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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/3087/vouchers-another-income-redistribution-scheme/

Vouchers: Another Income Redistribution Scheme

February 3, 2005 by

Considering the state of public education in America, aren’t vouchers a step in the right direction? Laurence Vance says no: vouchers will make the present system worse. Rather than increasing educational opportunity, vouchers will increase the government’s grip on education, increase the costs of education, increase people’s dependency on the state, and increase the overall power of the state. [Full Article]


Ike Hall February 3, 2005 at 9:40 am

[It] is also the story of a libertarian’s twelve-year crusade on behalf of a government program.

Heh. Brilliant line. The inherent contradiction of education vouchers could not have been summed up more succinctly. Also enlightening was Dr. Vance’s point that vouchers are never funded out of the existing education budget, but are added to it.

The only way vouchers could be considered a way forward would be to 1)fund each voucher dollar with a concomitant reduction in the education budget; and 2)have no restrictions as to how these vouchers are used. I don’t know about the enlightened local government in your area, but I don’t see this happening here (referring to this planet, of course). Can you imagine a local government even pretending to honor these stipulations?

Sam Dominguez February 3, 2005 at 10:00 am

Good gravy! No, vouchers are not the answer and I live for the day when there will be complete freedom of choice in regard to education. But,vouchers are certainly a start and should be supported as a “halfway house” on the road to complete private schooling in the form von Mises envisioned.

David White February 3, 2005 at 10:11 am

Mr. Vance is correct in that Bolick is defending a government program when the truly principled solution would be complete separation of education from the state. But as my lawyer is always saying, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and where the education of America’s children is concerned, virtually ANYTHING is preferable to what we have now, which is nothing short of a travesty. And when you take into consideration the fact that hundreds of thousands of federal employees have long taken advantage of a voucher program for health insurance, choosing among a wide variety of plans offered in a very competitive market, it seems to me that education vouchers hold similar promise.

Look at it this way: While no state would be vastly superior to any state of any size (were society governed via market-based protections of life, liberty, and property), would any libertarian worthy of the name not jump at the chance to live in a minimal state rather than a maximal one or, say, one of fifty independent states rather than the “monster state” (http://www.cesc.net/radicalweb/fourthworld/FWR117.pdg) to which we have long been “indivisibly” bound? No, if we are ever to get to a stateless society, we will only get there by degrees, such that, in Tennyson’s words, “freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent.” And simply put, education vouchers — if offered across the board with no strings attached and in replace of, not in addition to, present education taxation — would indeed be a “halfway house” for millions of young Americans who would accordingly broaden their freedom and expand their horizons, much to the benefit of society.

Francisco Torres February 3, 2005 at 11:33 am

Well, ask yourself if the government is going to close the public schools once the voucher program is kicked off, because I do not believe for one second the FedGov is going to transfer budgeted money from the public schools to the voucher program.

What will happen is that taxes will have to be raised in order to PAY for the vouchers – that is the logical conclusion, given the natural behavior of bureaucracies. I do not think school vouchers are a step in the right direction; they merely are justification for the creation of yet another bloathed department or bureau.

Blah February 3, 2005 at 11:59 am

I have to agree with the posters who say that vouchers would be a step forward. I believe vouchers would start to shift people’s mindset from “How can we make public schools better?” to “How can I get as much value as possible from my voucher?” In other words, people will start to demand that schools be efficient, instead of saying “We just need to throw more money at this problem.”

Joe Potts February 3, 2005 at 12:18 pm

Vance’s premise is correct, in my view.
I wonder whether localities adopting voucher plans will FORCE private schools to take vouchers. States ALREADY review and approve the curricula of “private” schools, so the tip of the government-control wedge is already firmly lodged.
If they don’t, “private” schools will divide up into two categories: those that take vouchers and those that don’t. So, then the choice will become government, semi-government, and private (still government regulated).

tz February 3, 2005 at 3:55 pm

I think the key would be if homeschoolers would qualify for vouchers.

They are a step insofar as most school funding is state or local, and so some of that could be refunded in the form of vouchers (or a refundable tax credit, rebate, etc.).

I don’t know that the system can be made worse, but the government schools and their taxation won’t disappear tomorrow.

I understand the moderate (compromise) v.s. radical separation, but I think the best is to be an ideological radical, but to support any move in that direction. Otherwise it is like fighting a war such that if we can’t capture the capitol on the first day, we won’t fight or consider it lost.

Remember the goal, but also remember that goals are most often achieved by slow perseverance – gaining a bit at a time – rather than some big bang.

