James Buchanan on school vouchers

And then, [James] Buchanan offers a brief comment on his views on education and school vouchers. Critically, he voices reservations about the introduction of vouchers. Why? Because, as he writes, he is concerned “somehow, to avoid the evils of race-class-cultural segregation that an unregulated voucher scheme might introduce.” Buchanan then goes on to express support for introducing competition in the provision of education, but notes that this should be done in a way that serves “at the same time, to secure the potential benefits of commonly shared experiences, including exposure to other races, classes, and cultures.” In short, though brief, Buchanan’s letter eloquently expresses a vision of education that champions the value of diversity, explicitly condemns “the evils of race-class-cultural segregation,” and notes his reservations about school vouchers if they threaten these values.

That is from Georg Vanberg, and this is fully consistent with the twenty or so years I had of frank conversations with the man.  Here is the letter itself (pdf).


Vouchers were used as a tool to maintain segregation in some cases, such as in Prince Edward County in Virginia in the early 1960's.

The Brown case meant you couldn't have segregated public schools, so the County ended up closing public schools and offering vouchers to private, segregated schools.

This doesn't mean that vouchers are bad, but we should be honest about their history, and how they related to the later Civil Rights Act.

See: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/07/12/435629/racist-origins-private-school-vouchers/

This doesn’t mean that vouchers are bad, but we should be honest about their history, and how they related to the later Civil Rights Act.

Who gives a rip? Liberal discourse is positively juvenile. It's all about who's got cooties.

If you get cooties, wouldn't it be useful to know who gave them to you, how they were transmitted, how to get rid of them, etc?

That the chairman of the white Citizens' Council in Huntsville advocated something in 1960 doesn't interest me. How it functions interests me, as it would any serious person.

And let's be honest that government schools have been and continue to be used as a means to force the views of the majority on unpopular minorities be they Irish Catholics, blacks, religious conservatives, etc.

@Mr. Econotarian - nice history point, but you will note James "Jim" Buchanan specifically says he does NOT want an UN-regulated state voucher system. So Nobelist Buchanan is FOR state regulation of state funded vouchers, for diversity purposes, which I find interesting given I always thought he was a sort of Ayn Rand-ian.

Seems like an irrelevant factoid since no schools can be segregated now? I struggle to see how vouchers could result in a more segregated system than we have today. It's possible, but isn't segregation very high and the tool for this segregation is geographically-based public school districts?

Vouchers will probably serve to further the segregation of children in the autism spectrum. And it will not be an unintended accidental result.

Under the current fluffy definition of 'autism spectrum', that encompasses 1-2% of the youth population. Their placement is of primary interest just why?

I'm believe in Public Schools, I'm Conservative, and I'm against vouchers. Why? Because it gives people more of a say over public policy and resource allocation simply because they have children. If we all pay for a Public Schools, then we all should have an equal say as to the allocation of resources.

Because it gives people more of a say over public policy and resource allocation simply because they have children.

The current system gives people 'more of a say' if they're politicians, ed school graduates, or bureaucratic resume puffers.

You have the schools due to concern over distributional questions. You have SNAP cards for the same bloody reason, but the Johnson Administration was sensible enough when it designed that program to not set up grocery stores run by local politicians and AFSCME members and require everyone pay the jiziya to operate them.

Do you really think that Maclean or anyone who took her book seriously cares in the slightest?

The point is not to persuade Maclean's votaries, who care nothing for truth. The point is to get a particular faculty committee or administrator off Mercatus' back.

Mercatus has absoliutely zero to worry about concerning a GMU faculty committee or administrator, as the Mercatus Center is completely separate from George Mason University. To put it differently, Mercatus worries as much about a GMU faculty committee or administrator as it would about such based at UVA, JMU, VCU, etc. Mercatus is not a Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer funded institution, after all.

They fired you for cause. Suck it up.

Here in Pennsylvania, vouchers were introduced as a way to give parents help if they wanted to get their children out of low-performing schools.
I say if the local public school isn't doing a good job, let's put the voucher money towards improving the school, rather than helping people abandon it.
The more people who abandon a school, the worse it is going to get, the fewer people who are going to want to send their children there, and so on. It becomes a negative feedback loop.
We also have "charter" schools which are some sort of public/private partnership and seem to do a decent job, but many have been accused and/or found guilty of gross mismanagement of public funds. Public schools are a great benefit to society. If they aren't doing a good job, let's make them better.

