“Invest in your child’s education”

John Weeks

The reduction of funding for universities and a trebling of admission fees are among the many blessings bestowed by the Coalition Government on the United Kingdom (though not Scotland nor, it seems, Wales). Because the (formerly) Liberal (ex-)Democrats (fLxDs) had a pre-election pledge to oppose university fee increases, unscrupulous opponents have called the fLxD’ers “hypocrites”.

Using the pedantic argument that they did not tell the truth, extremists have called them as “liars”. The party leaders, N. Clegg and C. Cable, defend their bold action on the argument that circumstances changed for the worse between making the pledge and gaining the power. Unprincipled opponents, such as the self-seeking university students, have suggested that keeping pledges when it is difficult to do so is a test of character.

What the critics fail to realize is that money spent on education is an investment that increases a person’s earning power (except for the social parasites that choose lower paying jobs such as school teaching and nursing). It is incentive-sapping socialism in its most degenerate manifestation for Big Government to fund education for children whose parents lack the foresight to pay for it.

The Calamitous Coalition (CamCo) should be congratulated for its defense of capitalist principles at the university level. As usual it leaves a job considerably less than half done (see previous comment on old age pensions). It is common knowledge that all competent research shows that across levels of education, the highest return to public investment is for early childhood (“The Economic Impacts of Child Care and Early Education,” 2004, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management). Since the return to money spent on educating the young is so high, it is shocking that it should be done by Big Government rather than families through the private sector.

If, as the Coalition argues, people should pay for their university education because they gain financially from it, all the more for primary school. No doubt this is why in the United States kindergartens are rarely if ever supported by the long-suffering taxpayer, with the United Kingdom quite good on non-funding, as well. Having clearly placed itself in support of markets for university education, CamCo should have the courage of its convictions and announce an end to socialism in education: abolition of all public funds for schooling in any form.

So dramatic would be the change that it is impossible to fully appreciate the long run benefits. Most obvious, the socialist-government schools would cease their near-monopolist crowding out of the private sector at the primary and secondary levels. In the UK the portion of students at market-based educational institutions is a shockingly low seven percent (lower still in the United States). Eliminating the anti-competitive socialist sector would immediately raise that to 100 percent. As usual, leftists and fellow travelers would claim that the number in school would fall once families had to pay up-front the true cost of education.

Would that be a bad outcome? It would merely indicate, as it did at the university level before the Labour Government of 1945-1951, that most consumers choose to buy other commodities instead of education (food and rent are common examples). Indeed, when the British Empire was powerful and great, a minority people attended school of any type. The fundamental problem is the same as for pensions. State pensions exist because people are under the delusion that they have an entitlement to grow old. Public education exists because people are under an equally anti-capitalist delusion that they have a right not to be ignorant. While the first delusion is a severe threat to the public purse, the second strikes at the very basis of the social order that the Coalition defends.

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