Recently the Paul interview sparked a conversation about the limits of government to take our choices putatively for the public weal. This is, for the nonce, the status quo regarding education. How that impacts us in society is of some relevance as the progressive/liberals in our midst have the notion that this would be a good thing if moved to other spheres, like healthcare. What they fail to do is point out the downside for the ordinary person.
Taken at quite a distance education industry in the US might be described as a system that it is divided into public, private, and home venues. From a financial standpoint private and home schooling requires either substantial private wealth (for private school) or substantial time commitment (home school). Private schools can be, and often are, cheaper per-student to run that the corresponding public schools while at the same time both private and home can yield a far better educational outcome for the student (at a lower cost). [note: this is true, and yes, there are explanations, but that isn’t the point.] What makes the private/home options more difficult is that while this expense is undertaken the payments to public schooling, which is not used, must still be made. There are some who can shoulder this burden, but many cannot.
A second thing occurs when school “went” public, that is their overall/average quality decreased. When I began blogging the question of education came up, and I took it on myself to experiment a bit. I purchased two 6th grade text books from the turn of the last century prior to wide public school acceptance. My estimation is that the difficulty of those 6th grade books are quite a bit harder than 6th graders receive today. I think a 6th grader would have difficulty answering “How many tons of copper telephone cable be would be required to connect Milwaukee and Chicago?” This was a question in a circa 1905 6th grade math text. The point isn’t again to argue why for explanations or circumstances which have led to lower educational standards over the last 100 years. The takeaway point is that it has. If you wish to repeat that experiment, old books like that are available on eBay (where I purchased them).
As a concrete example of cost burdens, when my children were younger I enrolled them in a Montessori school. At that time I was paying a little more than 2k per year to that school (which was about 4-5 times less than the per-student budget of the village school if I recall). Property taxes go largely to fund schools, which ran another 2k or so. The reason that a village/town can afford that higher price for its public schools is that 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 households at any given time actually have kids enrolled in school. At some point the double payment became too hign for the differential in outcome and I moved the kids to public school (Montessori methods work a lot better in my view in the pre-K -> 1st or 2nd grade than in the higher grades).
So, as schools went more public two things happened. Better education was available only to those with the resources (or time in the case of homeschooling) to shoulder a double burden, to pay for separate education while at the same time pay for the public schooling which they aren’t using. The second thing that happened is that for those without the ability to shoulder that higher cost, the standards of education were negatively impacted. It is those in the lower through upper middle classes in the main which must suffer, for they are impacted directly by the lower quality but cannot pay the now-higher price for better.
Healthcare is more costly. This make the public-izing of healthcare a more troubling prospect. Unlike the schooling situation there are fewer households with which to spread the cost burden. Currently the average working middle class stiff is getting about 8-12k from his employer in healthcare as a untaxed benefit. The move to public healthcare by rough analogy will lower the standard of healthcare products that he receives (longer lines, less equipment, less time with the doctors) and it will be difficult, if not impossible for the average person to “double pay” and take the analogy to the private option. That is, to obtain service from separate private healthcare while at the same time continuing to ante up the 8-12k for public healthcare at the same time. Yet because healthcare is more costly that cost to get better care will not just a little more.
If the Democrats selling their healthcare dreams and Obamacare were actually honest, they’d be touting that their plans will yield somewhat better healthcare for 10-20% of us (if they were honest, they’d also be noting) that the price that 60-70% of us in the middle would pay would be in the form of having substantially worse healthcare product availability.