But, there is no additional "voucher money" to put toward improving the school. The vouchers are generally funded with the same dollars that would be otherwise allocated to the school on a per student basis.

Great job explaining the liberal, insufficient money is the cause of all problems mentality. Except for those "public/private partnerships," where it becomes possible that "gross mismanagement of public funds" would occur.


I don't suppose you would risk a per-student funding to performance scatter plot? Figure 4 is the participation adjusted result.


There's a reason that's not a peer-reviewed study. There is no effort to control for characteristics of the students. There are lots of studies that do, and they find a very small effect from additional funding. Moreover, there are many places that do much better at a lower cost. We should be trying to adopt best practices proven to work, not just believe that adding money to a budget will magically increase test scores by pushing the state farther along a scatter plot, regardless of what the money is spent on. That's not how it works.

By the way, I have to give a shout out to the last plot in that paper as possibly the worst graph of all time. Plotting home value versus total property tax?? Of course you're going to get a linear result, the alternative would be absurd.

In sum it looks like a dishonest advocacy piece to me.

You have to wonder why he wrote a paper at all, clearly the best path is to sprout crap in a comments thread.

You can't spend 5 seconds Googling?

How about the first chart here and accompanying paper: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease/
How about this: http://www.heritage.org/education/report/does-spending-more-education-improve-academic-achievement
This? object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa746.pdf

Obviously the purpose of his paper was advocacy as I stated, since it flies in the face of actual research.

I would say those use an inferior approach.

They do not compare US schools with more or less funding.

They just look at aggregate US spending and returns.

That sure as heck does not answer the original question, about rich and poor neighborhoods.

Why not quit running public monopolies for what is a fee-for-service enterprise which will emerge on the open market?

Re-incorporate your district schools as philanthropies run by boards elected by locally resident alumni. Have your county government issue a voucher to every custodial parent with a redemption value equal to current per-pupil expenditure, adjusted each year according to the change in statewide-personal-income-per-capita. Give your private schools a choice of adding a codicil to their charter declaring them tuition-funded schools or voucher-funded schools. If a parent wishes to homeschool or send his child to a tuition-funded school, allow said parent to cash out the voucher for a fraction of its redemption value (a fraction determined by his direct tax payments for the previous year). Make use of state regents' examinations for quality control, closing each year the schools whose measurable value-added is at the bottom 1% or 2% of the distribution.

Have the sheriff's department maintain schools for incorrigibles no one else will take.

@Art Deco "Have the sheriff’s department maintain schools for incorrigibles no one else will take."

First provide voucher's for police services.

First provide voucher’s for police services.

Why? The police force is a classic public good. The school system is not. It is maintained by public agency out of concern for broad distribution of services and assuring baseline levels of consumption. Vouchers can guarantee broad distribution. You do not need public agency as a delivery system.

Very Jack Welshian. I like it. It makes accreditation stds very important.

Sounds like you are making some empirical claims. I do not believe they are consistent with the extensive research.

The amazing thing about the plot above is that it isn't just a drop-off for poor schools. In figure 4 more funding means better performance across the spectrum.

Some schools seem unaffected by money. Can you explain why, or is your argument as simple as "money helps"? How much would it take to turn Baltimore into a top 10% district? 50,000 per student year? 100,000?

The scatter plot in figure 4 is quite striking.

No data point with funding over $8k has a score below 975.

Whereas 12 data points below $8k in funding have less than a 975 score. Some as low as the 940s.

Why are you relying on this crap paper and not real research that shows the opposite?

Great link! Thanks?

Since you were able to find your own link, which I imagine would be quite difficult since it is a nothing paper, you must have come across all the other literature as well and are trying to hide it? See above for some links if you don't know how to use Google.

I agree. Similarly, when a supermarket keeps selling contaminated meat, we should send them more money, so they can improve their facilities. Otherwise the grocery store might close, and then there would be a food desert.

Segregation means that whites have to go to one school and blacks have to go to another. Desegregation means no racial discrimination, it doesn't mean forced busing for racial quotas.

If a neighborhood is 80% black, the schools will be 80% black because they'll be made up of local kids. Just like if a neighborhood is 90% white, the schools will be 90% white, BECAUSE they'll be made up of local kids.