Liberty was not lost all at once, and the few times it has been gained too rapidly it has been at a high cost and often didn’t last. The American Revolution took far longer than the French Revolution.

nandeesh shukla February 3, 2005 at 10:40 pm

It surprises me why government intervention or state ‘grip’ is considered to be such a bad thing. vouchers are a step forward to providing a good and affordable education to all- which is the bedrock of any democracy worth its name. we do not live in a perfect world where the stata can just be wished away. State support is crucial to support the education of millions of diadvantaged which is the first step towards empowering them, providing them with ‘basic capabilities ( amartya sen ) and make any notion of freedom and democracy being meaning ful to them. and if that means that the state tax the rich, so be it

Paul D February 4, 2005 at 4:54 am

Mr. Shukla, I didn’t know that empowering the disadvantaged (these meaningless clichés just roll off the tongue!) was the job of the state, to be carried out at the expense of those who actually work and save towards their own education.

Did you not notice the irony in suggesting that institutionalized theft and wealth seizure was a necessity for making freedom meaningful?

Perhaps what you meant was that the state feels the need to make itself meaningful and indispensible (since it fails so miserably at the only thing it was ever actually intended to do); and it accomplishes this by taking from the haves and giving to the have-nots, and by forcefully monopolizing segments of society that belong in private hands.

And so, to the state’s benefit, the “disadvantaged” become dependent on government handouts, making freedom meaningless (or even abhorrent, since the handouts might stop) and keeping them as unempowered as possible.

It seems to me (and I could be wrong), vouchers do little to stop one’s dependance on the state, and they do nothing to stop the state’s plundering of private property. Indeed, they may make things worse if they serve as a ploy to put all private schools under stricter state control. I must say, however, I was previously in favour of education vouchers until reading Mr. Vance’s arguments.

While I recognize the wisdom of achieving liberty through many small steps, lighting small fires in one’s yard while your house is on fire will not extinguish the main blaze, even if one points out with pride how much nicer the small fires are in comparison to the big one. Starting the small fires is a false step towards putting out the big fire, just as involving the state with private schools is a false step towards eliminating public schools.

As a side note, Shukla also avers: “we do not live in a perfect world where the stata can just be wished away.” [sic] Ha, if enough people wished it away, the state would indeed disappear overnight.

Solomon D E February 5, 2005 at 12:56 am

State schooling is particularly objectionable to lovers of freedom not because of where the money comes from or where the money goes or who controls what the money is spent on, but because it is enslavement to agents of the state. Of children.

Giving parents vouchers to enslave their children in “private” schools is not a solution. Consider whether you would also support funding by the state of a “private” militia that practices impressment or conscription (i.e., enslavement.)

Vouchers as a “way forward” “would indeed be a ‘halfway house’” to “independent states” each responding to the “demand that schools be efficient,” (in enslaving children.) Once homeschoolers can qualify for vouchers, they will be required to accept vouchers and discipline and drill their children just as in state schools, or not homeschool. Can you imagine any statist saying that some parents don’t provide a quality of education that entitles them to payments, but they’re welcome to homeschool their children anyway?

When children serve a term of forced labor in state schools that lasts through their growing years it is likely to “make any notion of freedom and democracy meaningful to them.” They then take many years, if ever, to learn what freedom is, and that democracy is one of its opposites.

More info please February 5, 2005 at 9:55 am

The libertarians that are against vouchers are mentioned but the ones who favor them are not. I would like to know who they are so to further my reseach on the matter.
thanks for another great article

Steve T. February 6, 2005 at 9:36 am

I found this article a little harsh, and too polemic (i.e. amateurish) in its language. I personally know Mr. Bolick, and he does not deserve the somewhat insulting tone of the article. Mr. Bolick’s fight is against Establishment clause “restrictions” in the courts that prevent vouchers for religious private schools. As a matter of law, I fully agree with this fight, as the founders never envioned the “separation of church and state” as it is done so today. In fact, they would be appalled that the state religion, secularism, is the only one worthy of favorable government recognition.

I do agree with the pure arguments of this piece, but as someone said above, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Public schools are not going anywhere right now. Put yourself in the shoes of a lower middle class family. They care for their kids, and are making every sacrifice for them to have a better life. Unfortunately, private schools are too expensive (this is not the market’s fault, since public schools skew the market), so they either have to send them to the ultra crap public school, or to a home school, if there is even one nearby. Private school vouchers would be a huge boon to these people, and would give kids an education that is not so damn statist biased.

