Vouchers in Education and Health Care Reform

E.D. Kain has a post up here (and here) comparing and contrasting vouchers in education and health care. It’s an interesting post that manages both insight and remarkable oversights in a very short space.

And the insight and oversights are bound up with each other:

I think it’s a consistent position to support both single-payer health care – something many progressives advocate – and single-payer education – something many libertarians advocate…

[Medicare] is a lot like what many school choice advocates want. They want government to foot the bill, but they don’t want them to provide the service, or at least not exclusively. This approach works for Medicare, and it could work for schools also. What we really need is single-payer education – not single-provider education. Anyways, the point is that we think about these programs in somewhat inconsistent ways… Even people advocating single-payer want to be able to go to a private doctor. And yet, these same people are terrified of the government paying for education but not actively providing the schooling.

Kain is right that many school choice advocates want a single-payer, government voucher system. But he’s absolutely wrong to imply the libertarian preference is for a single-payer, government voucher system in education. [Note: I look at ideologies as structures reflecting what people think is valuable, what works and why in politics and society.]

In education, we begin with an almost fully socialized system unlike anything else in American society. So its no surprise that education reform discussions produce ideological confusion.

Vouchers, because they move the means of production out of the hands of the government, into the hands of private providers, and afford the consumer some decision-making powers, are improvements from a perspective that advantages individual liberty. But the single-payer, government funding, and regulation inherent in a voucher program remain massive defects from the libertarian perspective.

Our health care system is crippled by government regulation and single-payer (private employer and government) distortions. But it is not fully socialized or government-funded like our education system. A single-payer government health system would make matters worse from the libertarian perspective.

Think of these policy scenarios on a Left-to-Right ideological scale running from 1 on the far Left to 7 on the far Right, with 4 in the middle. Our standard government-financed, government-run, socialized education system is a 1, as far Left as one can go. Voucherizing the entire system would push it to a 2.

Kain is correct that  ”it’s a consistent position to support both single-payer healthcare … and single-payer education,” because both are completely and comfortably on the Left side of the policy spectrum. Vouchers can’t solve all of our problems in education policy.