Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Are School Vouchers the Answer?



marco said...

While I understand where this article is coming from, the author makes a few egregious errors.
1) “So not only are vouchers an income-transfer program, they amount to a double tax: the taxpayer foots the bill for both public and private schools.” Not quite. A true voucher system would mean that public schools would be funded by the people who wanted to send their children there. In places where the public schools work, they would probably continue to exist; but where they are terrible they would probably fail.
2) “All parents have “school choice” right now – just as they have food choice, clothes choice, and car choice.” To think that poor families have a choice as to where to send their children is na├»ve, they are a captive audience for the public school system.
3) “Those who would send their children to a nontraditional private school would quickly find out that they were not eligible to receive vouchers.” Again, a true voucher system would give the parents a voucher redeemable at the school of their choice.
4) “Those who would enroll their children in a religious school will find out that vouchers will be off-limits to them as well, since most religious schools, by their very nature, are highly discriminatory.” The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise.

You have to remember, the argument is not between no involvement by government in schools or vouchers; it is between our current public school system and a voucher system. This is another example of the libertarian purity police going at it. We don’t live in a perfectly pristine libertarian world, its time to accept that and compare reforms with the present and not always with the ideal, I’m just arguing for a little pragmatism.

Allen said...

I want to respond (by number) to some of the comments you made.

1. The true income tax system when first created amounted to a few percentage points at best. Look at it now. Everything run by government starts off small and inevitably grows. One can make an argument that the ideal income tax system is to be a few percentage points at best. However that argument is clearly not a good one. If a true voucher system exists, it will exist for a VERY short period of time.

2. Poor families do indeed have a choice though it might not be to the same degree as other families. Would you argue that a person who believes the poor may still buy food, is actually naive? Of course it is easier for a wealthy family to buy food but nobody is chaining the poor family to the floor. Furthermore, I don't think the author would object to saying the public school system limits them to a certain degree (as I understand how being poor can limit your ability to buy food) because it clearly does (that is why the author opposes the public school system in principle).

3. Some of my response to question one fits here as well. Knowing what government does to its programs, the phrase "true voucher system" has little meaning. You might now say that there is then no reason for me to argue for my ideal, but my ideal is based on an argument for a certain principle. If the principle is accepted, there is a far likelier chance of the ideal being achieved. Having public schools but allowing vouchers shows no principle. To me, it is like picking sides in a debate between someone who wants a 40% income tax, and someone who wants a 39% income tax. You need to question why the income tax exists.

4. One should not trust a supreme court ruling on an issue because that can easily later change.

To me, a little pragmatism means vote for either of the two major parties among other things, which I will never do. In order to have any chance at achieving the ideal, you need to advocate for the ideal on its merit and resist minor reforms because they don't address the root of the problem (since they are merely reforms).

Similarly, it does not make me any happier knowing the government wants to possibly scrap the current tax system for something else. I have two reasons for not being happy about this. The first is that chances are not only will our present system stay, but the new system will be added in addition. Second, if the present system goes, then the new system will probably be more invasive than the first. I will not be pragmatic and advocate reform, I will question the validity of the tax systems themselves.

The following link is to an excellent (but lengthy) excerpt by Murray Rothbard on compulsory education.