I do fear the regulations that might come out the voucher program, but as State law, it really is up to the citizens of the State to influence their representatives to make sure that the regulations are null or minimal, and do not subject the schools to gov’t control. Since only about 2% of voters vote in state elections, we here at Von Mises are pretty much all to blame. Simply assuming government power when we have the ability to make a difference and change it through votes (at least at the state level) is the defeatist attitude too many libertarians and independents take.

The real problem is armchair libertarians who criticize every movement or idea that isn’t completely 100% free of government involvement, even though it may be a step in the direction of lessening that involvement.

Lastly, the school choice programs that Bolick is defending do indeed take far less bureacracy to run than the average public school.

Mark Harrison February 6, 2005 at 10:14 pm

The best is the enemy of the good

So the left oppose vouchers because they redistribute to the rich, and Vance opposes them because they redistribute to the poor. Such paradoxes arise because the term voucher can cover a wide variety of arrangements with different social and economic consequences.

Vance seems to be talking about an income targeted voucher, such as the Cleveland or Milwaukee vouchers Bolick defends. Vance’s criticisms of these voucher schemes are:

“Vouchers are an income transfer program in two respects. Not only will people be forced to pay for the education of other people’s children,…”

That is what happens now. At least with a voucher, those who use private schools will get some of their tax dollars back.

“… voucher dollars will be an additional tax burden.”

Not necessarily. These real world voucher schemes cost less per student than would be spent on them in state schools – saving money when each switches. If 10,000 children switch to private schools, that will mean fewer state school teachers, fewer new classroom and less money spent on them. On the other hand, more is spent on those who would have attended private schools anyway – but that effect is minimal with income targeted vouchers.

“Voucher proposals never advocate any reduction in funding for public schools to pay for them.”

Wrong. See for example, West’s papers on tuition tax credits listed at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/gei/taxcredits.html. Friedman explicitly suggests setting the voucher at a level so that total spending does not rise (see Free To Choose, p.199 of my copy).

Private vouchers certainly make a difference for the recipients, which is why businessmen set up private voucher schemes to help the children of the poor attend private schools. There is much evidence that they increase competition, improving state schools (competition is a matter of degree – even increased competition between state schools can make them perform better).

It seems churlish to oppose a policy that helps children from poor families and costs taxpayers less. Is it really better for them, and for freedom, to keep them in state schools? As Tom Sowell points out

“In even the worst of the worst schools, typically in low-income and minority neighborhoods, the teachers’ unions bitterly oppose letting even a fraction of the students go to private schools with vouchers. This is not caprice or racism. It is naked self-interest. The whole house of cards could come tumbling down if the failing students from ghetto schools go elsewhere and succeed. Various studies have already shown that happening. But studies are for scholars and policy wonks. What would be politically devastating would be to have millions of people, all across America, seeing it with their own eyes.” Thomas Sowell, Forbes 23 March, 1998 “Scientists need not apply”

Vance mocks Bolick’s story as “the story of a libertarian’s twelve-year crusade on behalf of a government program”. Bolick’s enthusiasm for Milton Friedman is suspicious because ‘as Murray Rothbard showed: “In many ways, we have Milton Friedman to thank for the present monster Leviathan State in America.”‘

Rothbard’s charge comes because Friedman designed the income tax withholding system (introduced, as so many restrictions on liberty, during World War II to finance the war effort – did Von Mises oppose fighting the Nazis?). Apparently no-one else would have thought of withholding at source or been able to design it (never mind that by then Britain and Germany were already doing it – and without refunds when you paid too much in advance that Friedman designed into the system).

The Rothbard article was written in 1971, and re-published in the a 2002 volume of Journal of Libertarian Studies, which says more about the priorities of that journal’s editors than about Friedman (who, incidentally, has done more for freedom that Laurence Vance, and quite a bit over the three decades since that article was written).

Actually, Friedman’s main role in Nixon Presidency was in promoting its successful initiative to abolish the draft. But I guess Vance would have opposed that at the time because it meant ‘an additional tax burden’ to support an all-volunteer army. But of course, it abolished the implicit taxes on draftees (who in effect were taxed 100% of their civilian earnings while drafted).

But a voucher scheme also lowers the implicit taxes on private choice. If you attend a state school you get a $10,000 education for free. You get nothing if you attend a private school. That is equivalent to a $10,000 subsidy for all students, but a $10,000 tax if you attend a private school. A voucher for $6,000 would lower the implicit tax to $4,000. Like explicit taxes, these implicit taxes have incentive effects. Lowering the implicit taxes on choice of a private school may or may not increase spending – but even if it does, that does not automatically mean it is bad idea, an expansion of the state or an increase in the burden on the population.

