The issue of school vouchers is a highly divisive one. It is even controversial within the libertarian community. The libertarian argument in favor of school vouchers is similar to that of conservatives. They see the government-funded school system as wasteful and in the hands of the teachers unions. They see the lack of accountability and want some kind of a change. They figure they can just hand a big check to parents each year to determine the school of their choice and that it couldn’t be any worse than what we have now.
There is a strong case to be made against school vouchers from a libertarian standpoint. This is the position that I take. It is completely different from those on the left who oppose school vouchers because they want the status quo. I do not like the status quo at all. I don’t believe in government education. As I have written before, government education is a form of welfare.
As with most issues, there are two arguments to be made against school vouchers from a libertarian standpoint. There is the moral argument and there is the pragmatic argument. Today, I will focus on the moral argument against vouchers.
Libertarians generally believe that force or the threat of force should not be used for political or social change. While I kind of stole that from the Libertarian Party pledge, it applies to all libertarians, whether or not they are a member of the actual party.
School vouchers does not change the fact that people are being threatened with force to obtain their money. In fact, school vouchers don’t even reduce the amount being confiscated in most cases. Most advocates of vouchers are not proposing a dramatic decrease in education funding. They are just changing the direction of the funding. Instead of the money going directly into the school systems, the money will first go to the parents, who will then decide on where the child and money go.
School vouchers are still welfare. It is still a redistribution of wealth. There is no way around it. There are many people who never have kids, yet they are forced to pay for other people’s kids. For those who have kids, the numbers vary. Some have just one child, while others may have 4 or more. Yet, when people pay their property taxes, it is based on the rate of the tax and the value of the property. It has nothing to do with how many kids you have. If anything, the money coming from Washington DC for education comes disproportionately from those with fewer kids or no kids, because they do not get the extra tax credits and deductions.
School vouchers would not reduce government in any significant way. They would not eliminate or even reduce the amount being confiscated, so it is hard to make a libertarian argument in favor of them.
As we will see in Part II, there are also pragmatic reasons to be against vouchers for libertarians. They may not necessarily improve education and they could make things worse. Stay tuned.