Sunday, 23 November 2008

Do as I say

Via Instapundit, the Cato Institute's blog observes that
"When they move from Chicago to D.C., Malia and Sasha Obama will be moving from the prestigious private Lab School to the prestigious private Sidwell Friends school — Chelsea Clinton’s old stomping ground."
As every time that a politician's children are found to be attending private school (whilst the same politician proclaims the infallibility of monolithic state provision), there's an outcry in the media about the substantial fees - in Obama's case, $25,000 per year - of these schools.
"And while many reports will no doubt trumpet the $25,000+ tuition at Sidwell Friends, implying that this is extravagantly beyond what is spent in D.C. public schools, they will be mistaken. As I wrote in the Washington Post and on this blog, D.C. public schools also spent about $25,000 per child in the 2007-08 school year.

It’s not that president-elect Obama is against spending a lot of money on other people’s kids — he’s just against letting their parents choose where that money is spent."
There can be no doubt that, if the objective of education is to educate (and not to indoctrinate), parents should be empowered to choose which schools to send their children to. The discipline of the market, in a field where customers are especially sensitive to the quality of the product, is the only feasible means of achieving this in local conditions. The oft-heard complaint - that some children will fall through the cracks, due to parental indifference or the necessity of school foreclosures - lacks substance, unless alternatives procedures can be constructed that will resolve these minor issues without diminishing the dynamic and benign benefits of market order. Throwing more money at a problem - without decreasing the amount of state interference - invariably rewards stagnated methods of schooling and their entrenched special-interest advocates, at the same time crowding out better alternatives. Indeed, empirical evidence supports the stronger claim that if the state would simply get out of the way, private schools for the poor would emerge here as elsewhere without state-funding, unhampered by top-down curricula, state-licensing laws and government targets.

More on school choice at

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