It may involve redistribution – but it isn’t clear to me why the current system of discriminating against parents who use private schools is a better use of government powers.

If Vance had read Milton Friedman, instead of credulously believing everything Rothbard wrote thirty years ago, he would know that Friedman does not advocate an income targeted voucher as an add on to the public system.

Friedman explicitly has the same objective as you – a market system of schooling. In ‘Free To Choose’, for example, he calls for an end to compulsory schooling and eventually “Public financing for hardship cases might remain” with everyone else paying for their own child’s schooling.

He calls for a universal voucher, with parental top-up, as a first step in a move to a competitive market. He comes out against an income targeted voucher because it reduces the development of the private sector and the competition it can provide for government schools. A universal voucher would create an increased demand for private schools and a real incentive for entrepreneurs to enter the industry. Further, a universal voucher would build a bigger constituency for reform, is more likely to overcome political obstacles and encourages residential desegregation.

Certainly, you raise a valid concern: that Government funding of private schools leads to government control of private schools, which may worsen education rather than improve it. The possibility of excessive regulation of private schools should be addressed. Plans to subsidise private schools should include provisions to protect their independence.

That is why the California Educational Choice Initiative that Friedman was involved with contained a provision requiring a three-quarters majority of the legislature to pass new private school regulations and the onus of proof on the government body to prove any regulation for safety, land use or health was for that purpose and did not unduly burden private schools. It also explicitly protected a school’s right to expel students.

Governments regulate private schools even when they don’t fund them. A voucher scheme that explicitly addresses the issue of school autonomy may well improve matters.

Even if a general voucher programme cost taxpayers more in the short run, greater choice and competition will increase incentives for cost efficiency, decreasing the tax burden in the long run. The US has 10 percent of its students in private schools – so even if the voucher was for the full per head amount spent in state schools, expenditure would only rise by 10 percent. It wouldn’t take long for the relentless rise in per head spending in the current system to exceed that. As West says, without a voucher scheme “most participants in the debate agree that in the long run the last vestiges of education in the private sector will virtually disappear. In this event the present near monopoly of publicly provided education will become a full monopoly. For this reason we can expect further increases in costs, and these have not been taken into account in the current reasoning.”

You may think such an approach hopelessly naïve. Perhaps, political pressures will prevent the movement to the market. On the other hand, a voucher scheme may reduce the inevitable demands for more government money by making the subsidies involved more explicit and visible. Resistance to increased government spending comes from taxpayers. The political pressure for more government spending on education will be reduced by anything that makes the link with increased taxation clearer.

A reasonable person may conclude that the benefits are greater than the costs of a targeted voucher, and that a uniform untargeted voucher programme is one way to move towards a competitive market. Many libertarians agree. Friedman, Murray, Lieberman, and Sowell come immediately to mind. All people who have earned respect and a reputation for careful thinking. They don’t deserve your arrogant sneers for coming to different conclusion.

But what is the alternative? Apparently sitting around lamenting that not everyone has read Von Mises, waiting for the state to magically disappear and devoting your energies to attacking potential allies. That may be ideologically pure, but I think its chances of success are pretty slim.

I’m sure the teacher unions welcome your support. Funny how most libertarians support vouchers and most statists oppose them. It seems the Von Mises Institute knows everyone else’s interests better than they do.

gene berman February 8, 2005 at 9:15 am

There can be no question that Vance is right and Bolick wrong in this matter.. Yet, I’m dismayed that Vance has chosen to denigrate (even ever so slightly) Bolick on account of his former state employment situation: there’s too much of substantive importance for such muddying of the waters. Another criticism which might be leveled–at Vance’s exposition of Mises’ thoughts on the subject–is that it holds up the passage from “Liberalism” as complete (and presumably final) and neglects a similar (but with certain substantive differences) view of somewhat later provenance. I cannot cite the name of the work from memory but recall it distinctly as being concerned with the problems to be confronted in the post-war Balkans; it occurred to my memory precisely because its provisions seemed so extaordinarily appropriate to current conditions.

