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There's an adage in economics that goes: people do not walk barefoot because there aren't any government shoe factories. In markets where competition exists (not to be confused with free markets), businesses compete for customers and customers make choices. The methods that ethical businesses use to compete for your wallet-share include factors like quality, cost, and distribution/access. If the businesses don't provide value to their customers (assuming they aren't protected by government in the form of corporatism), they go out of business. It's pretty simple. In contrast, government-run markets haven't any need to compete for your wallet-share. After all, they have the law... and guns to back it up.

the inclusive learning and health supermarket by the centre for school designSo when it comes to government-run schools, food stamp recipients get better choices than parents. Public education is a disaster. Clearly, the people who run education are making the wrong choices, and these choices are having devastating consequences (like 47% of adults in Detroit being functionally illiterate, which means that they are unable to read, speak, write, and compute in everyday situations). Even the teachers are angry and feeling alienated for what can only be described as a farce. To make an analogy to what America's Education Secretary claimed, a natural disaster couldn't cause more damage to the lives of these students. (It appears Arne Duncan is following Paul Krugman's destruction is creation script, also known as the broken window fallacy.)

Now, there's no question that public schools have more issues they are forced to deal with by government laws and regulations than private schools. For example, public schools can't generally expel disruptive students under 17 or suspend them for more than 5 consecutive days. But it certainly does lead to many questions about why public schools aren't allowed to deal with disruptive students more effectively. Private schools, to some extent, get the ability to choose who they accept into their business. Public schools don't get to make that choice - if you live in the defined geography, they are required to take your child. As a result, public schools also have to deal with the very difficult problem of many children with different learning abilities.

But are government-run schools really the answer, or could the private market deal with the multitude of problems better (e.g., through specialization/division of labor)? Do you think the author's vision of how government-run supermarkets would operate is accurate? If government-run markets are so good, why do they require force to operate? How have politics made the school system dysfunctional? If supermarkets were run like public schools, would more people have to take up farming and grow their own food? How do we provide more competition and, thus, more choices, in education?

Teachers unions and their political allies argue that market forces can't supply quality education. According to them, only our existing system-politicized and monopolistic-will do the trick. Yet Americans would find that approach ludicrous if applied to other vital goods or services.

Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries-"for free"-from its neighborhood public supermarket.

No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.

Of course, the quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in families' choices about where to live. Real-estate agents and chambers of commerce in prosperous neighborhoods would brag about the high quality of public supermarkets to which families in their cities and towns are assigned.

Being largely protected from consumer choice, almost all public supermarkets would be worse than private ones. In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal. Poor people-entitled in principle to excellent supermarkets-would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality...

If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools. What if groceries were paid for by taxes, and you were assigned a store based on where you live?


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 9, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=549

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