Man, by his nature, survives by use of his mind. Force subverts the mind and is therefore anti-life when it is initiated against peaceful people.

    Most parents, again, do not have the money to send their kids to private school or time to home school their kids. Deregulating education standards and privatizing it all will open up tons of shitty private schools on the market, and many poor people would have no choice but to use them because schools are not like barber shops or pizza stores. You’re not going to get one on every block, where you can easily shop around as the market intends. You’re going to have limited choices, especially in poor areas, and with zero standards or oversight, some could be far worse than the worse public schools in terms of education quality. And some will be scams, like Trump University. Just watch John Oliver’s expose on charter schools from last year about the problems of diverting public money to private schools when there’s little oversight.

    (15) I addressed all of these points in my prior points. One thing I will add is that government has a legitimate role to play in detecting fraud, which is a species of theft.

    There arguably is no such thing as a free market.

    (16) More Platonism. Societies exist on a spectrum, with many of them qualifying as “mixed economies.” Markets provide high quality and low cost to the extent that they are free.

  7. If you’d like to remain anonymous that is fine, just say you want to argue and remain anonymous, politely.

    That is correct. I prefer to just debate the arguments and remain anonymous. Thank you 🙂

    (1) We agree that the hypocrisy alone is not enough to result in a fully privatized education system, but that was never my argument. It is further evidence that the government education system generally pales in comparison to the private education system. You agree with that assessment, yes?

    Private education in the US today is mostly a luxury for those generally making way above the median income, and as such most private education today is better than public education. But that doesn’t show private education simpliciter is better than public education. You’re comparing a service that is mostly for the elite, and the better-than-average financially, to a service that is designed to cover everyone, particularly the poor. So you’re not comparing like with like. And if you watched John Oliver’s expose on what goes wrong with private charter schools when there’s little regulation, you’ll begin to see what happens when you get run of the mill private schools. FYI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I

    Recall that these people also send their own kids to private school at a higher rate than the general population and they are not generally wealthy. I will reiterate your point that this does not refute government education, but it is concrete evidence that government schools are crummy.

    I can definitely address that too. I couldn’t corroborate that 30% claim you made because that does not include a source. The number I see is 19% of public school teachers send their kids of private schools, though 28% have tried alternatives to public schools at some point. This is definitely higher than the national average, but why are so many public educators sending their kids to private schools, especially in urban centers? Well, it’s because many urban schools suck and teachers who work there know this. So if they can afford to send their kids to private schools, they will. The median high school teacher salary is $57,200, for middle school it’s $55,860, and for elementary school it’s $54,890. But the vast majority of Americans won’t be able to afford this option, not when the national average for private school tuition is $10,003 a year. Even if it was half that, most Americans still wouldn’t be able to afford it, not with 50% of Americans making less than $30,000 a year.

    So teachers make higher income on average, they’re making 25k a year more than the average American, and urban schools – being underfunded – combined with bad parenting, make for less than idea learning environments. Again it isn’t “government schools” since “government schools” in affluent areas are by and large excellent. It’s funding and management. So your argument to try and tarnish “government schools” simpliciter, just doesn’t work.

    (2) That’s not entirely true, because states get money from the federal government for education as well, and the federal coffers are filled from countrywide taxation. On a more fundamental level, though, money is not the only factor that determines the quality of a school, whether public or private. Even in wealthier districts where the government schools are a higher quality than the poorer districts, the students would be better served by private schools.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, state and local funding accounts for approximately 93 percent of education expenditures. Source: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wherewestand/reports/finance/how-do-we-fund-our-schools/?p=197

    We agree money is not the only factor, but you haven’t made the case that private schools simpliciter are better than public schools. You’re literally pointing to a service that mostly the wealthy can afford, that costs much more than your average American can afford, that is really something that caters to a relatively elite class of people who pay top dollar for excellent services, and comparing that to the model that is designed for everyone, especially the poor. It’s like saying a Porche is better than a Toyota Corolla. Well, of course.

    The basic reason that government schools are inferior to private schools is not money, but rather because they are not market facing. They are not market facing because they are predicated on the use of force at all levels. The teachers and administrators set the curriculum without parental input. The students are compelled to attend, often against their will. The taxpayers must foot the bill, regardless of how sharp the students are when they graduate. This is not a winning formula for an industry concerned with improving the mind. Minds cannot function properly when compelled.

    This is obviously false since every other country that beats us in test scores and proficiency has government run schools. So the problem again, isn’t “government schools” simpliciter, it’s the way we do it, and perhaps our culture in America that celebrates willful ignorance as if it’s a virtue.

    Profit and loss provides an objective standard by which we can assess a project’s value and government has the ability to evade this.

    That’s nonsense because during the housing boom different private organizations colluded to get triple A ratings for mortgage backed bonds that were worthless that help the housing bubble to burst and usher in the great recession. Profit and loss are not always great objective standards by which we can assess a project’s value. The profit motive can encourage people to cheat and lie in order to make more money. And since you’re advocating for zero government oversight of a completely privatized education sector, lots of this will happen.

    You will likely see greater education variety in the form of techniques used and subjects taught. I also doubt that you would see fewer people getting an education, since many that endure 12 years of government schools emerge with lackluster skills. Can we really say that such people are “educated?” Even if fewer people were educated (which is possible, but again, I doubt it), you would have higher quality education for those that did receive it. There is the added benefit that force would not be used against otherwise peaceful people by the government, illegitimately, whatever the education “level.”

    I’d make sure teachers are paid on performance and that their tenure depends on it. I’d offer financial incentives for kids to do better in class, like paying them to get good grades. Failing schools would need to be fixed with new management. I have no problem with a private sector competing with public schools so long as they meet government standards and I’m open to the idea of parents who pay for their kid’s private education to be allowed to not have to pay taxes on education since they’re taking their kids out of the system, costing it less.

    Again, you’re comparing a model now that works for the well-to-do, with a model designed for everyone. It’s like comparing a porche to a corolla. In poor parts of the country where most people make 20-30k, you’re not going to have the kind of high quality elite prep schools you have in Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side. You’re going to get crappy get-what-you-pay-for education, who can teach anything as “fact.” If they want to teach the Bible as fact, they will do so.

    (5) The problems with medieval Europe stem from factors outside of education.

    Regardless, pre-industrial Europe was far from flourishing. Life was miserable for about 90% of the population.

    Capitalism’s implementation led to greater productivity and longer lifespans in the west. Capital goods led to higher crop yields and greater efficiency. Only in this context did “education” for children ever become a thought in the mind of the common man, let alone an expectation.

    We mostly agree there. Capitalism, trade, competition is good, but what got public education started was the realization that a better educated populace would be more skilled, and being more skilled you can invent more, make more money, and buy more, and that’s good for capitalism. That’s one reason why public schools got started during the industrial revolution.

    I had made this point earlier with my remarks about government coming after the private sector, but you do not seem to fully appreciate it (or you simply evaded it). Wealth is not created by government, but by human ingenuity and trade. To attempt to cut off the result (greater societal wealth) from the source (the freedom to think and trade) is a grotesque contradiction.

    Wealth is sometimes created by government, if government owns the resources and means of production. But I’m not arguing for communism, or even state capitalism. So please don’t attack straw men.

    (6) See (5) above. Government programs had nothing to do with removing child labor, only greater wealth could achieve such a thing. The leftist view that government regulations ended child labor is easily refuted by looking at third world countries like Bangladesh, where government bureaucrats tried to outlaw child labor without first possessing a free market. The result was rampant child prostitution (see here for more details). The reason is that one cannot separate wealth from its ultimate source, freedom, and expect to get anywhere.

    In the US, Fair Labor Standards Act did indeed end and regulate child labor. The free market didn’t do that. Your argument is that you need a free market (presumably with lots of child labor) to get you to the point where it becomes possible to enact child labor laws without tremendous unintended harm. I can agree with this for the sake of argument and my point still stands: the free market did not make child labor laws, government did.

    What does a government bureaucrat know about what constitutes a valuable education?

    What does the free market know about what constitutes a valuable education? If the market dictates that learning the Bible as fact is what’s profitable in a given area, then is that what constitutes a valuable education? Is how much money you can make the most important measure for how “valuable” an education is?

    Observe the fact that while successful students entering university are at least somewhat acquainted with computer programming, the majority of government schools fails to even offer instruction on this subject. Instead, they struggle to teach children basic mathematics and reading; these subjects have been around for centuries. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and government schools have no good way to determine what skills are useful and which are not; only the market can achieve such a monumental, abstract task.

    Then public schools need to start teaching computer programming. Pretty simple. In fact, this is already happening. According to Gallup, in 2016, 40% of principles report having at least 1 computer science class available, up 25% year over year: http://www.gallup.com/poll/196511/computer-science-classes-teach-programming-coding.aspx

    The solution is not destroy the public school and force millions of parents, many of whom make less than 30k a year, to pay out of pocket to an unregulated private school that they cannot afford.

    As a side note, whether you realize it or not your position is against private education, because in practice no private sector can dislodge the government. See my remarks in (2) and (3). Government is parasitic on the private sector, ignores cost, and even defines which private schools can compete with it.

    That’s not true since we have private schools right now.

    (8) Education, like all discrete goods and services provided by individuals, is not immune to the laws of supply and demand.

    The “free market” approach works great in some areas, and not in others. If I want a slice of pizza I can go to where ever the best product is for the best price in my area. I’m not going to die by not eating pizza. But if I’m having a heart attack, I can’t go shopping around for the best service for the best price, or if I need a life saving drug, I have no choice but to get it from whoever makes it. And if they want to raise the price 1000% then I’m SOL as for choice. So the market doesn’t work everywhere.

    To reiterate my earlier points in (2), (3) and (7), the government is a de facto monopoly on education. It determines which schools can compete. It sets the curricula. It licenses the teachers. Pluralism in education, wherein some there is a mix of government and freedom, is unstable and drifts towards monism in education (either full government control, as they have in Germany, or complete free market education as they had in the United States prior to the 1870’s).

    And German kids beat the US year after year in math, science, and reading, showing the problem isn’t “government education,” the problem is how the US does government education. You are unwittingly making my point for me. You show me a country that has a fully privatized education system that beats us in quality and test scores, like Germany does with it’s fully government education system, and then you might have a point.

    Also, the standard by which you are gauging whether “the market approach” succeeds or fails is a completely altruistic one that calls for some people paying to educate the children of others. Such a standard, aside from demanding sacrifice, shifts the responsibility of educating children from parents (where it rightfully belongs) to the state (where it does not).

    The market approach won’t work, because millions of poor people won’t be able to afford education. And if they somehow could, with zero government standards, many will only be able to afford substandard education with “teachers” that have no credentials, who will not be able to teach the kids. The number of uneducated children and children that have no formal schooling will increase. That will make the US less competitive. This is what happens in third world countries that have no public education system. The result: many kids get no education.

    Price controls result in shortages when the supply of students remains constant or increases, which it will for the foreseeable future. Your proposal attempts to ape the free market by artificially creating competition, but fails to achieve this end because it undermines the moral prerequisites for capitalism.