I don’t know the ages of either Vance or Bolick. I mention age simply because the entire matter is one in which experience of the past is at least somewhat useful in assessing the likelihood of various outcomes of competing policy prescriptions. In my own youth, there was, first, the program instituting a subsidized lunch. Then came measures parading as “civil defense”–bomb drills, etc. (and featuring varied proposals, including fingerprinting, for identification of child corpses), and agitation for harmonization (federal control) of curriculae, presumably to eliminate disparities and regional backwardness. I have to observe that literally all “right-thinking,” “forward-looking” people favored these measures. Though, perhaps, differing between themselves over the details of specific measures, all were unanimous in dismissing as “old fogies” and “reactionaries” those voices which spoke of the “camel’s nose” and warned of increasing involvement of government in people’s lives. We live today with the results of that “no-contest” contest, though the measures only passed into law gradually.

So it is with vouchers. We deal at all times with statist proponents of differing intellectual and political abilities and acumen. Though I would not characterize “voucher” proponents as statist tacticians, nonetheless, were I a grand stategist for collectivism, vouchers would appeal not only as a wedge issue with which to split my opposition but one which would assure that, ultimately, even that sector of the education market now private would come under control (if for no other reason than to assure “fiscal responsibility). The major drawback to vouchers, in my estimation (and to other seemingly meliorative measures such as the activities of Kors’ FIRE and Horowitz’ student activism) is that the authority is thereby acknowledged and reinforced rather than challenged and defeated in the political arena of ideas.

In my opinion, the battle against state control of the education of the rising generation is not only aided and abetted by the voucher proposals but rendered nearly proof–at least for a genertion or two–against serious action toward its reduction.

Laurence Vance February 8, 2005 at 11:58 am

Mr. Harrison is in an emotional panic. His trouble seems to be twofold: the intransigence of the Mises Institute on the subject of vouchers, and the fact that Murray Rothbard kicked his god, Milton Friedman. My review of Bollick’s book merely gave him the impetus to vent his spleen.

I actually like the idea of vouchers. I think they are a great way to provide needy children with an education. The problem is their funding. If Bollick, Harrison, and “most libertarians” support vouchers, then fine—let them pay for them out of their own pocket. Why should they expect the taxpayers to pay to educate children besides their own?

It doesn’t matter if “most libertarians support vouchers and most statists oppose them.” It doesn’t matter if the teacher unions welcome my support. And it doesn’t matter if vouchers help “children from poor families.” I oppose all current voucher schemes because they are, as Bollick acknowledges, an income transfer program. I think it is arrogant and immoral to expect anyone besides me to pay for the education of my children.

And in addition to the matter of funding, there is the fundamental question of the nature of education. Why is education considered so special? Why don’t we hear pleas for vouchers for other things? How about vouchers for food, gasoline, and clothes? How about vouchers for vacations, haircuts, and recreation? Hey, why don’t we just give the federal government every penny we make and let the state give us vouchers for everything?

Now, regarding Milton Friedman—I hope that he has “done more for freedom” than I have since he is over twice my age. But whatever he has done for freedom does not change the fact that “in many ways, we have Milton Friedman to thank for the present monster Leviathan State in America.” Consistency was never a hallmark of the Chicago School. And what difference does it make when Rothbard wrote his article about Friedman? It is still true whether it was written in 1971, 1492, or 1066. And yes, I have read Milton Friedman—and all the other voucher advocates Harrison names, plus some more.

Although I plead guilty to “lamenting that not everyone has read Von Mises,” I am not “waiting for the state to magically disappear.” Accordingly, my energies are devoted to exposing the state as the monster Leviathan that it is, not compromising to get “allies” who call themselves libertarians but crusade in behalf of government income transfer programs. The state will never relinquish its hold on the American educational system without a fight—even if it means embracing vouchers.

Mark Harrison February 8, 2005 at 7:02 pm

“The problem is their funding. If Bollick, Harrison, and “most libertarians” support vouchers, then fine—let them pay for them out of their own pocket. Why should they expect the taxpayers to pay to educate children besides their own?”

We are currently forced to pay to educate other people’s children at state schools. Bolick’s voucher proposal uses the superior efficiency of private schools to reduce the burden on taxpayers. If your only problem is funding, you should support Bollick – a lower tax burden and more children in private schools.

“I hope that he has “done more for freedom” than I have since he is over twice my age. …And what difference does it make when Rothbard wrote his article about Friedman? It is still true whether it was written in 1971, 1492, or 1066.”

He should have done more because he is older, but let’s ignore all he has done in the last 30 years (and much that he did before – such as his involvement in having the draft abolished).

And it is not true. Income tax withholding was not introduced because of Friedman. It would have happened had he never been born.

