Wednesday , June 26 2019
Home / Bleeding Hearths Libertarians / School Choice and Car Choice: What’s the Difference?

School Choice and Car Choice: What’s the Difference?

Summary:
Imagine the following conversation: “Here’s your new Ford Focus!” “What? I didn’t ask for this. Please return it.” “No can do. Already paid for.” “Well, that’s not my problem.” “It sure is—the state taxed some of your income to pay for it.” “But that’s ridiculous—why can’t I buy the car that I believe best suits my family’s needs? We’d do much better with a Kia that is more fuel efficient and has a higher safety rating.” “Sorry, that’s not how the system works. You can customize a few features if you want, but the government has determined that every family in your residential area gets a Ford Focus.” “But if the car is a lemon, I can at least turn it in for a new one, right?” “Nope. You’re stuck with the car no matter how badly it works. You could complain to the management at

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Imagine the following conversation:

“Here’s your new Ford Focus!”

“What? I didn’t ask for this. Please return it.”

“No can do. Already paid for.”

“Well, that’s not my problem.”

“It sure is—the state taxed some of your income to pay for it.”

“But that’s ridiculous—why can’t I buy the car that I believe best suits my family’s needs? We’d do much better with a Kia that is more fuel efficient and has a higher safety rating.”

“Sorry, that’s not how the system works. You can customize a few features if you want, but the government has determined that every family in your residential area gets a Ford Focus.”

“But if the car is a lemon, I can at least turn it in for a new one, right?”

“Nope. You’re stuck with the car no matter how badly it works. You could complain to the management at Ford, but I’m not sure how seriously they’ll take your complaints. After all, your dissatisfaction won’t affect their bottom line—they’ll get your money whether you like their cars or not. Of course, you could always move to the neighborhood across town that gets assigned BMWs. Those cars are really nice, but I’ve got to warn you, the houses are expensive.”

“That’s a little unreasonable, don’t you think?”

“Well, another option would just be to buy a different car outright.”

“Ah, okay, and so I’ll be exempt from the car tax in that case?”

“No, you pay the car tax whether you use your government-assigned car or not.”

“I can’t afford that! You’re saying if someone’s government-assigned car is a lemon they either have to move or pay for two cars?”

“Yep.”

“So people of modest means are stuck with whatever car the government assigns them, no matter how unsuitable for them or how badly it performs? It seems like this system prevents people from getting higher-quality, more fitting cars for their family.”

“It is strange, I admit. But if we let you buy a Kia, you’d be siphoning money away from people who work for Ford.”

“So what? If Kia does a better job serving the public than Ford, then Ford losing money is a feature, not a bug. And Ford employees can find new work at Kia.”

This system of distributing cars is so obviously dysfunctional that I doubt anyone would seriously entertain it. So why would we think the system works any better for the distribution of schooling?

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