    Price controls do not always result in shortages. The profit motive can result in shortages because whatever’s not profitable not will be supplied. If we build more public colleges and kept price controls so that the increase of students does not set off inflated costs, then costs won’t increase dramatically, and the supply will increase because we’re building more colleges. So you’re ignoring the very things I mentioned that would prevent what you claimed would happen.

    Economic competition results when people act in their own self-interest, keep the fruits of their labor and trade with others. Taxing people to prop up an even larger government school system will further choke funds away from the private sector and result in a true government monopoly in education.

    And that works for every other country who is beating us in test scores so obviously your argument here doesn’t work. Economic competition is good, but it is not a system that works everywhere. That’s where we disagree.

    The use of the word “modern” is interesting. It is a weasel word meant to imply that a free market is primitive and that central planning is the state of the art. Read a history of the 20th century or Mises on the “Socialist Calculation Problem” to see that this is absurd.

    No. It simple refers to industrialized nations vs developing nations, many who don’t have public education and have much higher illiteracy rates. And again, no one’s arguing for full on socialism.

    You evaded everything I wrote regarding government and innovation. Government is not an enterprise concerned with innovation. Government exists as a result of taxes collected by actual, productive industry. In order for government to have any “wealth,” there must first be something to tax. Note that I am not an anarchist: government is necessary to remove physical force from society. With that said, government action does not create positive value; it removes a negative, non-value.

    No I did not evade, you evaded everything I wrote regarding the fact that government was sometimes the innovator in technology that the private sector later benefited from. Are you so deep into your free market philosophy that you can’t even admit 1 instance of government ever doing anything good that benefited the private sector?

    If and when government scientists produce something, it is with wealth that has been expropriated by force from nonviolent people in the private sector. Consider the mafia boss that comes to my home and steals my cash, only to use some of that money to put on a block party for the neighborhood that he “protects.” Is he “feeding” the neighborhood? Sure, but with stolen goods that he had no business with.

    Sometimes governments produce things by issuing bonds, so it’s not true that it all comes from force. You want a police and military force protecting your rights, right? But you don’t want to pay a penny in taxes for it. That makes no sense.

    (11) “So” sounds like an evasion to me. Thanks for being explicit about it!

    On your communism point, see (9) again: pluralism (the mixed economy in this case) is unstable and will collapse into a monist (socialist / communist) system.

    If something has value to someone, they are free to patronize it in the market. Even if nationalizing all the wealth in the country to produce some cool gadget would not justify the property rights violations involved.

    What evasion? I’m simply stating that it doesn’t matter. And “government” is a tricky word. When we were living in tribes was the chief of the tribe the equivalent of the government? What about when we evolved to chiefdoms and states?

    If mixed economies are unstable, just wait until we go full libertarian. And again, no one is arguing to nationalize all the wealth in the country. Stop attacking straw men already.

    (12) That could not be further from the truth. Gates started his company in his garage. Jobs was a visionary that designed the iphone. Both men created inventions that revolutionized their field and provided people living today with tremendous computational power at a cheap price. Over 90% of Americans below the poverty line walk around with supercomputers in their pockets thanks to these men, and the risks that they took.

    And none of these men would have made as many billions as they did without the publicly funded internet developed by the government. That is a fact. They profited off of a good that was made by the government. The iPhone would have gone no where without the internet already being in place.

    (13) This is an interesting remark. What is deregulation? Freedom. What do you contrast it with? Regulation, i.e. force. This statement amounts to saying: “you free market types think that freedom is the answer to everything…you think it can fix all of society’s ills.”

    Yes regulation is force, as are all laws. Deregulation isn’t actually freedom, because deregulation allows a company to put a poisonous filler in a product and pretend it isn’t harmful. Deregulation allows a healthcare company to arbitrarily not cover anything it wants that it deems to costly for it, resulting in a market where no one will insure a sick person, ensuring they die. Horay for “freedom”!

    This is a package-deal fallacy. You are equivocating between what is best in reality and what is best according to some Platonic standard. Magic fixes do not exist in reality, and such a standard is not rational. I never stated that freedom was the solution to every problem on the books. There are cases, such as dealing with criminals, where force is a better response. I will say, though, that force is inappropriate and ought to be supplanted by freedom when we deal with peaceful individuals who seek goods and services offered by others.

    I’m doing no such thing. In fact, I’d argue that you are making the package-deal fallacy, by failing to discriminate against crucial difference between completely different industries, naively assuming what works for market competition among barbershops or pizza stores will work for education and healthcare. The bottom line is that you think deregulation accorss the board will fix education, among other things. But your arguments consistently fail to demonstrate that. You show me a country that has tried to completely deregulate its educational system with success and only then will you have something close to evidence supporting your thesis.

    By design, the US government is not a Marxist, nanny state.

    I never said that it was. The Declaration simply declares independence from England. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and outlines among other things the purpose and goal of the US government. Certainly the founders didn’t want government tyranny, nor a nanny state, but providing public education is not a nanny state.

    On the morality point, I disagree. You are advocating the view that morality is whatever some individual or group says it is. I think that morality corresponds to an objective concept that exists independent of whatever the polls or some supernatural entity, say. Morality provides man with a code of values for living life. Man, by his nature, survives by use of his mind. Force subverts the mind and is therefore anti-life when it is initiated against peaceful people.

    I’m not advocating that all morality is subjective. I’m simply saying you have no basis for your ethical philosophy being objective. How the heck does an “objective concept” exist independently of subjective minds?

    (15) I addressed all of these points in my prior points. One thing I will add is that government has a legitimate role to play in detecting fraud, which is a species of theft.

    Ok, we agree there, but who gets to determine what are facts in terms of the school’s curriculum? Suppose I send my kid to a private school under the assumption they will learn science as per their brochure and they teach my kids that homosexuality is caused by demons, as millions of people believe. Can I prosecute the school for teaching nonsense as fact?

    (16) More Platonism. Societies exist on a spectrum, with many of them qualifying as “mixed economies.” Markets provide high quality and low cost to the extent that they are free.

    I’m definitely not a platonist. In fact, you might be if you do think there is an “objective concept” of morality that exists independently of polls and opinions.

  8. Thanks 🙂

    Private education in the US today is mostly a luxury for those generally making way above the median income, and as such most private education today is better than public education. But that doesn’t show private education simpliciter is better than public education. You’re comparing a service that is mostly for the elite, and the better-than-average financially, to a service that is designed to cover everyone, particularly the poor. So you’re not comparing like with like. And if you watched John Oliver’s expose on what goes wrong with private charter schools when there’s little regulation, you’ll begin to see what happens when you get run of the mill private schools. FYI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I

    It is true that it is a luxury in America today, because funds are drained by taxation to support government education. Americans who wish to send their kid to a private school must effectively pay twice for school. If Americans spent less on taxes for government education, they would have more money to send their kids to better private schools. Additionally, with government’s departure, the market would boom as the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Henry Fords of the world would rush to offer the best education at the lowest price. As I had mentioned earlier, though, private education is superior to government education not because of money but because government education is permeated with force: against students, against parents, and against taxpayers. It is a system predicated on the idea that it is more important for Americans to pay for the education of their neighbor’s children, rather than invest in their own.

    I sat through the Oliver piece, even though as a rule it is a bad idea to get philosophy or news from comedians (especially grating, unfunny ones). Comedians evade important distinctions via humor and lampoon those that they disagree with in order to get a laugh. It is hard to rebut someone that cracks jokes and shifts from comedy to “policy analysis” in the time it takes most of us to tie our shoes. Men like Jon Stewart and John Oliver have done much to cripple young minds and turn them into leftists, since it is clear that opposing this is “uncool.” But I digress.

    On the substance of his presentation, I will say that charter schools are a creature of the mixed economy, not the free market. When we examine any policy that comes out of the mixed economy, we need to be careful to distinguish which characteristics are based on the premise of freedom and which characteristics are based on the premise of coercion. Charter schools are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, so they share the premise that education should be provided by the government, at taxpayer expense. The curricular for charter schools are still beholden to government regulations; the state can elect to put charter schools out of business, regardless of whether they provide their customers with a good education. Republicans are terribly guilty for making failed government programs more “efficient” in the short term, without challenging the underlying premises that led to the shoddy performance. The result is that the ensuing chimera is difficult to repeal and will eventually collapse, leading to complete government takeover. This is happening in health care at the moment in the United States.

    In a contest of ideas between two systems, the more consistent side will win. Charter schools try to provide parents with a slim veneer of choice, despite the fact that behind the scenes they are still part and parcel of coercive, government education.

    …why are so many public educators sending their kids to private schools, especially in urban centers? Well, it’s because many urban schools suck and teachers who work there know this.

    We agree on this. I will reiterate: government education is a shoddier product than education purchased on the free market.

    Again it isn’t “government schools” since “government schools” in affluent areas are by and large excellent. It’s funding and management. So your argument to try and tarnish “government schools” simpliciter, just doesn’t work.

    Let’s be explicit on two points. First, money is not the only factor that determines whether students do well in a given school or not. Second, the amount of money spent on education is not the essential distinction between private education and government education, the use of force is. The principle here is that government schools simpliciter are ineffective compared to private schools ceteris paribus. That is, a government school in an affluent area with more motivated students may outperform a private school in a poor area with students that are not as motivated. In assessing the results of the government school, we ought to compare the government schools in wealthy areas and motivated student bodies with the private sector schools in wealthy areas and motivated student bodies. The difficulty, of course, is that the private sector is today handicapped by the siphoning of funds to government schools, and despite this fact private schools still outperform the government schools ceteris paribus.

    We agree money is not the only factor, but you haven’t made the case that private schools simpliciter are better than public schools. You’re literally pointing to a service that mostly the wealthy can afford, that costs much more than your average American can afford, that is really something that caters to a relatively elite class of people who pay top dollar for excellent services, and comparing that to the model that is designed for everyone, especially the poor. It’s like saying a Porche is better than a Toyota Corolla. Well, of course.

    I explained this in the prior posts: government schools sap taxpayer money, so only the wealthy can afford to pay for education twice in the US today. Abolishing government education would change this by eliminating the double payment.

    Your car analogy is horribly flawed; I’ll fix it for you. Government schools are more like the Ford Pinto than the Toyota Corolla, and private education is not just the Porcsche but the Camry, the Mustang, the mini-van, the SUV, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the limousine. The entire point of the free market is that there is competition and people are free to purchase the product that best suits their needs.

    Your analogy would hold if Pintos were purchased for every home in the US at taxpayer expense because “everyone needs a car.” Your analogy would hold if every Pinto you were permitted to drive only came in a single color with a single make and model, except for those “charter” dealerships where you can choose some non-essential aspect of your car, like what sort of windshield washer fluid it uses or what the shape of its headlights are.

    Your analogy would hold if, at the first sight of individuals who argue that people should be able to save their money and buy the car of their choice, there would be people such as yourself who insist that what we need is not car choice, but better Pintos for everyone but especially those that can’t afford a Porsche.

