Government And Education

Trice points to this excellent article by economist Arnold Kling on why increasing government spending is not a good thing. There are cases where increasing spending can do well – but only if that spending is matched with accountability.

What happens when government spends is that it spends unwisely. The private sector has a signal method to determine when a cost is too little or two much. If consumers aren’t buying a product, that’s a sign it may cost too much. Conversely if a company is selling a product at a loss, that’s a sign that the product is too cheaply priced.

Compare this to government. If the cost of education is too much, government can tax more (or in the case of public universities, jack up the tuition). If they’re not paying enough to keep up basic services, then they can still tax more – pretty much any problem in government can be “solved” by raising taxes – at least to the politicians who never see the results.

However, in education, this means that many people pay much more than they’re getting back in educational quality. Economically, many school districts are in a kind of stagflation – prices continue to rise at the same time quality diminishes. If spending could solve our educational woes, they’d be solved. Already many inner-city districts receive handsome amounts of money – except that money goes to the bureaucracy and the teacher’s unions rather than books and equipment.

The solution? Let people make their own choices. Offer vouchers such as those proposed by DC Mayor Anthony Williams. Let parents make the choice where to spend their educational dollar and let others take offer better educational services at a more affordable price. When consumers are empowered to make decisions, they choose the option that gives them the most oportunity for the least cost. When government chooses, everyone takes what government gives them, regardless of the quality. In an information economy, American students deserve – and need – better.

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