Should Government Implement Net Neutrality?

This is a slightly modified version of a speech I gave in a debate on Net Neutrality that I did with my partner, Louis Saintvil on January 18, 2018. The debate was sponsored by MicGoat and was an Oxford-Style debate. My partner and I won by swaying more of the undecided vote: our side began with 4 votes and ended with 9, while the opposition began with 9 votes and ended with 11.

You can see the debate on Youtube here.


I want to begin with an ethical explanation for why Net Neutrality is not valid legislation. As with any ethical discussion, a proper context is required. To that end, we need to define and understand three key concepts: the nature of man, the nature of government, and the nature of individual rights.

Let’s look at the first of these: the nature of man. In the words of Aristotle, man is the rational animal. He survives by the free exercise of his reasoning mind. A man may feel hunger on instinct, but only his reason will tell him how to distinguish food from poison. A man’s body may suffer from infection without his thinking about it, but only his thinking about it can produce medicines to counteract the disease.

What is it that prevents man from exercising his reason? Physical force. Coercion. You can’t think if someone else brandishes a gun your way or threatens to break your legs should you come to the wrong conclusion. Force is anti-mind and anti-reason.

To summarize this point: man uses reason to survive and force is opposed to reason.

The next concept to examine is the nature of government. What is government? Government is an organization with a monopoly on physical force in a given geographic area; coercion is the essence of government. If you think otherwise, try ignoring a call from the IRS or disobeying a traffic cop sometime to see just how voluntary government mandates are.

To summarize this point: the essence of government is force and a moral government seeks to prohibit the exercise of force in civilian life.

What is government’s proper relationship with man? To answer this, we must discuss our third key concept: individual rights.

Rights are principles that define an individual’s freedom to act in a given social context; they are a bridge between ethics and politics. The theory of individual rights recognizes that an individual’s life is his own, and that the individual is not to be expropriated by those who would sacrifice him to the ends of the group, the tribe, the race, the class, “God” or “society”.

Legitimate rights are concerned with freedom of action, and are not guarantees for free goodies. This is worth repeating: rights do not entitle a person access to the products or services created by others on the grounds of need or whim. Rather, rights secure what a person creates by his own effort and allows him the freedom to trade with others.

There is no right to a “fair” wage, only a right to hire someone on the basis of agreed employment terms.

There is no right to a “competitive” price, only a right to produce and negotiate the terms of sale.

There is no right to happiness, only a right to the pursuit of your own happiness by your own effort.

Rights provide us with an objective means of rating a government. If government protects citizens from those that initiate force it secures their rights and is a critical ally of man.  If government initiates force against man so to exploit what he creates, it becomes even worse than the two-bit thugs that hold him at gunpoint.

History is littered with governments that used force to oppress the people in its borders. Examples include the absolutist monarchies in Europe, the current theocratic states in the Middle East, and the totalitarian states of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the late 18th century when the American founding fathers discovered the proper role of government and gave birth to the United States, the first government that was limited by design.

To summarize this point: rights are principles that delineate individual action in a social context, and government is at its best when it protects man’s rights.

So how does this viewpoint apply to the issue of Net Neutrality? Whenever we examine a government policy, what we need to ask is: is this a proper place to use a gun instead of a comment card, a boycott, or a rational argument?

In the case of Net Neutrality, the answers to these questions is a resounding “no!”

Net Neutrality legislation is based on the idea that cheap internet access is a right. In the words of the Orwellian “media watchdog” Free Press:

“What we want to have in the US and in every society, is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. We want an Internet where you don’t have to have a password and that you don’t pay a penny for. It is your right to use the Internet.”

Like all phony rights, Net Neutrality is an attempt to guarantee people access to something that they didn’t produce without first asking: at whose expense?

Internet service is not something that simply exists in nature, ripe for redistribution and smarmy government guarantees. Net Neutrality legislation treats this expensive infrastructure as a given. It evades and invalidates the rights of the internet service providers (ISPs) who make the internet possible.

