Gene Balfour Blogs

Education regulations & Libertarian principles

The Education Act, R.S.O.1990, c. E.2 is analyzed under the Libertarian IPR and NAP policy lens to determine if it complies with our principles. This Act empowers the reigning Ontario Liberal Party to operate expensive, inflexible, ideologically biased, self-serving and harmful education monopolies.  For more about the Education Act, please refer to the https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e02.

Please note that the Education Act contains 347 topics under 9 PARTS (sections). Among other things, these prescribe too many rules of conduct and remedial procedures to address in this Bulletin. Instead, I shall not assess any individual topic or PART, but the entire nature of the Education Act as a non-elective, “one-size-fits-all” program imposed legally on all taxpayers. 

The use of square brackets [ ] will be used to signify the [property element] that is in play for the Analysis.

THE ANALYSIS

A.     Libertarians apply the Individual Property Rights (IPR) principle to identify the property elements that are traded between vendor and customer in order to consummate their economic transactions.

The Vendor hires and compensates employees who are expected to serve customers and fulfill their needs by applying their Body, Mind and Efforts plus the vendor’s Assets to complete the trade under mutually agreeable terms.

For an “executive summary” describing Ontario’s publicly funded education system, see http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/educationFacts.html

The above link reveals that, in the 2014-15 calendar year, Expenditures for District School Board were reported as $24,162,837,516 paid from Revenues of $24,625,831,740. These revenues were guaranteed by Education tax levels that are requested by the School Boards in Ontario, approved by elected political leaders and enforced by tax enforcement officers and their administration. This Education Expenditure is the 2nd largest Ontario government budget line item after Health Care and represents approximated 22% of the published annual provincial budget.

In the In the 2014-15 calendar year, there were 2,003,237 students enrolled in the tax-funded Public and Roman Catholic Elementary and Secondary schools. By comparison, 124,141 students attended private schools in the 2013-14 calendar year: this represents 6% of the total Elementary and Secondary student population.

The Customer brings [Assets] to the trade, delivered as money payments from personal earnings or savings if the customer is a person, or from earned profits or debt financing if the customer is a business enterprise.  For the sake of this analysis, two types of ‘customer’ are identified:

  • The Primary Customers are the students who bring themselves [Body, Mind and Effort] to the “trade transaction” as co-creators of an “end product” that is desired by ALL stakeholders – a happy, well adjusted and thoroughly prepared, long-term participant in society, both socially and economically.
  • The Secondary Customers are the students’ parents, potential employers and society itself. Society qualifies as a ‘customer’ to the extent that the peace and prosperity of every society is correlated with the education levels and skills training of all members within that society. Insofar as they pay taxes for public Education, the other named secondary customers forfeit their [Assets] to fund the revenues stated above.

 B.      Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) asserts that terms of trade must be mutually acceptable for a successful trade to occur. This implies no coercion or force is used.

The NAP violations for the above include the following:

As mentioned above, there are several customers to be considered in this analysis.

  1. Parents are harmed by the lack of choice to apply their earned money- ie their financial [Assets] - and their parental judgment – [Mind] - to avail their children of schooling options other than those of the “one-size-fits-all” public system. In effect, the primary decision-making responsibility and financial ability to provide for their child’s education has been usurped by the state. Moreover, the parents are left no option but to have faith that the public system will meet the needs and aspirations of their children. Faith may have a legitimate place in spiritual matters, but not in matters that have a direct bearing on the survival prospects of citizens. Sure, private school options exist, but few parents can afford to forfeit their earnings to pay for Public Education taxes AND to pay the high cost of private schools.
  2. Businesses require increasingly specialized workers in our modern, ultra-competitive, technology-infused enterprises. Yet, businesses have little to no input into the curricula of our post-secondary schools to ensure a healthy supply of graduates who will be adequately prepared to enter the workforce. (Note: The Education Act does not cover post-secondary schooling, but the point still applies concerning the statutes that control our state-owned and operated Colleges and Universities.)  To the extent that new graduates require additional training in the workplace when hired, business owners must invest more time, Effort and money [Assets] to help entry-level employees reach a profitable level of productivity.
  3. Society is harmed to the extent that inadequately prepared graduates are unable to find employment – a Survival challenge. High youth unemployment often leads to costly [Assets] social unrest, increased crime, and even mental health issues directly related to frustration and confusion about their place in the economy and in society.
  4. Students. While outside of the scope of the Education Act, Graduates of our University and College institutions frequently carry large education loans to fund their years of post-secondary study. Their [Efforts] to earn academic credentials is critical because, without them, their prospects for meaningful employment with acceptable earnings potential and career options, and their social status would be encumbered – a clear Survival impediment.  These debt-loads would likely pose a much lower [Assets] financial drain if these institutions did not operate as government-subsidized and regulated monopolies that employ costly and inflexible monopoly workforces (unionized).
  5. Parents, students, businesses and society are all concurrently harmed whenever any threat of, or actual work withdrawal occur in the schools.  [Mind, Effort, Assets] are all affected to the extent that these actions thwart the attainment of their goals. In a sector like Education, that depends heavily on “human capital” – teachers, administrators, support staff, central planners – the incentive to seek innovations, efficiencies, the highest of service level delivery from all staff and productivity improvements, is generally absent. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true. Many of these “public servants” know that they are essential to services delivery, and have acted to leverage self-serving advantages by imposing threats of work withdrawal if their demands were not met. The taxpayers, however, must continue to pay the full tax tariff [Assets] to the government even though a “mutually agreeable trade“ goes unfulfilled.