Unfortunately, mr buchannon came to this view long after the consequences of his earlier views had the effect of promoting others to adopt his analysis to justify the still longstanding fight over who is American and who isn't. The Charlottesville event typifies ongoing struggle.

You fancy this statement isn't non sequitur?

What on earth are you talking about?
Where in public choice theory do you see anything about defining who is American and who isn't?
Nevermind that voucher systems are still quite rare in the US education system. Not many people have adopted his views on vouchers, ever.

We have segregation by race, class, and income. People, especially the upper 20%, are self segregating into exclusive neighborhoods with their associated public schools. The bottom 80% is basically stuck in place.

We have segregation by race, class, and income.

We do? Please explain how the first two are accomplished without resorting to the third.

I don't condemn Mr. Jefferson because he was a man of his time. Does Buchanan (1919-2013) deserve the same latitude? Not if he was a subversive. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/books/review/democracy-in-chains-nancy-maclean.html

Idiot posts idiot's review of liar's book? This will be productive!

Yawn. This 'book review' is a hatchet job. Shorter summary of Maclean's book: (1) I don't like the Koch brothers like Dr. Buchanan did, and, (2) I don't believe, like Buchanan did (and btw as I do) in privatizing Social Security, so I will call James "Jim" Buchanan a subversive.

Bonus trivia: McLean, VA is a suburb in northern VA that the CIA has headquarters in. Locals call it "Mclean" but outsiders--like TC? and even Google--capitalize the "L" and write "McLean". Tsk, tsk.

You make Mclean sound like a hamburger.

The McDonald's Deluxe line was a series of sandwiches introduced in the mid-1990s and marketed by McDonald's with the intent of capturing the adult fast food consumer market, presented as a more sophisticated burger for an adult palate.[1] It failed to catch on and was discontinued on August 18, 2000. It is considered now to be one of the most expensive flops of all time... The line was first introduced in 1991 with the McLean Deluxe; the Arch Deluxe was introduced in May 1996 and the others on September 27, 1996. Except for the McLean Deluxe, all sandwiches were developed by McDonald's executive chef Andrew Selvaggio

Obviously anyone who organizes politically against the left's policies is part of an evil secret conspiracy.
Indeed, the entire field of economics was invented by capitalists to justify their exploitation of the surplus labor value of the proletariat.

One way out would be to have statewide funding of schools while preventing local "topping off" of local schools. At the same time, end school resindency requirements ie, allow people outside the school district to have equal access to the schools. As it stands today in CA, you can do an inter-district transfer but the outsider can be bumped to accommodate someone in the district. This happened to my sons. They were bumped the day before school started and we had to scramble to find another school.

One way 'out of' what?

The segregation caused by gentrified public school districts.

That 'segregation' is not your problem. Your problem is that schools are run by Ed school graduates who fancy it's unacceptable to sequester incorrigibles and turn them over to the sheriff's department because said incorrigibles are 'disadvantaged' and lowering the boom on them will make said administrators feel bad about their jobs. They are run by Ed school graduates whose vocational training was slighted because they had to sit through classes pushing the social ideology of Rachel Lotan &c. They are run by Ed school graduates who are votaries of pedagogic fads because that's how they roll (and because wheel-spinning makes their jobs easier).

You don't need to be shipping slum kids out to glam suburbs. You need better slum schools. And that starts with recognizing that school is for slum kids who can keep their mouth shut, sit still, and leave others in peace.

I believe some states (SD, Montana, Georgia that I can recall. look up open enrollment) are already headed that way. Segregated neighborhoods and schools did not happen by accident. No need to rehash US history but if the goal is to provide all public school pupils with an adequate education, the first step is to let them access the school of their choice. That's the PUBLIC part of public schools. The second step is to resource all schools adequately and not through all kinds of Machiavellian schemes, as is done today.

Vouchers are at least addressing school choice but they're completely sidestepping the real issue, which is good schools in any neighborhood. If we want parents and kids to have school choice, why use vouchers at all? Why not let them?

After all, we don't ask a resident of Nowhereville, NY to pay a premium when they use the post office in NYC

Vouchers are at least addressing school choice but they’re completely sidestepping the real issue, which is good schools in any neighborhood.