    This is obviously false since every other country that beats us in test scores and proficiency has government run schools. So the problem again, isn’t “government schools” simpliciter, it’s the way we do it, and perhaps our culture in America that celebrates willful ignorance as if it’s a virtue.

    Comparing the United States to other countries is tricky, because there are myriad factors that affect the outcome (population homogeneity, respect for education, deference to authority, how superstitious the culture is, etc). Its also true that the United States is the only country that has a secular Constitution which explicitly calls for the separation of church and state as a right; does that explain why they do better? Perhaps you had better change your blog’s theme to singing the praises of religion! I can cite South Korea as a good example of a country where more free market education has catapulted it high in international testing (see literature on the Hagwon tutoring system in that country for more details).

    That’s nonsense because during the housing boom different private organizations colluded to get triple A ratings for mortgage backed bonds that were worthless that help the housing bubble to burst and usher in the great recession. Profit and loss are not always great objective standards by which we can assess a project’s value. The profit motive can encourage people to cheat and lie in order to make more money. And since you’re advocating for zero government oversight of a completely privatized education sector, lots of this will happen.

    Read economist Richard Salsman on this topic, to give one example, and learn how ridiculous that is. If you have time, you can get the real nitty gritty details by listening to Yaron Brook who, in a 4 hour lecture, discusses how the housing crisis happened, down to the programs that were responsible. The truth is the housing crisis was a bubble created by the perfect storm of government programs, not by the free market.

    Profit, when it is not manipulated by the government for the benefit of those with political pull, is an objective measure of value. Again, I argue that “government oversight” is appropriate to detect fraud. Government should not be providing the service of education, however.

    I’d make sure teachers are paid on performance and that their tenure depends on it. I’d offer financial incentives for kids to do better in class, like paying them to get good grades. Failing schools would need to be fixed with new management. I have no problem with a private sector competing with public schools so long as they meet government standards and I’m open to the idea of parents who pay for their kid’s private education to be allowed to not have to pay taxes on education since they’re taking their kids out of the system, costing it less.
    Again, you’re comparing a model now that works for the well-to-do, with a model designed for everyone. It’s like comparing a porche to a corolla. In poor parts of the country where most people make 20-30k, you’re not going to have the kind of high quality elite prep schools you have in Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side. You’re going to get crappy get-what-you-pay-for education, who can teach anything as “fact.” If they want to teach the Bible as fact, they will do so.

    You think that these ideas are new? Many people in government have no doubt thought similar things, and yet they do not occur. I went over the problems with the car analogy earlier.

    Regardless, pre-industrial Europe was far from flourishing. Life was miserable for about 90% of the population.

    Yes, but it was because the philosophy of freedom had not been conceived and implemented.

    We mostly agree there. Capitalism, trade, competition is good, but what got public education started was the realization that a better educated populace would be more skilled, and being more skilled you can invent more, make more money, and buy more, and that’s good for capitalism. That’s one reason why public schools got started during the industrial revolution.

    Public schools were started because Progressives tried to separate wealth from its preconditions and believed that we were living in a post-scarcity society (or were approaching it). Read Keynes on this point, they were aiming to coast on the wealth that was created by the Industrial Revolution, and had not understood that free markets don’t just create wealth, but sustain it.

    Wealth is sometimes created by government, if government owns the resources and means of production. But I’m not arguing for communism, or even state capitalism. So please don’t attack straw men.

    Your position is unstable and leads to socialism, it is not a straw man. Wealth is created by individuals, not government. The very concept of government is the “institution that exercises a monopoly on force.” Note that government does not have a mind, it is a collective of individuals essentially defined by its use of force. It has the capability to redistribute wealth, but it cannot create wealth. Creation requires the exercise of the individual mind, not the barrel of a gun.

    In the US, Fair Labor Standards Act did indeed end and regulate child labor. The free market didn’t do that. Your argument is that you need a free market (presumably with lots of child labor) to get you to the point where it becomes possible to enact child labor laws without tremendous unintended harm. I can agree with this for the sake of argument and my point still stands: the free market did not make child labor laws, government did.

    This is wrong. It is similar to my earlier point about the Progressives that sought to separate wealth from its source. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, child labor was a fact of life because it was required to avoid starvation. Subsistence farmers would employ their children as farmhands and work agonizing hours just to survive.With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, those same children moved in the short term into factories, since it was in many ways better than working on the farm. More money was earned, more skills were learned, and there was a huge demand for jobs. As the machines got more prevalent, the need to work 16 hours a day was diminished because each individual worker was more productive. To see this illustrated in concrete terms, note that the United States today manufactures far more goods than it did at any time in the 19th century, but the number of people who work in manufacturing has decreased to a fraction of what it was.

    To make crystal clear: parents cared about their kids before the Bureau of Labor existed, but their survival mandated that their children work to support the family. The only thing that could change this state of affairs was a rise in the standard of living, and this was achieved by the free market, not government fiat.

    To see just how bonkers your claim is, consider what would occur if suddenly the ban on child labor was lifted. What would occur? Well, parents with a middle class standard of living or better would likely continue to keep their kids in school and out of the work world until they came of age. Child labor would only be an issue with people at the lower end of the poverty line, and the reason is not that they care less for their kids than the wealthy and middle class. It would likely be because those families have a low standard of living and may need to have their kids work to prevent starvation.

    There is concrete evidence for this phenomenon in the third world. Look at Bangladesh, which banned child labor while still in possession of a third world economy. There, children engage in prostitution and other underground, black market activities to make money so their families do not starve. Legislating prosperity does not mean that a society is prosperous: only a free market can generate the kind of wealth wherein children do not need to work.

    What does the free market know about what constitutes a valuable education? If the market dictates that learning the Bible as fact is what’s profitable in a given area, then is that what constitutes a valuable education? Is how much money you can make the most important measure for how “valuable” an education is?

    The way you phrase your question implies that you have not honestly thought about how to answer it yourself.

    Start with the question: what does it mean to say the free market “knows” something? Remember that the free market refers to the people in a society, each trading with one another. The people involved in a particular market are close to the concretes for that market: they know what the various goods are worth, they possess technical expertise, they know what people use them for, and they know what distinguishes good quality from bad quality in their market. The idea is that the free market allows people to specialize; economists call this concept “competitive advantage.”

    So really when we say “the market knows” something, we mean it as a metaphor for the sum of information possessed by all market participants, each specializing in the field that they trade in. Compare that with the government bureaucrat, who order police cruisers and signs subpoenas. What do they know about the details for each market? Government, as a collective agency associated with using physical force, does not possess the knowledge that market participants do.

    Then public schools need to start teaching computer programming. Pretty simple. In fact, this is already happening. According to Gallup, in 2016, 40% of principles report having at least 1 computer science class available, up 25% year over year: http://www.gallup.com/poll/196511/computer-science-classes-teach-programming-coding.aspx
    The solution is not destroy the public school and force millions of parents, many of whom make less than 30k a year, to pay out of pocket to an unregulated private school that they cannot afford.

    Note that government lags on issues of what is relevant and what is not, for the reason that I provided in the prior statement: it lacks the information set that market participants possess. Government schools are still teaching nonessential skills to students and refraining from teaching essential skills; why? Because they are unresponsive to the market, to supply and demand.

    There are many reasons to think that if free market education is implemented, the price will decrease from where it is now. Regulations do not really determine prices, although it appears as though they can. What regulations can do, though, is affect the nominal price by making it either cheaper or more expensive with artificial price disturbances. This will result in people buying substitutes or purchasing things illegally or going without, none of which are good options for a civil society.

    That’s not true since we have private schools right now.

    I think you misunderstand me here: the existence of private schools is not the issue. The issue is, government education can continue to exist and sustain itself no matter how much private education outperforms it. Government funding is not tied to the goods it produces, but is instead based on coercive taxation. And if taxes do not cover the bill, they can always use deficit spending to tax the next generation and continue the money hemorrhaging.

    The “free market” approach works great in some areas, and not in others. If I want a slice of pizza I can go to where ever the best product is for the best price in my area. I’m not going to die by not eating pizza. But if I’m having a heart attack, I can’t go shopping around for the best service for the best price, or if I need a life saving drug, I have no choice but to get it from whoever makes it. And if they want to raise the price 1000% then I’m SOL as for choice. So the market doesn’t work everywhere.

    Each market is unique in its details; there I think we agree. The economic principles that operate on these markets are not unique, however. I hold that the free market outperforms central planning in every case, partially because the market will conceive of solutions that government bureaucrats will not.

    And German kids beat the US year after year in math, science, and reading, showing the problem isn’t “government education,” the problem is how the US does government education. You are unwittingly making my point for me. You show me a country that has a fully privatized education system that beats us in quality and test scores, like Germany does with it’s fully government education system, and then you might have a point.

    I addressed comparisons to other countries earlier.

    The market approach won’t work, because millions of poor people won’t be able to afford education. And if they somehow could, with zero government standards, many will only be able to afford substandard education with “teachers” that have no credentials, who will not be able to teach the kids. The number of uneducated children and children that have no formal schooling will increase. That will make the US less competitive. This is what happens in third world countries that have no public education system. The result: many kids get no education.

    You are still using the altruistic standard; whether or not every child gets an education is not the proper standard by which we gauge the quality of education. The altruistic standard opposes rational standards in education, because consumers that want their children to get the best education are forced to subsidize their neighbor’s education and superior educators will have a smaller client base.

    Government standards, by the way, are not rational standards but arbitrary ones. There is no profit and loss mechanism by which we can assess how good a job the government is doing in its “education.” Government bureaucrats cannot rationally assess which credentials make for good teachers or bad teachers.

    The doomsday scenario you describe is unrealistic, to say the least. If government education went away, a large market for education would fill the void since the need for an education has not disappeared. Parents would still want to spend to get their kids taught important skills and they would have more money to do it, since their taxes would be cut.

    Price controls do not always result in shortages. The profit motive can result in shortages because whatever’s not profitable not will be supplied. If we build more public colleges and kept price controls so that the increase of students does not set off inflated costs, then costs won’t increase dramatically, and the supply will increase because we’re building more colleges. So you’re ignoring the very things I mentioned that would prevent what you claimed would happen.

    Build more colleges…at whose expense? The taxpayers? Schools are capital goods and require constant upkeep and maintenance. They are not one-time, fixed costs. Your argument reminds me of what Mises used to say: in a mixed economy, “regulations beget regulations.” In order to prevent the shortage which your artificial price controls, you seek to increase the supply artificially. But how do you know how many colleges to build? The lack of a profit motive destroys any means you have of deciding this question. Just ask the Soviet commissars, who at the least had western prices to go by, how easy it is to rationally determine answers to these questions without a market price mechanism.

    And that works for every other country who is beating us in test scores so obviously your argument here doesn’t work. Economic competition is good, but it is not a system that works everywhere. That’s where we disagree.

    As I said earlier, comparing the US to other countries is a tricky business. I mentioned it earlier.

