Education

Krugman Says Health Care Is Like Education

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Reader Jim Mack points to today's NY Times' col by Paul Krugman, which argues:

We offer free education, and don't worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don't need, because that's the only way to ensure that every child gets an education—and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.

The whole thing is here (the Times did kill the subscription wall, didn't they?).

Needless to say–and as the father of two kids in public schools and as a taxpayer–I do worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don't need. Certainly it seems indisputable that the public financing of mandatory K-12 education has produced a bloated, underperforming bureaucracy that serves the least-well-off worst of all. Which is not to say that all public schools are terrible, or even that public schooling has not helped create opportunities for people who would otherwise be screwed. But given the monopoly status of tax-funded schools, it's hardly surprising that K-12 education is far from a robust market in terms of product differentiation, competing models, etc. (Indeed, higher ed in the U.S., though heavily subsidized through tax dollars, is a far more varied market largely because schools have to compete for students and funding dollars.)

Krugman is talking here about health care in his col, specifically about proposals to massively boost spending on S-CHIP, a decade-old program designed to give poor kids health care. Boosters of the program want it cover kids in households making up to 400 percent of the poverty line, as opposed to the current limit of 250 percent of the poverty line.

I am curious to readers' responses to his analogy between education and health care. I can think of various arguments against it but wonder if those readers who agree with Milton Friedman on school vouchers would agree with the same ideas transferred into health care:

Vouchers [wrote Friedman in 1955] "would bring a healthy increase in the variety of educational institutions available and in competition among them. Private initiative and enterprise would quicken the pace of progress in this area as it has in so many others. Government would serve its proper function of improving the operation of the invisible hand without substituting the dead hand of bureaucracy."…

[Friedman told Reason in 2005]: I want vouchers to be universal, to be available to everyone. They should contain few or no restrictions on how they can be used. We need a system in which the government says to every parent: "Here is a piece of paper you can use for the educational purposes of your child. It will cover the full cost per student at a government school. It is worth X dollars towards the cost of educational servics that you purchase from parochial schools, private for-profit schools, private nonprofit schools, or other purveyors of educational services. You may add from your own funds to the voucher if you wish to and can afford to." (I try to avoid calling government schools public schools because I think that's a very misleading term.)

Friedman on the 50th anniversary of creating the school voucher idea here.

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  1. I am curious to readers’ responses to his analogy between education and health care.

    I’ll throw one out… there’s a finite limit to amount of K-12 education one individual can consume.

  2. The school voucher idea would be a terrible idea because it would take money away from public schools that they desperately need to educate the children in the public schools. If parents want their children to go to another school instead up the public school, they can pay for it if they can afford it, but they cannot have their tax dollars not go to the public school because the public schools need more money to better educate the children that go their. What schools they need is more uniform curiculum and more testing to be sure the students can pass the tests with the information that they need.

  3. Related to SugarFree’s comment, education costs X amount per student (I suppose special ed students may cost more). You aren’t going to have situations where one kid’s education costs little to nothing, but another’s costs 1 million dollars.

    In health care, this happens.

  4. “Proponents of vouchers are asking Americans to do something contrary to the very ideals upon which this country was founded. Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of religious freedom in America, said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves… is sinful and tyrannical.” Yet voucher programs would do just that; they would force citizens — Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists — to pay for the religious indoctrination of school children at schools with narrow parochial agendas. In many areas, 80 percent of vouchers would be used in schools whose central mission is religious training. In most such schools, religion permeates the classroom, the lunchroom, even the football practice field. Channeling public money to these institutions flies in the face of the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state.”

  5. “we offer free education”

    The hell? Can we extract education from solar panels now?

  6. “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves… is sinful and tyrannical.”

    Guess what teach? You do this every single day in the guvmint schools.

    Dear god, I hope a witless NEA tool like you isn’t teaching one of my kids.

  7. Since Krugman isn’t talking about having the government run health care the way it runs schools, but about the government providing resources for people going out and consuming health care, his proposal would seem to be a lot more similar to Friedman’s than to the public school model.