“And in addition to the matter of funding, there is the fundamental question of the nature of education. Why is education considered so special? Why don’t we hear pleas for vouchers for other things? How about vouchers for food, gasoline, and clothes? How about vouchers for vacations, haircuts, and recreation? Hey, why don’t we just give the federal government every penny we make and let the state give us vouchers for everything?”

Actually, the US does have voucher for food – they are called food stamps. This comprehensively misses the point. The idea is to move to a market system from where we are now. The claim is that vouchers are an improvement on the current system and are a first step in the right direction – not that vouchers should replace markets elsewhere. If we currently got ‘free’ food from state run neighbourhood supermarkets and had to pay for our food elsewhere, then I may support food vouchers as a first step to a fully private system.

Mark Harrison February 8, 2005 at 7:28 pm

“Mr. Harrison is in an emotional panic.”

And must you adopt the tactics of the left in so smugly dismissing criticism. Other people do not have ideas, knowledge or principles that need to be examined and considered. They just have emotions. So no need to consider facts or logic. How condescending.

John Merrifield February 9, 2005 at 9:30 am

Two issues underlying the debate need a lot more attention. 1.) How to develop and give momentum to a political dynamic that lessens government control. Almost every scholar can tell you where they think reform should go, but hardly anyone lays out a transition strategy. Very little is written about transition strategies in any policy area. What changes in policy can we enact now (or are closest to being able to enact now) that would improve the political feasibility of further steps towards increased liberty? 2.)The degree to which increased control follows government funding does vary among government programs; sometimes to zero or close to zero. Therefore, because of point #1, we need to improve our understanding in this area so we can devise strategies to steadily (when instant separation isn’t politically feasible) reduce government control. A properly designed voucher not only would provide some immediate relief from current education emergencies (‘Nation at Risk’), and could steadily move us away from state involvement. Serious transformation advocates need to seriously consider this possibility.

Brian McCandliss February 17, 2005 at 2:00 pm

People think of vouchers just like public school i.e. that is involves someone “getting something for free;” but they’re all missing the main point: public schools claim to make education affordable for the average parent, but end up costing MORE than a private education would cost!

It’s simply economically impossible for a socialized system to provide something to the the vast majority, cheaper and better than the free market can; parents think they’re getting a bargain when comparing property-taxes to private school tuition outright, but they overlook things like consumer price-increases due to taxes on businesses, lifelong payments etc. that make it MORE expensive– in both the short and long term– than simply paying for private school through loans, or against a pension/retirement fund etc. When all these various costs are accounted for, most parents (and people in general) would have MORE money in a privatized system than a public one, but they are deluded by voodoo economics into thinking it would COST them more.
So don’t think as public schools or school vouchers “welfare,” see them both for what they are: state SCAMS!

Brian McCandliss February 17, 2005 at 2:15 pm

Oh yeah, one more thing: when you opt for the “lesser of two evils….” you’re still opting for evil.

Paul D February 17, 2005 at 6:35 pm

“The claim is that vouchers are an improvement on the current system and are a first step in the right direction – not that vouchers should replace markets elsewhere.”

I dispute that claim. How are vouchers an improvement?

Do they decrease the plunder and redistribution of wealth? No, they make it more widespread, and make private schools more dependent on the government.

Do they create more choice? Not really, you can still choose a private school, private tutors, or vocational training under the current system.

I suppose you could weigh the theoretical advantage of “more affordable private schooling” versus the disadvantage of those same schools becoming less private and more government regulated.

In the meantime, I fail to see any mechanism in vouchers that would lead to the eventual abandonment of subsidized education and taxation. I do see plenty of ways that vouchers could lead to greater taxation and government control.

If this is a “step in the right direction”, there must be some intrinsic characteristic of voucher use that would inevitably lead to more freedom and less taxation. Perhaps Mr. Harrison or another proponent of vouchers could propose such a reason.

Otherwise, it’s just a matter of the same crap in a different pile.

Happy Hacker February 18, 2005 at 12:16 pm

Parents and private schools will never be forced to accept vouchers. And, the intent of vouchers has little to do with subsidizing the tiny minority of students already in private schools. Although, there is some justice in not forcing people to pay twice for education, once for the public schools and then again for their own children in private schools.

The vast majority of students go to government schools. Vouchers are the most expedient way to move these students from government schools to private schools. The government only has the smallest of control of private schools. Vouchers won’t change that much, and if the highly paranoid of you are right about the increasing control, opt out of vouchers. The government will never have nearly as much control of private schools as it does the schools directly operated by the government, so there’s a huge win for all those students currently in public schools.

