Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post must send his kids to private school. He says that there is no way that America will elected a democratic socialist as president. “Just ain’t happening” are the writer’s final words on the subject. He, like many members of the mainstream media, have long written off Bernie Sanders as a viable presidential candidate. Well, they’re wrong.
On October 13, Bernie Sanders can score a major victory for democratic socialism and his brand of politics if he takes his debate opponents to school. Public school, that is.
Some 90 percent of U.S. children attend public school. Public schools are democratically socialist. If you voluntarily send your children to a public school, then you are perfectly fine with socialism. You have accepted, if not championed, the idea of collectively funding a service that is administered by the government. In economics, we refer to these as public goods. They are socialist. They are intended to help provide for the social welfare of the population.
The government runs public schools to improve America’s factor market, which is the market for resources, or the factors of production. Public schools are meant to increase the quantity and quality of labor. The rationale is that all producers and consumers benefit tremendously from a ready supply of sufficiently-educated and properly socialized workers, so they should be expected to pay into the public schools. As a society, we now accept this as gospel.
In fact, should someone advocate returning education entirely to the private market, you would have mass protests in the streets. I have zero doubt that many conservative Republicans would be out in the streets, holding signs in favor of the public schools. Relatively few citizens, after all, can afford private education. They would also be outraged at the fact that private schools could, arbitrarily, expel their children. When it comes to primary and secondary education, the vast, vast majority of Americans are downright socialist.
Bernie Sanders’ proposals to make public higher education tuition-free follows the same logic as making K-12 public education tuition-free. It improves the factor market by increasing the supply of skilled labor. Though not as many students may attend college under a system that provides free tuition only to qualified applicants, the graduates will inevitably be of higher quality. And, since graduates are not having to pay back student loans, they may more freely pursue employment that will allow them to be most satisfied and, therefore, most productive. Society, as a result, greatly benefits.
In the debates, Bernie Sanders can triumph by linking his policy proposals of tuition-free public higher education and universal health care to our existing nationwide policy of tuition-free, and compulsory, public K-12 education. By making these two additional markets public goods, America will see an increased supply of high-quality labor. We will have more highly-skilled college graduates and healthier workers in all industries. And this is in addition to the humanitarian benefits, which are vast.
We applaud public education for ending child labor. Universal health care would be credited with ending a number of additional societal woes, ranging from health-related bankruptcies to premature death.
If Bernie Sanders could ask his challengers to explain how they valued America’s public schools, they would undoubtedly wax eloquent on its role in supplying our nation with quality workers, allowing for social mobility, and developing good citizens. Then, if asked how tuition-free public higher education and universal health care would differ, how would these challengers respond? It would leave them fumbling and flustered. How can you advocate for universal public K-12 but not universal health care? How can you tout the merits of tuition-free public K-12 but demand that it stop at the 12th grade?
Bernie Sanders needs to take his challengers to school. Public school. #FeelTheBern