Advocates for Net Neutrality will counter that Net Neutrality protects free speech. If you want to post controversial blog posts or Facebook comments, proponents of the law argue, then what stops Verizon or Comcast from preventing that from occurring on their networks? Or even worse, what if your ISP decides to block access to certain websites on the grounds that it objects to the content there? As stated by the ACLU, ” freedom of expression isn’t worth much if the forums where people actually make use of it are not themselves free.”

This argument is based on a flawed conception of free speech. All rights are contextual; that is, there is a context in which one’s freedom to act can be limited by the rights of others involved, and this includes property rights. One person’s right to free speech does not mean that others must provide them with the means to express their ideas. Rather, free speech ensures that you are free to spread your views by whatever means you have earned in trade with others.

Free speech allows you to publish content in your own newspaper; it does not entitle you to publish content in someone else’s newspaper. Free speech holds that you can freely rent a lecture hall to speak, not that you are entitled to the microphone at an event that someone else has paid for. Content providers today such as Google or Facebook reserve the right to remove posts from their media at their discretion, and that is their right. By the same token, your right to free speech does not impose any obligations on those that deliver such content to you in the first place.

Even so, say Net Neutrality spokespeople, what about corporate influence in America? It is a long-accepted bromide among the political left (and some on the political “right”) that corporations collectively benefit from screwing over their customers and monopolizing whole industries for the sake of “greed.”

This attitude is generally misguided, but in the case of the internet it is totally out of touch with reality. To bring the internet to your home requires myriad cables, satellites, wireless transmitters, servers and other expensive, electronic equipment. ISPs have labored for decades to innovate and produce quality service to their customers, moving us from dial-up to DSL to fiber optics and beyond. From 2011 to 2013, the top 3 providers alone spent over $100 billion on improving their service. From 2005 to 2015, average broadband increased by a whopping 1150%. All this, without government mandates to enforce Net Neutrality. So much for the mustache-twirling businessman.

The fact is that Net Neutrality is not only unnecessary, but it is unjust and immoral. The internet is an important part of life in today’s world; I do not deny this. Precisely because it is so vital, however, the least we can do for those who make it possible, rather than try to regulate them out of existence, is to say if only once and as a whisper: thank you.

Is It A Proper Role of the Government to Provide Healthcare to Its Citizens?

This is an essay based on a motion debate that I performed at in June 2017. My friend Chuck Braman and I defended the con side of the debate and argued that it is NOT proper for the government to provide healthcare for its citizens. This was another victory for the two of us as a team, but it was a lot closer than the previous debate on education. This time around, the same number of people shifted their vote on both sides, but because we came in with a far smaller percentage of the total, we were declared the winners.

The division of labor was the same as before: Chuck established the ethical context for our position and I supplemented it with economic and practical arguments. This essay has been lengthened to include some of Chuck’s arguments for the benefit of those that were not present.


America is obsessed with healthcare, and has been for nearly a century. In particular, activists and ideologues have led the charge with demands for government health guarantees, especially for those that are unable to afford it. The alternative, these people hold, is to simply allow children and elderly people to die in the street while well-fed elites enjoy the latest technology and treatments. It has been said that the free market has failed to provide Americans with adequate healthcare and that the government must now step in to correct the issue.

This view is entirely mistaken.

I’d like to disabuse the reader of a common misconception that is popular with both political parties: the idea that we have tried the free market in medicine and that it has failed to deliver results. The truth is that we currently do not have a free market in medicine in the United States today and have not for much of the 20th century. The US is a mixed economy with some freedom and some controls in the healthcare industry. Over time, the controls have continued to grow at the expense of Americans’ freedom.

