The Game of Government Monopoly Has Got to End

When it comes to health care and education, conservatives like Newt Gingrich and socialist liberals are really on the same page. Yes, the conservatives want parents of school-aged children to have “choice.” But the federal education system is, by definition, a government-protected monopoly. You don’t establish choice within the context of a monopoly, especially a monopoly as entrenched as the federal education system. This would be like government paying for everyone’s cars, and then conservative politicians complaining, “All the cars look the same. And if your car is a lemon, there’s nothing you can do about it.” Well, of course that’s the case, because government is subsidizing everyone’s cars! He who subsidizes, controls.

Conservatives who fantasize that we can still put billions of dollars a year into education, making it free for everyone, and then expect that federal monopoly to work like the free market equivalent of, say, Apple computers — well, it’s no wonder conservatives have a reputation for not being that smart. Actually, it’s not lack of intelligence so much as wishful thinking. It’s also naivete. There’s absolutely no way that the teachers’ unions who run public schools will ever give an inch on anything, especially anything that actually requires them to compete.

The bottom line difference between a public school and a private market for education is: One can go out of business, the other cannot. Consider Apple. Apple computers never had a guarantee of anything. It had to prove its product was worthwhile for customers to buy. There were no billions in subsidies coming their way, subsidies that would come whether they produced anything of value, or not. Apple was not populated with employee unions who could use the coercion of government to ensure that they not only keep their jobs no matter what, but that for all practical purposes could never be fired.

People claim to believe that nothing is more important to an individual or a society than education. If this is true, then why is something so important as education left to the coercion, politics and monopolization of the public sector?

People also claim that health care is crucial, as it obviously is. Health care is on its way to being a government monopoly just like education. Medicare and Medicaid already cover most of America’s medical expenses. Yes, they’re completely bankrupt and it’s not clear how they can continue over the next several years, at least without gutting our entire military. Cost controls are coming, as they must, and people are not going to be happy. When you have a government monopoly, you either do what the government says, or you go without. Conservatives want a free market in medicine, or so they say. But they don’t want to touch Medicare or Medicaid, and they actually believe you can keep these programs going. If Medicare were a private insurance company, it would not only be closed, but its executives would all be in jail by now for the fraud being perpetrated on its policyholders.

The answer is to end government monopolies. You don’t have to do it over a 24-hour period, but you have to do it. Parents of children should not merely be given choices, but responsibility. They should be given responsibility for educating their own children, and the market should be opened up for this purpose. There’s no reason there should not be a free market for education just as there is for telephones, computers and televisions. What about public schools? As far as the public teachers’ unions are concerned, the hell with them. They never had a right to impose this monopoly on the tax-paying segment of the population. They should be forced to compete to sell their services in the private market. This is the goal many of the conservatives have in mind, and it’s the right goal. But they must have the strength to advocate the only thing to make it possible: The end of the public school monopoly as we know it.

The same goes for medical care. Most people don’t want to privatize Medicare and Medicaid, and any politician who “goes there” will be strongly rebuked. Just ask that fallen star of a politician who tried last year, Rep. Paul Ryan. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the federal government simply cannot keep funding these programs. This fact has to be faced. I used to support gradual privatization of these programs. Lift all controls and let there be a free market. Put people on a timetable for taking care of their insurance needs, and put them on notice the government is getting out of the medical care business at a certain point in time. You could debate that timetable ten, or even five, years ago, but the time for that is past. The timetable is now being set by reality, because the national debt and deficit are growing by the second … and, particularly with the zero-growth Obama economy, there’s no new tax revenue forthcoming. Obama and the Democrats, should they retake the House, can raise taxes all they want. This will only hurt the cause of economic growth and the socialists will have even less of other people’s money to play with.

Republicans like Newt Gingrich, sadly, still don’t get it. You cannot reform the unreformable. I actually think that conservatives like Gingrich are smart enough to know this. Even some liberals are. They just won’t face the truth. I guess it no longer matters, because the truth is working its way into all of our lives, very soon. Objective reality has a way of doing that.