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Jay on the Web: A Libertarian View on Fixing the Nation's Schools


Jay's recent column on ways to fix the nation's schools drew a strong reaction from the libertarian Cato Institute. Writing on Cato@Liberty, David Boaz argues the way to fix the nation's schools is to create competition:

"Why don’t we realize it when we’re afflicted with a virtual government monopoly on the provision of education? Why are zillions of smart people studying and debating how to improve the performance of a sluggish, stagnant, tax-funded government monopoly? Maybe we shouldn’t be so sure that we’d see the failure of the software or housing monopoly either. Whatever enterprise the government chooses to monopolize — and there’s really nothing inherent or inevitable about which enterprises that will be — will most likely become a massive bureaucratic undertaking, and we will find it difficult to imagine how the enterprise could be privately run.
But Bill and Melinda, Eli and Edythe, Jay, Barack — the evidence on monopoly vs. competitive provision of services is out there. To a great extent it’s the history of the 20th century. Check it out."

By Washington Post Editors  | May 13, 2009; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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Comments

Wow! The Cato Institute is in favor of competition! Life is just full of surprises.

"Why don’t we realize it when we’re afflicted with a virtual government monopoly on the provision of education?"

I find it interesting that libertarians see education as a government MONopoly even though it's under the control of countless separate local, state, county, and yes, private jurisdictions.

I can likewise claim that pizza in the US is a monopoly because all those little mom and pop shops as well the chains are PRIVATE, and not government enterprises.

When, oh when, are we going to realize that we're afflicted with a virtual private monopoly on the provision of pizza?

"Why are zillions of smart people studying and debating how to improve the performance of a sluggish, stagnant, tax-funded government monopoly?"

Maybe they're not so smart. Take, for example, Mr. Boaz, who's apparently never been a teacher, and therefore speaks from a position of complete ignorance.

"Maybe we shouldn’t be so sure that we’d see the failure of the software or housing monopoly either."

What monopoly are we talking about here?

"Whatever enterprise the government chooses to monopolize — and there’s really nothing inherent or inevitable about which enterprises that will be — will most likely become a massive bureaucratic undertaking, and we will find it difficult to imagine how the enterprise could be privately run."

How 'bout all those privately run financial firms we've heard about recently.

"But Bill and Melinda, Eli and Edythe, Jay, Barack — the evidence on monopoly vs. competitive provision of services is out there. To a great extent it’s the history of the 20th century. Check it out."

Not only does it seem that Boaz has never been a teacher, it seems he doesn't have the writing skills to be one in the future.

Competition brings good results if there is an efficient, easy, way for customers to evaluate the product. The taste of pizza comes to mind.

This doesn't exist with education. If Boaz paid attention, he realize that of all those "zillions" of people debating the issue, many of
them are debating the question of what a good education even is.


Posted by: physicsteacher | May 13, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

We already have competition. The wealthy school districts are beating the heck out of the poor ones.


I though that was the result we were trying to combat?

Posted by: JkR- | May 13, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

And a fine Libertarian comment posted by the Cato Institute, indeed.

But they're all a "bunch of kooks", right Jay?

Posted by: lisamc31 | May 13, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Here's a recent blog post on some of the dangers of competition in schools, particularly the kind that arises when charter/small schools, academies, small learning communities, ect. start popping up in a school district. http://teacherrevised.org/2009/05/11/reader-poll-results-is-competition-the-force-or-the-dark-side/

Posted by: teacherrevised | May 13, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Milton Friedman saying the exact same thing back in the '50's?

Who would have thought back then that 50 years later socialistic Sweden would have a robust school choice program including vouchers and the free-market U.S. wouldn't?

Posted by: CrimsonWife | May 13, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

There is a discussion going on at http://www.tinyurl.com/Op2LearnFB regarding Brown vs. Board of Education’s 55th Anniversary. How far have we really come in providing equity and quality in education for every child?

Posted by: jgumbleton | May 13, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

Why not try a different approach? The current one is failing far too many kids. We all know the problem is the parents and not the teachers so why don't we empower the parents who are engaged to do something for their kids.

The idea of penalizing the many in the interest of the few just baffles me. Maybe Boaz is wrong but how will we know if we don't try.

Posted by: rvpregister | May 14, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

physicsteacher, you and I are free to choose which pizza establishments, if any, receive our money and our business. We are not required to buy pizza if we don't want any. Nor is there a state, federal, or local bureaucracy that mandates that we support pizza restaurants that are dirty, serve bad pizza, or treat customers poorly.

However, when in comes to public schools, citizens are forced to support them, regardless of school performance, with property taxes. Additionally, parents are told which schools their children must attend. Parents can move so that their children can attend better schools but (1) not everyone can afford to live in expensive neighborhoods and (2) the school board can change the boundaries and then families are stuck.

The current system is failing our children. We need accountability and competition. We need school choice.

Posted by: obamamama31 | May 15, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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