A good school is one that works for you and the priorities you have as a parent. A good school is also one which helps a student optimize within a limited time budget. A good school is above all one which is not a locus of criminality, contempt, and disorder.

It seems easier to just allow people to put good schools in bad neighborhoods, then to have the parents of kids in the bad school districts drive their kids way out to some other school district every day so that school can be overcrowded and the original school can be empty. By the way, how do we really know which schools are good and which are bad? Is anyone measuring that specifically?

It's funny, isn't it?

Are the people who want vouchers most likely to be the people who hate standardized testing?

No. Why would you think that?

It would promote growth of the exurbs and de-gentrify urban neighborhoods. It eventually becomes self defeating to drive your kid 90 minutes a day to and back to a "good" school.

This is one of those argument where the only thing notable about it is the man who makes it. He doesn't explain how it will be done. It's as simple as this: give parents choice, they will chose what they prefer. And the revealed preference of most White people is for the Diversity in their children's classrooms to be minimized.

The revealed preference of a great many people is to get away from the silly shticks of Ed school professors by putting their children in schools run by Ed school graduates who did not take their professors seriously.

And the diversity which irritates people isn't black kids, it's aggressive and thieving kids.

People choose the best school. If admissions are blind it won't matter. Berkeley would 75% Chinese but its not because Chinese people want to avoid other races.


Education Realist has a good article on the real motivations for charters:

"Conservative reformers have had their greatest strengths in Democrat strongholds. Even the ones found in Trump territory are in majority-blue areas.

Here’s what the reformers never tell you while asking for funds: Charter support requires unhappy parents. But most parents are quite pleased with their schools, and most parents understand, despite years of attempts to convince them otherwise, that native ability and peers matter more than teachers and curriculum. Changing innate ability levels is tough, so selling charters means finding parents who are unhappy with their childrens’ peer groups. Put another way, all parents want their kids away from Those Kids. Charters are attractive to parents who can’t use geography to achieve that aim.

Practically, this means selling charters primarily to two groups of parents: 1) highly motivated but poor black and Hispanic parents in schools overwhelmed with low ability, low motivated kids (the KIPP sell) 2) white suburban professional parents in schools that are either too brown or too competitive for their students, but who aren’t rich enough for private school or a house in a less diverse district (the Summit sell, or the progressive suburban charter). These are very blue groups.

Understanding the charter constituency explains the discrepancies between the charter and election map, and why the discrepancies go mostly in one direction–that is, why are there blue spots on the map that don’t have significant charter penetration?

In overwhelmingly white districts, parents aren’t buying. Vermont, an all-white state, doesn’t even have a charter law, last I checked, despite being so progressive that networks called the state the minute the polls closed. The California Bay Area doesn’t have the battalion of charters you see in Los Angeles–and many of the ones that do exist are in Oakland, the only place in the Bay Area with enough blacks to support urban charters. The Bay Area and other wealthy suburbs with lots of Hispanics do get some limited support for progressive charters like Summit, in part because Hispanics aren’t easily districted out in the suburbs without inviting lawsuits and in part because suburban comprehensive high schools can be very competitive and some parents would prefer a softer environment for their snowflakes."


Education Realist has a good article on the real motivations for charters:

As opposed to the real motivation of Education Realist, which is to propagate the idea that the people employed by schools are in no way responsible for those schools failures.

Don't think she'd say in no way are bad teachers a problem, but can you really deny that the much bigger problem is the people who run the schools(administrators, politicians, and the judges who impose a constant fear of lawsuits on schools) and the innate abilities of the children themselves?

I wouldn't venture a guess as to the relative size of the vectors in question. ER's long running theme is that institutional arrangements are optimal except for the disciplinary situation, and that's the fault of the Feds. I'm not caricaturing him.

In addition to discipline she's also brought up the fact that schools can't track and can't offer remedial classes. But she doesn't blame teachers. Should she? My sense is that they are doing as good as can be expected. When you account for their low base rate of pay, their tenure, and their pensions, their total compensation is about equal to what they could expect, given their abilities, in the private sector.

When you account for their low base rate of pay, their tenure, and their pensions, their total compensation is about equal to what they could expect, given their abilities, in the private sector.

