Monday, March 23, 2009

Tax Credits for Education, 1

I ended a previous post on vouchers--based on a letter to the editor by Aquinas Heard--as such:
"If freedom is the standard, and it should be, coercion needs to be removed from education completely. Not just in its funding, but in its enrollment too. The way to get more choice in the meantime is not with vouchers but with tax credits for education."
The fundamental argument for tax credits is simple. Here is the one minute simplified version:

Parents have a right to the money they have earned, which includes of course how it will be spent by them. When it comes to educating their children, the government does not acknowledge this right. Instead, money is taken from parents and used to fund an education for their children that others think those kids should have.

The above constitutes an abrogation of rights. Leaving aside compulsory attendance for the child, the property rights of the parents are violated--because the government has taken away their property (which means here their earnings).

Tax credits would recognize the infringement on rights that occurs above, unfortunately on an ongoing basis given the present system, and--while not changing the system--would compensate parents for the money taken from them in this specific area.

Note that the practicality of having parents search for the best school or textbooks and so on for their child is not mentioned above. Though practical benefits would no doubt be one result, on a fundamental basis, it is really just about rights--and, specifically here, property rights.

In the comments section of the previous post, a knowlegeable reader and fellow blogger pointed out that the system as a whole wouldn't change. The government would only pay restitution to parents; those without kids, who are forced to pay into the current system, would continue to see their right to the disposal of the money they earned infringed upon--with no restitution whatsoever.

This is an inconsistency for sure, and one that was pointed out to me elsewhere. Given the state of the political system, however, inconsistency is hardly a bad thing. I want to support something at odds with the current system, as long as it is aligned with freedom, and the more people that recognize their lack of a right when contrasted with someone who has it, the better.

In other words, I want those people to say that that they earn money too--and then ask why they shouldn't also have a right to spend their money on what they want as they wish. Sometimes getting people to ask the right questions is far better than giving them the right answers.

Here, all an advocate of individual rights has to do is agree. Main premise agreed upon, the conversation can then move to more practical matters of what that person can do to bring about a more just system (in the limited area of education and beyond).

It is of course obligatory to note that the above is one possibility. There is no certainty that this is how people will react, and the reactions of some--including government bureaucrats--may be entirely different. Since this post is long (especially by internet standards), I will discuss the objection arising from this possibility in a coming post. Stay tuned.

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