Budgets are cut. Jobs are lost. Schools are expected to do more with less. The suffering quality of education is a true tragedy—but not the one that most people seem to think.
The spiral of increasing costs accompanied by decreasing quality is an inescapable function of all goods and services provided via state central planning. The best intensions and admirable efforts of the hard working, honest individuals participating in this system can not overcome this economic fact.
The real tragedy is the existence of government schools. Compulsory attendance laws result in the government providing schools for students to attend. This requires funding, which--as in all government programs--is accomplished through the expropriation of private property, subsequently allocated on political terms, not according to quality or economic efficiency.
The strong-arm of government has created a near monopoly in education. Although private schools do exist, the variety of educational options is severely stunted. Because government schools appear to be “free,” and people who chose a private alternative end up paying twice, 80% of primary and secondary students attend government schools. Only the relatively wealthy are able to “opt out.” This crowding out of private alternatives leaves people dependant on government schools—and thus dependant on the political processes to affect both curriculum and funding.
With a captive “customer” base, the normal incentives for providing the best value for the lowest cost no longer exist. Powerful unions increase costs further while bolstering barriers to competition-induced improvements. Schools can not compete for funds by offering a better product, so they are reduced to begging for votes to expropriate even more of their neighbor’s money.
And that is the real tragedy of our educational budget crisis—a tragedy that only the free market and its consistent respect of property rights will alleviate.
In spite of this, I cannot bring myself to support a law that uses the force of government to deprive others of their property. If people cannot be convinced to voluntarily provide financial support to the schools, I know of no moral principle that allows me to force others to act against their best judgment. Our Constitution was written to protect us from precisely this abuse of power by the majority.
It is simply immoral to even attempt to achieve a goal through the use of force, no matter how deeply ensconced in compassion, generosity, or good will. You may try to persuade your friends and neighbors, and tirelessly work to obtain their voluntary assistance (financial or otherwise), but, if you can’t convince them, there is no moral basis for employing the coercive power of the state to aid you in achieving through force what you can not achieve through persuasion.
What is at stake is greater than the plight of our schools. The peaceful coexistence of human beings is grounded upon the recognition of each individual’s right to his own life, liberty and property — and only his own.
The civilized world has come to recognize the immorality of enslaving another human being in order to employ his labor against his will. The next step in our moral progress is to recognize that a man’s property is an extension of his life, and that to seize a man’s property against his will is merely another form of slavery.
For this reason, Measure E is immoral and should be soundly defeated.
In part, I am relieved that the vital services our local schools provide will not suffer the devastating cuts they would have without this financial boost. At this time, for many students and families in our community (including mine) there is no realistic alternative to government schools. I am very appreciative of the relationships and experiences that my son enjoyed in his four years at Half Moon Bay High School. Many of the individuals in the system are excellent human beings devoted to providing a quality education to our children. That said, I continue in my concern that this is a temporary patch on a fatally flawed system, which in the long run is neither moral nor practical. The very existence of government education is premised upon the violation of property rights. Even though 70 percent voted in favor of Measure E, 30 percent of our neighbors will have their property taken against their will. Additionally, history has repeatedly demonstrated the failure of central planning — in business, in education, in health care. (Please see my letters from March 17 and June 2.)
I can only hope that, with more time and experience, more people will come to understand the superiority of a government limited to the protection of individual rights and a society which demands that all interactions are based on persuasion, and in which the initiation of force is always viewed as an illegitimate means for obtaining one’s ends.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my minority view in your publication.