    No. It simple refers to industrialized nations vs developing nations, many who don’t have public education and have much higher illiteracy rates. And again, no one’s arguing for full on socialism.

    Perhaps not consciously, but the pluralist position is unstable and results in socialism, sooner or later.

    No I did not evade, you evaded everything I wrote regarding the fact that government was sometimes the innovator in technology that the private sector later benefited from. Are you so deep into your free market philosophy that you can’t even admit 1 instance of government ever doing anything good that benefited the private sector?

    I recognize, philosophically, that only individuals can think and only individuals can innovate. Government’s essential characteristic, for the upteenth time, is force. Force and thought are opposites.

    As for whether I am “deep” in my philosophy, I would say yeah, I have read a lot on this topic and know a great deal about history, economics and philosophy. I am not religious in my beliefs, though, there is plenty of evidence to support my position that market outperform central planning.

    To answer your last question, I will say yes insofar as it has removed physical force from society. The other stuff is not good for the private sector, in the long run.

    Sometimes governments produce things by issuing bonds, so it’s not true that it all comes from force. You want a police and military force protecting your rights, right? But you don’t want to pay a penny in taxes for it. That makes no sense.

    Bonds are a deferred form of taxation. Ultimately, the money provided by a bond must be paid out of government taxes. To reiterate: police and military are legitimate functions of government, because they protect individual rights. Education is not a legitimate function of government.

    What evasion? I’m simply stating that it doesn’t matter. And “government” is a tricky word. When we were living in tribes was the chief of the tribe the equivalent of the government? What about when we evolved to chiefdoms and states?
    If mixed economies are unstable, just wait until we go full libertarian. And again, no one is arguing to nationalize all the wealth in the country. Stop attacking straw men already.

    You evaded my point demonstrating that government is parasitic on the private sector. I am not attacking a straw man, you are simply unable to see the implications for your own views. Government intervention in an industry undermines and destroys the free market for that industry, though this may come fast or slow. There is a similar situation in health care: Obamacare is a hybrid monstrosity that is unstable and will wreck the health care industry, making it ripe for a government takeover as the purported cure

    To answer your question, yes, I would classify tribes as primitive governments (just as religion was primitive philosophy).

    And none of these men would have made as many billions as they did without the publicly funded internet developed by the government. That is a fact. They profited off of a good that was made by the government. The iPhone would have gone no where without the internet already being in place.

    Why stop at the iphone components created by ARPANET? The early internet in turn depended upon the discovery of electricity, which in turn depended on the discovery of atoms. Were those government-funded?

    What is your principle here? That each and every innovation in science owes its entire existence to the things that preceded it? No science would be possible without logic, and this was developed by Aristotle. Should we then credit each and every innovation in science to Aristotle? What about language itself? Since nearly everything that came after the establishment of language depended on it, should we chalk all achievements made since then to the cave men that first codified Latin? This is the premise of “you didn’t build that” writ large.

    The truth is that advancements in science build on prior discoveries, but the people who develop such advancements deserve full credit for their own achievement. Only individuals can innovate because only individuals can think; there is no collective, or government brain. Within the pool of individuals that innovate, there are those that receive their funding from coercion and those that receive their funding from voluntary exchange. Scientists, when they work for government funded labs, are in the same position as private sector firms that gain subsidies and favorable trade agreements from the government. Qua scientist, they are part of what Ayn Rand described as “the aristocracy of pull.”

    Yes regulation is force, as are all laws. Deregulation isn’t actually freedom, because deregulation allows a company to put a poisonous filler in a product and pretend it isn’t harmful. Deregulation allows a healthcare company to arbitrarily not cover anything it wants that it deems to costly for it, resulting in a market where no one will insure a sick person, ensuring they die. Horay for “freedom”!

    You are again package-dealing. Your package-deal turns on two different meanings of the word “free.” For instance, I may be free to walk to the grocery store but I am not “free” to fly off of the Empire State building. One deals with what a man can do legally, under the law; the other deals with what a man can do, physically, based on constraints placed upon him by reality. I have heard similar things uttered by leftists when they argue that “a hungry man is not free.” Legally, the government is concerned with freedom in the legal sense, i.e., that men are free from physical coercion.

    A law that prohibit the use of force against a peaceful person is legitimate because it protects the person’s individual rights. A company that uses poisonous filters is committing fraud, which is a species of force. It is effectively prohibited under a system of limited government. That is a proper function of government. A law that guarantees a person the “right” to a good or service that must be produced by other individuals is not a legitimate law because its not a legitimate function of government to guarantee such things.

    By the way, just because a person does not get health insurance does not mean they will die. You are equating health care with health insurance in this case. Health insurance is a tool for risk management; health care is the actual care that you receive. But that is another whole conversation; this discussion is not about health care.

    I’m doing no such thing. In fact, I’d argue that you are making the package-deal fallacy, by failing to discriminate against crucial difference between completely different industries, naively assuming what works for market competition among barbershops or pizza stores will work for education and healthcare. The bottom line is that you think deregulation accorss the board will fix education, among other things. But your arguments consistently fail to demonstrate that. You show me a country that has tried to completely deregulate its educational system with success and only then will you have something close to evidence supporting your thesis.

    I disagree that there are essential differences between education, healthcare, barbershops, and pizza shops in terms of the economic principles involved.

    I never said that it was. The Declaration simply declares independence from England. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and outlines among other things the purpose and goal of the US government. Certainly the founders didn’t want government tyranny, nor a nanny state, but providing public education is not a nanny state.

    The Declaration was the manifesto for the American philosophy of government; the Constitution was its implementation. The Constitution is not a philosophic document, but rather an instruction manual for how to implement the philosophy of individual rights. Establishing “rights” to things that are produced by other individuals is absolutely operating on the same premise as a nanny state. One cannot have a right to a good or a service provided by the labor of others without, in principle, enslaving those others.

    I’m not advocating that all morality is subjective. I’m simply saying you have no basis for your ethical philosophy being objective. How the heck does an “objective concept” exist independently of subjective minds?

    I do not think that objective concepts exist independent of minds. I’ll elaborate on this point.

    Metaphysically, entities exist independent of consciousness. In that sense, they are objective, but this is just one way to use that term. Epistemologically, we perceive said entities through our senses. Concepts are the means by which a conscious mind understands and integrates reality. Concepts are a bridge between metaphysics and epistemology, and one can make the case that these too are objective, though not in the same sense as entities in the metaphysical sense.

    Historically, there are three main schools of thought with regards to concept formation: Plato’s, Aristotle’s, and the modern nominalist school. Plato held that concepts exist in another realm, just as entities exist in our current world. Aristotle held that concepts exist in this realm, within entities. The nominalists hold that all entities are unique to the point where there is no metaphysical basis for classification, but there are some shared similarities that are convenient for us to label at our leisure.

    Here is a quick example for the concept, “table.” For Plato, the concept “table” exists in another realm as a sort of perfect table and all the things that we have in our realm are imperfect reflections of that perfect table. For Aristotle, “tableness” exists within the table, and we identify it when we observe tables. For nominalists, there is no such thing as “tableness,” and men decide to label some things as tables based on some perceived similarities. This label can change with regards to societal norms.

    The first two approaches are intrinsic views of concepts: they hold that concepts exist in reality, independent of consciousness. The latter approach is the subjectivist view of concepts: it holds that concepts exist in the mind, independent of reality. The intrinsicists hold that concepts exist in reality independent of man’s mind and the subjectivists argue that concepts are created exclusively by man’s mind. The third approach is that concepts are objective, in the sense that they arise by the process of consciousness grasping entities in reality. In other words, a concept is a classification made by a conscious mind in an effort to understand entities in reality. Concepts require entities in reality to be perceived and a mind to do the perceiving, and there is a proper way to do this since the entities are objectively determined. This forms the basis for correct concept formation.

    The upshot of this spiel is that one does not have to be a Platonist to view concepts as improper or malformed. If a person does not use logic to form concepts and separate things based on their essential characteristics, their concepts will be flawed. A good analogy is that of a filing cabinet, where the files represent the concepts and the entities represent papers that are sorted into the files. When we create concepts, we are determining what files will fill the cabinet and when we classify entities we are placing them in a given file and excluding it from other files. This, in a nutshell (and according to my current understanding) is the Objectivist theory of concept formation formulated by Ayn Rand.

    I am not an expert it. If you want to learn more, read either “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand” by Leonard Peikoff or “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” by Ayn Rand. Both flesh out and discuss the differences between the various theories of concept formation and how an objective concept is possible.

    Ok, we agree there, but who gets to determine what are facts in terms of the school’s curriculum? Suppose I send my kid to a private school under the assumption they will learn science as per their brochure and they teach my kids that homosexuality is caused by demons, as millions of people believe. Can I prosecute the school for teaching nonsense as fact?

    The schools would decide what is in their curricula and it would be up to the customers (in this case, the parents) to decide whether to patronize them or not. If you enroll your child in a school and they teach things that contradict what was agreed upon, you would have grounds to sue them for fraud. You would need to, in other words, be a vigilant consumer. Note that this does not mean that you would need to be an expert in every field, because the need to effectively evaluate the education provided by private schools would be a booming industry, too. Many consumer ranking companies, such as Yelp, would exist in this ecosystem to help consumers make sense of it all. The reason they would exist is the same reason any other good or service exists: there is a real need, and there is expertise. In other words, there is a latent exchange of value that can take place.

    I’m definitely not a platonist. In fact, you might be if you do think there is an “objective concept” of morality that exists independently of polls and opinions.

    I did not say that you were an out and out Platonist. I do not know you, but you appear to have mixed premises. I do maintain that you are advancing a Platonic standard in an attempt to refute free markets and non-government schools, claiming that “there is no such thing as a free market.” I do not know your psychology, but I would guess you were probably a nominalist (since that is what most college-educated people in the west are today). Since you are an atheist, I know you are likely not a believer in spooky Platonic forms.

  9. It is true that it is a luxury in America today, because funds are drained by taxation to support government education. Americans who wish to send their kid to a private school must effectively pay twice for school. If Americans spent less on taxes for government education, they would have more money to send their kids to better private schools. Additionally, with government’s departure, the market would boom as the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Henry Fords of the world would rush to offer the best education at the lowest price. As I had mentioned earlier, though, private education is superior to government education not because of money but because government education is permeated with force: against students, against parents, and against taxpayers. It is a system predicated on the idea that it is more important for Americans to pay for the education of their neighbor’s children, rather than invest in their own.

    Even if those near the bottom of the economic spectrum paid 0 in income tax, the amount they’d be saving wouldn’t even cover the average cost of a private school for 1 year, which currently is $10k per child per year. Even if private school was half that, they still wouldn’t save enough to cover the costs. And look, I’m fine with parents not having to pay taxes education if they send their kids to a private school that meets government standards. But your solution would fail. The market would introduce many inadequate schools with teachers that know little about their subjects (with the total absence of standards) that are the only option for the poor. And that’s for the poor who can even afford private education, as many wouldn’t. So the market fix would not be the way to solve the problem, which is why it’s never been successful in any country ever.