Which is why being a public school teacher in the US is a magnet for people with low ability and low motivation. In America, people often become public school teachers after failing at other things, because they know it's got a lot of job security and perks even if it doesn't pay well.

Anecdote: I went through a series of different school systems because we moved back and forth between the US and Canada when I was a minor. First I was in a Canadian parochial school, then a US private Catholic school, then a US public school, then a Canadian public school.
I can tell you that the nuns in the private Catholic school were easily the most dedicated - which kind of makes sense since they are NUNS - they have no life outside of their work. There were some good teachers in the US public school too, but there was a higher ratio of teachers that just didn't give a shit in both the US and Canadian public schools. Some of them were really just going through the motions.

When you account for their low base rate of pay, t

Median cash compensation for school teachers is about $57,000 a year. They're typically on-site about 180 days a year. Their median retirement age is 59 years. Their fringe benefits (most particularly their deferred compensation) are handsome. I'd say they're doing all right.

"And the revealed preference of most White people is for the Diversity in their children's classrooms to be minimized."

No, the revealed preference of most people who care about their children is that they want their kids to be in a school where learning is taken seriously.

Now, that may or may not produce the outcomes said parents want; some good and smart kids do poorly when under the pressure that can exist at a school with a tough academic reputation to uphold. But it is far more likely to produce an outcome in the desired ballpark than a school populated by miscreants and run by no-hopers; the skin color of the students, teachers, and administrators is irrelevant as an immediate factor.

Magnet school parent here. No, a good education with a rounded social experience is best. It is the most American. It is more Houston and less Bel Air.


Which is to say that Dr. Buchanan was fretting that free choice would permit people to make choices he did not care for and associate along lines he did not like; I can see he's the godfather of Mercatus is ways Gottfried Dietze is not.

Any school which has a serious architectonic mission is going to appeal to some sectors and not others.

Public schools absolutely have a mission to build solid citizens.

What if "parental choice" was a school dedicated to drug cutting and car jacking? You'd bless that as highest utility?

(Prejudice filled religious schools are just a milder version of the carjacking problem. Socially corrosive.)

"Prejudice filled religious schools"??

Car jacking schools?? Get real


Public schools absolutely have a mission to build solid citizens.

"Solid citizens' as defined by Ed school professors, not as defined by Joe Average, much less by Joe Average evangelical.

(Prejudice filled religious schools are just a milder version of the carjacking problem. Socially corrosive.)

Thanks for making my argument for me.

'I can see he’s the godfather of Mercatus'

No, he was simply one of the props used by the godfathers of the Mercatus Center to buy respectability for their favored public policy positions (at Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer expense, of course).

to buy respectability for their favored p

If they were really influential, the respectability would be bought with the University's general budget. See: every women's studies program in America, every black studies program in America, and every sociology department in America bar the few dominated by quants.

It is sad to see that institutional racism is a present and clear danger to an initiative that could renew American education. President Temer has already expressed his sincere wish that America may outgrow its racist past and that, one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Ever hear of Atlanta?

If a culture isn't segregated to some extent, it's not really a culture.


If you're looking for a way to "segregate" your school, a great way is to simply require parents to volunteer 2 hours a week or equivalent at the school. You'll have all the riff raff parents avoid the school like the plague. You will lose families with both parents who work, though.

Note this won't be racial segration. Which is really not a thing in California anyways.

Other clever ways is to get your kid into an IB school. Too much schoolwork for low quality parents.

A trick in Canada is to do French immersion. Same idea.

So we're afraid of vouchers but we have all other clever tricks available for the true elites.

I think that like much of policy, the outcomes that result from vouchers largely result from the way they're designed - vouchers are simply a tool, after all. But it seems that Henry Farrell and StevenTeles were vindicated in defending Buchanan from their positions as liberals, and they are to be commended for their courage in expressing dissent from this particular view widely-held amongst their ideological "friends"

>the value of diversity

Ty talks about this all the time... and yet never says what it is.

Why could that be?

Food courts.

Thank you, Professor Cowen.

An article in the Atlantic summarizing the research on segregation and vouchers: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/do-private-school-vouchers-promote-segregation/520392/

So do/would Democrats support vouchers in cities that are virtually all one race, that is where race and segregation are not problems?

BTW my children went to a private school that was about 20% black 80% white/Hispanic/Asian.

