Arnold Kling  

Spend Less on Education?

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Job-Creation Arithmetic, II... The Budget Debate, IX...

Sometimes, an economist argues against conventional wisdom, as in this essay, where I question the view that the government needs to increase its spending on education.


If we combine the limited extent to which education is a public good with the factors that make government the highest-cost producer, it becomes almost certain that the cost-benefit calculation for additional government spending on education is negative.

For Discussion. Does the essay overlook economic analysis that would argue for more government spending on education?



COMMENTS (4 to date)
Eric writes:

Arnold, interesting commentary, but in the end, utterly irrelevant.

If you ask the Superintendant of the school system in my town, Mount Prospect, Illinois, what he thinks of vouchers, he will give you a litany of reasons why they are bad, none of them based on total economic utility to society. He will tell you what a good job he is doing, how well educated the kids are, and how vouchers will take money away from this wonderful system of education.

And maybe he is doing a good job. The kids certainly test well, but how do you separate their innate IQ from the test results and grade the district on the value added? We are about as white bread, middle class as you can get. Even the Chicago schools would do a good job with these kids.

I think economic commentary such as yours is good for background, but if we were ever to start the trench warfare of getting the government out of primary education, you would be fighting hand to hand combat through emotional imagery, not econometrics.

Are you ready for the argument that "Arnold Kling wants to keep your kids stupid and poor!"?

"He wants to kick your kids out of school so he can give tax cuts to his fat cat friends!"

This is the level that our enemies in the teachers unions will stoop to from the getgo, and it will only debase from there. What is the emotional imagery that our side will use to return fire?

Garry writes:

I agree the difficulty with VOuchers is when its raised the race card is played. Or economic disadvantages etc. et al.

What we need is better information, YESTERDAY. On why this is not true.

No argument for free markets could be as important as the Voucher premise.

victor writes:

< more information about disadvantages played by IT in the development of good governance

jon writes:

I wanted to comment on the fact that your beliefs, as I have interpreted, is that you believe that we should have a system that doesn't increase school spending to account for population growth, but that infact we should have more of a competitive system of education. You believe that people will educate themselves out of the simple fact that they will come out ahead by doing so. Right?

If so my comment to you in response is that you must be forgeting that people may not be educated enough to even realize that education will help. It has became a given that it will help the individual because as a society we are educated enough to realize. And also if we were to have only a private educational system you will see a larger wealth distribution separation because many people would not be able to afford education even if they wanted and only the rich will be able to. This only helps the prexisting rich families and you will be pushing our economy into an aristocracy where the rich control. Also what is the basis for enrty? This causes many problems again pushing towards the rich being the ones affording it again just like many of the private institutions set up today.

So, I believe in competition, but saying just because it may cause a short-term equilbrium shift in because of the costs the government has, it is much more available for the citizens to use which in turn causes a shift out in the long-run.However, I believe the private sector of education is great in the fact that we can if want increase the level at which we are being educated(which what you want) but we also have education for those who can't afford the private institutions.

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