    The problem with health care vouchers is that the amount of money one has to spend on health care varies much more widely than what one has to spend on education – and not just from more- to less-expensive locations, but within the same city and neighborhood.

    The efficiency gains from health care vouchers are supposed to come from citizens pinching pennies and buying the most efficient care, because they could run out someday. If the vouchers are big enough for a mother with breast cancer and a diabetic son to cover their bills, then a healthy person has no incentive to be even remotely frugal. If the vouchers are small enough that a healthy person has a real incentive to keep an eye on the bottom line, the people who most need medical care will run out of money by mid-February.

  8. “A Teacher” probably wouldn’t have made this mistake: the children that go their.

    As for “propagation of opinions which he disbelieves” public schools already do that.

    Either joke or troll, you are in way over your head in these parts.

  9. Didn’t they teach you HTML, **cough** teacher? Just post the link rather than plagiarize.

  10. 400% of poverty? Wouldn’t that be about $110,000 in the new york city tri state area?

    Seems a bit excessive…

  11. “A Teacher” probably wouldn’t have made this mistake: the children that go their.

    SugarFree… I am sorry to inform you that a number of teachers I know make homophone errors. I’m sure it’s much more common than you think.

  12. I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some … people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, ah, education like such as in South Africa, and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for

  13. Nick, you send your kids to government school?

    Say it ain’t so!

  14. Didn’t they teach you HTML, **cough** teacher?

    No, but I know it; the link to the article what I found is here.

    Voucher facts link

  15. I pulled my little one out of “mandatory” K-12 government education this year. She is 16 and started college full time today. Admittedly, she is at a community college, but it is a good one with professors who also teach at other area universities. She plans to transfer to UT next year.

    Her response to you, Miss Teen SC, is this:

    “U.S. Americans are unable to do so” because our government wants us dumb “such as.” Thanks for doing your part in the ugly business, now go get a book.

  16. Well, it’s debatable whether public financing is responsible for the issues we see with K-12 schools–public operation is a more likely culprit.

    Broadly, though, I think there’s a definite parallel between the two, but then I suspect that’s going to be true of any comparison between any public and private systems. So, not really breaking new ground.

  17. I have an easy solution for you, if you find money going to religous schools so offensive: privatize the public schools. Stop funding them with tax dollars and your problem goes away.

    As long as you involve tax dollars, someone is always going to be doing something with them that you don’t like. Happens to me all the time.

    I don’t want your head to explode now, but I bet some people take their tax returns and buy baby Jesus crosses with them. Food stamps can buy Kosher foods! Bibles can be found in public housing! People sing Christmas carols in the town’s public square! Aaauuggh!

  18. So Friedman was in favor of tax-supported government handouts? How does that square with his semi-divine status among the “taxation is theft” crowd?

  19. I am curious to readers’ responses to his analogy between education and health care.

    Krugmans say “we offer free education…because that’s the only way to ensure that every child gets an education”

    Given that public education is not free, and his assertion that every child currently gets an education is demonstrably false, Krugman has done a good job of articulating why we should scrap government schools, not why we create a universal healthcare system.

  20. The voucher program sounds neat in theory. Competition bringing out the best in teachers, low income kids escaping their ghetto graffitti covered schools and going to Julliards…But since I’ve had a daughter I’ve looked into private schools. The good one in the area costs 11,000 dollars, and I’ve seen very few voucher proposals that would grant near that. So poor kids would be stuck exactly where they are now. Rich kids who were going to go to the nice school anyway will have another $3500 to blow on polo games (of course the good libertarians here can say: think of the trickle down to the hardworking stable boy!). Another group that will make out like gangbusters will be churches and their dogmatic fairy tale education (we need more of that!).
    In fact, public schooling has kind of been a great American success story. Think of the great minds that came up through the NY Public School system and then CUNY alone, many of whom probably could never afford private schooling. I guess some of the rich farts who bankroll libertarian think tanks would have liked to not had to compete with those kids (better they be stable boys), but society overall has done well due to public education.
    We now educate everyone at public schools, so of course some schools and some kids will do poorly. So it’s easy to say, look at that low score here, or that social promotion there! Crazy bureaucracies! Of course there will be many failures when one takes on a task of that monumnet. This is like saying, look at those bums in the medical field, they STILL can’t cure a cold! Of course, I’d rather have a cold now than 100 years ago and I’d rather have a doctors care than not when I have one.
    If private schools had to take everyone on how would they do (especially those loony religious ones?)? I think it would be a lot like public schools frankly.

