let it be resolved that education should be left to the market
I’m going to be arguing for a government-funded voucher system, not a government monopoly. I would agree that market forces can bring some much-needed quality to education through increased accountability and parent choices, but I would disagree that government should not fund that education. My argument also assumes that the country in which we are discussing education policy is a republic with at least some democratic component.
I argue that the funding of education is not in itself deleterious in regards to quality and cost. What does inflict injury upon said qualities is the government management of education. I propose that a government which funds vouchers (to be spent on education) on an equal basis for each individual still preserves the basic mechanisms of the market which engender quality and low costs.
I will argue that this funding is necessary because the positive qualities of democracy only manifest themselves if the public is educated enough to understand the issues being voted upon. Therefore the education of all citizens is necessary in order to maintain the validity of whatever aspect of the government is democratic and to thereby preserve the separation of powers and system of checks and balances which allow the government to function in a self-limiting manner.
The main problem with a voucher system is this : not all schools qualify. Only the schools which the government approves of qualify. So what then of the parent who wants to send their child to a school which does not meet the approval of the busybodies who regulate this? They are already over a barrel in that before they can pay for the school of their choice, they must first pay for the public school system. Your proposal would have them now first pay for the public school system, the secondly pay for all the other schools which are government approved, and then after they have bought all that, then if they have any money left over they can send their kid to the school they want him to be educated in.
What we need, instead of a public school system, or a voucher system which will necessarily be implemented in a horrible manner, is a market in education. Input from parents and students, not bureaucrats.
In regards to democracy, I would like to point out that I was referring to democracy as a component of a republican form of government, as extrapolated upon by Machiavelli’s analysis of political cycles and Roman republicanism in his Discourses on Livy. I was not referring to pure democracy, which I would agree is a disastrous endeavor.
As for my opponent’s counterpoints, there are several assumptions that he makes. The first is that the government would regulate charter schools. It would be entirely possible for the government to simply allocate the voucher money to any institution which fulfills an educational purpose. We could allow the government to determine this, but also implement a system whereby local parents could override such decisions through ballot initiatives to prevent abuses.
He also assumes that parents who wish to send their children to an unapproved school would need to pay for public schools and voucher schools on top of whatever education they prefer. This is simply not true. First of all, I am advocating a full voucher system, so there would be no public schools. But even if I were advocating a joint system, the way that it works is as follows: when a parent takes their child out of public school and enrolls them in a charter school their school tax contribution is redirected from the public school to the charter one, so there is no additional tax burden on the general population.
My opponent’s proposition will leave a child’s fate almost entirely dependent on the whims of their parents and the circumstances of their birth. It will destroy the increased class mobility which is one of capitalism’s greatest features by devastating one of the only avenues by which the destitute may escape abject poverty. It will cripple democracy by resulting in a less informed citizenry. And it will provide no substantial benefits over a voucher system.
The first problem with my opponents suggestion is that taxation is theft (or more exactly extortion). You are having the government threaten taxpayers with violence in order to fund this absurd scheme. It's immoral to use force to get what you want. The only just way to interact is voluntarily. On the other hand if parents just paid schools directly that is completely voluntary. No use of violence or coercion involved. Why should someone with no kids be forced to pay for the school system? in a market they wouldn't have to.
The second problem is it would be inefficient. If schools could charge the government, instead of having to charge parents, there would be no competition to keep costs down. There could still be competition on the grounds of quality (presuming the government ALLOWED schools to compete on quality, historically they have not, they have dictated that all schools must have the same curriculum, that all schools must be roughly uniform, and there is no reason to believe this will ever change) but there would be no incentive towards cost saving innovation.
Finally my point about only government approved schools receiving the funding still stands. My opponent even admits this while attempting to rebut it. Thus those who want to educate their children in a manner of which the government does not approve will be forced first to pay for everyone else's education, and then if they can afford it, to have their kid educated in the fashion they wish. On the market parent's would have total choice. Schools would innovate constantly - just as electronics companies do today. There would be a renaissance in education the likes of which is scarcely imaginable in our present government monopoly system.
A market in education would benefit the poor most of all. It's not a big deal for the elite if they must first subsidize public schools before sending their children to private schools - after all, they are the elite, they have money to spare. But what of the middle class? The poor wouldn't suffer at all under my proposed system. Now it's likely the children of the rich would receive a superior education, since their parents could pay higher tuition and enjoy lower class sizes, but the innovation and competition in a market in education would benefit everyone, not just the elite. We all suffer from the inferior results delivered by our government monopoly on education. We would all suffer from the higher costs and faux competition of my opponents system. It is only true market competition between interested participants that we will see the best results.
My opponent has repeated his arguments from round two, regarding the problems inherent in a government bureaucracy and the possibility of a parent being left out.
The government managing the funds for this plan is crucial for two reasons. It guarantees that every student has access to an education. In a completely free market a poor parent could completely neglect their child’s education, or a very impoverished parent could not afford education at all. As I pointed out, this access to education is imperative in order for class mobility to exist, which is a prerequisite for meritocratic capitalism. It is also necessary in order for democracy to act as an adequate check against overreach in the other branches of government. Also, the system I propose will not involve any government oversight whatsoever in the management of school curricula or standards, only in the collection and allocation of equitable funds to the school of the parent’s choice. My opponent’s proposition that education’s price would drop so steeply that anyone would be able to afford it is a hefty claim, one which is thus far unsubstantiated beyond the fanciful conjectures entertained by its advocate. This argument also neglects the issue of parents who decide not to educate their children at all.
As for a parent being left out, I already addressed how this could be prevented. We must have some set definition of ‘school’; otherwise the recipients of the vouchers could simply spend them at whatever institution they see fit, from hospitals to resorts, thereby defeating the purpose of the entire system. I offered a means by which petitioners could override any unjust government decisions through ballot initiatives, and my opponent has failed to demonstrate how the government could restrict education choices despite this.
As for the taxation argument, my opponent is a libertarian, not an anarchist. How should the government pay for defense, a system of courts, police, etc. if not by taxes? I know that some advocate voluntary donations, others propose a system by which the government charges for each service provided (for example, the enforcement of contracts). Some advocate an estate tax, arguing that the dead have no property rights. There is no reason why such systems could not also be utilized to pay for education.
In conclusion, my opponent has repeatedly tried to paint my proposal as a clunky government bureaucracy, while I have outlined why it will function in essentially the same way as a market. I feel that his criticisms ultimately fail, while mine are upheld by his inability to address the dangers posed by an uneducated public to democracy, limited government, and capitalism itself, or to prove decisively that a fully free market would not leave people in the dark.