by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

I can’t work out why those who claim to be anti-communist and defend free markets, like the CIS, the IPA and Quadrant, write so much defending government intervention in schooling. In any case, for Menckenite connoisseurs of human depravity, it is a blessing. The amusement of reading these attempts to justify government intervention in schooling is amplified because it is more self-contradictory than most statist arguments, since the fallacy-spouting author talks about how society should be educated.

So, imagine my delight to find in October’s Quadrant magazine a typical leftist essay by Michael Warby fraudulently titled, “The Case for Abolishing Government Schools.” It is a typical leftist essay because Warby wants government to continue to fund it, but he wants it to be run differently, by different people, etc. The title of the essay is fraudulent, as it implies that he wants to abolish government schools, whereas he actually wants government to continue funding schools; he just wants schools to be run by those government gives money to, provided that government does not give money to another government department — notice the difference?

Without further ado, to begin with the first few sentences:

The case for government funding of schooling is very strong. First, there is the argument from opportunity: that children should not be bound in their opportunities to acquire basic skills and knowledge by the capacity or willingness of their parents to pay for their schooling. Then there is the argument from common benefit: we all gain from having a literate and numerate fellow citizenry. [p. 76]

I will briefly refute each of these arguments, which are very weak:

The argument from opportunity — If this argument is strong, then it must withstand a synonymous formulation, like: “Children should not be bound in their opportunities to acquire basic skills and knowledge by the capacity or willingness of their parents [those who, with their own voluntarily-acquired money, of their own free will (and not in the face of the demagogue-instructed tax-man and his credible threats of extortion and imprisonment), wish] to pay for their schooling.” Warby just blindly repeats this line of reasoning, like Quadrant does with most of the accepted “wisdom” of leftist society, the leftism of which they claim to criticise. If they genuinely believe this is a good argument for government funding, then they must genuinely believe that there is no such thing as property rights, and that tax-payers must provide everything for children (or at least must fund them, for others to provide).

The argument from common benefit — No definition for “common benefit” is provided by Warby. He also fails to give any argument explaining how it follows, from the fact that something is for the common benefit, that it should therefore be funded by government. The division of labour does more for the common benefit than anything else; Warby’s argument implies that he wants the division of labour funded by government. What makes Warby’s argument even worse is that he says:

[J]ust because a powerful case can be made for government funding of schooling, it does not follow that such schooling should be provided by government, that governments should run schools. [p. 76]

Warby’s argument is: (1) Schooling is for the common benefit; (2) Therefore, it should be funded by government; (3) This is a strong argument; (4) But, just because this case for government funding of schooling is strong, it does not follow that schooling should be provided by government. Why does Warby wait so long — specifically, two giant leaps and a reflective pause for self-congratulation — to start questioning the accepted “wisdom”?

From here Warby just provides all the standard leftist communist arguments on how government should provide the funding, but that the running of the schools should be left to others. It is the same old, “If only I and the people I approve of were in charge, then things would be different.” That Warby acknowledges there are problems with accountability and more makes his support of government funding even more disgraceful. What Warby needs to do is read through his arguments against government running schooling, and apply them to government funding of schooling. To my critics, in case you missed it, that was constructive criticism.

And now, rather than giving readers a list of libertarian essays against state schooling, I’ll just give you one Murray Rothbard sentence:

The very fact that a government school exists and is therefore presumed to be good, teaches its little charges the virtues of government ownership, regardless of what is formally taught in textbooks.

Perhaps the CIS, the IPA and Quadrant will find some room for this one sentence somewhere in their never-ending publications.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Acquiescence
  2. Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
  6. The Drugs Problem Problem
  7. Self-Defeating Campaigning
  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  9. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
  10. Population Puzzle Solved
  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  28. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  29. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
  32. Economics.org.au in the news again
  33. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  34. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  35. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  36. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
  39. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  40. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  56. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  57. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  62. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  63. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  64. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
  66. Contrarian Conformism
  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  68. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  70. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
  71. Gina Rinehart Fan Club gives big to Australian political education
  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
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