  21. I’ll bet a twenty that “A Teacher” is Juanita.

  22. Vouchers are usually supported as an incrimental step to put more competition into the K-12 education industry. As was already stated, secondary education is better for this very reason. Opposing vouchers because they aren’t perfect is like opposing medical marijuana because it does go far enough (legalize all drugs).

    Every year we don’t improve education (or end the drug war) is another year that children are greviously harmed.

  23. Taking money from public schools is a good thing. If you susbsidize failure you get more of it. We need to reward performance.

  24. I want to say that I don’t doubt the sincerity of most libertarians on this (or any other issue). (I would say about 30% of the libertarians I’ve met are authoritarian assholes who just can’t stand the idea of any of their money being given to a poor or black person, but I don’t think that’s representative of libertarians in the main) I think a concern with stupid bureaucratic rules is a valid one (though often the more one knows about how these rules developed the less stupid they seem; for example the Stossel look how hard it is to fire a union teacher stuff obviously overlooks the years of arbitrary firings that the unions fought to stem). I think the concern with bad schools perpetuating the poverty of entire neighborhoods is for real. But I also think that the people who fork the real dough to libertarian (and conservative) think tanks are usually super-rich old bastards that would love to dress their interests in a pretty blue libertarian (or conservative as the case may be) mini-skirt. Wealthy folks and religious conservatives (religious liberals tend not to be seperatist and don’t favor sacred schooling as much) would benefit from nearly all the voucher systems I’ve seen proposed, the underclass would get jack. Even by the logic of the market the really good private schools will be the more expensive ones, the very ones the vouchers will not cover…Perhaps there are pure libertarian reasons for sticking it to public schools (in the sense that you just hate to see government do stuff), but lets not pretend this voucher stuff is to save the kids from Stand and Deliver…

  25. Note to MR Nice Guy: Most of the current voucher initiatives have come from the black inner city communities in Milwaukee, Cleveland, etc. So, the only alternative is NOT expensive private schools in places where you DON”T live.

    The largest religious educational system by far is Roman Catholic, which BTW accepts all kinds of kids, and at least has no bone to pick with evolution. But, IMO, teaching creationism is no worse than indoctrination in statism, so that is a wash.

    Private schools in fact do take on “everyone” as you put it, and public schools do sometimes expel some bad apples, so I would trust competition to bring out the best pedagogy just as it does the best of just about everything else!

  26. Mr Nice Guy, while I understand where you’re coming from, I think you’re making a mistake a lot of people make when it comes to changing or getting rid of government programs. The idea is that once you get rid of the government (money) nothing will be there to replace it.

    Any new school would reflect the people who created it. there would be the ones where they charge $11,000 for every student, and make sure they make a nice fat profit, and there would be others that charged on a “progressive” scale, so that most people could afford it (with vouchers), and there would be others in between.

    Some schools would experiment with class size and technology to see if they could improve efficiency, making lower tuition a more viable possibility.

  27. One argument against education vouchers—perhaps the one that teach was trying to get at—runs like this:


    Imagine a little town in rural [state]. The local population of school age minors consists of 3000 assorted evangelicals, 23 catholics, two jews (reform), and one (::gasp::) atheist.

    Once the voucher program is in place, the Jesuits move in, and the baptists open four schools. Everyone in town—except the two really strange families—take their freshly minted money down to one of these options, and the local public school can no longer be run with money availible.

    Then what is left for odd balls?

