On July 13, 2012, President Barack Obama made the following remarks to Virginia voters while arguing for big government and higher taxes in the United States (emphasis added):
Look, if you were successful, you didn’t get there on your own…There was a great [public school] teacher somewhere in your life…Somebody [a politician] invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that [business]. Somebody else [such as a politician or government employee] made that [business] happen.
According to his remarks, President Obama assumes government and not private entities should primarily provide residents such services and infrastructure as education, roads, and bridges. However, President Obama may be unaware of arguments for privatizing schools, roads, and bridges.
According to Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr., founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in his article “What If Public Schools Were Abolished?” (2008), privatizing public schools would make education cheaper overall and better. As Rockwell argued, local governments could start privatizing public schools by auctioning public school buildings to such parties as businesses or housing developers. Local governments would have to layoff public school employees, who could find work in new, private schools. Also, local governments could abolish property taxes, which largely fund public schools, so families would have more income to spend on private education, homeschooling, or other purposes. Although it’s impossible to predict what would be all the educational options in a free education market, Rockwell’s following scenario could be possible:
The existing private schools will be filled to capacity and there will be a crying need for new ones. Entrepreneurs will quickly flood into the area to provide schools on a competitive basis. Churches and other civic institutions will gather the money to provide education.
At first, the new schools will be modeled on the public school idea. Kids will be there from 8 [a.m.] to 4 or 5 [p.m.], and all classes will be covered. But in short order, new alternatives will appear. There will be schools for half-day classes. There will be large, medium, and small schools. Some will have 40 kids per class, and others 4 or 1. Private tutoring will boom. Sectarian schools of all kinds will appear. Micro-schools will open to serve niche interests: science, classics, music, theater, computers, agriculture, etc. There will be single-sex schools…
And no longer will the “elementary, middle school, high school” model be the only one. Classes will not necessarily be grouped by age alone. Some will be based on ability and level of advancement too. Tuition would range from free to super expensive. The key thing is that the customer would be in charge…Where there is a demand, and obviously people demand education for their kids, there is supply…Educational alternatives would be unlimited.
What about roads and bridges? As David Friedman, Professor of Law at Santa Clara Law, argues in his classic book The Machinery of Freedom (1989),1 governments could privatize roads and bridges to have better roads and more efficient traffic patterns. A private road/bridge company could implement such payment systems for drivers as follows:
[A private business] might use toll booths and vary the rate according to time of day and condition of traffic. [The business] might charge a fixed monthly fee for the right to use its roads at peak load hours and a lower fee for the right to use them only at others times; those who paid one fee or the other could be given identifying license plates, and other arrangements could be made for those customers who used the road less regularly…
Using modern technology it would be possible, and relatively inexpensive, to set up a much more detailed system of fees, varying by both where and when you drive. Each car would be equipped with a transponder, a small radio designed to receive the query ‘who are you?’ and respond with the computer equivalent of ‘I am car number 97341′…The information about what car drove where when [or how many road units…each day] would be collected in a central computer and drivers billed monthly.
And to further improve traffic efficiency, Friedman notes the following:
Traffic jams are minor inconveniences to a government bureau; to a private corporation, they mean the loss of a small fortune in potential customers…A well-operated expressway, with computer control of entrance to keep people out when traffic density got too high or with ‘holding lots’ into which surplus traffic could be temporarily diverted…to speed up traffic flow, would get everyone to his destination sooner.
I doubt President Obama has considered such arguments for privatizing such government services and public infrastructure as education, roads, and bridges. Of course, major tax cuts must accompany such privatization of government services and infrastructure. Nevertheless, instead of saying “you didn’t build that [business]” on July 13 President Obama should have argued for privatization of most government services and public infrastructure. President Obama should have told Virginia voters “You can build your schools, roads, and bridges!”