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KOL419 | Soho Forum Debate vs. Corey Deangelis: School Choice


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast: Episode 419.

This is my Soho Forum debate held Aug. 21, 2023, in Manhattan, against Corey DeAngelis, of the American Federation for Children, moderated by Gene Epstein. I defended the resolution “Today’s school-choice movement in the U.S. is worthy of support by libertarians…” (taking the negative). Oxford debate rules applied which meant that whoever changed the most minds won. My side went from about 10 to 23 percentage points, gaining about 13; Corey went from about 45 to 64%, gaining about 19, so he won. I was pleased that we had an informative and civil debate about an important issue. (This is my second Soho debate; the first was KOL364 | Soho Forum Debate vs. Richard Epstein: Patent and Copyright Law Should Be Abolished.) My discussion notes are appended below. See also Reason.com article with video; Reason.com article with podcast.


Today’s school-choice movement in the U.S. is worthy of support by libertarians.

                          Pre                 Post                Change
Yes                   44.90%           64.29%            19.39%
No                    10.20%            23.47%            13.27%

Undecided   44.90%           12.24%            -32.65%




Resolved: Today’s school-choice movement in the U.S. is worthy of support by libertarians

A Soho Forum Debate

Corey DeAngelis vs. Stephan Kinsella

Aug 21, 2023

The Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012


[15 MIN]

    • So there are many ways to explain why intellectual property is illegitimate
      • Oh wait, that’s the wrong debate
    • Resolved: Today’s school-choice movement in the U.S. is worthy of support by libertarians.
    • To answer this question, we need to understand what libertarians should support, and what “Today’s school-choice movement” is
    • Libertarianism is a political philosophy that believes in individual rights to self-ownership and to private property ownership.
      • In short, we oppose “aggression”
      • So libertarians oppose a host of state laws and policies since they themselves commit aggression
      • Such as taxation, war, the drug war, the central bank, and intellectual property (see, IP keeps coming up)
    • Another thing almost all libertarians oppose is public education, more properly named government schools, or state schools, or educational welfare
    • Why do we oppose public education?
    • The three C’s: Compulsory attendance laws; Compulsory financing (by property taxes); government Control over the curriculum
    • The first two are unjust because they involve aggression
      • The third is only possible because of the first two
      • It’s really a result of the first two
      • This Control results in state propaganda and indoctrination
        • be a good citizen
        • believe in global warming and democracy
        • sign up for selective service to fight in the state’s wars
        • mask up, vaccinate, and lock down when we say so!
      • And this predictably results in education that is
        • Too expensive
        • Inferior
        • Full of indoctrination and state propaganda


    • So libertarians oppose public schools and support eliminating or reducing it, and moving to a private system
      • We support separation of school and state
        • Or education and state
        • Just like we support separation of church and state
        • If we had a state-subsidized church system, like some countries still do, and like the US did for decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified (“Congregationalism” in Massachussetts, for example)—would libertarians be arguing for improvements to this system by “introducing choice,” or would we argue for separation of church and state?
          • This is Jacob Hornberger’s example
          • We would support reducing any of the three C’s:
            • Get rid of or reduce compulsory attendance
            • Get rid of or reduce school property taxes and funding of educational welfare
            • Reduce government control
          • But keep in mind that so long as the government is paying, there will be control
            • “He who pays the piper calls the tune”