    Now, it is not clear to me how that situation is morally inferior to what we have now. I wouldn’t want to live in this there, but this is because I’d be on the losing end of the battle for control of my kids’ schooling, while right now I am closer to the winning side.

    This is less of a problem in high population desity areas. Once you get a few dozen [type] kids in commuting distance of each other, there is a market incentive to open a school that will serve them…

    Either way, the evidence suggests that the existing system is badly broken, and experiments to learn how it can be fixed are definitly in order.

  28. Even by the logic of the market the really good private schools will be the more expensive ones, the very ones the vouchers will not cover…Perhaps there are pure libertarian reasons for sticking it to public schools (in the sense that you just hate to see government do stuff), but lets not pretend this voucher stuff is to save the kids from Stand and Deliver…Mr Nice Guy

    Mr NOT So Nice Guy manages to post that libs are shills for “super rich old (what, no WHITE?) bastards” …and we don’t like the government doing stuff just because, well because…we’re libs…and nice wealthy (limousine)religious liberals don’t care much about separatism, so we are all closet segregationists, or authoritarian assholes who can’t stand the poor and black folks who liberals good hearts bleed for, and teachers unions make it hard to fire pedophile teachers because of the well documented mass firings of (when was that?) days long gone, and once again, private schools are for the rich, just like computers and tv’s have been kept by the market only for the rich, and…

    This is the drivel that non-authoritarian libs want to protect their kids from by NOT sending them to public school! When we look up Statist in a dictionary (not Firefox, TBS) we can see MR Nice Guy’s picture!

  29. The inner city voucher pilots are of course the pr darlings of the voucher movement, but in the states and localities all over the nation vouchers are floated in all kinds od neighborhoods. Again the schools that are pointed to as a success are nearly always very expensive ones. How would the market work otherwise (I mean, they are private, right, and if they have this great product, are they not going to charge more for it?).
    Of course private schools take on a few charity cases and public schools expel a few, but in no way do private schools have the legal committment to sustained attempts to teach the masses like public schools do. Not close.
    I think creationism is far goofier than “statism” since ideological truths are not as set as scientific ones. Also, I don’t think public schools teach “statism” much at all. In fact in my middle class neighborhood the middle schools my step kids go to seem intent on providing business skills to kids so they will be productive members of our capitalist society (they learn to balance bank books, type, etc., in addition to math and science).
    Remember that religious schools have a big leg up on secular private interests that may be thinking about going into education: they have the infrastructure already (the churches and sunday schools can double as schools during the week) and they have all kinds of shelters because they are religious. Education is a capital intensive undertaking and they start with an advantage, so funding private systems will be a boon for them without necessarily bringing on thousands of great secular schools.
    One could also be dubious about how well the usual customer model works in education (or health care for that matter).

  30. Ok, here’s why Milton Friedman argued for education vouchers but not medical service vouchers.

    Friedman first stipulated that an educated electorate is absolutely necessary for a democratic republic. An ignorant electorate is incapable of making informed voting decisions.

    Physical health is not essential to informed voting decisions.

    OTH, mental health is essential to informed voting decisions. However, since government makes people crazy, there’s little it can do to assure or promote mental health.

  31. Libertree
    1. If you don’t know about the history of the labor movement in the United States, and how it evolved in response to amazingly arbitrary use of power by foolish owners/managers then you need more (non-creationist) schooling than I can supply.
    2. Yes, poor people can now afford tvs and computers, but the rich have nicer ones and many poor folks have crappy ones. The same would apply for school
    Bskedpenguin-The expensive scool would not be so just because they want huge profits, but because good education is expensive.

  32. I am curious to readers’ responses to his analogy between education and health care.

    I picture a graph of the current graduation rate by grade and lable it the new survivorship curve.

  33. Education is a capital intensive undertaking

    It is? I thought building airplanes was capital intensive. For a school you need a building and some books (and/or some computers) – something that almost every business from small to large has no problem procuring in every community across the country. I guess every business is capital intensive by your standard.

