Monday, July 20, 2009

Rationing Public Education

Matthew Yglesias dismisses concerns over rationing health care in a public option by comparing it to public educaiton. He concludes those concerns are irrational...

Thinking about the “rationing” question in health care it’s worth trying to get clear. Sometimes there are shortages of something relative to demand—think of a huge oil shock—and the government decides it wants to impose price controls. That, in turn, leads to shortages. So you can attempt to ameliorate the shortages by rationing. Everyone is only allowed to buy so much gas. During World War II, Great Britain had comprehensive rationing for lots of staple food products—you were only allowed so much sugar, so much tea, so much bacon, etc. That’s rationing.

Now consider something else. If you’re a parent in Montgomery County Maryland, you pay taxes to the county and you get to send your kids to very good public schools. But even though the schools are good, they won’t just do anything you want. Your kid can learn Spanish at government expense, but the taxpayers won’t foot the bill for your kid to learn Burmese. But you don’t normally hear anyone say that the presence of a “public option” for elementary and secondary education involves “rationing” of foreign language instruction. If people have the means and want to arrange private lessons for their children of various kinds nobody is stopping them. And certain forms of this sort of supplemental instruction—Hebrew school in synagogues, Sunday school in churches, piano lessons or Kaplan test prep—are quite common.

1 comment:

T.M. Lindsey said...

Not to mention those fear-mongerers decrying "Socialism" need to keep in mind that the current public education system would be considered socialist under Obama's plan. Granted, the GOP would love to torpedo the Dept. of Education and make schools private, but ironically, a good number of these folks keep sending their kids to our socialist schools -- only to be brainwashed into becoming Democrats.