Education: First Cut, Then Improve
By Bryan Caplan
Education can be improved; I don’t deny it. For example, I think vocationally-oriented German high school is clearly more efficient than the goofy American approach. My first choice is a free market in education; but if government insists on subsidies, I’d rather see it subsidize the acquisition of productive skills instead of mere hoop-jumping.
Nevertheless, the focus of my next book won’t be on improving education, but on cutting education spending. I have two main reasons: one philosophical, one strategic.
Philosophically, I always begin by pushing the most obvious reforms. “If government is subsidizing activities with negative externalities, stop!” is an excellent example. Once intellectually honest people identify an obvious reform, they should pause the conversation and embrace the reform without ambiguity before they continue the discussion.
Strategically, my thinking is that a vast industry of researchers and activists is already trying to improve education. Competing with them isn’t my comparative advantage. Instead, I should focus on the big reform that conventional researchers and activists Dare Not Name: Wasting less money on pseudo-investment in the nation’s youth.
Once policy-makers actually follow my advice to massively cut spending on education, I’ll be happy to discuss how to improve what’s left. Until then, though, I’ll keep pushing the obvious austere implications of the signaling model.