Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How We Pay for Other People’s Education in a Free Society

In the comments section of the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial If you believe in racial equity, don't opt out of PARCC* (see my post of 12/14/15), correspondent Dale said:

The education of children and adults is an overall benefit to society. In general, education helps improve the nation by increasing the Gross National Product (GNP), encouraging scientific and technological advances, providing opportunities for the successful participation in society, decreasing the crime rate, and producing a more informed electorate.

As education benefits the entire nation, not just those who have children, it is a cost borne by all society.

I left these comments:

Translation: “Society” is supreme over the individual.

There is a fatal flaw in your collectivist premise, Dale: “Society” is only a number of individuals. “Society” is an abstraction. When you claim the “benefit to society” as a justification to make education “a cost borne by all society,” you are just rationalizing seizing some people’s money by force, for the unearned benefit of others, based on your own subjective judgement of what is a “benefit”—with the government as your hired gun. You are also rationalizing putting government central planners in charge of education—what is taught, or not taught; who teaches it; how it is taught, etc—replacing parents and educators.

But every individual has a right to decide for himself what benefits him, and spend his money accordingly. When an individual benefits himself, he benefits society, because every individual is part of society. There is no “benefit to society” apart from the benefit of individuals, and no rational justification for anyone to force his idea of “benefit” onto others. This goes especially for a field as crucial as education.

Yes, “education” is a benefit. But it is morally up to each individual to determine what kind of education constitutes a benefit, and how and when to pay for it. In a free society, where all education is privately and voluntarily funded, we as individuals pay for [other people's] education in the way we spend our money, because the cost of education is embedded in the price we pay for goods and services. When I buy a cell phone, I pay for the education of the people who produced it. Same with cars or hammers. I don’t pay for the education required for products I don’t buy, and shouldn’t be forced to for the sake of “Gross National Product.” I shouldn’t have to pay for the education of someone, if the end result of that person’s education isn’t a benefit to me, as determined by my own free judgement. What if the line of work someone goes into is not a value to me, such as motorcycles? Or of products I consider harmful, such as cigarettes? Or of ideas I disagree with, such as this editorial? Or of “progressive” education, which I believe harmful to children’s minds? What if an “educated” person turns out to be lazy and doesn’t work? Or if someone’s “education” doesn’t result in a marketable skill? Why should I be forced to fund their educations?

Collectivism, one of mankind’s greatest evils, says otherwise. The group is morally supreme, and individuals may be sacrificed for the group’s benefit. The group always turns out to be the state—as it logically must, since a collective is an abstraction, not an entity that thinks and acts, like an individual. If “education” is deemed by the state to be a benefit to “society,” then the individual’s wealth must be sacrificed to education, regardless of the value of that education to the individual. And the group, or collective, comes in many forms. Substitute the race for society, and you get Nazi Germany. Substitute the proletariat for society, and you get Soviet Russia. If you believe it is just to sacrifice people’s wealth for the collective—be it “society,” the race, the economic group—then why not sacrifice people’s liberty and lives in addition to his earned wealth? After all, the group is the central focus of moral concern.

When you peddle collectivist rationalization, you are declaring “society, c'est moi,” announcing your intention to impose your values on everyone else, regardless of the cost to others’ wealth and liberty. You are aligning with evil.


* “The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers,” according to the PARCC website. The standardized tests associated with PARCC is colliding with a growing rebellion from teachers and parents, who are increasingly opting their children out of the PARCC tests.

Related Reading:

Selflessness vs. Egoism: Or, ‘Real Education’ vs. Real Education

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