Every country in the world does the opposite of the US. The education unions hold sway over everyone. Buchanan endorsed protectionism in academe through tenure. College professors are the last ones to direct education funding.

What concerns me vouchers, there is no way to ensure that access in any school system will lead a full education. Good neighborhoods (mid to wealthy) and good schools go hand-in-hand and will a voucher system lead to access to such schools. I agree that getting good schools in poor neighborhoods is a challenge, but vouchers per se don't appear to be a way to solve the problem. To denigrate the public schools and public intervention in general doesn't seem to offer an alternative that ensures a better outcome.

In an earlier post, I suggest that libertarians venture close to offering solutions to public problems that verge on ensconcing current power structures in perpetuity something that seems ultimately un-democratic.

To denigrate the public schools and public intervention in general doesn’t seem to offer an alternative that ensures a better outcome.

Holy ADD, Batman! Try to stick to the topic: vouchers.

Your ADD is yours, but please continue.

So you're pleading stupidity. Got it.

Your moniker says it all' I need not continue.😇

A) you're too dumb to hit reply in the right place
B) you're too dumb to figure out that what I quoted had nothing to do with what you were responding to
C) you're too dumb to realize that after I pointed it out
D) you have a random jumble of letters for a name and are apparently trying to harass me for mine

You're somewhere between rayward and mulp.

Looking at my chart, there are a lot of bad outcomes, but no really bad outcomes with spending above $8k per student.

I imagine (perhaps I am unkind here) that voucher fans expect rich parents in rich towns to get $12k vouchers, while the poor families "get what they deserve."

Imo a cost indexed national voucher, leveling public spending, would be the truly ethical choice.

Cost indexed so that the residents of the best cities don't pay for that privilege?

PS: without looking at your graph I'm guessing that the trick used to deceive readers is to ignore federal funding, as your numbers are far lower than any inner city school's budget.

You do know that there have been cases where judges took over school districts and spent wildly.

Test scores didn't improve.

Are you guys the missing link? Those creatures halfway between a mute simian and a data sourced sapien?

Or perhaps school choice fans expect more of the same- closing of the gaps between high-SES and disadvantaged communities?

Heaven forbid we allow parents to actually make decisions for their children! Why, we have elites for that who would just faint if they weren't able to override what parents might choose for their children of they were able. After all, nobody loves their own kids as much as someone in DC does, so they might make the wrong decision about where to send them to school and what's best for their families.

This line of argument might be more convincing if the DC elites didn't generally send their own kids to private schools and then oppose the vouchers which would allow poorer DC kids to join them.

Bottom line, if you want to improve schools, you have to let parents/students leave the worst ones so that they fail. As long as vouchers cover the same as what a district school spends, then parents (of whatever race) can use them to afford to send their kids to a good school, right along with the others.

With vouchers, you'd see an explosion in schools and competition, from major chains to literal mom&pop neighborhood schools. Let the parents choose and thus the market decide.

And competition doesn't mean there will be losers. All schools can benefit.

"Heaven forbid we allow parents to actually make decisions for their children! "

Vouchers mean you are saying I get to make less choices with MY tax dollars. Parents have no more choice with vouchers than they do without vouchers.

Your choice is 1. $15k per kid or 2. $15k per kid. Which do you prefer?

How so?

Living in quite the racist city, there's segregation everywhere: Minority/poor people start entering a school district? Redraw the lines! There's even plenty of segregation in the private school system: Good luck reaching 5% black in the good schools. Heck, even asians end up in their own schools, thanks to the wonders that is the social circles of private schools.

The more I look at schooling in the US, the more it looks like, barring very specific diversity goals, the whole thing has just mating dinamics among student's families, instead if being about pairing the educational institutions themselves and parents.

1. Exactly what problem are vouchers trying to solve? Make education as a whole better? OK, whats wrong with it right now and how would we know if it got better or worse? Fix failing schools? OK leave aside the question of how do we know if a school is failing and is the school the problem or the students (does a high dropout rate mean a school failed? If your kid drops out of high school is that his failure or the school's?), unless you're an advocate of Soviet level conformity, you're always going to have failing things. There are some bars that are failing, some pizza places that are failing, some care dealerships that are failing etc. If even in the pure free market you will end up with failing places, why would vouchers stop that?