Government intrusion into healthcare began with occupational licensing laws passed in the late 19th century. These regulations determine who can practice medicine by making it illegal to do so without a license. Medicine is already a demanding profession, as it requires considerable training and skill to become a doctor, yet these laws make that harder still. In the name of “high standards,” the state requires doctors to jump over regulatory hurdles in order to gain regulators’ permission to practice. Licensing laws overrule the independent judgement of dedicated doctors and savvy consumers and leave the market subject to the whims of the bureaucrats. The result is an artificially restricted supply of doctors, and therefore a higher cost for their services.

Licensing laws are only the beginning. The next step in the march towards more government in healthcare was the Stabilization Act of 1942, which froze wages nationwide during World War II. Employee benefits, such as health insurance, were not considered wages under the law and were therefore exempt from the freeze. Employers who sought to attract better talent were incentivized to offer health insurance during this period as part of their compensation packages. The practice was made permanent with the passage of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, which enshrined the tax benefits for these compensation packages.

The Stabilization Act brought us the modern link between health insurance coverage and employment that is bemoaned by many of today’s unemployed millennials.

The beat goes on, as Medicare and Medicaid were passed in 1965. These two programs taken together implemented full-on socialized medicine for the elderly and low-income populations in the United States. Years later, President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” with the passage of the National Cancer Act. Bill Clinton later took the baton from Tricky Dick in the 90’s when he earmarked more federal funds to cure cancer. The spent dollars are gone, but cancer remains a potent cause of death in America.

In 1986, under the supervision of the allegedly capitalistic Reagan administration, Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, also known as EMTALA. EMTALA mandated that hospitals could not reject emergency room care to any patient in need, and made doctors required by law to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. In the 1990’s, attempts by the Clinton administration to further increase government involvement in healthcare were narrowly defeated by the Republican majority in Congress.

This victory was short-lived, though, as the later Obama administration succeeded in passing the Affordable Care Act. Known colloquially as Obamacare, this bill has made health insurance mandatory for American citizens. In one of the most shameful Supreme Court decisions in history, the bill was upheld based on the government’s power to tax. Despite promises to repeal Obamacare, President Trump has no intention of slowing the growth of government in this sector of our economy.

This gallop through healthcare history explains how we got what we have today: a bloated, chimeric, monstrosity bred by a mixture of cronyism and big government. Today’s health care industry was not birthed by the free market, but by the enemies of freedom. What are the consequences of such a system?

One is the creation of an enormous, unnecessary bureaucracy that would make even the protagonist of Brazil recoil in horror. In the healthcare industry, red tape is the norm as clerks that are responsible for processing payments and dealing with insurance forms outnumber nurses two to one. The same clerks outnumber the physicians by an outrageous nine to one! In case these figures make you think there may be too many nurses on staff, note that it is estimated that nurses spend nearly 35% of their time on documentation alone.

A typical hospital spends over 38,000 man-hours a year to deal with the billing requirements for Medicare. It is easy to see why: Medicare has over 130,000 pages of rules and restrictions that need to be applied whenever a patient uses it. Studies have found that for every 1 hour spent caring for a Medicare patient, ½ an hour must be spent on paperwork. Many doctors no longer accept Medicare and those that do are stuck with the high overhead cost it imposes. Meanwhile, the FDA prohibits the manufacture and sale of new medical devices and prescription drugs in order to perform tests that take an average of 16 years. In the interim, many who would otherwise have had early access to life-saving technology perish while awaiting the seal of approval from some Washington bureaucrat. Such facts are enough to warrant changing the meaning of the acronym “FDA” from the “Food and Drug Administration” to the “Federal Death Administration.”

American lives are not the only thing spent on the healthcare industry. In 2014, Medicare and Medicaid together cost the country nearly $1 trillion; that is nearly 20% of the annual federal budget. Medicaid alone is often the single most expensive budget item in most states. The trend indicates that this will only continue to get worse. It is estimated that in 2029, 20% of federal dollars will be spent on Medicare. The same statistic in 2041 is expected to be closer to 25%. Obamacare, the most recent legislation on healthcare, on its own cost taxpayers $3 billion in 2016. Was this due to a new advance in technology or perhaps a new line of miracle drugs? No, the costs were due to penalties for not having purchased health insurance.