    If there was suddenly a very large number of parents looking to purchase educational services, the market would have no problem quickly opening a wide array of schools – from small single “boutique” classrooms in the strip mall next to the real estate office, to medium sized schools perhaps in your typical office park along with small start-up high-tech firms, etc., to the large, full-service schools in their own building with all the standard amenities.

    Along with all these physical varieties there would certainly be various financial models tried by different schools offering perhaps discounts to lower-income students, or incentive based rates that reward better students with scholarships etc., or bare-bones discount schools that focus soley on providing sound fundamental education without any frills, to… who knows? The point is the options creative motivated people are capable of coming up with are almost endless. What better way to find out what really works and what doesn’t than to actually let someone try it? I suspect there would even be a large market for more parent directed schools where they offer a qualified teacher for basic guidance, a classroom, and an option of books, lesson plans, goals, speeds, etc. to be selected by the parents. But again, the specifics of any school’s plans are open to an enormous number of options.

    There is just no reason to assume that the market would not respond with a host of competing models to choose from. There is clearly a demand for sound, secular education and once you opened the market up plenty of it would be offered by a wide range of private schools. The idea that current sectarian schools would somehow have such an advantage over start-ups due to education being “capital intensive” is nonsense and falls into the status-quo thinking that nothing except the payment mechanism would change.

  34. The expensive scool would not be so just because they want huge profits, but because good education is expensive.

    I see no reason to accept this a priori assertion. The fact that it is so expensive for the current bloated, bureaucratic, administratively top-heavy government run schools which face no competition, is hardly evidence that it is truly that difficult or expensive to provide a good education.

  35. Brian-you misunderstand me, when you assert “The fact that it is so expensive for the current bloated, bureaucratic, administratively top-heavy government run schools which face no competition, is hardly evidence that it is truly that difficult or expensive to provide a good education”. I’m referring to how expensive it is for good private schools (which since they are private must be slim, flexible, administratively bottom heavy enterprises that face a great deal of real competition, eh?) which tend to charge way more for tuition than most voucher programs proposed would provide. When people talk about excellent private schools and then vouchers they seem to miss the fact that the really good ones are also very expensive. Why would they not be? If you have a better product you charge more for it.
    You know, we have a model already in existence: day care. There is comparitvely very little government intervention in day care. There is a ton of people for whom the market has not made day care affordable though, and there are a great deal of crappy day cares, in most areas mostly religious and based out of churches.

  36. Nick, you send your kids to government school?

    I think we need some form of “govt service offsets” for libertarians, sort of like carbon offsets for rich guilt-ridden liberals. Maybe we could pay someone else to NOT use govt services and thus rid ourselves of the stain of hypocrisy.

    Volunteers?

  37. Krugman is nothing but a shill for big government.

    Fuck that guy.

  38. I am a public school teacher as well and I feel obligated to comment here because there’s a lot of misunderstanding with this topic.

    “A Teacher”‘s quote of Thomas Jefferson is hilariously ironic given the nature of teacher’s unions and the public school system. Under a mass government monopoly education system, EVERYONE is COMPELLED to pay for the indoctrination of children by certified government officials whether they have children or not, whether they agree with what is taught or not. To work in many places in America, I had to join a teacher’s union. The unions took the dues people paid and used much of the money for political purposes. In California, the unions fought tooth and nail against an initiative that would allow union members to keep the portion of their money used for political contributions. The unions didn’t want their members even to have the choice to not donate to parties they might disagree with. The unions are doing exactly what Jefferson protested against.

    Secondly, the idea that vouchers take money from public schools is only an argument if you believe that public schools are doing a bang up job. Why is a failing school entitled to funding by parents who wish to educate their children elsewhere? Should we be forced to contribute to unsanitary failing hospitals, crumbling housing, or shitty restaurants? More uniform curriculum and more testing is precisely what schools DON’T need. NiceGuy suggested that if schools were privatized, the private schools would come to look like the current public school system, but that’s totally absurd.

