On Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday, we celebrate his most notable lasting legacy: the conversation about school choice occurring across the nation. When Friedman first tried to popularize the concept in the 1950s, the education system was considered to be one of the few sacred cows in American government. People believed that the public should be guaranteed schools, and the government should pay for them. Acknowledging that most Americans considered education to be a natural “right,” Friedman took a different approach, an economist’s approach, to breaking down the stranglehold that the monopolized state education had on the public mind. His supposedly radical ideas did not include the abolition of education welfare; rather, it brought free-market principles like competition and positive incentives to the education market, opening it up for innovation and improved quality.
By using an economist’s approach to breaking down the education monopoly, mainstream pundits and politicians have now started to understand the benefits of free-market education. This year, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed landmark legislation into law that expanded the Louisiana voucher system. The New Hampshire Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. John Lynch, creating a school choice program that allows vouchers to be spent on private schools, and even Barack Obama finally decided to support the D.C. voucher program. Although we have a lot of work to do if we ever hope to see a completely free-market education system, we must thank Milton Friedman for creating this movement and changing so many minds about what our government should not do.
Here is Milton Friedman discussing school choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUSOtID5RsQ