All Commentary
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sheldon Richman on Freedom and School Choice

The new book Freedom and School Choice in American Education includes a chapter by Freeman editor Sheldon Richman titled “Unbounded Liberty, and Even Caprice: Why School Choice Is Dangerous to Education.

The book, edited by Greg Forster and C. Bradley Thompson, is a compilation of papers presented at a 2008 conference sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice (formerly the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice) and the Clemson Center for the Study of Capitalism. (Additional chapters have been added.)

Drawing on Austrian and Public Choice theory, Richman’s chapter argues that as long as government is involved in the finance of education in any manner — even through vouchers or tax credits — the market’s entrepreneurial process will be stifled and education will fall short of what could be achieved in a truly free environment. The quotation in the title is from Joseph Priestley, whose views on education Richman discussed in a TGIF column last year.

In the book’s foreword Harvard University professor Paul E. Peterson writes:

In the strongest statement of all, Sheldon Richman draws upon classic economic theory to make the case that any government involvement–even school vouchers and tax credit subsidies–will ‘forbid the full blossoming of the entrepreneurial environment that is indispensable for optimal education.’ Better than any partial solutions is a commitment to letting the current system implode so that the country, in final desperation, will finally return to free market principles. One wonders whether the charitable tax deduction, an important prop for education’s private sector, survives Richman’s strict prohibition on any government involvement at all….

…We all benefit from Richman’s clear iteration of market theory, as he makes so utterly clear the distance school choice has yet to travel before it even begins to approximate that ideal.

The book, to be released on June 7, is available on Amazon for pre-order here.

  • Tsvetelin Tsonevski the Director of Student Programs at The Independent Institute. He is formerly the director of academic affairs at FEE. He holds an LL.M. degree in Law and Economics from George Mason School of Law.