Education is the Responsibility of Civil Society

It does not take a Nobel Prize laureate in economics to observe that a country which borrows over a £100 billion a year to fund its budget deficit is going to sooner or later go bust. At the moment, the UK debt is equivalent to 90% of its GDP and it continues to grow. The Tories’ attempt to minimise the borrowing has been insignificant and our debt is still growing considerably every year.

The reason why things have turned out this way is simple: Socialism. The state now provides free education, free healthcare, superfluous welfare and regulates the market. As admirable as these things sound, they have come with heavy costs: Firstly, this nanny-state keeps on growing because people become increasingly dependent and lose the incentive to take care of themselves. As a result, the burden on the state continues to grow and hence we have to borrow hundreds of billions of pounds to be able to fund the expenditures. Secondly, the increase in taxation necessary for funding the nanny-state has slowed down our economic growth since it has taken huge amounts of wealth from the private sphere and shoved it in the inefficient bureaucratic public sphere.

So what should be done? Again, there is a simple answer: go back to our liberal roots and let individuals stand on their own feet and pursue their own interests. If today we were to take just one radical libertarian step and privatise education we would almost completely eliminate the deficit and thus would no longer need to borrow any more money. But this proposal is unrealistic in socialist Britain today because the fear-mongering of socialists has convinced us that if we do take a step like this most people will be illiterate, poor people will not have access to any sort of education and they will remain poor forever as they cannot use education to better their living standards. Of course all of this is nonsense.

The wonderful thing about liberty is that it strengthens civil society. When you privatise education parents take on more responsibility for their children (rather than abdicating them to the state), schools do more to meet the demands of pupils and parents (both in terms of price and organization) and new innovative ways of education begin to surface. For example free online teaching accessible to all could replace the vacuum left by the state since many (like the real example of Salman Khan) could make a considerable amount of money from teaching for free, and since there would be demand for online providers to compete with each other to provide the best education in order to attract customers.

Having been educated in one of the worst schools in London, I can assure you many people (especially those in poorer areas) would benefit from home schooling whilst gaining some work experience in their spare time rather than studying food technology, textiles, DT or PE in schools provided by the state (those are actually subjects I studied in my secondary school). Apart from home schooling, companies would also have the incentive to offer apprenticeships in order to secure employee availability for the future. This is all notwithstanding the fact that you do not need education to be successful. This whole way of thinking was created by the state. If someone decides not to educate themselves but to spend all of their time working instead, should we look down on them? Why should we? Just because the state has made it compulsory to study? No, people have the right to decide what type of life they want to lead and we should not interfere with that.

© Duncan Holmes

© Duncan Holmes

Moreover, free state education is not all dandy. Many people go into education because it is relatively stress-free, and leads to at least 3 years of subsidised partying and drinking where the only cost is enduring several ‘last nighters’. These types of students might officially come out with a degree but can it really be said that they have gained the same kind of skill and knowledge they would have gained if they had opted to work for those three years instead? Certainly not. And it could also be that people will opt to work for several years, save up some money, find an interest and embark on education at a later stage; unlike the situation today where many do not know what they want to study so they pick a subject most convenient at that time and realize it was a mistake down the line which causes much confusion and complexities.

And all of that is just on education. If we shrink the state to what is absolutely necessary (to deal with national security, justice, infrastructure and a minimal safety-net welfare), and consequently lower taxation so that people keep their money and spend and invest it as they will, not only will we not need to borrow any longer, but we will experience tremendous amounts of economic growth. And who benefits from economic growth and competition? The poor do. There might be increasing inequalities but that is irrelevant. Margaret Thatcher hit the nail on the head on this issue when she said that Socialists “would rather have the poor poorer, provided that rich were less rich”. In other words, despite the increasing inequalities, the poor will be better off than they were before due to the opportunities brought about by economic growth.

What happens if we carry on the path we are in at the moment? The state will have to stop giving things out for free anyway because it will incur so much debt that it will not be able to borrow any more money to fund its budget deficit. When that happens we will go into a deep depression because civil society has not developed enough to survive without the state. Surely it is better to open society now so that down the line- when we would have our depression if we continue in the way we are going at the moment- we would have instead not only stopped borrowing but would have paid much of the debt off and civil society would have developed enough to take care of itself; not to mention the continuing support it would receive from economic growth and the prosperity that comes along with it

5 Comments

  1. All the basic things of life (from health care, to education, to basic income. to ….) are now offered by the state.

    It is this that is unsustainable – and has led to the total debauchment of the monetary and financial system.

    The Max Keiser (Putin’s boy) claim that people could have anything they wanted if only it were not for the wicked bankers is the opposite of the truth – on the contrary it is the credit bubbles of bankers (encouraged every step of the way by governments) that have allowed this insane promise system (the promise of everything from government) to go on as long as it has.

    Places like Greece or Detroit would not have gone on for ever if it were not for the wicked bankers – on the contrary, it is only because of banker credit bubbles that these places have been able to follow wild spending policies for so long.

    But the folly will come to a bitter end – and the future of much of the Western world (including Britain) looks like Detroit.

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  2. Specifically on education.

    American child-level state education is terrible (as it is in Britain) – wildly expensive and offering terrible “education”.

    For example, even in Texas (which rejected Comrade Barack’s “Common Core”) some 80% of government schools were found to be brainwashing children with “Social Justice” stuff – no time for teaching basic skills, but plenty of time for “Social Justice” conditioning.

    And the universities?

    Government subsidy schemes have led to an inflation of costs (that should have surprised no economist from the time David Ricardo onwards) which have pushed out everyone who will not accept a government loan (no more working your way through college as a lifeguard – as Ronald Reagan did) and has led to a TRILLION Dollar government loan debt.

    As with healthcare, old age support, and income benefits (such as Food Stamps) the situation in education is unsustainable.

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  3. A good post and certainly one that inspires some thinking for action.

    Complete privatization of education will not happen immediately (some reasons already identified above). So how will this attitude towards education change? I remember Andy Bolton making a point once to encourage use of the private sector by substituting the public services wherever possible. All this gradually driving the preference for the private over public sector and in some cases, breaking the monopoly that the public sector have created. I found that point very useful but in the area of education, that highlighted to me how expensive private education is in this country, and that being a strong deterrent in easily substituting the public sector.

    Private schools can be expensive for a number of reasons. The cost of good quality teachers, facilities and support to students can simply be very high, or maybe some odd regulation creating barriers to entry, resulting in fewer schools around to meet that increasing demand. But this is an area worth looking into to see what possibilities we have for the future.

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  4. All my life I have believed in reform – in not just sweeping the system away (because of all the people who depend upon it – including the very old and so on).

    Now I fear it may well be too late for reform.

    This system is going to crash.

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  5. “when I think of the problem of school reform in the United States, Salman Khan (the founder of Khan Academy, not the actor) has been vastly more useful to millions of students than all the decades of talk people have engaged in, and indeed, has been vastly more effective at altering the terms of the debate. His work may very well succeed at destroying the entrenched system simply by rendering it useless and redundant.”

    Source: http://www.samizdata.net/2013/08/on-politics/#comment-370780

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