    Over the last 100 years, every industry from communications to transportation to housing and food – all of them have completely been revolutionized by competition and technological change. Yet classroom education continues to use a model from the 16th century. Private education is similar in structure to public education, but because it depends on the VOLUNTARY payments from parents, it has a much higher rate of satisfying the needs of parents and indeed, the students tend to do much better.

    Private and home schooled students do better than public school students for a fraction of the cost, but that isn’t even the main point. Government management of industry is rarely pursued in the name of quality and abundance; people fight for socialized healthcare and public schooling because they believe it creates a system that is fair and because those industries constitute “basic needs.” The first reason is false and the second is the root of totalitarianism.

    We’ll never know what kind of educational system America could have created had the system remained free throughout the 20th century. We’ll probably never know for the 21st either.

  39. We offer free education, and don’t worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don’t need, because that’s the only way to ensure that every child gets an education

    I disagree with Krugman’s premises starting from his first sentence. We could provide financial assistance only to families who can demonstrate need, leaving the middle and upper classes out of the whole scheme. We could do the same for medical care. It’s not even a novel idea.

  40. How many factual errors does Krugman have to make in his career before people stop giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything? This guy is an absolute hack.

  41. Maybe healthcare is really like sex “education”. Something certain people insist on providing to your children, regardless of their frequent ineptitude and failure to perform the most basic elements of their task. But that’s OK, because you don’t pay much for it — Rich People do!

  42. Great post James QC.

    To address the question of how health care is like education: Government monopolized education assures that the vast middle class get the shaft. Rich folk can afford to pay both the taxes and pay out of pocket for education of their choosing. Poor folk get less of everything whether it is the current system or a privatized one…that’s what sucks about being poor, but that’s reality. It’s the people in the middle who could truly benefit by getting a voucher and the power to make choices.

    Once health care is nationalized (oh yeah…it’s coming), we will get the same result. The poor will still be poor and get less of everything, the rich will buy what they need outside the system, and the middle class will get the shaft and have their choices taken from them.

    Essentially, both systems will have the effect of forcing middle class people to live like poor people…not with the affect of improving outcomes for all, but rather leveling the middle class and poor into a substandard outcome in the name of “fairness”.

  43. I’m referring to how expensive it is for good private schools (which since they are private must be slim, flexible, administratively bottom heavy enterprises that face a great deal of real competition, eh?)

    MNG, no, not at all. You are still using the current system (both government run and limited private) to project that providing a good education is expensive. I say there is no reason to think you can simply apply that reasoning to what would become a vastly different structure of providing education.

    The current private schools represent a very small percentage of the overall school population, so right there you ought to be very skeptical of drawing any broad conclusions about what would happen with a large-scale private provision of education.

    Further, the current very limited number of private schools are of course catering largely to those who can afford not only to pay taxes supporting the government run schools, but have enough left over for private tuition. The vast majority are essentially forced to send their kids to a government run school because nobody is crazy enough to try to run a low-cost private school in competition with a “no-cost” public one (and by “no-cost” I mean no marginal cost as you have already been forced to pay for it). So, all that is left for private schools is the top tiers of the income distribution. Since there is simply now way such a scenario is going to produce low-cost private schools, again, any data about private school costs gathered from the current system is of little or no value in analyzing an entirely different regime.

    Imagine if the government taxed everyone to provide government run grocery stores, but then provided most basic groceries in them for “free”. Nobody would be dumb enough to open a low-cost private grocery to try to compete with the tax-funded monopoly of the state. The only private grocery market would be the very high-end stores which would necessarily cater to the wealthy, face little competition, and be very few in numbers. You can bet that if someone then argued for the privatization of grocery stores the we would here claims such as yours about private education: that grocery stores are capital intensive; that providing good groceries is very expensive; that under a private scheme many people would be denied access to affordable food, or to fruits, veggies and other healthy foods, if not outright forced to eat dog food. Of course we know such a claim to be patently absurd as the abundance of cheap food, including healthy food (even if people choose not to eat it) provided by private grocery stores demonstrates (a market with stores catering to all income levels and personal tastes, by the way). I suspect we’ll find your claims about privately provided education to be equally as wrong, should we move to such a system.