2. Do you have criticisms of the education system that you think do NOT apply to colleges? Colleges are essentially the voucher advocates wet dream. Almost all of college is either paid for with the money of parents and students OR grants from the gov't given to students to use at a school of their choice.

The goal is to provide a remedy for families that care about education but are forced in to a system designed by Democrats with teacher's unions and party coffers in mind. Stop screwing bright minority kids, Boonton.

I suggest you look at one of those color coded maps showing red for every country that voted for Trump and blue for Clinton ones. Tell me again how the whole system is designed by Democrats yet for some reason all those red areas keep electing Republicans.

American grade schools consistently perform worse than schools in other countries on several measures of student test scores, critically math and science. This is a big problem for the competitiveness of US companies and national defense, since we will lose our technological edge if this continues.

By comparison American colleges and universities are STILL considered the world's premier educational establishments. Unfortunately, our STEM programs, especially at the graduate level are largely being filled by foreign nationals, because the poor quality of our public schools means that America high school students can't compete against foreigners for admissions. And because of our ridiculous immigration laws which have been captured by domestic labor since the 1960s, we force most of those students to leave the country. (We're literally training the rest of the world's engineers and scientists at the best institutions in the world and exporting our technological edge.)

There's two things about that that need to be fixed: improve public school math and science education so we can produce America kids who can compete with foreign students, and stop forcing foreign born STEM workers trained at American universities to leave.

Now, as you point out our colleges and universities DO operate on principles of school choice, and that's WHY they remain the world top rated research institutions in many technical fields.
In other words, that experience completely bears out libertarians intutions with regards to the benefits of free markets. American universities demonstrate that markets in education work very well.

Thus, it's perfectly reasonable for libertarians to conclude that markets can work when applied to primary education as well. Competition and school choice will result in the failure and closure of lower perform ing schools, as designed, and those schools will be replaced by better performing schools.

"American grade schools consistently perform worse than schools in other countries on several measures of student test scores, critically math and science. This is a big problem for the competitiveness of US companies and national defense, since we will lose our technological edge if this continues."

This is one of those statements that are easy to write and agree with except if you think about it for a few minutes, it is totally stupid. Kind of like the last Game of Thrones season. We've been hearing for decades about test scores, even generations. Yet we have a 'technological edge' that we should worry about losing. If such a statement says anything it says there's no correlation between test scores and national 'edge' in either defense or technology.

But look if you want test scores you don't need vouchers, you just pay for performance, pay based on test score improvement. No Child Left Behind tried to do that but huge numbers of parents revolted against excessive 'teaching to the test'. If this is the metric you want to hang yourself on, then what do you do if other goals are pursued with vouchers?

"Now, as you point out our colleges and universities DO operate on principles of school choice, and that’s WHY they remain the world top rated research institutions in many technical fields. In other words, that experience completely bears out libertarians intutions with regards to the benefits of free markets. American universities demonstrate that markets in education work very well."

Actually the problem here is that the best colleges in the US are world class. Well yes, so are the best public schools in the US. Likewise the worst colleges in the US are pretty shitty as are the worst public schools.

So the voucher-like program did NOT produce anything different in higher education as opposed to public schools.

Ok, so your response is to simply deny that there is any difference in performance between primary education and higher education in America. This way you can claim that school choice choice doesn't do anything. Despite the fact that there is demonstrable evidence, worldwide, US primary education is inferior, and it's higher education is second to none.

Here's a couple pieces of evidence:
America students rank below most other European counties, East Asia, and Canada in all test areas.

And here's US news ranking higher education globally:
8 of the top 10 univerisites in the WORLD are American. Two British.
35 of the top 50 universities in the world are American.

The only reason why have maintained our technological edge is because we invite the best students from other countries to come to the US and go to American schools and do research in American research labs. And then they get jobs at US companies and immigrate.

And here's the Wikipedia ranking of top unversities world wide:

Same thing.

Here' a rankings of technical publications by country:

He're a study by PEW research showing that over half of engineering and computer science degrees at US univerisites are going to foreign students. And the percentage of foreign born STEM workers in the US has about dobled since 1990.

The evidence shows that American public schools simply are not producing enough US born kids with the math and science skills needed to fill jobs at US research labs and in industry.
We're maintaining our edge because we're importing better trained foreign students.
But some European and Asian research institutions are catching up.