    • So what is “Today’s school-choice movement”
    • It’s a broad attempt to improve public education by various means
      • Vouchers, suggested by Milton Friedman in 1962, which can be used to go to another public school, private school, homeschooling, private tutors
      • Public choice within the public school system
      • Tax credits
      • Educational savings accounts or educational scholarship accounts (ESAs)
        • Tax funded
      • Why should libertarians support this?
        • Does it get rid of or reduce the Three C’s?
          • Education is still compulsory
          • Still funded by taxes
        • What about Control?
          • The state still controls the public schools, so there is still control of public schools
          • And will have to put additional conditions on what private schools “qualify” for state funding
            • So school choice would increase control
          • Why did Hillsdale College have to stop accepting students using guaranteed student loans?
            • To avoid federal control
          • Just a couple months ago, the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, which runs 15 Catholic schools there, terminated a department that was insisting on use of preferred pronouns. The Archbishop declared that students in these schools will be addressed by their birth pronouns rather than their chosen pronouns
            • Of course this caused an uproar
            • If Oregon was funding all the students in these schools via a voucher program, would they permit state funding of a school that “misgenders” students?
            • Would the Archbishop have taken the actions he did, if he thought it would jeopardize funding for the school?
            • As for compulsory funding, or taxes
              • In the current system, there is educational welfare for about 80%-90% of the students (those in public schools)
              • In a full-fledged “school choice” system, now taxpayers have to fund 100% of students
              • So educational welfare expands under school choice
            • Would the cost of educational welfare, that taxpayers are compelled to fund, go down after expanding it to include private schools and private school students?
              • Well have we seen college tuition go down or go up, in the last several decades, as a result of taxpayer subsidies via guaranteed student loans, the GI bill, etc.?
              • To ask is to answer
            • The term “school choice” is somewhat misleading
            • It’s like using semantics to argue substance, much like in the abortion debate where abortion-rights advocates couch their position as “pro-choice” or “pro-life”
              • Well who is against “choice”? Who is against “life”?
            • This is much like how intellectual property advocates refer to patent and copyright, which are just state grants of monopoly privilege, as intellectual “property” to fool people into thinking IP rights are just normal forms of property
              • I told you IP will keep coming up
            • School choice advocates say things like “well rich people have the choice of sending their kids to private schools, why shouldn’t everyone have that choice?”
              • Well, because it requires stealing money from taxpayers and giving it to parents
              • You could say “Rich people have the choice to buy a BMW; why shouldn’t everyone have that choice?”
              • If have the choice to send my kids to college, why shouldn’t everyone have this choice?
                • Aren’t there people now calling for forgiving student loans and providing free college for all?
                • The school choice ESAs, funded by taxpayer dollars, can accumulate money, and “unused funds can be saved for future K-12 and college expenses.”
                • So already, school choice will start to subsidize college too.
                • Where does it end?
              • They accuse parents of hypocrisy if they send their kids to private schools but oppose expanding educational welfare
                • Corey says this, e.g. on the Tom Woods Show, ep. 2211, and in a recent Fox News interview criticizing Democrats who oppose school choice, where he said “To them, apparently, only rich people should have school choice
                • Yes, Democrats are of course hypocrites
                • But the reality is that here we have people who are forced to pay for other people’s kids propagandized government education and who do not take educational welfare themselves, and they are being called hypocrites!
                  • What the hell!
                  • I don’t think they’re hypocrites, but being a hypocrite is still better than being an educational welfare parasite.
                • We libertarians have long opposed welfare and things like “food stamps.” Vouchers and ESAs are just “education stamps”. There is nothing libertarian, free market, or pro freedom about them


    • Some school choice advocates accuse opponents not only of hypocrisy, but of being purists or absolutists who oppose even incremental steps in the right direction
      • They say that for us, the perfect is the enemy of the good
      • This is untrue
      • The question is not whether school choice is perfect, but whether it is good
      • Libertarians who support abolishing the income tax support reducing it, since this moves in the right direction and is an unambiguous improvement
        • After all, my unofficial motto is “lower my goddamn taxes,” not “abolish my goddamn taxes”
        • But a tax reform that would lower taxes for some but increase taxes on others could not be supported, because it would increase the aggression done to some taxpayers
      • So we favor incremental steps in the right direction
      • The right direction for reform of public education is:
        • moving towards separation of school and state
        • reducing compulsory attendance
        • reducing compulsory taxpayer funding
        • reducing government control of education
      • Libertarians support any incremental moves like this
      • But school choice does none of these
      • It does not phase out educational welfare, it expands it, and entrenches it
      • It does not reduce control, it expands state control to private schools
        • It effectively turns private schools into public schools
          • Although they remain private in name
          • Just like a privatized prison is still a prison


    • There is another semantic trick they use. For example, in a recent interview (https://youtu.be/wTwbkr0Rpo0?t=17), Corey promotes a Texas school choice bill that lets families “access their children’s education dollars to take it to the public/private/charter/home-based education option of their choice.”
    • Corey’s group American Federation for Children supports voucher programs that “allow education dollars to ‘follow the child.’” Their website states: “The money doesn’t belong to the government schools. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution. We should fund students, not systems.”
    • Yes: “The money” does not belong to government schools. But neither does it belong to the government. Nor does it belong to “families” who happen to have kids in public schools.
    • It belongs to the taxpayers it was stolen from.
    • Corey says “the taxpayer is already funding the education of the child. That same money should follow the child to the education provider that best meets their needs.”  (“Biden, Pelosi, other top Dems sent kids to private school but oppose school choice”,com (June 16, 2022))
      • The “same money”? It’s not the same money. It comes from continual and repeated theft of taxpayers. Why should it be “the same”? Shouldn’t our goal to reduce this theft, so that the amount of money stolen goes down over time instead of being “the same” and just redirected?
    • I don’ think “the money” should follow the child. They are no more entitled to this money than the government is. It should follow the taxpayers!


