Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Free Market vs. Government, Part 2

Continuing the back and forth with Graham Glass...

* If families could easily afford to send their kids to a good school, the government would no longer need to fund schools or teachers, since the general population would be capable of paying for them in the free market.
You'd think, but as it turns out, if you require one person (a parent) to pay something for a second person (a child), a significant number of them spend the money on other things, like booze or gambling or whatever.

Then what?

If the parent has not paid, do you prohibit the child from attending school? Obviously not - allowing children to grow up without any education is not an option.

So you have to force the parent to pay, right?

That's called taxes.

Back to square one.

* They might prefer to spend the money on other goods and services and send their child to a cheap and terrible school. But would such schools survive in a marketplace where people can afford better?

Don't ask me.

Go down to the strip and ask the parents who are feeding their children at McDonalds.

They could be providing nourishing, healthy meals. Possibly even for less money.

But, for some reason, they don't.

If it were up to me, when students attended the government-funded and run schools, they would be properly fed as well.
* Would there be a need for any sort of standard curriculum?

Don't know. This is a matter for considerable debate.

But tell me this - after paying the thousands of dollars a year for twelve years, would you be OK with it if your kids couldn't read or perform basic math?

Just asking.
* charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation seem like they're better suited for this kind of role.
Where is the evidence for this?

Charities do well at focused high-profile projects, but are less good at public infrastructure.

The Gates Foundation, for example, opens hugely expensive model schools, while millions of children remain under-educated.

Entire nations in South America don't receive any Gates foundation money.

Oprah Winfrey decided to spend her millions toward education in Africa.

On that continent of 800 million people, her considerable investment will educate 20 or 30 children.

That's the problem with charities - they're capricious. And run by people without any particular expertise in education.

4 comments:

  1. a significant number of them spend the money on other things, like booze or gambling or whatever.



    Your point is that there are incompetent parents so you will just take away their responsabilities and have the state take over. Overwhelmingly, parents love their kids and will do everything to help them given the means. Have some measures in place so that even poor parents can afford good schools, and you will see that almost all of them will send their kids to good schools.

    You do not believe me? Show me evidence to the contrary. Show me parents with enough money to take good care of their kids, who prefer to buy booze and chips, in such numbers that they do worse than government programs.

    Bad parents are a tiny minority. And there are ways to handle them. Parents who are drug addicts or otherwise provably irresponsible should loose their kids, for example.

    Yes, some kids will be left behind, but no system is perfect, and government programs are no exception. In Quebec, we have a province-wide education system where we invest lots of money, and something like 50% of the young men drop out of high school. That's the kind of efficiency your favorite approach buys Stephen. Not very good. Certainly kids, lots of them, are left behind.


    I have had it with this "people are idiots so let's take their money and spend it for them, since we now better".

    Who is this "we"? Civil servants. Civil servants are often arrogant bastards, but overwhelmingly, they do not know better than I about my situation and needs. That is just false.

    This is not a left wing against right wing debate. I am all for wealth redistribution. The more the better. But Finland no longer has a ministry of education and they fare better than Canada or most countries as far as education goes.

    Civil servants working in huge grey buildings are simply not that good. I think most of them become arrogant idiots over time. Living in an ivory tower where nobody challenges you, usually does not make you smarter. I do not want these people to take decisions about the future of my kids. I'll handle that, thank you. I am also willing to trust local educators I have met, talked to and challenged. But state-wide programs are not the solution.

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  2. Daniel, I disagree with your argument.

    First, the question of competence or incompetence is not limited to or centred around drug abuse or gambling. Most not-bad parents wrongly believe they are experts on their children's education simply because it's their children and, after all, they have enjoyed some education, too. Drop it.

    Second, whether or not particular administrations (or even bureaucracies on a grander scale) perform badly in providing education services - that's one discussion - connected to the character of bureaucracies, the iron law of oligarchy and the Peter Principle.

    Whether or not education should be a market-provided service, is another.

    To me, these aspects should be disconnected. Should education be a public service? Yes. Should it be provided by government administrations in their current form of existence? No.

    Thirdly, please leave civil servants alone. Surely, some are idiots - but as you say that bad parents are a tiny minority, so are bad civil servants. The absurdity of much administrative action comes from increasing complexity that is not dealt with, but rather approached with an increasing number of simplistic and disconnected actions. What we need is Administration 2.0 I guess.

    And fourthly: Is this website of the Finnish Ministry of education fake?

    Finnish Ministry of Education

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  3. You make it sound like providing education to children in Africa is a bad thing. If she decides to take her money and spend it on the education of children that are clearly less fortunate than others, then that's just it.

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  4. > You make it sound like providing education to children in Africa is a bad thing.

    No, I'm saying that doing it stupidly is a bad thing. I'm saying that educating only 20 people when the same money could educate 200 or 2000 is a bad thing.

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