For some time now, there has been a growing trend for Libertarians to run for local school board. The notion is that since public (i.e., government) schools are such a mess, Libertarians will be able to improve them by bringing a “free-enterprise” or libertarian approach to managing them.
It is a fallacious notion. Libertarians have no more business running for school board than they do trying to get selected to run regulatory agencies.
Moreover, running for school board sends the wrong message to people — a message that states that Libertarians believe in public schooling and are dedicated to making it a better system. In the process, running for school board reinforces the trend toward the destruction of the Libertarian brand of principled libertarianism and also denigrates the trademarked label that the Libertarian Party has placed on itself as “The Party of Principle.” (See my Substack article “The L.P. Leadership and the “Party of Principle.”)
It would be difficult to find a better example of a socialist program than public schooling. Whether at a national, state, or local level, it is based on the socialist principle of central planning. As the economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out, socialist central planning produces “planned chaos.” No one can rationally disagree that planned chaos is what we have with public (i.e., government) schooling.
Public schools get their “customers” through force. That’s what mandatory-attendance laws are all about. If a parent doesn’t subject his child to the state’s educational system, the state threatens to put the parent into jail.
The public-school system is financed through the coercive apparatus of taxation. There is nothing voluntary about taxation. Refuse to pay your taxes, and they will seize whatever property you happen to own to satisfy your tax bill.
School teachers and school personnel are government employees. School textbooks are furnished by the government. The curriculum is set by the government. Thus, the government is establishing what children should learn. In other words, indoctrination.
Public-schooling can be called army-lite because its goals and methods are very similar to those in the military — to produce people who defer to the authority and the judgement of government officials, who don’t challenge things at a fundamental level, who obey whatever orders and edicts are issued by government officials, and who eagerly accept the truthfulness of statements and judgments of public officials. (Examples: WMDs in Iraq and the false attack at the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam.)
The children who pay the biggest price for this dysfunctional socialist system are those in the inner cities, where public schools are a cesspool of violence and drugs. But every child who is sent into the public-school system pays a high price. By the time they graduate from high school, most kids hate learning and just want to get out of school.
There is but one solution to this socialist morass — the separation of school and state, in the same way our ancestors separated church and state. No more mandatory-attendance laws. No more school taxes. No more government schoolteachers, textbooks, personnel, and indoctrination. No more automatons who automatically defer to authority, obey orders, and fail to question. No more governmental involvement in education.
In other words, a total free market in education. The free market is our heritage as Americans. It produces the best of everything, while government produces the worst of everything. A free-market educational system would produce the best education possible for everyone, especially for the inner-city poor.
What business do Libertarians have trying to become part of this aberrant dysfunctional system? Libertarianism is supposed to be about liberty, not about trying to reform or improve socialism. Libertarians should be making the case for ending socialism rather than striving to be better socialist central planners than Republicans and Democrats.
Running for school board is actually a variation of school vouchers, another socialist program that unfortunately many reform-oriented Libertarians have imported into the Libertarian Party from the Republican Party. School vouchers tax one group of people in order to give the money to another group of people, which perfectly embodies the Marxian principle of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” (See my Substack column “The L.P. Pledge and School Vouchers.”) Vouchers more deeply embed the state into private education by inducing private schools to become dependent on the voucher dole, thereby making them subject to governmental control.
The goal of vouchers is to reform or improve the state’s socialist system through “choice” and “competition." The goal of running for school board is to show the public that Libertarians are better at running the state’s socialist school system than Republicans and Democrats.
What about Libertarian parents who are being adversely affected by some pubic-school policy? If they choose to keep their child in the public-school system, then they can try to influence public-school policy in their role as parents. But they need to keep the Libertarian Party and the libertarian philosophy out of it. Libertarians have no more business telling the state how to run its socialist programs than they do telling the state how to run its regulatory programs.
Let us leave reform of socialism to Republicans and Democrats. Let us Libertarians raise people’s vision to a higher level — to the principles of liberty. Let us be “The Party of Principle.” In the educational arena, that necessarily means a separation of school and state.
Thanks for reading Libertarian Party Commentaries! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.