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In my latest column for AIER I identify three especially ludicrous justifications for government intervention. A slice:

Free Government-Owned and Operated Schools Are the Best Means of Supplying K-12 Education!

A third utterly ludicrous justification for government intervention is found in defenses of the current system used throughout the United States for state and local governments to supply K-12 schooling. “Free primary and secondary education is a right! Therefore, government should own and operate primary and secondary schools that are paid for by tax dollars and that admit residents’ children free of charge! Only then will all children be guaranteed high-quality education!”


If long ago an evil genius were motivated to impose on Americans an irrational, costly, inefficient, and unresponsive system of K-12 schooling, that fiend could not have served his purposes better than to design the system in place today. Guarantee to each government-owned and operated school an annual revenue that is divorced, except perhaps perversely (see below), from the quality of education that it delivers to students. Check! Require that all property owners, even ones without children and ones who send their children to private schools, pay for this schooling. Check! Require that all children be formally schooled, and assign each student to one particular government school. No shopping around allowed. Check!

Who in his right mind believes that school administrators who receive their revenues directly from state or local governments (rather than directly from parents of school children), and who have a largely captive pool of customers, are strongly motivated to ensure that the children enrolled in their schools receive the best possible education? No one. Add to this dystopian arrangement the ease with which schools that perform especially poorly are able to use their poor performance as justification for receiving increased funding, and we’re in la-la land. Yet, this arrangement is the one that prevails today throughout the republic.

If someone proposed using such a whackadoodle arrangement to supply citizens with groceries, that someone would be rightly ridiculed as deranged. Yet using this same arrangement to supply the vitally important service of education is regarded by many people not only as workable, but admirable or even sacred – to which attitude I can’t refrain from laughing out loud.

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