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Milton Friedman: Professor Voucher

Written by Gary North on August 26, 2013

Last week, I wrote an article on federal housing vouchers. I made the point that these vouchers are like all other vouchers: a pseudo-market intrusion of the government into our lives.

I made an assumption: the evil side of housing vouchers will be apparent to conservatives in a way that school vouchers are not.

Conservatives also oppose food stamps. Yet food stamps are vouchers. I showed this, too.

I made a second point: vouchers are a favorite solution to economists who follow Milton Friedman. Friedman favored pseudo-market solutions in the name of free enterprise.

Austrian School economists have not been taken in by this approach. They see vouchers for what they are.  Lew Rockwell wrote the following back in 2000.

Another California voucher initiative, Proposition 38, is headed for defeat. And it will happen for the same reason that big-government spending programs are failing in state after state. Taxpayers have rightly become very stingy with their money. They don’t like politicians stealing it and spending it on new redistributive schemes. If and when the voters have anything to say about it, they say no. That the establishment conservative movement is backing this one will make no more difference in 2000 than it did in 1996.

Why should this surprise anyone? It shouldn’t, but we are still going to be put through four months of Voucher Hell, listening to liberal opponents tell us that Prop. 38 will destroy public schools (oh sure!) and conservative partisans tell us that government spending is the answer to all education woes, so long as the right people get the money. They will trot out data, pseudo-scientific policy studies, speeches from think tank blowhards, and racial victimologists of all sorts, and it will be pure torture. But in the end, Californians will see that Prop. 38 means more school spending and maybe more school taxes, and will vote it down.

The voters did vote it down.

The question is this: Why do conservatives and Chicago School economists keep returning to the pseud-market vouchers program in the name of liberty? Vouchers will extend the power of any government that issues the vouchers into the operations of every private institution that accepts the vouchers. Yet conservatives keep touting vouchers.

This is because conservatives are always looking for a way to make coercion more efficient. They don’t like vouchers when vouchers clearly extend government power into areas where the government does things conservatives don’t like, such as government housing and government food subsidies. But they are all for efficient government when it does something they like, such as tax-funded education. They think government will be less intrusive. They are wrong. It will be more intrusive. Why? Because it will use vouchers to impose government rules and regulations on every organization that accepts the money.

They know this is true with respect to federal aid for higher education. But they turn a blind eye when it comes to government control over private schools, kindergarten through 12th grade.

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18 thoughts on “Milton Friedman: Professor Voucher

  1. Any true conservative would never support vouchers. Misinformed Americans would weather Democrat or Republican.

  2. Smart in Texas says:

    Busing students was the beginning of the down fall of Detroit. I watches as uncivilized young people destroyed our neighborhood and schools. Vouchers of any sort are not going to fix the problem. Busing did not help the underprivileged children. It ruined my neighborhood and school. These two cultures do not mix. Social engineering does not work. Everyone know what the problem is, but we are not allowed to shame anyone anymore for poor moral values. If you do your are called a racist. If the decent people of this country do not start pushing back there will be no turning back.

  3. Good to read the wherefore in opposition of voucher-ism, thanks. Until recently ~ a year ago, I thought Edu Vouchers would be helpful however w/ further thinking I realized that these vouchers would just spread dysfunctional education into every corner of the system.

  4. this celebtation of the single mom and her broods of children fathered by an army of men has got to stop.. first reason–afdc funds come right out of the social security fabled lock box. 2. we have experimented at emancipating pregnant adolescents and setting them up in a subsidized apt and full welfare benefits.. what did the politicians and do-gooders think would happen? more babies , more drugs, less education and all sorts of lawlessness.. stop this nonsense.. send the adolescent mother and baby back to her parents .end the voucher system.. a truism of human behaviour–things given are never appreciated as much as things one must work dillgently to acquire. this madness will have to stop at some point in time as the u.s. economy splutters to a stop due to the "smartest president" and his failed economic and all other policies out of wash. d.c. the last 4 .5 years. we as a country must begin to discard this "free" largesse and require this 50% of freeloaders fend for themselves.