After vouchers, we can start fighting for tax credits or deductions and further reduce the ability of government to meddle in private schools by phasing out vouchers for all but the poor.

You anti-voucher people need to look at the big picture. The big picture isn’t the private schools or your surreal concern about cheaper vouchers being more wealth redistribution in a country overwhelmingly dominated by government schools. Education drives society. You won’t accomplish much unless you radically change education. Those of you against vouchers are not libertarians, but champions of the present course toward increasing totalitarianism.

Vouchers are our best chance to raise a generation that is not indoctrinated by public schools with anti-libertarian values. And, for those of you who think vouchers are all about existing private schools, a generation not raised on anti-libertarian values will be less intent on dictating to private schools how they should operate.

Laurence Vance February 18, 2005 at 8:25 pm

Happy Hacker says: “Those of you against vouchers are not libertarians, but champions of the present course toward increasing totalitarianism.” This is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard from a voucher supporter. If vouchers are a form of income redistribution (as Bolick admits) then what Happy Hacker is saying is this: “Those of you against income redistribution are not libertarians, but champions of the present course toward increasing totalitarianism.”

Happy Hacker also says: “Vouchers are the most expedient way to move these students from government schools to private schools.” As I point out in my latest article on vouchers that appeared on LRC, any parent can right now, today, move his child from a government to a private school. If the parent cannot afford to do it then he can homeschool his child or ask Happy Hacker to help him pay for a private school. Forcing the taxpayers to pay for it is immoral.

Happy Hacker February 21, 2005 at 1:56 am

Laurence Vance, thank you for your reply. I do not deny that vouchers are income redistribution. My point is that it is groundless to object to vouchers on that ground given that the status quo is already income redistribution. Vouchers are the pragmatic starting point to separate school and state.

Yes, parents already have the legal freedom to put their children into private schools. But, for whatever (primarily economic) reasons, the vast majority of parents put their children into government schools. You and me then have to pay for that education. We are paying a lot of money to teach generations of children to be anti-libertarians.

You complain that vouchers are income distribution from the “rich” to the poor. Do you think the poor our paying for their education now?

You argue as if private schools dominate American education. They are currently insignificant. A small minority of children attend private schools and many of them would opt out of taking part in any voucher program, especially if there is intrusive government control coming with those vouchers.

You need to be realistic about the potential cost savings to taxpayers of vouchers (reduced income distribution). Vouchers always cost less than the amount of money the government schools get per student. Do you think government schools will be able to continue to make demands for more money as their student populations shrink?

John Merrifield March 9, 2005 at 5:41 pm

Happy Hacker did partially address the issue of transition strategies. I wish it (my original point made on Feb 9) would receive even more attention. Ignoring that issue means you are more interested in standing on principle, and remaining politically irrelevant or problematic in the pursuit of liberty from where we are, than in making real progress towards liberty.

Jeffrey March 10, 2005 at 6:22 am

Perhaps Mr. Vance will respond at some point, but let me say this concerning J. Merrifield’s and Happy Hacker’s point. The argument is that since private schools are cheaper to operate than public schools, vouchers will eventually save money as public schools are defunded in favor of subsidized private schools.

An analogy: Let’s say that we seek to increase postal competition by subsidizing all private carriers including UPS and FedEx, noting that they operate more efficiently than the government mails. We then expect the post office to be defunded once people shift their mail preferences to private carriers, thanks to the subsidies. Two obvious points: the private carriers will no longer operate as efficiently once on the government payroll, and because the governnment mails do not operate on a market model, there is no certainly that it would just close it doors once the mail volume dies down. The most likely result will be two inefficient systems supported by taxpayers instead of just one.

I can imagine such a scheme being proposed by a naive central planner but not a market economist with no illusions about governments and markets.

Laurence Vance March 10, 2005 at 9:24 am

Mr. Tucker makes a good analogy. Vouchers are analogous to starting a business to compete with another business, but doing it with taxpayer funds while saying you believe in the free market. Vouchers or no vouchers, public schools or no public schools–it is inconceivable that the government will give up its control over education. As I said in my most recent LRC article on vouchers: “The state will never relinquish its hold on the American educational system without a fight – even if it means embracing vouchers.”

Mr. Tucker is also correct that vouchers will result in two inefficient systems supported by taxpayers instead of one. Vouchers are not a transition to a free market in education. One reason that vouchers will be merely another government program that operates in conjunction with the public schools is that while public schools are generally funded by local property taxes, a voucher program will be handled by the federal government or by the state governments or both. Property taxes will not magically decrease as the state increases spending on vouchers. Vouchers will result in more government spending, more inefficiency, and more bureaucracy. Given the state’s track record, how could anyone expect anything else?

