What Does “The Party of Principle” Mean?
Plus a Public Debate Challenge
PRELIMINARY NOTE: Contemporaneously with the publication of this article, I am issuing a Public Debate Challenge to Cory DeAngelis, one of the premier advocates of school vouchers in the country. My Debate Challenge appears at the bottom of this article and is also posted as a separate post at my Libertarian Party Commentaries column at Substack.com.
How would you react if you received a fundraising letter from the Libertarian Party hierarchy asking you to donate to support the federal food-stamp program? My hunch is that most, if not all, Libertarians would react as follows:
What? Why is the Libertarian Party hierarchy supporting the federal food-stamp program? Why am I being asked to donate to support this program? The federal food-stamp program is a statist program, one that relies on the coercive power of taxation to fund it. It violates not only the core principle of the libertarian philosophy, which is the non-aggression principle, but also the Pledge not to support the initiation of force that every Libertarian Party member is required to sign as a condition for becoming a member of the Libertarian Party. Moreover, what business does the government have in either food or charity?”
I recently received that type of fundraising letter from the Libertarian Party hierarchy. Mind you, it wasn’t seeking support for the federal food-stamp program but instead for the state governmental program known as “school vouchers.” The fundraising appeal was authored by Cory DeAngelis, who is one of the premier voucher proponents in the country. A photo of this fundraising appeal is posted at the end of this article.
What is the relationship between the federal food-stamp program and the school-voucher program? In principle, they are the same, only one program provides vouchers for food and the other provides vouchers for education. In both instances, the government initiates force against one group of people, through taxation, in order to give a food voucher or an education voucher to another group of people. The coercive funding that undergirds both programs perfectly embodies the socialist 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.”)
I’m not the first one who has emphasized the parallels between food stamps and school vouchers. In a January 4, 2018, article entitled “School Vouchers Are Basically Food Stamps,” Ryan McMaken, senior editor at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, pointed out, “So let's not kid ourselves. Voucher advocates are simply advocating for a food-stamp model in education. It's no more innovative than that.”
As I wrote last week in my Substack column entitled “Should LP Members Be Running for School Board?” it would be difficult to find a better example of a socialist program than public (i.e., government) schooling. Public schooling is based on the core principle of socialism called “central planning.” Attendance is compulsory — that is, parents who refuse to subject their children to the state’s educational control are threatened with jail and fines. The schoolteachers, principals, and other personnel are government employees. The state decides the textbooks and curricula.
Given that it is a socialist institution, is it any wonder that public schooling has long been besieged by crisis and chaos? The noted libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises used the term “planned chaos” to describe the results of programs based on socialist central planning. The term perfectly describes the results of public schooling.
In 1990, in my role as president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, I wrote an article entitled “Letting Go of Socialism,” in which I pointed out that school vouchers were nothing more than an attempt to reform or improve the state’s socialist educational system. My article attracted the attention of the noted libertarian Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who is widely known as the original promoter of school vouchers.
In a speech that was later reduced to writing in an article entitled “Say No to Intolerance,” Friedman stated that he agreed with me that the solution to the public-schooling morass was to get the state entirely out of education. He suggested, however, that school vouchers would accomplish that. In his L.P. fundraising letter, DeAngelis follows up on this theme by suggesting that vouchers would “decouple” education and the state.
(For a sampling of articles criticizing Friedman’s article, see the following articles posted on the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute: “Milton Friedman on Intolerance: A Critique” by Walter Block and “Milton Friedman on Intolerance, Liberty, Mises, Etc.” by Stephen Kinsella.)
There is no doubt, of course, that Friedman was one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers. But he wasn’t perfect. And on the issue of vouchers, he was wrong, and he has been proven wrong. In fact, vouchers more deeply embed the state in the educational process by putting private schools on the voucher dole, thereby subjecting them to state control.
Once a private school becomes dependent on the state’s voucher dole, it not only loses its freedom and independence, it also inevitably becomes an advocate of continuing the voucher dole indefinitely. See my article entitled “Milton Friedman and Conservatives: Wrong on Education,” which is posted on the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Thus, Friedman’s belief that vouchers would lead to the separation of school and state was wrong. Indeed, thirty years after school vouchers were adopted in Milwaukee, the state’s public-school system is still going strong.
In fact, modern-day voucher proponents have come to implicitly acknowledge that Friedman was wrong in claiming that vouchers would lead to the demise of state involvement in education. Thus, unlike Friedman, many voucher proponents today make the case for vouchers by arguing that vouchers will improve, not end, the public-school system through “choice” and “competition.”
