More inequality and more individuality (a type of diversity not based on race or culture) leads to greater prosperity.
It is has lately become fashionable to talk about economic inequality as though it were the cause of great problems in our society. In reality, we would benefit from increased inequality, particularly in our education system.
The campaign against inequality is one of the latest strategies of socialist economists and intellectuals to try to advance the core concept underlying socialism: material equality – the same outcome for everyone – which basically means the same income for everyone.
The problem with this is obvious to any student of economics: differences in income are essential to motivate people to enter the more difficult, and higher demand, jobs. In a similar way, differences in profits motivate entrepreneurs to shift production to areas of greater demand and away from areas of low demand.
If we eliminate income differences, we would need to assign people to jobs based on ability. Otherwise most people would want the easiest jobs, given that they would earn the same income regardless.
This is, in fact, what socialist intellectuals were aiming at. The elimination of freedom of choice and the imposition of government control over production and consumption. Best of all, in their fantasies, intellectuals and economists would run it all through a massive bureaucracy. You, the ordinary person, in this world view, are too dumb to care – or to decide – what you want.
The failure of forced equality can be seen most clearly where it has been most successfully implemented: in public schools. The adoption of free and mandatory public education happened at the same time as the great rise in socialist thinking in the Victorian era.
In the minds of the socialists, public education was just a first step. The central planning of all other aspects of our society would come later.
The problem is that central planning is a failure, it eliminates motivation and it suppresses freedom and creativity.
Fortunately, socialism was never more widely adopted, but it still manages to harm our children in the public education system.
To have economic and social development, a society must strengthen all its people, but particularly it’s most capable people. The most capable people will then start businesses, create jobs, work for the government, and make the economy and the country advance.
Welfare will not help a society become more prosperous. It is when a society becomes more prosperous that it can afford welfare.
It is harmful to the prosperity of a society to keep the most capable people down. By giving everyone the same education, you put a limit on the top end that any individual can achieve.
When people have individual choice, they can reach their own level. And the most capable people will be able to reach a higher level than they do in public school.
Even for the least capable people, public school is a problem. They are not able to keep up with the standardized pace, leading to failure and frustration.
For young men, the negative impact to social status and self-respect caused by this failure makes them drop out and find other ways to build themselves up – out on the street.
Minimum wage laws, and minimum employment age laws, compound the problem because they prohibit productive alternatives. The result is that these young men join street gangs and get involved in crime and violence – resulting in personal and societal self-destruction.
Uniformity of curriculum is also harmful. Rather than graduating with an education adapted to your own interests and abilities, everyone ends up with very nearly the same knowledge. The only difference being your test scores which almost solely determine eligibility for college or university.
Anyone entering the job market directly after public school has almost nothing to distinguish themselves from their peers.
Minimum wage laws make it difficult to get a first job without work experience. This is good for the education industry – you are forced to take additional training. But formal education, for many people, is an inferior alternative to actual paid work. And it is often inaccessible to those who cannot afford to pay the school fees and who cannot afford the time, when what they really need is work.
In his book “The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People are Educating Themselves,” James Tooley shows that prior to the introduction of free and mandatory education by the government of England, most children already went to school. They went to low-cost private schools.
This contrasts with our general perception today that the government has been responsible for improving access to education. James Tooley shows that, in underdeveloped countries today where governments are only able to send part of the population to government run schools, low-cost private schools thrive and provide better education at lower cost than their public-school alternatives.
In developed countries like Canada, with the introduction of free public schools, the market for low-cost private schools has been eliminated. Only top end private schools survive.
The children of wealthy parents are not affected by public schools. They send their children to private schools. It is the middle-class and poor who are left to send their children to public schools. Public schools have made us poorer and have kept people in the middle-class from advancing as much as we otherwise could.
When the market is left alone to provide education, consumers will select the best education most adapted to their needs. Individual outcomes are better, and since our economy and society is the collection of its individuals, our society is better – more prosperous, more creative, and more free.
We send our children to public school because it is free and because it is convenient – but we still have a choice. One option is to organize volunteer-run community schools where parents, and other adults, supervise children and run the school together. Children are helped to choose subjects and methods of learning adapted to their own abilities and interests, to maximize their full creativity and potential.
Public schools keep poor and middle-class people poorer and more powerless compared to where we could be if our children got an education more adapted to their ability, interests and needs. There are alternatives, it's our choice.