    On the substance of his presentation, I will say that charter schools are a creature of the mixed economy, not the free market. When we examine any policy that comes out of the mixed economy, we need to be careful to distinguish which characteristics are based on the premise of freedom and which characteristics are based on the premise of coercion. Charter schools are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, so they share the premise that education should be provided by the government, at taxpayer expense. The curricular for charter schools are still beholden to government regulations; the state can elect to put charter schools out of business, regardless of whether they provide their customers with a good education. Republicans are terribly guilty for making failed government programs more “efficient” in the short term, without challenging the underlying premises that led to the shoddy performance. The result is that the ensuing chimera is difficult to repeal and will eventually collapse, leading to complete government takeover. This is happening in health care at the moment in the United States.

    In a contest of ideas between two systems, the more consistent side will win. Charter schools try to provide parents with a slim veneer of choice, despite the fact that behind the scenes they are still part and parcel of coercive, government education.

    Well, that’s because the “free market” is one of the worst solutions for providing adequate healthcare for the most people. And for charter schools, the reason why they’re publicly funded is because in poor areas, again, most people would not be able to send their kids to a private school, let alone a good one. The free market model does not work. It will inevitably result in larger numbers of people unable to afford education for their kids. You’ve spend a fantastically small amount of time on the poor. Charity is literally the only solution. But as I mentioned, it’s not a reliable solution, since it will inevitably result in only helping some children and not all. Public education is the safety net that allows no one to fall through it. We just need to do a better job on our public education, like other industrialized countries do whose kids are whipping our kid’s asses in learning comprehension.

    We agree on this. I will reiterate: government education is a shoddier product than education purchased on the free market.

    Because today it’s a luxury product, akin to buying a Porche over a Toyota Corolla. The Porche is unaffordable to the majority of people.

    I explained this in the prior posts: government schools sap taxpayer money, so only the wealthy can afford to pay for education twice in the US today. Abolishing government education would change this by eliminating the double payment.

    And I explained that even if people paid 0 in income tax the amount of money they keep wouldn’t even pay for 1 kid a year given the average price or private school today, and even if the cost were half of what it costs today it would still largely be unaffordable, especially how they’d have other things to spend that money on given your desire to gut all government services in their entirety.

    Your car analogy is horribly flawed; I’ll fix it for you. Government schools are more like the Ford Pinto than the Toyota Corolla, and private education is not just the Porcsche but the Camry, the Mustang, the mini-van, the SUV, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the limousine. The entire point of the free market is that there is competition and people are free to purchase the product that best suits their needs.

    Your analogy would hold if Pintos were purchased for every home in the US at taxpayer expense because “everyone needs a car.” Your analogy would hold if every Pinto you were permitted to drive only came in a single color with a single make and model, except for those “charter” dealerships where you can choose some non-essential aspect of your car, like what sort of windshield washer fluid it uses or what the shape of its headlights are.

    Your analogy would hold if, at the first sight of individuals who argue that people should be able to save their money and buy the car of their choice, there would be people such as yourself who insist that what we need is not car choice, but better Pintos for everyone but especially those that can’t afford a Porsche.

    That’s incorrect because the quality of public schools vary a lot depending on the township. It isn’t a single device. Usually good schools exist where there is a large tax base that can pay for better quality schools. Some “government schools” like Stuyvesant High school in NYC offer excellent education. Since the majority of Americans cannot afford private school, it is like the Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or even a Mercedes – any car not affordable to your average person making at or below the median wage. Doesn’t have to be a Porsche.

    If you taxed people at 0 percent, they still wouldn’t be able to afford the Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or even the Mercedes because they do not make enough money. Private school is not like the Camry, the Mustang, the mini-van, or the the SUV because those things are affordable to middle and lower income Americans, whereas private school is not, even if it were half of what it costs now.

    So my analogy holds.

    Comparing the United States to other countries is tricky, because there are myriad factors that affect the outcome (population homogeneity, respect for education, deference to authority, how superstitious the culture is, etc). Its also true that the United States is the only country that has a secular Constitution which explicitly calls for the separation of church and state as a right; does that explain why they do better? Perhaps you had better change your blog’s theme to singing the praises of religion! I can cite South Korea as a good example of a country where more free market education has catapulted it high in international testing (see literature on the Hagwon tutoring system in that country for more details).

    I’ve already mentioned some of those factors, such as other country’s stronger desire for education. But even if that’s the issue, then it shows that your arguments fail, because you’re arguing against government education simpliciter, whereas at best all you can show is that the US’s version of it has some failures that need to be fixed. You are not making an argument for the total privatization of education, since plenty of countries with government education do it better. The US is not the only secular state. Australian has the same law that the commonwealth cannot make any law respecting an establishment of a religion; they borrowed it right from our 1st amendment. So your point here is a total nonsequitor. And no one denies that you can pay tutors for better education. That’s completely irrelevant.

    Read economist Richard Salsman on this topic, to give one example, and learn how ridiculous that is. If you have time, you can get the real nitty gritty details by listening to Yaron Brook who, in a 4 hour lecture, discusses how the housing crisis happened, down to the programs that were responsible. The truth is the housing crisis was a bubble created by the perfect storm of government programs, not by the free market.

    Profit, when it is not manipulated by the government for the benefit of those with political pull, is an objective measure of value. Again, I argue that “government oversight” is appropriate to detect fraud. Government should not be providing the service of education, however.

    To say that the profit motive is excused of any wrong doing in the housing bust is ridiculous. I’m not here to say that government interference is never a source of problems. But you cannot argue that government is a part of the problem, to then leaping to the conclusion that therefore we need to get rid of government entirely to have the best situation. That’s another nonsequitor.

    I went over the problems with the car analogy earlier.

    And your analysis failed.

    Yes, but it was because the philosophy of freedom had not been conceived and implemented.

    That’s a non-answer because you have yet to demonstrate that the total restriction of govt. in the private sector (with the possible exception of fraud) would remedy the situation. This is still just being assumed with arguments that don’t work.

    Public schools were started because Progressives tried to separate wealth from its preconditions and believed that we were living in a post-scarcity society (or were approaching it). Read Keynes on this point, they were aiming to coast on the wealth that was created by the Industrial Revolution, and had not understood that free markets don’t just create wealth, but sustain it.

    And how is that a justification that we shouldn’t have had public schools?

    Your position is unstable and leads to socialism, it is not a straw man. Wealth is created by individuals, not government. The very concept of government is the “institution that exercises a monopoly on force.” Note that government does not have a mind, it is a collective of individuals essentially defined by its use of force. It has the capability to redistribute wealth, but it cannot create wealth. Creation requires the exercise of the individual mind, not the barrel of a gun.

    You have yet to make an argument why it leads to socialism, and you haven’t even defined what you mean by ‘socialism’. Some libertarians define any system in which the government runs any aspect of society to be socialism. So you need to define it and make an argument justifying your claim. You have not done that. And you need to define ‘wealth’ here since I’m not sure how you’re using it. An income tax, or a government run public education does not in any way prevent the exercise of a free mind. In fact, it can empower it, since the person who is uneducated due to their parents not being able to afford private education is left with a diminished capacity to better themselves and exercise their creativity.

    To see just how bonkers your claim is, consider what would occur if suddenly the ban on child labor was lifted. What would occur? Well, parents with a middle class standard of living or better would likely continue to keep their kids in school and out of the work world until they came of age. Child labor would only be an issue with people at the lower end of the poverty line, and the reason is not that they care less for their kids than the wealthy and middle class. It would likely be because those families have a low standard of living and may need to have their kids work to prevent starvation.

    There is concrete evidence for this phenomenon in the third world. Look at Bangladesh, which banned child labor while still in possession of a third world economy. There, children engage in prostitution and other underground, black market activities to make money so their families do not starve. Legislating prosperity does not mean that a society is prosperous: only a free market can generate the kind of wealth wherein children do not need to work.

    Yes, less fortunate kids would end up working, and putting in long hours in potentially dangerous conditions just to survive in a libertarian utopia where all government services are terminated and where dying of starvation then becomes a possibility. And also the 40 hour work week would begin to unravel, and overtime pay would begin to disappear.

    In Bangladesh, they don’t enforce their child prostitution laws, allowing them to happen. That’s why it’s such a problem there. I partly agree with you: once you reach a certain economic level you don’t need child labor anymore. And that’s why upper-half income families rarely need their children to work. But the free market results in winners and losers, and the losers will still have to send their kids to work, especially without anything to help them. That’s why banning child labor takes a government action.

    Start with the question: what does it mean to say the free market “knows” something? Remember that the free market refers to the people in a society, each trading with one another. The people involved in a particular market are close to the concretes for that market: they know what the various goods are worth, they possess technical expertise, they know what people use them for, and they know what distinguishes good quality from bad quality in their market. The idea is that the free market allows people to specialize; economists call this concept “competitive advantage.”

    So really when we say “the market knows” something, we mean it as a metaphor for the sum of information possessed by all market participants, each specializing in the field that they trade in. Compare that with the government bureaucrat, who order police cruisers and signs subpoenas. What do they know about the details for each market? Government, as a collective agency associated with using physical force, does not possess the knowledge that market participants do.

    The government bureaucrat might be an economist with decades of experience. You’re assuming you just get some random government worker sitting behind a desk and put them in charge of economic decisions. But your answer is problematic for other reasons. People don’t always value things that are ultimately beneficial for society or for a country to advance intellectually, or technologically, or economically, in the way that most of us would prefer it to. If the majority of the people in a given area value the Koran as a book of scientific facts (when of course it isn’t) and that drives conservative Islamic ideology in the private school sector as that which is most marketable (regardless of whether it educates people for a 21st century society and economy) then that’s what will succeed. On your view, is that a valuable education? Your answer assumes that the market will always push for the best things for the country, socially or economy.

    Note that government lags on issues of what is relevant and what is not, for the reason that I provided in the prior statement: it lacks the information set that market participants possess. Government schools are still teaching nonessential skills to students and refraining from teaching essential skills; why? Because they are unresponsive to the market, to supply and demand.

    There are many reasons to think that if free market education is implemented, the price will decrease from where it is now. Regulations do not really determine prices, although it appears as though they can. What regulations can do, though, is affect the nominal price by making it either cheaper or more expensive with artificial price disturbances. This will result in people buying substitutes or purchasing things illegally or going without, none of which are good options for a civil society.

    And yet, every other country that beats us in education has a government run system. So again, you utterly fail to refute government education simpliciter. You’re hoping your audience doesn’t notice that. And I’m certainly not arguing for all public schools to follow the same model. They can experiment as needed to respond to market forces. And as I mentioned, even if private schools was half what it is now on average it would still cost you 66k to put one child through k-12. And that’s not even considering college yet. This is unaffordable to the 80 million Americans making less than 30k a year – even if they paid no money on income tax.

