Choice

by Don Boudreaux on December 30, 2010

in Competition, Complexity & Emergence, Cooperation, Education, Everyday Life, Man of System

Here’s a letter to the Baltimore Sun:

Howell Baum’s case against school choice is an indigestible hash of pious platitudes, question-begging assumptions, and flat-wrong assertions (“School choice is bad for us,” Dec. 30).

An example of the last is this claim: “if society depends on having adults who are not only intelligent but able to learn with others when problems arise, and able to get along with people of different cultures, choice doesn’t serve society.”

Has Mr. Baum ever visited a department store?  Going naked is surely a problem that society must solve, and department stores are monuments to that solution.  Even the most inexpensive coat or pair of pants is the result of the cooperation of millions of people, of different cultures, cooperating productively in ways that make attractive, durable, and comfortable clothing widely available.  Yet every step of the way – from producing the raw materials to purchasing the final item – involves choice.  Wool producers choose to raise sheep; engineers who design the looms choose that line of work; shareholders in Macy’s or Wal-Mart choose to invest in those enterprises; and each final consumer chooses whether or not to buy a particular item of clothing.  And every time a problem arises in this chain of supply (say, when supplies of wool become unexpectedly short), intelligent people choose to work together to solve it.

Intelligent, learning individuals are constantly and creatively cooperating with people of different cultures to solve problems – not despite, but because, each of these individuals is free to choose whether or not, and how, to do so.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

There is so much wrong with Baum’s op-ed that a sizable treatise could be written detailing each error.  But it’s the holidays, so I choose to spend my time more enjoyably.  (HT John Breivogel and Nickolas Mueller)

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