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IPFS News Link • Education: Government Schools

Bastiat Reminds Us That Education Can Exist--and Prosper--Without Government Schools

•, Karl Streitel

In his famous essay The Law, Frédéric Bastiat explains how many who object to the free market and liberty create a false dichotomy between having the government provide some service and the service's abolition altogether:

Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State—then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion—then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State—then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.

Indeed, I recently had an exchange with someone who accused me of not caring whether people become educated because I favor ending coercive funding for government schools. This person, like the socialists of Bastiat's time, mistook my wish to extirpate government involvement in schools for my desire to offer no education at all—as if such a thing is even possible when learning and education happen every moment of every day.

Unfortunately, people with such mistaken views fail to see the true argument: Government involvement is unnecessary and counterproductive in these areas because private alternatives can perform the same or similar functions more efficiently, effectively, and ethically. Moreover, government involvement crowds out pioneering alternatives, in some cases via legislation and in all cases via its coercive funding mechanisms and associated subsidies for its services.