Noah Smith on Education
By David Henderson
Co-blogger Arnold Kling comments on Noah Smith’s post on education and Arnold’s thoughts, as always, are worth reading. I want to focus on three things in Smith’s post, though, that Arnold doesn’t highlight.
1. Noah says that schools are prisons. He’s right. The difference between Smith and me on this is that he advocates that innocent people be imprisoned and I advocate that they not be.
2. In laying out why parents have too little an incentive to invest in their children’s education, Smith argues that because the parents don’t get the financial rewards from their children’s education, they don’t spend on it. He has a very different view of parents and what they care about than I do. I’m not saying that some parents don’t feel this way. My impression, based on casual empiricism and on the more-rigorous empiricism of the late E.G. West, is that the majority of parents, when allowed to exercise their caring–that is, when allowed to choose schools and pay for schools without facing government-subsidized competition–do care a lot about their kids.
3. Smith goes from his assertion that parents don’t care enough about their kids to his solution: have government spend on education. But how did he make that jump? How is it that parents don’t care about their kids but they somehow vote for politicians who, along with all the other things they legislate on, legislate effective solutions that show that they, the politicians, care more about parents’ kids than the parents themselves?