    • This debate does not ask whether parents of kids in public schools should support school choice.
      • Maybe they would.
      • But maybe they would also support increasing property taxes and funding for public schools.
        • Just like college graduates with student loan debt want their loans forgiven.
          • So what?
        • In my school district, the Harris County Independent School District (HISD), in Houston (with 200,000 students, largest in Texas and 8th largest in the nation), in 2012 a $1.9B bond was authorized by the voters. A local high school, Lamar, received a new $108M facility.
        • This will be paid for out of property taxes. I voted against it. Naturally, it passed, because the majority of parents benefited from this welfare redistribution. Did Lamar high school improve? Well it has a much nicer $108M facility now. But should libertarians support this? No.
      • Maybe social security recipients would favor increasing social security payments. But do libertarians?
    • This debate also does not ask whether school choice might improve some public schools.
      • Maybe it would.
      • But it might make some public schools worse.
        • Imagine paying higher home prices and property taxes to go to a “good” public high school and then having no automatic right to send your kids there because it has to institute a lottery because of all the new applicants from out of the area
        • And your home value would plummet
      • And it would increase the number of students receiving educational welfare
      • And it would subject private schools to more government control.
      • It would entrench the idea of universal educational welfare
        • It would make separation of school and state less likely
          • What happens when we suggest abolishing social security now that it’s entrenched?
            • It’s called the Third Rail for a reason
          • How do Canadians and Europeans react when you suggest getting rid of their socialized healthcare systems?
          • Imagine a world of 100% educational vouchers. How would we ever get rid of it?
        • It would cause private school tuition to increase, just as college tuition has increased because of state subsidies
      • No, this debate does not ask whether school choice might improve some public schools.
      • Instead, this debate asks whether libertarians should support today’s school choice movement.
      • I say no. The school choice movement will damage private schools, and good public schools, increase educational welfare, and entrench the idea of taxpayer funded state-controlled education
      • Vouchers and other forms of state funding of private schools subsidize and socialize an entire industry that is currently working on a free-enterprise basis, despite the competition from “free” public education
      • There is nothing libertarian about how the state manages the details of its educational welfare system, especially if it puts more students and families on the dole and threatens the tenuous independence of the private sector schools that exist.




    [5 MIN]


    • The worst policies of the modern democratic state are things like taxation, war, the drug war, the central bank, intellectual property, and public education
      • While we want to eliminate all of these, shifting public education from one model to another is not our major concern
    • So would I be upset if school choice is adopted?
    • Not that much, since at least it pisses off the right people: teachers’ unions, Democrats, advocates of “public schools”
      • We need to abolish public schools and educational welfare, but the form in which it’s provided is not the main issue
    • But even though the socialists’ arguments against school choice are usually bad, does not mean that there are not real problems with “Today’s school-choice movement in the U.S.”
      • It does not mean it is “worthy of support by libertarians.”
    • Let’s imagine Milton Friedman had been around at the beginning of public schooling in America and they had never established public schools but simply taxed people and gave every family a voucher they could spend on a private school
    • So now the country would have every kid in a nominally “private” school, being funded by taxpayers.
      • There would be no “public schools” officially, and ten times the number of private schools that exist today, but all being funded by the state
    • It would be educational welfare done by “market” means
    • Would the “private” schools really be private?
      • Would they not all be subject to various state controls?
    • Would there be separation of education and state? Or would the state be intertwined with education?
    • Would we expect the vouchers to gradually go down over time and finally disappear, or would we expect it to be entrenched and to grow over time, as college tuition continues to bloat due to government subsidies? And as other welfare programs, like social security or socialized medicine, become impossible to dislodge?
    • Would a libertarian be happy with this universal voucher-based educational welfare system, or would he oppose it
    • I think the answer is clear.
    • And supporting school choice ultimately means supporting a system that will, at best, end up in universal tax-funded voucher-based educational welfare, where the private schools have simply become the public schools.


    • So what do we favor? How should we reform our abysmal public school system?
    • Our main goal must be to separate education and state, to reduce or eventually eliminate all state involvement in education:
      • Dial back compulsory education requirements
      • Reduce state funding of educational welfare, and property taxes
    • Here is a school-choice approach I would favor:
      • Offer every parent half the current educational welfare amount in the form of a voucher
        • Parents must make up the difference
      • Schedule it to reduce by, say, 10% every year, so that it’s zero in 10 years
    • But is this the plan of school-choice advocates? Do they want to set in motion a plan that reduces the overall tax burden, and phases out the subsidies over time?
    • Do they want to eliminated public school, or just improve it?
      • Under any school choice system, public funding of education is going to be further entrenched, and costs and taxes will continue to rise.
    • Instead of agitating to expand the public school system to include and swallow the private school system, instead of agitating to expand the number of students receiving educational welfare, we should be arguing to reduce the size and scope of government schools. Cut their funding, don’t expand it and shift it to cover private schools. Defund the government schools! Cut school funding, cut property taxes—rinse, wash, repeat.
    • For these reasons, today’s school-choice movement in the U.S. is not worthy of support by libertarians.
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