Sunday, August 2, 2009

Take from all, give to a few

I found this interesting:

When County Executive Ken Ulman asked 42 county high school students participating in a Leadership Howard County summer program Wednesday morning what percentage of county spending goes to the public schools, Glenelg High student Colin Osborne, 16, raised his hand and said 55 percent.

Ulman was impressed, since that's close to the answer of 60.5 percent. When you add in recreation and library programs plus the community college expenses, most of taxpayers' money goes to support the county's youths, Ulman said. "It goes to you all."

Basically what Ulman is saying is that substantially more than half our tax dollars are being spent on a concentrated interest, namely parents of youth. It what sense is that a good thing? There is a very strong case to be made that education should not be publicly subsidized, and certainly not 100% subsidized.

To their credit, local governments spend money on public goods far more often than federal and state governments. A chunk (about 25%) local government spending goes to pay for roads and public safety, which are true public goods. So at least 25% of our local tax dollars are not wasted on special interests. Ideally roads would be paid for with a gas taxes or tolls, so that people who don't use them don't have to pay for them.

In contrast, the federal government probably spends 5% or less on public goods.

I am still trying to figure out what politicians have to do with leadership. After all, Ulman's statement was made during a leadership program for youth.


Eludius said...

I agree with you a lot, but I find your view on public education a bit disturbing. Private education currently costs what, $10k-$25k per year? So for me to educate my 3 kids it would cost more than I make. So I'd have to pick which of my children get educated?

Freemarket said...

Ideally, publicly funded education would be phased out over a 20 year period so that people could plan ahead on how large of a family they want to have.

People shouldn't view their children as an excuse to put their hand in my pockets. No one is doing the world a favor by procreating, and the government should not be subsidizing procreation.

Some kids would have to subsidized if their parents are truly destitute. But because some people can't afford educucation, no one should have to pay? Is that the basis for 100% publicly funded education?

Anonymous said...


you should have considered this before having 3 children. If you can't afford to raise them on your income, don't expect me to pick up the tab.

Anonymous said...

Even tho I'm a parent, I still agree that education should not be publicly funded.

Education quality is too important to leave to the local government.

Also, children would benefit from parents who see the children's safety and growth as their priority and responsibility, not the priority of a group of people who are unreliable, ie., government.

Children who are unplanned have a statistically lower chance of being productive members of society. Have a plan to be responsible for planned children.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Anon 5:36. It's not considered the norm to have children and expect to have someone else buy their food or their clothes. This was something that Eludius must have considered when choosing to have 3 children. Why should education be any different?

As with other public assistance, those most needy should receive govt assistance just as we do with free school lunches. But there's no reason to exempt education from the list of expenses that parents are expected to incur and fund on their own.

Anonymous said...

Cheese and rice, people! There aren't enough windmills around for all this tilting. A public education system is one of the few promises in our state constitution. Good luck changing that.

Being a responsible parent involves planning for REALITY not for some crazy version of it where public schools cease to exist. And I don't know of any responsible parent who puts the entirety of their kids' education in the hands of teachers and school administrators, especially in Howard County where the term "helicopter parent" is often worn as a badge of honor.

Some of you people fight some strange strawmen.

You think public education costs too much? That's fine, so do I. Let's talk about how to cut some of those costs. Otherwise, keeping up with this nonsense about getting rid of it entirely is a sure-fire way of being ignored or not taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

Newsflash: 90% of Howard parents claim to guard their children, knowing where they are at all times, blah blah.

But 20% actually act on their stated values. That is reality.

We know there's not much chance of an outright private school takeover, but watch as our tax dollars go to fat CEOs of failed anti-trust ridden regimes, and you'll see more and more "supplies" put onto parents.

Freemarket said...

Anon 7:52- who is fighting a straw man? I don't see any straw man arguments here.

If anyone is putting forth a straw man, it is you. I would not be opposed to the existance of public schools if they were funded by tuition payments made by parents, and private schools were free to compete against them. I am really only suggesting that we change who pays for public schools. I was deliberate in my use of the phrase "publicly FUNDED education". You can have public schools which are privately funded by tuition payments paid by parents.

True, I would not shed any tears if public schools ceased to exist entirely. However, there are a large number of alternatives between our current system of publicly provided and publicly funded education, and that of a free market of private schools. Don't pretend like our options are as limited as your small way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Market,

Until you accept the reality that the State of Maryland is required by its constitution to provide "a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools" (link) arguing with you is pointless.