    I think you misunderstand me here: the existence of private schools is not the issue. The issue is, government education can continue to exist and sustain itself no matter how much private education outperforms it. Government funding is not tied to the goods it produces, but is instead based on coercive taxation. And if taxes do not cover the bill, they can always use deficit spending to tax the next generation and continue the money hemorrhaging.

    Ok, got you.

    Each market is unique in its details; there I think we agree. The economic principles that operate on these markets are not unique, however. I hold that the free market outperforms central planning in every case, partially because the market will conceive of solutions that government bureaucrats will not.

    You can hold that view all you want, you just have no justification for it, for comparing how the free market works great when it comes to pizza options, and assuming it also works great when it comes to health care options given how no one will ever die by not eating a pizza. Markets do a really good job of conceiving of solutions. We agree. However, they inevitably result in winners and losers, millions of losers, in a large country, and something like education is too important to allow millions to go without it, which will happen since most people do not make enough money to afford private education even if it were half the price it is now.

    I addressed comparisons to other countries earlier.

    Where? I missed the point that refutes the fact that every other country that beats us in education has a public system that does it better than us.

    You are still using the altruistic standard; whether or not every child gets an education is not the proper standard by which we gauge the quality of education. The altruistic standard opposes rational standards in education, because consumers that want their children to get the best education are forced to subsidize their neighbor’s education and superior educators will have a smaller client base.

    No it doesn’t because other countries use the altruistic standard and have kids who outperform ours. Ensuring every child gets an education is not mutually exclusive to the making rational standards.

    Government standards, by the way, are not rational standards but arbitrary ones. There is no profit and loss mechanism by which we can assess how good a job the government is doing in its “education.” Government bureaucrats cannot rationally assess which credentials make for good teachers or bad teachers.

    You have yet to show how they’re arbitrary. Your sweeping claim would imply all countries worldwide that have government standards for their public education system make their standards completely arbitrary. You haven’t even come close to justifying that with a rational argument. And making money is not the sole (or even most important) standard by which we should measure education. In Islamic societies, they teach garbage fundamentalism in their schools, and if enough people wanted that in a given area, that would be the most profitable model. That would not show us anything about whether that’s the best way to education people for what really matters (assuming that knowing scientific facts and valuing basic freedom over Sharia law matters, which I think you do). So your talking points may work at the Ayn Rand admirers meeting, but they don’t work in reality.

    The doomsday scenario you describe is unrealistic, to say the least. If government education went away, a large market for education would fill the void since the need for an education has not disappeared. Parents would still want to spend to get their kids taught important skills and they would have more money to do it, since their taxes would be cut.

    And I covered this response several times: Even if private education was cut in half and we paid no tax on income at all, it would still be unaffordable to as much as tens of millions of Americans. In third world countries where there is no public education system, the desire for education is there, but many kids don’t go precisely because they can’t afford it.

    Build more colleges…at whose expense? The taxpayers? Schools are capital goods and require constant upkeep and maintenance. They are not one-time, fixed costs. Your argument reminds me of what Mises used to say: in a mixed economy, “regulations beget regulations.” In order to prevent the shortage which your artificial price controls, you seek to increase the supply artificially. But how do you know how many colleges to build? The lack of a profit motive destroys any means you have of deciding this question. Just ask the Soviet commissars, who at the least had western prices to go by, how easy it is to rationally determine answers to these questions without a market price mechanism.

    If it’s a public college, yes, at tax payers expense, just like it already is now. How would you know how many colleges to build? You get a team of experts to predict how many we’ll need based on assessments and predictions of how many new college students there will be using demographic data, economic data, data from the growth of job sectors, and the like. This is just how you plan for anything. So your last few sentences are complete nonsense.

    As I said earlier, comparing the US to other countries is a tricky business. I mentioned it earlier.

    Assuming that what works in other countries cannot work in the US is just as tricky.

    Perhaps not consciously, but the pluralist position is unstable and results in socialism, sooner or later.

    You keep saying this, yet you have not provided a rational argument for it.

    I recognize, philosophically, that only individuals can think and only individuals can innovate. Government’s essential characteristic, for the upteenth time, is force. Force and thought are opposites.

    As for whether I am “deep” in my philosophy, I would say yeah, I have read a lot on this topic and know a great deal about history, economics and philosophy. I am not religious in my beliefs, though, there is plenty of evidence to support my position that market outperform central planning.

    To answer your last question, I will say yes insofar as it has removed physical force from society. The other stuff is not good for the private sector, in the long run.

    The answer is yes, you are so deep into your philosophy that you cannot admit a single instance of when government did anything good that benefited the private sector. Even though most scientific research in the US is funded by government grants.

    When it comes to the force vs thoughts process. This would make sense if the government literally put a gun to your head, and forced you to do scientific research you didn’t want to do. That would make research difficult. But taxing people (albeit involuntarily) and using some of that taxed money to pay people who voluntarily want to do scientific research, who use their thoughts to find the best innovation or discovery, will not stifle research that results in benefits to the private sector. We would be years behind in technology and medicine if it weren’t for government’s involvement in R&D. That markets generally outperform central planning is not enough to reach the conclusion that we should abolish all public education.

    Bonds are a deferred form of taxation. Ultimately, the money provided by a bond must be paid out of government taxes. To reiterate: police and military are legitimate functions of government, because they protect individual rights. Education is not a legitimate function of government.

    But you still don’t want to pay a penny in taxes to pay for the military or police. That’s what makes no sense. And education is a legitimate form of government, because we define the purpose of government differently.

    You evaded my point demonstrating that government is parasitic on the private sector. I am not attacking a straw man, you are simply unable to see the implications for your own views. Government intervention in an industry undermines and destroys the free market for that industry, though this may come fast or slow. There is a similar situation in health care: Obamacare is a hybrid monstrosity that is unstable and will wreck the health care industry, making it ripe for a government takeover as the purported cure

    To answer your question, yes, I would classify tribes as primitive governments (just as religion was primitive philosophy).

    Whether or not government is parasitic or not on the private sector is irrelevant to the debate. I’d say you are unable to see the implications of your views, having a naive outlook at what results from it. Government intervention can maintain the market, since a total free market will result in large numbers of people not receiving education, having no health or economic safety net beneath them, resulting in being sicker, more devastated from bankruptcies, making the number of available customers in a market lower. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for help from the government help I received years ago, like public education.

    And as far as Obamacare, other countries got to single payer style systems without Obamacare first. They just realized healthcare is not an area where the free market does best.

    Why stop at the iphone components created by ARPANET? The early internet in turn depended upon the discovery of electricity, which in turn depended on the discovery of atoms. Were those government-funded?

    Um yes, the atom was discovered by JJ Thompson, who was in the Royal Society of London, government funded, and worked at Cambridge University, also funded by the government of England. Michael Faraday was the first to put electricity to use, was at Oxford, also government funded, and received free housing paid for by British tax payers. Much of scientific research done in Europe, where most of the discoveries of the past 500 years have taken place, has been funded by governments in one way or the other. And the private sector has benefited greatly by this.

    What is your principle here? That each and every innovation in science owes its entire existence to the things that preceded it? No science would be possible without logic, and this was developed by Aristotle. Should we then credit each and every innovation in science to Aristotle? What about language itself? Since nearly everything that came after the establishment of language depended on it, should we chalk all achievements made since then to the cave men that first codified Latin? This is the premise of “you didn’t build that” writ large.

    The truth is that advancements in science build on prior discoveries, but the people who develop such advancements deserve full credit for their own achievement. Only individuals can innovate because only individuals can think; there is no collective, or government brain. Within the pool of individuals that innovate, there are those that receive their funding from coercion and those that receive their funding from voluntary exchange. Scientists, when they work for government funded labs, are in the same position as private sector firms that gain subsidies and favorable trade agreements from the government. Qua scientist, they are part of what Ayn Rand described as “the aristocracy of pull.”

    It’s very simple. All you have to do is acknowledge that governments sometimes does good things that benefit us as well as private sector businesses, and that we wouldn’t be where we are without it. No need to whip out the Ayn Rand.

    You are again package-dealing. Your package-deal turns on two different meanings of the word “free.” For instance, I may be free to walk to the grocery store but I am not “free” to fly off of the Empire State building. One deals with what a man can do legally, under the law; the other deals with what a man can do, physically, based on constraints placed upon him by reality. I have heard similar things uttered by leftists when they argue that “a hungry man is not free.” Legally, the government is concerned with freedom in the legal sense, i.e., that men are free from physical coercion.

    I am making no mistake of confusing freedom with the ability to defy the laws of physics. You equating deregulation with freedom is problematic. Why stop at public education? Why not just let 8 year olds drive trucks and purchase fully automatic firearms and let them carry it in public?

    A law that guarantees a person the “right” to a good or service that must be produced by other individuals is not a legitimate law because its not a legitimate function of government to guarantee such things.

    …according to your philosophy, which I don’t agree with. Go ahead and try to objectively establish your definition of government as the objective one.

    By the way, just because a person does not get health insurance does not mean they will die. You are equating health care with health insurance in this case. Health insurance is a tool for risk management; health care is the actual care that you receive. But that is another whole conversation; this discussion is not about health care.

    I never said that. They are more likely to die from a treatable issue if they are uninsured. Health insurance is a stupid concept. It is nearly guaranteed people will need healthcare at some point in their lives.

    I disagree that there are essential differences between education, healthcare, barbershops, and pizza shops in terms of the economic principles involved.

    There are huge differences, some of which have been outlined earlier.

    The Declaration was the manifesto for the American philosophy of government; the Constitution was its implementation. The Constitution is not a philosophic document, but rather an instruction manual for how to implement the philosophy of individual rights. Establishing “rights” to things that are produced by other individuals is absolutely operating on the same premise as a nanny state. One cannot have a right to a good or a service provided by the labor of others without, in principle, enslaving those others.

    Slavery has many definitions. For example:

    1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner’s control, especially in involuntary servitude.
    2. (Law) the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
    3. The subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work

    Taxation doesn’t meet the traditional definition of slavery. The Constitution does outline some of the US’s governmental philosophy, as I mentioned in its preamble. As far as the nanny state, taxing others to provide public education is not a nanny state. A nanny state is when the government does everything for you.

    I am not an expert it. If you want to learn more, read either “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand” by Leonard Peikoff or “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” by Ayn Rand. Both flesh out and discuss the differences between the various theories of concept formation and how an objective concept is possible.

    I’ll skip responding to the philosophical stuff since this comment is already long enough. But I do greatly appreciate the response though. This is definitely fun 🙂

  10. The discussion was good at the start, but I find it has gotten quite repetitive. I dislike the quote-by-quote format and will not use it again. I think by its nature it hermetically seals each point from every other point, and in reality all of these points are related and need to be subsumed into coherent principles. This will likely be my last post on the thread, because I think most of our premises have been laid bare and there is not much left to say here on the topic.

    To demonstrate this, I did something quite different this time around and created something of a summary post. Rather than take each point you made in isolation, I reread your entire corpus of remarks and classified them based on their premises. From that larger list, I grouped the premises that were part of a wider principle together to generate a final list. For each premise, I mention how many times you mention it and how many times I address it in my replies. I pasted below each premise where I believe I covered your premise. Overall, it was a lot of work!