And contrary to Mr. Merrifield, we need more people to stand on principle instead of compromising with the state and deluding themselves that they are somehow making real progress toward liberty.

I am glad that Happy Hacker admits that vouchers are an income redistribution scheme. The whole thing comes down to money. Anyone with the money can send his child to the school of his choice. Just like anyone with the money can buy the clothes he chooses, vacation where he chooses, and eat what he chooses. The fact that some people don’t have the money to send their children to anything but the public schools is what irks Merrifield, Bolick, Bast, and other voucher supporters. Since only a socialist at heart considers it the function of government to redistribute wealth from the “rich” to the “poor,” I don’t understand why libertarians and free market advocates support government income transfer programs of any kind. They don’t support vouchers for medical care, food, clothing, vacations, plastic surgery, transportation, or video rentals–why do they support vouchers for education?

Instead of educating people about liberty, the free market, and how they have choice in education right now, voucher proponents are wasting their time on litigation and legislation. Just yesterday I received in the mail the April issue of Reason magazine. On the back cover was a full page ad from the Institute for Justice (IJ) promoting vouchers. (This is Bolick’s organization.) On the back cover is a picture of a mother and her child from Pensacola, Florida (the city where I live) with the heading: “The teachers’ unions wanted to keep my daughter in a failing public school monopoly.” The rest of the ad then reads: “But there is no way I was going to let her miss her one chance at a good education. I am fighting for school choice. I am IJ.” I’ve got news for Bolick and the IJ–the teachers’ union in Pensacola doesn’t know or care that this woman and her child even exist. The teachers’ union wants the public schools open and fully funded no matter how many or how few children attend the public schools in Pensacola. No person or organization in Pensacola or anywhere else did anything to prevent this woman from removing her child from the public school system. The truth is this: She wanted to educate her child with other people’s money and libertarians at the Institute for Justice supported her in her efforts.

Legislation and litigation are not the answers. They never have been. We need less government, not more government; we need less intervention, not more intervention. Government is always the problem and never the solution.

moog May 12, 2005 at 9:53 am

The last poster is right. VOUCHERS ARE LIBERAL As a conservative, I have to wonder about conservatives supporting a welfare program (not to mention a government subsidy of a personal choice–might as well have taxpayer-funded abortions then). I guess it’s not welfare if it benefits you.
The double taxation opinion does not work with me. I don’t have any children. Thus, I WOULD BE DOUBLE TAXED. Don’t give me the competition arguement either. At least in my state, this means putting on more government regulations in the public schools and less and less on other schools receiving public monies. Hmmm….

Choice??? Don’t get me started with that. But I will anyway. My father, grandfather, and relatives have had kids “trapped in those government schools.” But they realized it was THEIR choice already on how THEIR kids were educated and what values THEIR children learned. My father didn’t have to worry too much about us in school because he knew that he had raised us right. All eight of his children never drank, smoked, or did drugs. None of them ever had sex before marriage. ALL of us go to church every week, value having strong families and being good parents, put Christ first in our lives, respect our parents and grandparents, are law-abiding citizens (none of us has a police record:), know and respect the value of education, etc. Those siblings of mine with children are raising them with the highest of values. Oh yeah, all of us received a great education too in INNER CITY SCHOOLS.

FINALLY, a word about choice. When was the last time anyone ever thought about or gave thanks for all the choices we have now???? What about having running water, flush toilets, a good place to live, living in a free country, having an ample supply of food, having not one but in many cases 2 or 3 cars, and so on and so on???? Are we thankful for the things we have or do we complain and whine about the things we don’t have?

OOPS-NOW ONE LAST STATEMENT–If you have had the choice to have kids FEEL FORTUNATE AND GIVE THANKS TO GOD for it. I have been wanting that choice for 11 years now. And no, circumstances are such that I won’t have that choice for a long time to come. No, I don’t complain about that. I use it as a chance to see what I can do to serve others and their children. My point??? Value your choice that you have had to be a father or a mother and don’t complain about it. Yes, it is hard, but there are many who would love the “choice” errr…. privilege and glorious opportunity to be a mother or father. Give thanks to God for your choice and tell your kids have much you appreciate having them in your family. And be thankful you have that choice too.

GorgeousTruSaver November 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hi I am from UK.
Has anyone used
Voucher Discount Codes website

Are they any good?

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