  5. Unfortunately, many conservatives weaned on Friedman did not bother to follow up later in life and learn he was just another crypto-statist masquerading as a “free market economist”. People tend to adopt their political views early in life (high school/college years) and never revisit their assumptions and prejudices after that. You see it every day.

  6. Vouchers used may be a good thing in that it could provide for school choice and competition in the education system. Tax money is used for public school, why not let parents decide where to spend that money?

  7. Food stamps used may be a good thing in that it could provide for grocery store choice and competition in the food distribution system. Tax money is used for welfare food, why not let grocery shoppers decide where they want to spend that (plundered) money?

  8. A far better idea than school vouchers is a 100% transferable tax credit. You have kids? 100% of your taxes paid can go towards sending them to an unregulated private school, and any family members or friends or fellow church members who don't have kids can direct their taxes toward your kid's education, too. They'd probably have to put a cap on it to make it sellable, but the perfect cap would be the same amount being spent per child in the closest public school. Put that in place and there wouldn't be a public school in the land in two years.

  9. Oh, but these emancipated adolescents are "women", don'tcha know? The most ludicrous example of that occurs every Olympics when pre-pubescent gymnasts are given the PC "woman" label. And the announcers do it with a straight face… how, I don't know, but that's why they make the big bucks.

  10. Yes, vouchers are another taxpayer financed system just like the existing compulsory education model. However, vouchers should create competition, and something good may come from that. Separation of school and state just isn’t going to happen in our lifetime. With vouchers, kids may at least start getting a better education.

  11. Good idea, if the voters could slip it past the powerful teacher unions.

  12. Friedman came up with some purely “pragmatic” policy proposals that he admitted were morally repugnant, but would save the government money and trim bureaucracy. His “negative income tax” idea was one. He was willing to compromise principals to save a buck or two. But he remained totally “free market” in theory.

  13. BeingStill says:

    "This is because conservatives are always looking for a way to make coercion more efficient."

    This is EXACTLY correct! They're also too afraid of being labeled names, like "hater," and "bigot," when its usually the people doing the name-calling that are doing the ACTUAL hating and "bigoting"! Its HIGH time for the Republicans to "grow a pair," stand-up, and fight for the Rights they say they're for! Should they not, I'll be as LOUD as I can come election time to vote THOSE ones out and get some new, fresh, freedom-loving blood back in the halls of government where we'll actually have REAL "representation."

  14. joyannaadams says:

    They are now doing this in St. Louis. They bused the kids from the city into North County, and the white suburbs paid for it. They then sunk millions into new schools for the blacks in North county,, and the administrators made big salaries, and the schools were so bad, they closed them down. Now they are busing the kids to the nearest city, St. Charles, and the whites who moved to those cities for the good education, are now furious. The people TRY to push back, but the political machine and the teachers union are all being run by democrats. It's all rigged. —

  15. Q: How did you, "BeingStill" manage to use "caps" and not be banned? Is it because you were permitted to use them to "emphasize" ? =/

  16. Part I – I resented the past article Mr. North wrote regarding "housing vouchers" and I still do! Don't care for this article's "attitude", either. He and too many "labelers" want to lump we (unfortunately) tax abiding, no medical insurance (can't afford!), lower income citizens who – in my particular circumstance – are of "lower incomes" due to no fault of our own other than experiencing the misfortune of having a medical disability, or who have "retired" on a very meager (low income) retirement of little other than Social Security (yeah, yeah, yeah . . . I know no one is supposed to rely on Social Security for "retirement" … that does not change the fact that some have nothing else).

    Part II – While I can understand where the majority of "you" are coming from, you are and have been very unfair with your comments and "viewpoints" lumping all and anyone together as misfits, dead-beats, and as Mr. North unkindly stated – "economic failures"! Shame on ALL of you guilty of this! You ALL have your "ideas", so find a way to better this situation yet be able to "assist" the lower income who DO TRY and in my case, did everything "right" until my physically debilitating condition got in my way! Again – COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, Mr. North, as should those of you who chide with him!

  17. This is one reason I homeschool my kids! Not taking any chances!

  18. Yep! Amen!