Front Page Titles (by Subject) Vouchers, Education & Choice - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2
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Vouchers, Education & Choice - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Vouchers, Education & Choice
“Choice or Monopoly in Education.” Policy Review (Winter 1981): 103–118.
Educational vouchers, one of the political and academic novelties of the 1980s, have recaptured public interest as a possible alternative to current modes of educational funding.
The “full” voucher scheme first proposed by Milton Friedman in 1955 would provide parents with certificates equal to the current average cost of educating a child in the public sector—today about $2,000 per year. Under Prof. Friedman's system, parents would be allowed to “add on” marginal funds of their own and to use vouchers at both private and public schools. Education would thus no longer be “free”, since all participating schools, public or private, would charge tuition at full cost.
Prof. West's article spells out reasons for the educational establishment's opposition to various voucher plans and goes on to explain the advantages of the Friedman proposal. On the basis of the newly developed economics of bureacracy and politics, West contends that in the absence of such consumer input as the voucher plan, three general predictions may be made concerning the future development of our educational bureaucracy.
First of all, there will be a tendency toward continual expansion of public education bureaus' monopoly on the teaching process (“bureaucratic imperialism”). The rapid “consolidation” of school districts in the U.S., as well the increasing state and federal share in educational financing, already bear out this prediction.
Secondly, alliances will emerge between these bureaus and the “factor supplies” (teachers, for example) which they employ. In fact, teacher organizations have generally supported the establishment of a central monopoly bureau (a Department of Education) since the very inception of the idea. These organizations have now joined in a tacit alliance to resist the threat to monopoly that vouchers represent.
Thirdly, a national education bureau will want to offer a total output in exchange for a total budget with no alternatives to its own program, an “all or nothing” choice. Voucher proposals strike at the heart of this instinct for monopoly financial control, since they would provide the money for as diverse an educational system as “customers” were willing to pay for.
Among many criticisms levelled against vouchers, it has been charged that this individualized financial arrangement would allow parents to place their children in schools which would merely be narrow ideological extensions of the home. Students would thus lack the contact with a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints which is essential to the democratic process. Prof. West finds it ironic that, in the name of democracy, “enlightened” bureaucrats would deprive parents of the right to educate their children as they see fit.
Critics have also charged that “addons” to vouchers by the wealthy will foster a wide educational disparity between rich and poor. First of all, this charge assumes that poorer parents will not add on money themselves for the sake of their children's future—a condescending supposition belied by the experience of U.S. parochial schools. In addition, a large disparity already exists between rich and poor public school districts. For example, $8,600 was spent per child in a year in one New York suburb, while $3,115 was spent in the city itself.
Besides contributing to freedom and diversity in education. Prof. West views a voucher system as a means of correcting the financial waste of the public school system. During the 1977–1978 school years yearly expenditures per pupil reached $819 in private schools versus $1,736 in public schools—or more than double. Competition encouraged by vouchers would, in West's opinion, halt the profligacy of an entrenched educational monopoly.
Government, Violence and Social Instability
In contrast to the interconnections among freedom, choice, and social stability, the following summaries reveal a disturbing connection among government policy, violence (including warfare and economic repression), and social instability. This distressing nexus is a theme treated in Literature of Liberty's Editorial, and also sounded repeatedly in Justus Doenecke's bibliographical essay, “The Anti-Interventionist Tradition: Leadership and Perceptions.”
The opening summaries focus on three public figures—William Jennings Bryan, Thornstein Veblen, and John Dewey—and reveal different ideological defenses for using war as an instrument to achieve notions of fundamentalist morality, progressive social change, or pragmatic philosophy. The rationalizations behind the political use of force in domestic or international affairs are quite complex and mutually contradictory.
A less idealized picture of the social, economic, and cultural consequences of militarism, political violence, and regulation is sketched in other summaries beginning with Michael Klare's demonstration of the difficulties of having both “guns and butter.” The victims of political violence in these summaries include the American taxpayer, South African blacks, the Hopi Indians, the Post-Civil War South, Mexicans, Guatemalans, and British soldiers of the Victorian era.