In 2009, when President Barack Obama began his pitch to sell an overhaul of the nation’s health care system to the American public, conservatives of good conscience rallied together in opposition. We don’t need government to provide people with health care because it would raise costs, lower efficiency, and put unnecessary obstacles in between patients and their doctors, conservatives rightly said.
Conservatives understand the limitations of government, and that a proxy takeover of a private industry can only result in a disservice to the consumer. Conservatives know that government has no place in making demands of patients, their doctors, or their insurance providers. But why would government ever have a place in making demands of children? For decades, government has drastically increased its influence in the education of children in the K-12 setting, and for what? SAT scores are hitting all-time lows. The reality is that every single weekday in the United States, tens of millions of children sit in classrooms they don’t want to be in simply because the law demands it of them, and conservatives ought to begin the conversation of what is to be done about it.
The American model of education in modern times stands on the basis of an assortment of premises. Education is something all children deserve, so it should be free and accessible to everyone, the politicians say. It would be wrong to subject children to the risky ups and downs of the marketplace, they continue, so schools need to be protected and run by people who will run them in the interests of children and not for their own profit. Naturally, they go on, children aren’t sure of what they want to do when they grow up, so we should have them study a diverse array of topics and subjects to give them an idea of where they might want to direct their lives. Politicians want us to believe that an institution created on these premises is a model for success. There are few things further from the truth.
Problems are inherent in every single one of the premises listed above. However, before one can understand the problems that exist within the public school system, one must understand the nature of the market itself. In a free market there is a distinct relationship between two private parties, the consumer and the provider. The consumer enters the marketplace expecting to exit with something that he wants. Meanwhile, there are providers that have what he wants, and they engage in a peaceful war with one another for the honor of being deemed the superior provider of service by the consumer who pays whom he wills. The providers know that the consumer will only pay the provider whom he believes best serves his interests, so the providers increase quality, decrease prices, among other strategies to offer the consumer a better deal.
They do this not because they necessarily care about the consumer as a person, but because they want his business and know that if they don’t get it, someone else will. Soon, the consumer in need pays a provider in exchange for the service that he deems best serves his needs. The favored provider gets what he wants, and the consumer is equally satisfied. The only people harmed by the exchange are the providers who did not do a good enough job of helping the consumer. Voluntary cooperation between people looking to satisfy each other’s needs makes society better.