Total Drek

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The private and the public

Recently I wrote a post that, among other things, castigated Conservapedia for suggesting that public education in the United States be abolished. In response a commenter by the name of Roman left a few thoughts that I think deserve a little attention. And so, today I will respond to Roman's remarks- with his comments in block quotes, and my responses... you know... not.

Let's begin!

now, it's quite obvious that all of conservapedia is really good at being fucktards and really dumb, but I think the case for privatizing education isn't that horrible.


First off, I really have to say that any discussion that begins with the bedrock understanding that Conservapedia is stoopid is guaranteed to be at least marginally productive!

Considering that demand in the market is much higher now for college education, and literacy and basic skills are pretty mandatory in the workforce, and given that with full privatization, the cost of private education should go down because of intra-college competition.


Okay... considering that those things are true... what? I need an end to that clause. Regardless, however, while I agree that market demand for a college education is higher and that basic literacy is necessary for most any job, and even that more private schools would possibly result in more cheap schools, I'm forced to wonder whether privatizing education would make it any cheaper. Specifically, it costs a certain amount to produce any given good and, unlike private ventures, public ventures do not attempt to make a profit. So, in order for private schools to be cheaper than public, the cost of providing an equally good education plus the profit margin would have to be lower than the cost of providing that education without the profit margin. So, in short, unless public schools have a really, really high overhead (maybe, but probably not worse than many corporations) or private schools are way more efficient (and I doubt that based on my own experience) a shift to an all-private system would most likely increase the average cost of schooling per student. But, yes, the cost for just private schools would likely go down.

It wouldn't make america a cesspool of ignorance by any means, and if the government wanted to support the poor, they could reallocate the funding from the schools towards scholarship programs (even if the college tuition goes up through privatization, this sort of support could get everyone into the schools they deserved).


Well, first off, I don't see why the public should be more interested in using tax monies to give a private corporation profits when it could accomplish the same objective more cheaply with public services. Secondly, I think you're talking about higher education while Conservapedia was talking about primary and secondary education as well. And finally, "they deserved"? What does that mean?

Honestly, with the way education in america is now, trying to pull the willingly ignorant up to a standard of intelligence rather than education those who want education with NCLB & stuff, I almost would support such a system.


And I have no idea what the hell that statement means, although I can see the logic in "education those who want education".

But seriously, I know there are some economists who read this blog: anyone care to offer some articulate remarks on the public vs. private education situation? Because, you know, we could use a few.

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4 Comments:

Blogger LemmusLemmus said...

"Specifically, it costs a certain amount to produce any given good and, unlike private ventures, public ventures do not attempt to make a profit. So, in order for private schools to be cheaper than public, the cost of providing an equally good education plus the profit margin would have to be lower than the cost of providing that education without the profit margin. So, in short, unless public schools have a really, really high overhead (maybe, but probably not worse than many corporations) or private schools are way more efficient (and I doubt that based on my own experience) a shift to an all-private system would most likely increase the average cost of schooling per student."

Which is why the government should also be responsible for providing clothing and food?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 2:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

I believe that the last point he was trying to make was that public schools, due to the No Child Left Behind act, spend inordinate resources on achieving basic skills in their least gifted students, and that this wastes the time and potential of the many students who have already mastered these skills.

For my own sake, I'd like to make the point that there are significant externalities associated with education, especially in a democracy. I think, for example, that the quality of our national debate on torture would be better if more people understood why the Fifth Ammendment had been written, from a historical context. Because of these externalities, a pure market system may lead to a suboptimal outcome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 2:42:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey LemmusLemmus,

You make an interesting point but, given that the governments of many industrial democracies- and the U.S. in particular- routinely use substantial agricultural subsidies to keep the price of food low and supply high, who says that they aren't kinda doing that already?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 7:28:00 AM  
Blogger LemmusLemmus said...

Hey Drek,

"kinda"? The equivalent of subsidizing private farmers would be subsidizing private schools, no? In such a model, schools would still have the typical kind of incentive to cut costs that private companies have because they need to survive in a competitive market. Which brings us back to the main point: It doesn't just cost "a certain amount to produce any given good"; cost is a variable, as is quality.

None of this is to say that I'm an ardent supporter of school privatization (much would depend on implementation and, of course, results of empirical research), but to argue that the government can do it cheaper as it doesn't have to make a profit is just not valid. By that logic, the government should provide pretty much everything. (I limited the examples to clothing and food above as these are basic necessities, as is, arguably, education.)

As an intercultural sidenote, I only ever come across these quasi-utilitarian justifications for agricultural subsidies on US sites. Here in the EU, there are craploads of protection for the local agricultural industry, but at least everybody knows that's because they're good at lobbying the bigwigs, period. I really wish the UN would do something about that so that African farmers get a shot at selling their products to us richt folk up north, but not any time soon, I guess.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:52:00 PM  

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