Is so-called “single-payer” (read: full socialized medicine) any cheaper than the hybrid system that we have today? Let’s look at some example cases to find out.

California recently sought to enact a single payer healthcare system, with an estimated cost of $400 billion. The only problem was that the entire state budget was $183 billion at the time. Vermont also tried to implement a single payer healthcare system in 2014, but it also failed due to the high cost. Taxpayers would have been on the hook to fund a $4.3 billion program in that state. How did the government of Vermont propose they pay? An 11.5% payroll tax on all businesses, and an income tax as high as 9.5% for individual taxpayers on top of it. In Colorado, voters rejected plans for a single payer system in 2016 when it was revealed that a 10% payroll tax increase would be needed to meet the $25 billion price tag.

The facts speak for themselves. Is single-payer cheaper? Hell, no!

What makes it so expensive? People are misled to believe that healthcare which is allegedly provided by the government is free when it isn’t. Nothing that requires human effort and the use of man’s reason is “free,” someone has to produce it. Yet in America, customers are insulated from the true costs of healthcare and health insurance due to a looming, third party payer environment that is in cahoots with the government. If and when this colossus fails to deliver, left-wing activists say, what we need is a complete government takeover to eliminate the contemptuous “middleman.”

The truth is that even in single-payer government systems, government does not produce anything. All it can do is redistribute by force what has been created by successful, productive citizens. The healthcare industry in the United States is inspired not by socialism on the Bolshevik model (communism), but socialism on the German model (fascism). The former is a system wherein the government completely owns the means of production outright, and the latter is a system wherein the government forces people with nominal “property rights” to do its bidding. Both systems are opposed to laissez-faire capitalism and both systems obliterate private property rights.

The advantage of the fascist model is that by preserving the trappings of a capitalist system, it is more difficult to see its totalitarian nature. It also makes it that much more difficult to see the true costs, since government’s ability to borrow and print unlimited money serves to obscure what is really happening. People tend to spend more when they are not given the bill at the end to settle. Before Medicare, nearly 55% of healthcare spending was out of pocket, and by 2010 that figure dropped to just over 10%. For every 1 dollar of care that a patient receives today, on average he only personally pays 14 cents. Who covers the rest? The benevolent government, a.k.a “the public,” a.k.a the cash-strapped taxpayer.

The final and arguably most morally devastating sin I will attribute here to government meddling in the healthcare industry is the massive wedge that it drives between doctors and their patients. Under the free market, the focus is on individuals — individual patients treated by individual doctors. The standard is individualized care. Under socialized medicine, the focus is on collectives – a collective of patients that is owed the services of a collective of doctors. The standard is collectivized care.

Collectivized care holds that what matters is what the FDA thinks is good for all patients, not what an individual doctor thinks is good for his patient.

Collectivized care holds that what matters is overall spending, not what an individual consumer should spend to satisfy her healthcare needs.

Collectivized care holds that what matters is what people need, not what they have earned.

The activists will argue that healthcare is a right, and that the state has a responsibility to provide affordable healthcare to its citizens. But there can be no right to the products or services produced by others. Such “rights” only enslave the producers to the consumers. To see the absurdity of such an argument, apply the principle that doctors owe care to whoever claims a need to other industries that serve a vital need, say restaurants. What if restaurant owners were required to serve free meals to anyone that came in claiming to be hungry, regardless of their ability to pay? What about clothing stores being required to let anyone who has a need for a new pair of high heels or the latest swimsuit to come in and take it without compensation? Such a principle leads necessarily to the virtual enslavement of the doctors on the grounds that the products of their minds are owed to the first person who demands them.