For example:

It is exceptionally easy to find evidence for the discrepancy in performance between US primary education and higher education.

American grade schools consistently perform worse than schools in other countries on several measures of student test scores, critically math and science. This is a big problem for the competitiveness of US companies and national defense, since we will lose our technological edge if this continues....By comparison American colleges and universities are STILL considered the world’s premier educational establishments.

You're not defending your point. You are trying to compare the best American colleges to all American public schools. Consider your statement:

"And here’s US news ranking higher education globally: 8 of the top 10 univerisites in the WORLD are American. Two British. 35 of the top 50 universities in the world are American."

OK but what about the top 10 grade schools in the world? I wouldn't be shocked if some of them were American.

What you are doing is comparing the average to the top. It's sort of like you saying the US wins a lot of gold every Olympics so we must be a country of very fit people. Reality the average American is pretty unfit and getting fatter every year, the top athletes in America, though, are world class.

If you want to talk about the entire system you need to talk about all colleges in the US on average just as you are trying to do with all public schools. On the other hand if you just want to talk about the best of the best then look only at the top public schools, which I suspect will perform well on the metrics you've put forth to measure grade schools on.

Questions not answered:

Take the PISA Test which you throw out there. Where are these answers:

1. Many countries like Canada and Japan do much better on PISA than US students. Why do these countries not demonstrate a superior economy or better economic growth given their better scores?

2. What evidence is there a better PISA score means an individual or group will have a better life?

3. Are PISA tests administered evenly throughout the world? Perhaps not, consider http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/hey_wait_a_minute/2005/08/theyre_not_stupidtheyre_lazy.html

The "who cares?" phenomenon probably plagues older students' performance on international exams, too. Granted, kids in Japan and the United Kingdom don't pay a personal price for how they do on global tests, either. But cultural pressures can be very different in other countries. Korean schools have staged rallies to rev their children up before they take international assessments. And Germany created a national "PISA Day" to mark the date when 15-year-olds take the exam that will rank them against students in other countries. The U.S. Department of Education, meanwhile, has a hard time convincing principals to administer voluntary international tests at all.

Given other standardized tests 'matter' a lot to US students and teachers, the fact is schools, teachers and students simply do not rally around this test while other nations do as a matter of national pride or some other factors. If international students think the fate of their nation hangs on the test while US students think its a waste of time (and teachers and principals reinforce that), then the data becomes worthless.

4. Can you cite a single nation that does very well in PISA the uses school vouchers as a backbone of its educational system? Even if you have one you have many countries that do well on PISA without a voucher system. That indicates you can do well without PISA but it remains an open question whether vouchers will produce better PISA scores or worse.

5. The problem with a single metric remains if that is what you are optimizing for, you can easily get it. If you paid schools and teachers bonuses based on PISA performance, you would get rising PISA scores. If you paid them based on a lower dropout rate, you'd get that. If you paid them based on SAT scores, you'd get that. The problem here is that these metrics are not always auto-correlated. Getting SAT scores to shoot up may have no impact on the dropout rate...or teaching to the PISA may score points on that test at the expense of the PISA. Few consumer products sold in the market are measured by a single metric, they are often measured by multiple metrics that produce a huge array of different types. For example, burgers are not simply evaluated on how much meat they have. Some places do different things to the meat, others change around the toppings, others have specialty buns etc. So the reality is a single product in the market (burger) becomes a huge array of products. That's fine but you've staked out a claim of quality based on a single metric. If PISA scores are all that matters, then education that works with a 'different bun' is by definition an inferior quality if it fails to produce better PISA scores. If you admit that PISA scores may not be so important, then you've ruined your argument that the current US Public school system is a major problem.

One more example of Nancy MacLean's mendacious dishonesty.
Although I think the truth is more paranoia/delusion - for some reason left-wing academics can get away with propagating the most outlandish consipracy theories about their political opponents - almost birther level stuff. Personally I think this is because a paranoid worldview is deeply embedded in Marxism - MacLean just added public choice theory to the list of economic disciplines which are secretly designed brainwash everyone into supporting the capitalist system.

MacLean just added public choice theory to the list of economic disciplines which are secretly designed brainwash everyone into supporting the capitalist system.

Perhaps she posts on blogs under the pseudonym 'prior_approval'.

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