As taxpayers, we are essentially slaves to the state.  In one part of our lives - as a consumer of free market goods and services - we can act as “economic voters” to freely choose our vendors. In the public sector, however, the average citizens among us pay nearly half of their annual income to taxation – the single largest item in the typical family budget.  There is no legal way that any single citizen can employ to avoid the level of taxation charged to them.

The Big Government supporters, however, will try to con the gullible by claiming that our vote can make a difference in getting what we want for the state. But our laws allow each citizen only one vote every 4 years at the federal and provincial level; we are only presented with Big Government parties as viable political choices on the election ballots and in media campaigns; and our one vote goes only to decide who will represent us, not what they will do for us.

If our citizens cannot count on our elected officials to look out for the interests of our families, and ourselves, then why do we need them? 

The greatest of all NAP violations is to force every citizen to work for nearly half of their lives even if they are not getting their money’s worth!  See Tax Freedom Day (https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/canadians-celebrate-tax-freedom-day-on-june-7-2016).

Monopolies are illegal in the private sector but are the norm for government institutions. Why the double standard?

A government-enforced monopoly is the only kind of monopoly that can survive indefinitely.  The leaders can increase their price and reduce the quality, effectively ignoring the customers.  It’s even worse when the government is the employer because it is more politically expedient to concede to employees’ demands with taxpayer’s money than to contend with the powerless voter.

Like any economic sector that exists as a public monopoly funded by taxation and favored with regulations to enforce its exclusive mandate, the Education sector suffers from similar constraints on the supply side of its market.

These constraints include:

  1. Competing vendors - non-governmental education services delivery options, in this case - rarely attempt to enter this market, let alone succeed. All private schools in Ontario are very expensive options and affordable mainly by rich families and/or those subsidized by special interest groups such as organized religions. The 2,000,000+ students who must attend Ontario primary and secondary schools, and their parents, are unable to exercise the all important choice to apply their [Body, Mind, Effort and Assets] to attain, in their judgment, the best possible preparation for a successful, fulfilling and prosperous life after their child’s formal education is complete.
  2. All private sector entrepreneurs continually search for market niches that reveal profitable business potential. After assessing the risks and potential returns, they then apply their ingenuity, effort, financial capital and ongoing business judgments to satisfy those market niches, or fail in the effort and learn from their mistakes so as to make better choices in subsequent entrepreneurial ventures. Government monopolies, on the other hand, incur no such risk (tax revenues are guaranteed) and require no “trial and error” refinements to deliver continually improving operations. To the extent that creative, industrious and innovative entrepreneurs are restricted from finding and fulfilling market niches in the Education sector, everyone is harmed through lost opportunities involving their [Mind, Effort and Assets.]
  3. Government operations generally take on levels of “red tape”, bureaucratic processes and  “overheard costs” that are rare in the private sector. To the extent that many school administrators find themselves in jobs that have little to do with the effective delivery of education services, this is a waste of “human capital” [Mind, Effort] and a productivity loss [Assets] that could be rectified if their abilities were applied elsewhere. To the extent that Education sector employees find themselves in unfulfilling and unproductive jobs, everyone is harmed through the lost opportunities to make better use of the [Minds] and [Efforts] of these employees and the [Assets] of Ontario’s publicly funded education system.

Democracy does not exist when
Citizens are left with no choice but to
Submit to government monopolies.

As a Libertarian, how does the above analysis influence your thinking regarding education policy?

The first step to answering this question is to ask yourself if you agree with Libertarian Principles 1 & 2.  The life experience of every human being determines their Life Lens and, consequently, how readily he or she may accept these Principles. Persons who view themselves as victims - powerless in their daily quest for survival and prosperity - will not likely accept them. Others, who possess effective and useful survival skills and attributes, will embrace these Principles and the following comments will likely appear very sensible.

Libertarians defend individual property rights against aggressors of all sorts, including government regulators. Laws and regulations are instruments of power that are used to exert force on people to control their choices and actions. Governments create these instruments, and employ the agents of force (“enforcement officers”), to strong-arm compliance from persons subject to the provisions defined within these instruments.

A LIBERTARIAN REMEDY

Libertarian political parties exist to remove the harmful conditions that enable one person(s) or organization to intentionally harm another  – especially when survival is at stake. Consequently, Libertarians will continue to work to eliminate any laws and/or regulations that can:

  1. Be used for partisan gains by politicians, senior bureaucrats and their allies at the expense of the individual property rights of others.
  2. Prevent the entry of non-government providers who can create and deliver viable and competitive alternates to our existing public education institutions.
  3. Discourage innovative entrepreneurs, and capital investors, from improving the quality and variety of education options that can take advantages of new and better business models as well as of continually advancing modern technologies.