But the doctors are not the only ones that are enslaved by government control of medicine; so too are the consumers who buy it. Once the premise that government ought to pay your medical bills is accepted, it follows logically that government has a stake in lowering the costs by whatever means it deems appropriate. This is done by controlling behavior, either by limiting “unhealthy” activities or “encouraging” healthy ones.

As an example of the former, consider the onerous taxes on smoking and soda. People genuinely get pleasure from these products and they are available at a price that even poor people can afford. In the name of public health costs, the government thinks is fitting that it make these things harder to buy. California has a “zero tolerance” policy on after school bake sales at schools on the grounds that the children are too obese. Such a message is clear: “you do not own your life, and the state has the authority to tell you what is good for you.”

Other countries in the world are further along the authoritarian road than the United States. They impose even more humiliating restrictions on their people and annihilate even a pretense of privacy. In Japan, the government checks the length of your waistline when you are over 40. If you are deemed too fat, the government dictates that you undergo “reeducation” and lose weight; otherwise, you pay stiff fines. Germany publishes an annual list of people with high health care costs and labels them “antisocial.” New Zealand has turned people away from its borders if they are obese, on the grounds that their healthcare bills would be too high. How is that for fat-shaming?

We do not need this nonsense in the United States; what we need is a free market in medicine.

There is ample evidence that markets lower costs and raise quality, even in the healthcare industry. While healthcare on the whole has risen in price, elective procedures like LASIK and cosmetic surgery have gone down in price and up in quality year after year, even though they are not covered by insurance. In 1998 LASIK cost $2,200 per eye and in 2014 it cost a mere $300 per eye. In the case of cosmetic surgery, the top three most popular procedures (botox, laser hair removal and chemical peel), have fallen in price since 1998 by double digits. For those procedures not covered by insurance which have seen increased spending, the increase averages 32% compared to the industry-wide 47.2%.

Advocates for government-run healthcare seem to believe that no matter how many regulations and controls they place on the healthcare industry, medical care will be readily available to all those that want or need it without regard to cost or the rights of the providers, but this is not true. Health care is not exempt from the laws of economics. It is not manna from heaven.

If you want everyone in society to have bread, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the bakers who toil in kitchens to bake it.

If you want everyone in society to have clothing, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the dressmakers who sit at looms to weave them.

If you want everyone in society to have iPhones, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the programmers who manufacture them.

The same reasoning applies to those that provide healthcare. Leave doctors free; it’s the healthy thing to do.

‘Class Warfare’ Strikes Again!

The Democrats remind us, yet again, that they are pious Marxists.

Among the Obama administration’s successful campaign tactics in 2012 was the “evil capitalist” label that it slung at Mitt Romney. Given Romney’s successful business record and accompanying inability to defend the morality of capitalism, the former Republican nominee was tarred and feathered as an out of touch elitist. In the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, the Democrats are at it again.

 

California Senator Dianne Feinstein initially hoped to portray the Supreme Court nominee as an opponent of women and grilled Gorsuch on the abortion issue. With no pithy sound bites to indict him, Feinstein chastised Gorsuch for managing to “avoid any specificity” in his abortion remarks. After Feinstein’s failure, New York Senator Chuck Schumer claimed in one speech that Gorsuch is “someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology” and let on that Gorsuch’s “vulnerability” was that he possesses an “anti-worker, pro-corporate record.”

 

Not to be outdone by her peers, Massachusetts Senator and class agitator extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren was even more explicit in a recent Boston Globe editorial so laced with anti-business vitriol that it could serve as the intro to The Communist Manifesto.

 

Warren explains that “recent court decisions have let giant corporations that cheated their consumers off the hook, unleashed a flood of secret money into the political process, and made it easier for businesses to abuse and discriminate against their employees.” She adds that “If he [Gorsuch] had his way, he’d make it even easier for corporations to challenge health and safety rules that prevent them from polluting our air and water, poisoning our food, undermining public safety, or cheating people out of their hard-earned savings.”