But since we're here, let's go tit for tat.

Anon 5:36 is one big strawman. So is Anon 11:07.

Your distinction between "publicly-funded" and "public but funded by tuition payments" is so small that you need a microscope to see it.

Your focus on the use of the word strawman is a predictable response. Why address any of the shortfalls in your own argument when you can latch on to semantics?

Again, it all comes down to your refusal to look at things as they are instead of as you think they should be (whether rightly or wrongly). This way of thinking is fine if your goal is credibility among the free market zealots, but if you want to have a honest discussion about real problems and how we address them in order to move society forward, you need to stop thinking ideologically and start thinking critically.

Freemarket said...

Anon, you should learn the definition of words before you use them. A “straw man” is a form of argument in which you misrepresent someone else’s argument for the purposes of making it easier to attack. None of the anons were committing a straw man, insofar as I can tell. Maybe you could call their comments red herrings if you think the points were not relevant, but they are not straw men. I personally don’t find those comments to be red herrings, either.

And the distinction between publicly funded and privately funded schools is MASSIVE. I mean really, it is massive. If you are unwilling or unable to see that, then you are not interested in having an intelligent discussion.

I accept that MD requires public schools to be free, and I recognize that as a giant hand out to special interests. That is not something above criticism. If you disagree, I don’t ever want to hear you criticize anything that is unlikely to change.

And don’t insult me by telling me that I need to think critically. I am one of the most critical thinkers out there.

Minks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Minks said...

You do know what happens if Americans get slack with procreation right?

Not good things. You want to encourage some breeding, especially of your educated populace. Discouraging breeding by the intellectuals by pricing school out of reach will result in small smart educated family and great big huge stupid families.

TBH, even I only have two kids. I would like to have more, but I am too greedy/smart/poor/devoted to have more. My wife and I are college educated and make a good living. Our belief is that part of having kids is investing in them to ensure they are productive members of society. This includes a college education. An asset if you will to the collective. Now if schools were all private, I could only afford to have 1 kid. So I would only be adding 1 college educated kid to society. Now, hillbilly bob next door would still have 12 kids,,, none of which would go to college. In 2-3 generations, what do you think would happen to the percentage of educated people vs non-educated people in American society?

More problematic is the effect that would have on society.

Minks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freemarket said...


Anonymous said...

"if" Americans get slack with breeding? After untangling your position, Minx, on other posts, I realize you are serious, however misguided.

Free public schools encourage exactly the billy bob example you put forth - empirically. Water under the bridge. Already happened.

Minks said...

Anon @ August 5, 2009 5:39 AM

I will sum up my tangled argument a little more succinctly for you..

Schools cost money, LOTS of money. MOST parents do not have enough money for schools. Society steps in and foots the bill,,, or there will be a lot of uneducated kids.

Simple as that.

Hmm,, maybe I should run the numbers and see what each person in your county pays for each kid in school per year and compare it to private schools. I bet it is a huge savings. I may just do that....

Minks said...

Anon @ August 4, 2009 7:50 AM

The reason that schools are different then clothes is price. An annual food and clothing bill for a kid is NOTHING compared to the annual education bill for a kid. Not even close. Crazy comparison.

To be honest, I am a little dismayed anybody would even try to compare the two.

You need to think of all kids in society as an asset to society. You are investing in the asset. You COULD argue they are all your kids.

And, in a way, they are.

Anonymous said...

most kids i've met are more of a liability. you should be paying me to have to share air with them.

Freemarket said...

From Minks: “Hmm,, maybe I should run the numbers and see what each person in your county pays for each kid in school per year and compare it to private schools. I bet it is a huge savings. I may just do that....”

I can’t believe someone would actually make the argument that government can provide a rival and excludable service like education more cheaply than a freed market could provide that same good or service. If that were the case, this blog would not be called “Free Market”, it would be called “Government Run Market”, and I would be a Socialist.

Howard County spends about $12K per student. That is less than uber fancy private schools like Glenelg Country School (closer to $20K per year) but more than Catholic schools (more like $7K), which to be fair are privately subsidized by the Catholic Church. The parents footing the bill for these private schools obviously believe the education is better at the private schools. Additionally, it is hard to compete with a school system which is free, so publicly funded public schools are keeping a wide variety of private schools which could perform services at a lower cost than the government. Public schools have probably killed a great amount of educational innovation that the market would have produced, as well.