Past governments have acted to purposely prevent and/or discourage our talented and industrious entrepreneurs from entering and thriving in the Education sector. By tearing down the barriers and unnecessary burdens that they imposed as regulations, Libertarian actions will unleash Ontario’s private sector to creative new economic wealth and employment opportunities in all sectors.

Libertarians will ensure that the best and greatest variety of education options will exist for our people because we understand how critical it is as a key ingredient for improving prosperity for everyone in Ontario. To enable our people to successfully participate in the expanding Digital and Knowledge Economy, we cannot afford to be held back by politicians and public administrators whose vision and priorities do not match our needs. 

The Political Challenge for Advocates of Less Government

Politically, Libertarians face the enormous challenge to overcome decades of steady propaganda issued by our governments, public intellectuals and mainstream media.  As a result, too many of our citizens tacitly accept and hold an unshakable belief in the legitimacy and necessity of extensive government involvement in their lives.

This is especially true of persons employed in public sector institutions such as those in the Education sector as argued in the following paragraphs taken from:

A Theory of the Theory of Public Goods.

Author - Randall G. Holcombe: Professor of Economics at Florida State University

Source - Review of Austrian Economics 10, no. 1 (1997): 1-22 ISSN:0889-3047

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If the perception of legitimacy is important to a government, and if that perception can be influenced by controlling the flow of ideas to the government's citizens, then the government has an incentive to take control of the institutions that influence the ideas of its citizenry. One has no trouble understanding why dictatorships demand government control of the mass media, or why freedom of the press is viewed as a fundamental check on government's power. However, such heavy-handed controls make it obvious to citizens that they cannot trust the information they receive. Governments can still control the flow of ideas without controlling the mass media, if they can control the education system. The education system exposes students to ideas, sets up a system of rewards and punishments to encourage students to retain ideas approved by the system, and when the university education system is included, also undertakes research to develop new and improved ideas.

Even in centrally planned economies that control the mass media, family and friends provide a network through which individuals can receive information and ideas, which then can be evaluated on their merits. This is a difficult network to control. The education system has an advantage over these other methods of information dissemination, however, because it provides an incentive for the student to retain the information approved of by the system. Successful students are those who are best able to arrive at institutionally approved answers.

The challenge to the state is to make institutionally approved answers state-approved answers, and the best way to accomplish this is to take over educational institutions and make them state-run enterprises. By nationalizing the education industry and making teachers state employees, teachers naturally have the incentive to side in favor of the state whenever there is a question. Teachers become tools of state propaganda, and often explicitly so. It is not uncommon to argue that one of the main goals of public education is socialization, and that schools should make students into good citizens. The perception of legitimacy of the government is thus enhanced through public education.

The tenure system is an integral part of the nationalization of education. Without tenure, teachers could lose their jobs and end up back in the private sector. Thus, teachers would have more of an incentive to examine the relative merits of the public versus private sectors. Tenure guarantees teachers a government job for life, reinforcing their pro-government sentiments. Support of tenure as a method of preserving academic freedom may have some merit for college professors, but this does not explain why librarians receive tenure, or why elementary school teachers receive tenure. Indeed, while tenure is the norm in both public and private universities, in elementary and secondary education the norm is that public school teachers have tenure while private school teachers do not. Teachers with guaranteed lifetime government jobs are more likely to be sympathetic to government propaganda, and thus help reinforce ideas about the legitimacy of government action.

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Summary

On the Education file, the OLP would apply Libertarian IPR and NAP policy lens to eliminate regulations that impede non-government options from entering and thriving in a free and dynamic education market. These policy actions would result in a wide range of education choices to satisfy the enormously rich variety of needs and interests found within each of our communities of students, their parents, potential employers and society at large.  It would also legitimize non-government Education options at a crucial time in Canada’s weak economic climate.

Too many of our political leaders and bureaucrats develop and enforce unnecessary policies and regulations on the assumption that we are all equal and all have the same needs. They ignore the fact that we are all as unique as out thumb prints  - each with circumstances, abilities, resources, motivations and psychological-social makeups that are like no other, and these attributes are prioritized and expressed differently at different stages of our lives.

Over centuries of progress, only free market capitalism has been proven to consistently, effectively and profitably serve the citizens of highly complex and dynamically changing societies, but only if this is a minimum of state-imposed impediments. For prosperity to thrive, the free flow of ideas should never be shackled by the self-serving goals of governments.

The non-governmental option is familiar to us all!
It works well in the free market for cars, food, clothing, entertainment,
fashion, confectionary goods, furniture, etcetera.
Why not the Education sector?

For a good article related to human motivations and they way they influent human actions, read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs.

 

Gene Balfour

Member, Ontario Libertarian Party since 2007: 2018 candidate for the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding; Libertarian candidate in 4 past elections.

March 9, 2017

… and don’t forget - Principles matter, and Libertarian Principles matter most.

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