Vouchers: Worse Than the Status Quo
In response to my review of his book, John Merrifield wrote me the following note:
"The dominant libertarian position preferring the deteriorating status quo to anything but instant, complete separation is a real shame. Thinking of you voting with the teacher unions unless complete separation is on the ballot is REALLY depressing."
It would indeed be irresponsible to make the perfect the enemy of the good, but my critique of Merrifield does no such thing. Rather than making things better, I argue, vouchers would make things worse. Not only would vouchers give us an additional layer of government bureaucracy financed by taxes, inflation, or borrowing, they would also allow the state to take complete control of private schools that accepted voucher payments through regulation, hiring quotas, teacher certification, curriculum requirements, etc. As I said in my review: "It is inconceivable that the government (federal or state) would ever provide money to parents or schools without any strings attached." Federal control of private schools would have the same disastrous results as the federal control of airport security.
And second, vouchers, just as public education currently, would be financed by tax dollars. To require others to pay for the education of one's own children is grossly immoral, just as requiring others to pay for your children's food, clothing, and housing would be. And, as my review pointed out, no current voucher proposal even hints at a reduction in funding for public schools to pay for vouchers, so political agitation for vouchers amounts to a call for government to spend ever more on education.
Merrifield should have paid more attention to Ludwig von Mises than Milton Friedman: "There is, in fact, only one solution: the state, the government, the laws must not in any way concern themselves with schooling or education. Public funds must not be used for such purposes. The rearing and instruction of youth must be left entirely to parents and to private associations and institutions." (Mises, Liberalism, p. 115)