    I likely did not cover each and every premise that was discussed. I tried to stay with the fundamental ones, and in my mind the later ones build off of these. I did not adulterate any of the replies below, and so you can consider this a review of sorts.

    I think discussions such as this in the future would be better if you stuck with a single point at a time rather than launch a large, multi-point salvo in one comment. I suspect many people would look at such a post on their blog comments and either hide it, delete it, or just totally ignore it. I am not saying that is the proper thing to do on their part, but comments sections are usually not the place to pen the next Dostoevsky novel. In the future, a discussion like this is probably better as an email correspondence.

    Thanks for your interest!
    Rob

    PREMISE LIST
    Premise: Altruism is the ethical standard. That is, the rubric that we ought to apply to the free market is whether it can provide an education to everyone, even if it means some paying for their neighbor’s education.
    Where you say or imply it: 1 time in your first post, 5 times in your second post, 2 times in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 1 time in my first post, 1 time in my second post, 1 time in my third post.
    Sampling of my replies:

    “It is true that without government education, there could be a scenario wherein some children do not go to school. For those people, charity is the only proper means for getting an education if their parents are unable to provide one. Charity is voluntary, and therefore moral. Government employs the use of force to achieve its ends, and taking from one citizen to finance the schooling of another is immoral. Our society is founded on the classical liberal notion of individual rights, not the Marxist / Kantian / Christian doctrine of self-sacrifice to one’s neighbor.” [POST 1]

    “Also, the standard by which you are gauging whether ‘the market approach’ succeeds or fails is a completely altruistic one that calls for some people paying to educate the children of others. Such a standard, aside from demanding sacrifice, shifts the responsibility of educating children from parents (where it rightfully belongs) to the state (where it does not).” [POST 2]

    “You are still using the altruistic standard; whether or not every child gets an education is not the proper standard by which we gauge the quality of education. The altruistic standard opposes rational standards in education, because consumers that want their children to get the best education are forced to subsidize their neighbor’s education and superior educators will have a smaller client base.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Many people in today’s mixed economy cannot afford a private education, and so if we abolish government education they would not get an education at all because the price would remain payable only by the rich. Alternatively, health care and education are exempt from the laws of economics.
    Where you say or imply it: 1 time in your first post, 9 times in your third post, 10 times in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 2 times in my first post, 1 time in my second post, and 4 times in my third post.
    Sampling of my replies:

    “You also seem to hold the view that education is intrinsically expensive. This is false, education is made expensive by government interference in the market. Everybody recognizes that education is important, so there is a large demand, and yet the supply is artificially restricted by the government in the form of occupational licensing, mandates on what is to be covered, and the political pull of the teachers’ unions. Additionally, government scholarships and grants funded by taxpayer largess provide a nearly limitless wellspring for colleges and universities, which then raise their tuition costs since the government blithely “funds” thousands of students that would not otherwise go to college. In other words, government inflates the demand of college applicants with entitlements. From the perspective of the student, a similar situation to health care obtains: when there is a third party paying the bills, it becomes easy to disassociate the cost of your education from what you are receiving. The result is rampant price inflation.” [POST 1]

    [Commenting on why the cost of education is expected to go down over time] “There are at least two reasons to think this would be the case. First, as technology improves and society becomes more complex, there is a greater need for education in the marketplace. People, then, will find it lucrative to enter the field since there are profits to be made. With more educators, competition would then lower the cost. Second, the creation of capital goods and labor-saving devices bolstered productivity in the 19th century. More wealth meant that children could spend their formative years learning rather than working on a farm or in a factory.” [POST 1]

    “Education, like all discrete goods and services provided by individuals, is not immune to the laws of supply and demand. I made that case in my prior post with an explanation (occupational licensing, inflated demand, etc).” [POST 2]

    “It is true that it is a luxury in America today, because funds are drained by taxation to support government education. Americans who wish to send their kid to a private school must effectively pay twice for school. If Americans spent less on taxes for government education, they would have more money to send their kids to better private schools. Additionally, with government’s departure, the market would boom as the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Henry Fords of the world would rush to offer the best education at the lowest price. As I had mentioned earlier, though, private education is superior to government education not because of money but because government education is permeated with force: against students, against parents, and against taxpayers. It is a system predicated on the idea that it is more important for Americans to pay for the education of their neighbor’s children, rather than invest in their own.” [POST 3]

    “There are many reasons to think that if free market education is implemented, the price will decrease from where it is now. Regulations do not really determine prices, although it appears as though they can. What regulations can do, though, is affect the nominal price by making it either cheaper or more expensive with artificial price disturbances. This will result in people buying substitutes or purchasing things illegally or going without, none of which are good options for a civil society.” [POST 3]

    “I disagree that there are essential differences between education, healthcare, barbershops, and pizza shops in terms of the economic principles involved.” [POST 3]

    “If government education went away, a large market for education would fill the void since the need for an education has not disappeared.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Without government, there would be no standards in education.
    Where you say or imply it: 2 times in your second post, 4 times in your third post, 2 times in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 1 time in my second post, 4 times in my third post
    Sampling of my replies:

    “What does a government bureaucrat know about what constitutes a valuable education? Observe the fact that while successful students entering university are at least somewhat acquainted with computer programming, the majority of government schools fails to even offer instruction on this subject. Instead, they struggle to teach children basic mathematics and reading; these subjects have been around for centuries. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and government schools have no good way to determine what skills are useful and which are not; only the market can achieve such a monumental, abstract task.” [POST 2]

    “Profit, when it is not manipulated by the government for the benefit of those with political pull, is an objective measure of value.” [POST 3]

    “Start with the question: what does it mean to say the free market “knows” something? Remember that the free market refers to the people in a society, each trading with one another. The people involved in a particular market are close to the concretes for that market: they know what the various goods are worth, they possess technical expertise, they know what people use them for, and they know what distinguishes good quality from bad quality in their market. The idea is that the free market allows people to specialize; economists call this concept “competitive advantage.” So really when we say “the market knows” something, we mean it as a metaphor for the sum of information possessed by all market participants, each specializing in the field that they trade in. Compare that with the government bureaucrat, who order police cruisers and signs subpoenas. What do they know about the details for each market? Government, as a collective agency associated with using physical force, does not possess the knowledge that market participants do.” [POST 3]

    “Government standards, by the way, are not rational standards but arbitrary ones. There is no profit and loss mechanism by which we can assess how good a job the government is doing in its “education.” Government bureaucrats cannot rationally assess which credentials make for good teachers or bad teachers.” [POST 3]

    “The schools would decide what is in their curricula and it would be up to the customers (in this case, the parents) to decide whether to patronize them or not. If you enroll your child in a school and they teach things that contradict what was agreed upon, you would have grounds to sue them for fraud. You would need to, in other words, be a vigilant consumer. Note that this does not mean that you would need to be an expert in every field, because the need to effectively evaluate the education provided by private schools would be a booming industry, too. Many consumer ranking companies, such as Yelp, would exist in this ecosystem to help consumers make sense of it all. The reason they would exist is the same reason any other good or service exists: there is a real need, and there is expertise. In other words, there is a latent exchange of value that can take place.” [POST 3]

    Premise: The free market is responsible for child labor and had it not been for government laws against it, we would still have it. Likewise, if it had not been for the government, literacy would still be a problem.
    Where you say or imply it: 1 time in your first post, 2 times in your second post, 1 time in your third post, and 1 time in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 1 time in my first post, 1 time in my second post and 2 times in my third post
    Sampling of my replies:

    “The truth is that child labor was a fact of life before capitalism and is still a fact of life in those parts of the world that have not adopted market reforms.” [Post 1]

    “Government programs had nothing to do with removing child labor, only greater wealth could achieve such a thing. The leftist view that government regulations ended child labor is easily refuted by looking at third world countries like Bangladesh, where government bureaucrats tried to outlaw child labor without first possessing a free market. The result was rampant child prostitution (see here for more details). The reason is that one cannot separate wealth from its ultimate source, freedom, and expect to get anywhere.” [POST 2]

    “Prior to the Industrial Revolution, child labor was a fact of life because it was required to avoid starvation. Subsistence farmers would employ their children as farmhands and work agonizing hours just to survive.With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, those same children moved in the short term into factories, since it was in many ways better than working on the farm. More money was earned, more skills were learned, and there was a huge demand for jobs. As the machines got more prevalent, the need to work 16 hours a day was diminished because each individual worker was more productive. To see this illustrated in concrete terms, note that the United States today manufactures far more goods than it did at any time in the 19th century, but the number of people who work in manufacturing has decreased to a fraction of what it was. To make crystal clear: parents cared about their kids before the Bureau of Labor existed, but their survival mandated that their children work to support the family. The only thing that could change this state of affairs was a rise in the standard of living, and this was achieved by the free market, not government fiat.” [POST 3]

    “Look at Bangladesh, which banned child labor while still in possession of a third world economy. There, children engage in prostitution and other underground, black market activities to make money so their families do not starve. Legislating prosperity does not mean that a society is prosperous: only a free market can generate the kind of wealth wherein children do not need to work.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Scientific discovery and technological innovation would not be as sophisticated as it is without the government. Alternatively, advancements in technology or literacy would not have occurred had it not been for the government.
    Where you say or imply it: 1 time in your first post, 2 times in your second post, 1 time in your third post and 2 times in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 3 times in my first post, 2 times in my second post and 2 times in my third post
    Sampling of my replies:

    “I disagree with the view that government is a patron of technology. Government is an agency of force, and as such does not contribute to the formation of ideas. If you examine the great inventors you will see that what fueled their work was a selfish desire to produce value or learn more about the world around them. People cannot think or create at the point of the gun; force stymies thought. Consider the question: what came first, government infrastructure or the private sector? The answer is clearly the latter, since there had to be a private sector producing goods for the government to tax away in order to “build” anything. Even if government labs created the “backbone” of the internet, the fact is that it was not made accessible to the common man at an affordable price and a high quality until entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs used their genius and business acumen to monetize it and make it profitable. The real lesson to learn from the comparison to technology, by the way, is that the tech industry is relatively unregulated compared to education and it provides cheaper goods at a lower cost over time compared to the stagnant nature of education. Only now, as market-based education resources on the web such as Khan Academy and Coursera disrupt the industry, do we see innovation in education.” [POST 1]

    “I think that it is true that a) there have been individuals who have benefited from government education AND b) government education has failed as an alternative to education provided voluntarily on the market. Great things can be achieved if you are willing to ignore costs, which the government does when it gets involved in education. In the private sector, programs get scrapped when they do not deliver results. In the “public” sector, more money is flushed down the toilet in the mistaken belief that “my gang could have done it better” or “just a few more dollars would have done the trick.” The issue is not that most people get “some” education and a subset go on to do really well. The issue is: would the results be even better if the government schools were closed and education was exclusively provided by the market.” [POST 1]

