The final chapter of Free Our Markets, entitled “Hope for the Future,” is on what we might expect from free-market education. Here is a bit from early in the chapter:
The essential reform is to let parents, not bureaucrats, decide where tuition dollars get spent. Here’s a simple way to think about how this could happen. It’s not what I recommend—that’s coming in a moment—it’s just a simple way to start to think about it: Take all the tax money that now goes to the country’s government schools. Instead of giving it to school boards to allot to all the district schools, good or bad, give it to the parents. Divide the money up into equal shares for the children in each grade, and let the parents spend it on any school they choose, anywhere in the area, or the world, for that matter. THEN the schools would have to perform. If they didn’t, parents would take their children and their money elsewhere. Just like other businesses—and churches and charities and clubs—schools would have to perform well or close. Again: parents, not bureaucrats, must decide where the tuition dollars get spent.
Now one step further—and this is what I recommend: Cut out the government middleman. Repeal all the taxes now raised for schooling, and leave it to parents to pay for their children’s schooling themselves, as they pay for their children’s food and clothing. Parents are paying for schooling now through their taxes; take the tax collectors and school bureaucracies out of the loop. Let parents deal directly with schools. Separate school and state, in the same manner—and for many of the same reasons—we separate church and state. Religion is too important to be in the hands of politicians. We don’t let government provide churches, synagogues, or mosques; we don’t let it pay the salaries of clerics, or decide the nature of worship. We leave religion entirely to the private sector, and religion thrives, in poor areas as well as rich. We should treat schooling the same.
I have chosen this excerpt for today because I just read this intensely interesting story from my friends at Reason—I’m still shaking my head at how unbelievable and predictable it is at the same time—about Matt Damon’s support for competitive, private schooling … for his children … and his simultaneous, energetic support for non-competitive government schooling for children in general.
Is it Orwellian doublethink, or just deep economic ignorance? Maybe both; he certainly seems to be a good guy who wants what’s best for everybody.
And now I have just watched the whole video embedded in the story. It’s excellent, staggering, recommended.