    Finally, as mentioned above, current private schools face little real competition because of their very limited numbers and the quite small segment of the population they serve, so yet again, looking to them as models of the efficiency a private market would produce is useless.

  44. Friedman first stipulated that an educated electorate is absolutely necessary for a democratic republic. An ignorant electorate is incapable of making informed voting decisions.

    Yes, if it weren’t for our wonderful public education system, how would potential voters learn that marijuana is so dangerous a SINGLE PUFF can make you hooked for life? Where else would kids learn that an honor student who takes Midol once a month is on the downward slope to heroin addiction and a lifetime of crack whorery? And where else would voters learn that whether you succeed or fail doesn’t matter; what’s important is that, darn it, you feel good about yourself?

  45. “Yes, poor people can now afford tvs and computers, but the rich have nicer ones and many poor folks have crappy ones.”

    What’s funny about this is how often it isn’t true. Here in Thailand, I sometimes come across someone who lives in an open shack with plywood walls, but in the back he’s got a great tv and stereo system. My motorbike mechanic is one of these guys (and don’t suggest he might have gotten them by illegal means as he’s one of the most honest small businessmen I’ve ever dealt with). I don’t know how long it took it him to save for the tv and stereo but they are both nicer than mine. Priorities sometimes trump wealth.

  46. I am curious to readers’ responses to his analogy between education and health care.

    In the case of vouchers there shouldn;t be an analogy at all.

    Vouchers for education are only a valid argument if education is compulsory; demand for education is artificially high because it’s compulsory and therefore the prices of education are artificially high. Prices are also artifically high because the supply of actual educators (as opposed to administrators) is artifically low. And despite the compulsion of K-12, the disparity in quality of K-12 from rich to poor is extreme. Plus the fact that all vouchers would do is raise demand (and therefore prices) for “quality” education and lower prices for “lousy” education and you’ll wind up with a system where people buy good education with “vouchers + cash” and people using only vouchers get the worse education. Essentially, nothing changes.

    Same would happen with health care.

    Vouchers are a feelgood idea that accomplishes less than zero because a government agency has to be in place to run the voucher system.

    Now that Milton Friedman is dead, can we please stop fellating him? He had some very good ideas and really shitty ones.

  47. Vouchers? eh. Not a great idea.

    Charter schools? Better.

    The main trouble with most discussions of educational reform is the assumption that the problems are systemic on a national level. Education is a locally controlled activity, however…no national level problem, so no national level solution.

    Vouchers may make sense in some communities…the same can be said for any other reform idea.

    Centralizing standards may make sense, but not methods. If you don’t like the education your child gets at the school in your neighborhood, reform starts there…get involved.

  48. Centralizing standards may make sense, but not methods.

    We must centralize standards and increase the testing of students.

  49. Centralizing standards may make sense, but not methods.

    Sure, and the best way to get a wide array of methods is to get the government out of the business of running the schools and let people experiment with various approaches to providing education.

  50. Krugman actually inadvertently made a great point against universal health care. His basic argument is, “You could make these same arguments against government education that are made against government health care, but that just shows how crazy these arguments are. Everyone knows that government education is an entitlement. The only reason people don’t think of health care as an entitlement like education is that the government doesn’t hand out the former willy-nilly the way it does the latter.”

    Indeed. That’s an excellent reason not to have government health care.

  51. “We must centralize standards and increase the testing of students”

    So is the goal to educate students or just certify them?

    I’m with Neu Mejican to a point. Allow for local decision making in regards to methods and increase the greatest possible range of choices in these methods and educational systems. Let parents choose the options that seem to best fit their child’s needs, interests, talents, (and possibly learning styles). I don’t understand the great need for conformity in education. It’s obvious to me not everyone is interested in all the same things or has the talent for them. All children do need a basic education in reading, writing, history, and civics of course so they can be informed about how our government is supposed to function and the reasons for why it came into being. But then, I am not sure why everyone should be encouraged to go to college or to study other subjects they have no interest in.

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