    “Government education is a fairly new phenomenon in the western world in general and the United States in particular. Comprehensive public education was not adopted in the United States until the late 19th century, and yet observe the tremendous economic and political progress that was made since the colonial era. The Department of Education was not created until 1979. If you look at the history of Great Britain, a similar story holds: government education came late to the game and people flourished without it for centuries. Literacy rates were improving well before government created compulsory education and likely would have diminished regardless of government intrusion, as would the cost.” [POST 1]

    “Gates started his company in his garage. Jobs was a visionary that designed the iphone. Both men created inventions that revolutionized their field and provided people living today with tremendous computational power at a cheap price. Over 90% of Americans below the poverty line walk around with supercomputers in their pockets thanks to these men, and the risks that they took.” [POST 2]

    “The basic reason that government schools are inferior to private schools is not money, but rather because they are not market facing. They are not market facing because they are predicated on the use of force at all levels. The teachers and administrators set the curriculum without parental input. The students are compelled to attend, often against their will. The taxpayers must foot the bill, regardless of how sharp the students are when they graduate. This is not a winning formula for an industry concerned with improving the mind. Minds cannot function properly when compelled.” [POST 2]

    “Why stop at the iphone components created by ARPANET? The early internet in turn depended upon the discovery of electricity, which in turn depended on the discovery of atoms. Were those government-funded? What is your principle here? That each and every innovation in science owes its entire existence to the things that preceded it? No science would be possible without logic, and this was developed by Aristotle. Should we then credit each and every innovation in science to Aristotle? What about language itself? Since nearly everything that came after the establishment of language depended on it, should we chalk all achievements made since then to the cave men that first codified Latin? This is the premise of “you didn’t build that” writ large. The truth is that advancements in science build on prior discoveries, but the people who develop such advancements deserve full credit for their own achievement. Only individuals can innovate because only individuals can think; there is no collective, or government brain. Within the pool of individuals that innovate, there are those that receive their funding from coercion and those that receive their funding from voluntary exchange. Scientists, when they work for government funded labs, are in the same position as private sector firms that gain subsidies and favorable trade agreements from the government. Qua scientist, they are part of what Ayn Rand described as “the aristocracy of pull.” [POST 3]

    “The issue is, government education can continue to exist and sustain itself no matter how much private education outperforms it. Government funding is not tied to the goods it produces, but is instead based on coercive taxation. And if taxes do not cover the bill, they can always use deficit spending to tax the next generation and continue the money hemorrhaging.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Government can create wealth without the free market.
    Where you say or imply it: 2 times in your third post.
    Where I address it: 3 times in my second post, twice in my third post
    Sampling of my replies:

    “Government-funded projects are parasitic on the private sector, which enables them to live longer and waste even more money. The only thing that can dislodge government projects are political pressure groups that advocate to fund their projects, instead. Profit and loss provides an objective standard by which we can assess a project’s value and government has the ability to evade this.” [POST 2]

    “The problems with medieval Europe stem from factors outside of education. Science was in its infancy. Superstition was rampant. People generally followed the otherworldly Christian philosophy and turned their backs on happiness here on Earth. Not until the rebirth of reason in Europe, commonly known as the Enlightenment, did standards of living improve. The Enlightenment led first to the Scientific Revolution, which provided man a this-worldly Epistemology, and then to the Industrial Revolution, which celebrated man’s achievements in this life. Laissez faire capitalism was born out of the Enlightenment. Capitalism’s implementation led to greater productivity and longer lifespans in the west. Capital goods led to higher crop yields and greater efficiency. Only in this context did “education” for children ever become a thought in the mind of the common man, let alone an expectation. Read Ludwig von Mises, Frederic Bastia, Henry Hazlitt, or if you prefer a more modern source, Deirdre McCloskey to see this documented ad nauseum.” [POST 2]

    “Wealth is not created by government, but by human ingenuity and trade. To attempt to cut off the result (greater societal wealth) from the source (the freedom to think and trade) is a grotesque contradiction.” [POST 2]

    “Wealth is created by individuals, not government. The very concept of government is the “institution that exercises a monopoly on force.” Note that government does not have a mind, it is a collective of individuals essentially defined by its use of force. It has the capability to redistribute wealth, but it cannot create wealth. Creation requires the exercise of the individual mind, not the barrel of a gun.” [POST 3]

    “Bonds are a deferred form of taxation. Ultimately, the money provided by a bond must be paid out of government taxes.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Central planning is more efficient than the free market.
    Where you say or imply it: 1 time in your second post, 2 times in your third post, 5 times in your fourth post
    Where I address it: 1 time in my third post.
    Sampling of my replies:

    “Schools are capital goods and require constant upkeep and maintenance. They are not one-time, fixed costs. Your argument reminds me of what Mises used to say: in a mixed economy, “regulations beget regulations.” In order to prevent the shortage which your artificial price controls, you seek to increase the supply artificially. But how do you know how many colleges to build? The lack of a profit motive destroys any means you have of deciding this question. Just ask the Soviet commissars, who at the least had western prices to go by, how easy it is to rationally determine answers to these questions without a market price mechanism.” [POST 3]

    Premise: Government education in other industrialized countries and in wealthy communities here in the US produces good outcomes. This proves that government education per se is not a bad thing.
    Where you say or imply it: 2 times in your third post and 3 times in your fourth post.
    Where I address it: 1 time in my third post and one time in my fourth post.
    Sampling of my replies:

    “First, money is not the only factor that determines whether students do well in a given school or not. Second, the amount of money spent on education is not the essential distinction between private education and government education, the use of force is. The principle here is that government schools simpliciter are ineffective compared to private schools ceteris paribus. That is, a government school in an affluent area with more motivated students may outperform a private school in a poor area with students that are not as motivated. In assessing the results of the government school, we ought to compare the government schools in wealthy areas and motivated student bodies with the private sector schools in wealthy areas and motivated student bodies.” [POST 3]

    “Comparing the United States to other countries is tricky, because there are myriad factors that affect the outcome (population homogeneity, respect for education, deference to authority, how superstitious the culture is, etc).” [POST 4]

  11. I totally agree that the point by point method was getting a bit lengthy and we were getting repetitive. Your rehash of the conversation is delighted. Let me then offer some comments on each premise you mentioned.

    PREMISE LIST
    Premise: Altruism is the ethical standard. That is, the rubric that we ought to apply to the free market is whether it can provide an education to everyone, even if it means some paying for their neighbor’s education.

    To you, the idea of being taxed even a single dollar is worse than millions of kids unable to afford private education (on a system where there is no public education). And that is our main disagreement. Your values and mine are different. I do not see taxation in principle as theft. And for altruism, it is in a country’s best interest that every child get an education, and since a free market will not allow that, and a public system would, that’s why every developed country has public education. This is also why every developing country strives for one day offering universal public education for all kids.

    Aside from the value laden part of the discussion, the empirical part (on whether the total-private free market approach will work best) is one you have clearly not shown in your arguments. It is a total non-sequitor to argue that because there are some flaws in the US public education system, that we should therefore abolish all public education. That’s like saying there’s a seat belt design that is flawed on this model, therefore we should abolish all seat belts.

    Premise: Many people in today’s mixed economy cannot afford a private education, and so if we abolish government education they would not get an education at all because the price would remain payable only by the rich. Alternatively, health care and education are exempt from the laws of economics.

    Healthcare and education can and should be exempt from the laws of economics. Our healthcare systems suck to a large extent because it’s governed by the profit motive, which doesn’t work in healthcare. It will never be in a health insurance company’s best interest to insure someone with a chronic disease, or to insure an elderly person.

    As far as the argument that education would be cheaper if left to the free market, I addressed that numerous times, showing you how little the majority of Americans make (less than $30k/year) and showed how even if private education was half of what it cost now and people paid no income tax at all, it would still be unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. You have not refuted this point at all.

    Premise: Without government, there would be no standards in education.

    Profit is not the best measure of value, because millions of people value inane and factually incorrect religious views that would be profitable teaching (assuming that knowing scientific facts and valuing basic freedom over things like Sharia law matters, which I think you do).

    Premise: The free market is responsible for child labor and had it not been for government laws against it, we would still have it. Likewise, if it had not been for the government, literacy would still be a problem.

    I do get your point that capitalism got the us to the point where for most middle class families they no longer needed to allow their kids to work. But I disagree that we should just let market forces allow child labor to fix itself, since you will always have poor people in capitalism, and that means innocent children will always be forced to work and perhaps be denied formal education, and because of this, the government should step in to prevent this kind of abuse.

    Premise: Scientific discovery and technological innovation would not be as sophisticated as it is without the government. Alternatively, advancements in technology or literacy would not have occurred had it not been for the government.

    On this point you’re just wrong. Government funded research and development funds a huge portion of R&D – the majority in some sectors, and it has developed things like the internet backbone, which helps all of us. Without government funded R&D around the world, the world would loose hundreds of billions of dollars every year involved with critical research. The problem is, is that you are so against government funded anything that you must deny this in order to maintain your position, as any admittance that public funding leads to innovation and helps the private sector would tear down your ultra-libertarian position.

    And again, you fail to demonstrate that “government education has failed as an alternative to education provided voluntarily on the market.” You’re argument against it is a total non-sequitor. I’d be repeating myself if I mentioned why as I already showed this above.

    Premise: Government can create wealth without the free market.

    If your argument is that the government cannot in principle create wealth, then that is wrong. If wealth is defined as something of value, then the government created the internet backbone, which enabled the military to communicate better, and the military is not a free market. Government funded exploration projects have made scientific discoveries, which have value in themselves. But this is not a point that’s the most pertinent to the discussion.

    Premise: Central planning is more efficient than the free market.

    I never said central planning is always more efficient than the free market. So this is a straw man.

    On the specific point where this came up, I simply said to plan for how many schools to build, you’d get a team of experts to predict how many we’ll need based on assessments and predictions of how many new college students there will be using demographic data, economic data, data from the growth of job sectors, and the like. This is just how you plan for anything. So your last few sentences are complete nonsense. This would be done just like any corporation would do for planning an expansion of new stores.

    Premise: Government education in other industrialized countries and in wealthy communities here in the US produces good outcomes. This proves that government education per se is not a bad thing.

    Once you admit that “a government school in an affluent area with more motivated students may outperform a private school in a poor area with students that are not as motivated,” you refute your prior point that “government education has failed as an alternative to education provided voluntarily on the market.”

    __________

    Thank you for your time, I found this productive and I hope you did too. It’s important to have your views challenged by knowledgeable interlocutors. If you do not plan to respond and want to end it here, I’m fine with that.

  12. Thanks for the reply and the exchange. I reviewed your latest comments and I believe I covered each of these points in the prior posts. At this stage, anyone interested in the discussion can go back and see the discussion play out. Commenting further would be repetitive.

    While I think discussion such as this is helpful, I would much rather prefer sticking with one issue at a time rather than engage a large deluge. I also think this was far more wide-ranging than education and would have been better served in a different medium than comments on this post.

    If you want to engage in the future, an email is better.

    Thanks for your interest!
    Rob

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