In the previous post in this series, I questioned whether the government should be involved in vital services like healthcare and education. To clarify my thinking on this issue, I posed a thought experiment focused on education:
If everyone was rich and could easily afford good education for their children, what role would the government continue to play, if any?
Here are some related thoughts:
- If families could easily afford to send their kids to a good school, the government would no longer need to fund schools or teachers, since the general population would be capable of paying for them in the free market. Schools could be privately run, paid for directly by parents, and staffed with teachers based on whatever criteria each school chooses.
- Just because a family can easily afford good schooling for their child doesn't mean that they would. They might prefer to spend the money on other goods and services and send their child to a cheap and terrible school. But would such schools survive in a marketplace where people can afford better? And if they did survive, would they be any worse than the bottom 10% of the current public school system?
- Would there be a need for any sort of standard curriculum? Most parents would like their children to learn a variety of subjects, but shouldn't a child be able to choose a school that focuses on the subjects they have the most interest and/or talent for, perhaps even to the exclusion of some subjects that are of no interest? Should every kid be forced to learn a wide range of subjects, or is it actually better for society if children can pursue the things that they have the most passion for?
- The government could continue to participate in education by funding research, giving away laptops, and other such efforts, but these days charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation seem like they're better suited for this kind of role.
I'm going to perform this thought experiment for a few more days. If there is not much of a role for government in a world where families have plenty of money, then some interesting conclusions can be drawn.