Saturday, April 21, 2007

Privatizing education

Keep your eye on this developing story. Apparently Education Department officials responsible for implementing No Child Left Behind are involved in a complex web of conflicts of interest and cronyism. The Washington Post:

The disclosure came as a congressional hearing revealed how people implementing the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program made at least $1 million off textbooks and tests toward which the federal government steered states.

Read the story for details, but I believe the important thing to keep in mind is that the behavior displayed would be considered typical if the various contractual arrangements had been carried out in a business to business setting where doing business with one's friends is quite understandably common enough.

In private enterprise, the sort of cronyism seen here is sort of self-regulating, subject as it is to the forces of competition and shareholder demands. If your friends turn out to be incompetent the business pays the price and managers get fired.

But in government administered programs, especially in a government that, until Democrats took over congress, ignored its oversight responsibilities, such cronyism isn't subject to any market controls whatsoever.

I make this point to for those who have fallen for the Republican line that government would be better if it were run like business.

No it would not.

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