For decades, America’s public schools have done an increasingly poor job of educating our children. Politicians love to put forth optimistically named programs, such as “No Child Left Behind” or “Save our Schools,” with grand promises of reforming our educational system. And yet, the results continue to decline.
Some, such as Obama, argue that we must “invest” more money. However, from 1962 to 2005, spending on public schools increased from $2,670 to $9,276 in constant 2006-07 dollars. Clearly, money is not the answer. What then, is the solution? To answer that, let us consider another government institution: the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Perhaps no government institution is the object of more scorn and derision than the USPS. Long lines, surly clerks, and poor service invoke complaints from patrons and jokes from comedians. Despite a legal monopoly on many postal services, the USPS lost $8.5 billion in 2010 and severe service reductions are being proposed. Only a government institution could believe that the solution to poor service is to reduce service.
The USPS and our public schools have many things in common. Both are abyssal failures. Both are a drain on taxpayers. Both are objects of dissatisfaction. And, both are government controlled monopolies. Which means, both are controlled by the caprice of politicians and the demands of pressure groups. The results speak for themselves.
The horrendous state of the USPS and our schools is not a coincidence. The same cause leads to the same effect. Both the USPS and the public school system stifle competition and limit consumer choices. Both USPS executives and public school administrators must spend their time meeting the demands of politicians rather than the demands of the market.
Government is force. Everything it does involves the use of coercion. Whether it is arresting criminals, closing lemonade stands, killing terrorists, or conducting raids on food stores, physical force underlies every government activity. For example, private companies are prohibited from delivering first-class letters or using mail boxes. Taxpayers are forced to support public schools, regardless of their own views of the curriculum.
Government force is the cause of the sorry state of the USPS and public schools. Government force prevents individuals from acting on their own judgment in the pursuit of their own values. An entrepreneur cannot compete with the USPS, no matter how innovative his idea. A typical parent cannot afford the cost of private school because of the tax burden of supporting government schools. Force negates judgment, compelling individuals to act as government officials decree.
Interestingly, prior to the Civil War, both mail delivery and education were largely private enterprises. But politicians intervened in the name of the “public interest” and forced most of the private companies out of business.
Politicians are not going to solve the problems plaguing the USPS and our schools. Entrepreneurs can and will, if politicians get out of their way.