The Rutland Herald ran a commentary today, by Paul Krugman, that began with the following imaginary scenario.
Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.
They’d have a point: Many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren’t available, many families would pay for private schools instead.
So let’s end this un-American system and make education what it should be — a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America’s education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.
Would that it were true.
Obviously, the point of that exercise was to demonstrate how wrong the opponents of publicly-funded health insurance are by presenting their arguments as they would apply to publicly-funded education.
Well, I certainly hope that Krugman wasn’t hoping to convince me with that analogy because, um, well, er… education should be a matter of individual responsibility and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated.
Let us look at this the other way around for a moment. Education in America is not just an entitlement, it is a mandate. Education is controlled by the government and the individuals being served have little-to-no power to make it work for them.
To make matters worse, in some states, like Vermont, a person cannot even opt out of the government oversight. (Don’t worry, I won’t rehash my frustrations with the home study laws in Vermont. You can read about that here and here.)
Since we are talking about analogies here, let’s apply the reality of publicly-funded education to the future of publicly-funded health insurance.
Publicly-funded insurance would be considered the default option, but it will be an over-burdened system that considers a 60% success rate a major accomplishment and frequently fails to meet the needs of individual users.
If you have a lot of money, you can afford private insurance, but it will still be under government oversight and you will, of course, pay taxes for the public system as well because the public system will be in a perpetual state of underfunded.
If you decide that you want to opt out of the institutionally provided insurance, something that many people are already doing, and instead take a chance providing your own alternative form of funding for your health care needs, the state will bog you down with pointless regulations and make you prove to them yearly that you are doing an adequate job of providing your own health insurance alternative, in a process that encroaches on your family’s privacy.
As I write this, I am realizing that there is some difficultly in making this analogy. Public education is a system that involves government-owned facilities and government-employed staff. Whereas, the health care debate – at least for now – is about a public funding mechanism for a private health care delivery system. They are hardly analogous. (If they were, we would have school choice or a voucher system.)
The question is, once we institute public funding for health care, how long will that distinction remain?
If one is hoping to win supporters for the notion of publicly-funded health care, one might want to steer away from comparing it to our public education system.
(Hat tip: Vermont Tiger)