A: Libertarians take the view that the government should be limited chiefly, though not entirely, to protecting against physical force and fraud. Pure libertarians don't think the government should provide welfare payments or run schools or interfere with private contractual agreements on the grounds that people supposedly have unequal bargaining power or are being oppressed, so long as there's no force involved. I'm kind of a conservative-ish libertarian with a little bit of liberal thrown in at times. I think government funding for K-12 education is probably a good idea. At the same time, it's not clear to me that the government should run the schools. The government funds food for the poor, for example, but we don't tell the poor to go to a government-run food store. If we did, we'd be pretty sure it would be a lousy food store.
Q: What's wrong with our country?
A: Our [K-12] education system fails a very substantial minority of the public and under-serves a majority of the public. My guess is this is largely so because it is a government-run monopoly, and we know that monopolies in virtually all fields are not as effective as competitive systems. It's no coincidence that our college and university system, which is generally much more highly regarded, is characterized by a great deal of competition.
Link via LA Observed.
That note about education reminds me of something that Reason Foundation education analyst Lisa Snell writes about here:
The stimulus package will spend more than double the current total federal education budget, bringing federal funding of education to well over $200 billion. Unfortunately, this huge expansion is unlikely to spur improvements in public education and will continue to encourage states and local districts to spend money with little regard to student outcomes.
For all of Candidate Obama's happy talk about being careful with the public monies, shutting down programs that don't work and getting beyond the tired policies of yesteryear, is there any evidence so far that on domestic policy he is offering one iota of change from the Democratic playbook of the last XX years? Fantasia notwithstanding, there is a limited supply of money the government can spend, so I would think that a politician who took "change" seriously would want to spend that money in new ways, rather than newly spend more of that money in old ways. Seeing as how transportation infrastructure and K-12 performance (among god knows how many other expressed priorities) do not currently work worth a damn, shoveling more money at the same-old strikes me, at best, as a horribly bungled opportunity.