Consider what libertarian writer Laurence Vance wrote about vouchers in an article entitled “Vouchers: Another Income Redistribution Scheme,” which is posted on the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
But considering the state of public education in America, aren't vouchers a step in the right direction? Aren't they better than doing nothing? To the contrary — vouchers will make the present system worse. Rather than increasing educational opportunity, vouchers will increase the government's grip on education, increase the costs of education, increase people's dependency on the state, and increase the overall power of the state.
Since the state always controls what it subsidizes, private schools that accept voucher payments will be subject to increased regulation. Given the state's track record, it is inconceivable that it could be otherwise. Private schools will be responsible to the state instead of to parents.
Vouchers are an income transfer program in two respects. Not only will people be forced to pay for the education of other people's children, voucher dollars will be an additional tax burden. Voucher proposals never advocate any reduction in funding for public schools to pay for them.
The state may eventually embrace vouchers if it can use them to its own advantage to foster increased dependency on the state. With a voucher system, both parents and children will look to the state for educational services more so than they do now.
Vance’s point regarding state control over private education that comes with vouchers was also emphasized by the noted libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who wrote in the December 1993 issue of the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, “Make no mistake, furthermore: school vouchers will bring control of the private schools in their wake.”
Voucher proponents often couch their pro-voucher arguments in terms of “liberty” because, they say, voucher recipients will now be “free” to attend private schools. But as Rothbard points out in that article, “But of course any thief finds his range of choice happily expanded; but expansions of welfare thievery is not supposed to be the point of libertarian politics.”
Indeed, voucher proponents would have to concede that under their revised definition of “liberty,” the federal food-stamp program brings “liberty” to food-stamp recipients by expanding their range of choices with respect to food. Moreover, we must not forget the people who have been taxed to fund the voucher program; their liberty to use their own money as they see fit has been destroyed by having it forcibly taken away from them.
Consider what happened to Hillsdale College. The federal courts held that the college, which takes no government funds, had to submit to federal control because its students accepted state funds to finance their education. To its everlasting credit, Hillsdale prohibited its students from accepting state funds and raised the money to finance their students’ eduction through voluntary donations. The school is still independent of governmental control.
School vouchers are a longtime Republican reform measure. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Republicans have long been known to favor socialist programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, immigration controls, the Federal Reserve, and others.
For example, consider this random sampling of articles from the Internet:
“Iowa GOP Fast Tracks Private-School Vouches Despite Price Tag” (which DeAngelis highlights in his L.P. fundraising letter)
“Florida House Republicans Propose Major Voucher Expansion”
“Why Utah’s GOP Lawmakers Are Tying a School Voucher Bill to a Public School Teacher Raise”
“Conservatives Are Bringing An Old Policy to A New Fight Over Public Schools"
As Sheldon Richman points out in The Future of Freedom Foundation’s book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families, the only solution to the public-school morass is the separation of school and state. That is the libertarian solution. Indeed, consider the words of Ludwig von Mises himself: “There is, in fact, only one solution: the state, the government, the laws must not in any way concern themselves with schooling or education. Public funds must not be used for such purposes. The rearing and instruction of youth must be left entirely to parents and to private association and institutions.”
The Libertarian Party is not the Republican Party and it is not the Party of Republican-Lite. It is the “The Party of Principle” in the political arena, the party that is supposed to adhere to libertarian principles, not statist principles. I say: Let’s leave welfare-warfare statist measures, such as food stamps and school vouchers, to Democrats and Republicans. Let us Libertarians raise a higher standard for the American people — the standard of liberty — genuine liberty. That’s the way we Libertarians will lead America and the world to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony.
Thanks for reading Libertarian Party Commentaries! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
PUBLIC DEBATE CHALLENGE
I, Jacob Hornberger, a member of the Libertarian Party, hereby publicly challenge Cory DeAngelis, a premier supporter of school vouchers, to debate the following proposition: “Resolved, that the Libertarian Party Should Continue to Support School Vouchers.”
I propose that this debate be held in any or all of the following venues:
Online via Zoom.
At the following upcoming Libertarian Party state conventions (or any other agreed-upon L.P. state conventions that are not listed below), assuming that party organizers are willing and able to fit a one-hour debate into their schedules:
California — Feb. 17-19
Kentucky — Feb 18-19
Oklahoma — March 3-5
Pennsylvania — March 3-5
New Jersey — March 24-25
Alabama — March 24-26
Florida — April 21-23
I propose the following debate format:
Opening Statement: Cory DeAngelis 12.5 minutes
Opening Statement: Jacob Hornberger 12.5 minutes
Rebuttal: Cory DeAngelis 7.5 minutes
Rebuttal: Jacob Hornberger 7.5 minutes
Audience Q&A: 20 minutes
Total debate time: 1 hour
Reference: “What Does ‘The Party of Principle Mean’?” by Jacob Hornberger
Please respond to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.