Another gem from Walter Williams, Economic Myths, Fallacies and Stupidity. Here are some excerpts I enjoyed.
George Orwell admonished, “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” That’s what I want to do — talk about the obvious.
How about the criticism that businesses are just in it for money and profits? That’s supposed to be an anti-business slam but upon simple examination, it reflects gross stupidity or misunderstanding. Wal-Mart owns 8,300 stores, of which 4,000 are in 44 different countries. Its 2010 revenues are expected to top $500 billion. Why is Wal-Mart so successful? Millions of people voluntarily enter their stores and part with their money in exchange for Wal-Mart’s products and services. In order for that to happen, Wal-Mart and millions of other profit-motivated businesses must please people.
Compare our level of satisfaction with the services of those “in it just for the money and profits” to those in it to serve the public as opposed to earning profits. A major non-profit service provider is the public education establishment that delivers primary and secondary education at nearly a trillion-dollar annual cost. Public education is a major source of complaints about poor services that in many cases constitute nothing less than gross fraud.
If Wal-Mart, or any of the millions of producers who are in it for money and profits, were to deliver the same low-quality services, they would be out of business, but not public schools. Why? People who produce public education get their pay, pay raises and perks whether customers are satisfied or not. They are not motivated by profits and therefore under considerably less pressure to please customers. They use government to take customer money, in the form of taxes.
In the market, when a firm fails to please its customers and fails to earn a profit, it goes bankrupt, making those resources available to another that might do better. That’s unless government steps in to bail it out. Bailouts send the message to continue doing a poor job of pleasing customers and husbanding resources. Government-owned nonprofit entities are immune to the ruthless market discipline of being forced to please customers.
Emphasis is mine.
In bold, Walter Williams nails the root cause of why public education isn’t that great. I would add that this root cause comes from the mindset that educators do not trust parents to make good decisions about their child’s education. Educators think they make better decisions.
But, as a I discussed in a recent post, no matter how much educators want to shield themselves from parental accountability, parents still enforce this accountability and I believe this accountability is the only thing that keeps public education as good as it is.