 

In Warren’s opinion, businesses would blithely poison, extort and even murder their customers with abandon were it not for noble government bureaucrats who reign them in. In other words, government force is what keeps entrepreneurs from violently eliminating their revenue source, and customers ought to mistrust and even despise the very people that create their gadgets and gizmos. Warren’s conspiratorial suspicions indicate that she has probably never run a business in her life and likely screens her Dunkin Donuts coffee to ensure the creamer was not swapped with ricin.

 

The source for this irrational hatred is the deep Marxism that animates today’s leftist intellectual establishment. Gorsuch’s originalism, says Warren, is a cover for his true desire: to aid and abet his “right wing buddies” in their quest to defraud the common man for their own benefit.

 

On this view, society consists of warring collectives that work to gain power in a zero-sum “class conflict.” People do not have free will and are wholly conditioned by their material conditions, say the Marxists, so it is a mistake to think that judicial theories matter as much as judicial outcomes do. Gorsuch’s judicial principles, for the left, are window dressing meant to apologize for and justify what really matters: which collective gang he wants to prevail in the societal melee.

 

The attempt to portray Gorsuch as a corporate pawn is more than an attack on originalism or the Republican party. It is an attack on judicial philosophy itself.

Trump is Right…Health Care is Complicated!

Unfortunately, this does not prevent people from trying to use government for it.

In a recent speech with state governors, President Trump admitted that implementing government health care is a tricky business and that Republicans are having a hard time pulling the plug. One would think that the wayward health care law, which is responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums and deductibles, would be easy to ax. Even the standard issue, rose-colored glasses worn by Democrats cannot hide the fact that the bill has been a complete failure. Whence the trouble?

I remember when Obamacare was first rolled out to the public as a 20,000 page bill that nobody in our government seemed to have read. Nancy Pelosi clumsily explained that we would need to pass the bill in order to know what was in it. Healthcare.gov ended up costing three times what was expected and was launched months after the intended date due to mismanagement. I even remember when Obama said that Americans could keep their doctors, if they wanted. We know how that ended up.

Conservative and libertarian Americans flocked to Tea Party protests to oppose Obama’s attempts to expand socialized medicine, and today Americans cite “health care” and “dissatisfaction with government” as two of the largest issues facing the country. This was a healthy reaction but there were warnings that the law would be difficult to dislodge, if it was successfully passed. Wary observers may recall one Tea Party participant’s eloquent sign: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” The promise for free goods can corrupt even those Americans that are most suspicious of government.

During the campaign in 2016, Trump went so far as to say he was a “fan of the [individual] mandate” and that the more popular aspects of the law would remain. Today, Republican voters that oppose “socialized medicine” clamor to keep the parts of the bill that would help them personally. As Trump aptly put it: “People hate it…but now they see that the end is coming and they’re saying, ‘Oh, maybe we love it.’” “Repeal and Replace” has become “Rebrand and Re-neg.”

Programs like Obamacare are how government expansion occurs and persists in general. Government-sponsored goodies are as potent and addictive as heroin or cocaine, particularly when people are convinced that it is a right that they are owed. To fund the largess, the government raises taxes and imposes restrictions on businesses. Hard-done-by Americans organize into pressure groups to lobby for new handouts to mitigate the ruinous effects of the old handouts. By the end, a single entitlement thread has morphed into a regulatory spider-web.

This was done by design. Leftists for decades have known that Americans would reject explicit socialism, but would handily vote it in piecemeal if couched in the proper language.

Advocates for the free market were always aware that government health care would be a train wreck. What is one to expect when a gang of government bureaucrats, armed with their pens and the entitled screeching of their constituents, takes it upon itself to try to serve a complex, modern service to a population as large and diverse as the United States?

“You know, health care is a very complex subject,” Trump said. “If you do this, it affects nine different things. If you do that, it affects 15 different things.” Couldn’t agree more, Mr. President.

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.

school

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.