Dueling Analogies


Picture courtesy soapbox.lafayette.edu.

Original post by calperson @ thomhartmann.com …commentary at end by Ken Carman

I found this libertarian-like analogy interesting, and challenging. My own posted comment is at the end.

Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries – “for free” – from its neighborhood public supermarket.

No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. …

… quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in families’ choices about where to live. Real-estate agents and chambers of commerce in prosperous neighborhoods would brag about the high quality of public supermarkets to which families in their cities and towns are assigned.

… thoughtful souls would call for “supermarket choice” fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.

As for the handful of radicals who call for total separation of supermarket and state — well, they would be criticized by almost everyone as antisocial devils indifferent to the starvation that would haunt the land if the provision of groceries were governed exclusively by private market forces.

My response…

Let’s flip that. Suppose our public schools were operated like supermarkets. The rich don’t even have to go. They just order whatever they want, or not, and someone brings it to them. The middle class buy what they can, or not. The poor buy as little as they can and often the least heathly options. Maybe they might have “education stamps,” but when they use them they often get verbally abused and berated for doing that. A lot of folks consider them welfare queens, whether they are, or not. And the dirt poor get kicked out for being homeless and wandering in off the street. They are left to getting what they can for their kids out of school garbage cans, if they don’t get chased off for that or shot by police.

Neither analogy is perfect, for sure, but the contrast surely shows either is overly simplistic.