People who think government has a role in making sure everyone has access to health care or education often conclude the the only way to do this is to force taxpayers to fund government-controlled insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP) and government schools. But this does not follow from their stated concern.
It only follows if, say, the person either
- wants government to define what education and health care are,
- wants to make sure friends of politicians get government jobs managing the programs that control health care and education.
- wants to empower teachers unions that contract with government schools and donate to the political party that generally opposes school choice measures. (For example, see here.)
But it does not follow if you care about children getting educated and people having access to health care.
What follows is to subsidize consumers rather than producers, and hence maintain a competitive marketplace for the production of the good. Food is also important, but government doesn’t run grocery stores. It taxes people to pay for food vouchers, or food stamps.
As Milton Friedman said:
If you want to subsidize the production of a product, there are two ways you can do it. You can subsidize the producer or you can subsidize the consumer. In education, we subsidize the producer—the school. If you subsidize the student instead—the consumer—you will have competition. The student could choose the school he attends and that would force schools to improve and to meet the demands of their students.
…education ought to be a parental matter. The responsibility for educating children is with parents. But in order to make it a parental matter, we must have a situation in which parents are Free to Choose the schools their children attend. They aren’t free to do that now. Today the schools pick the children. Children are assigned to schools by geography—by where they live. By contrast, I would argue that if the government is going to spend money on education, the money ought to travel with the children. The objective of such an expenditure ought to be educate children, not beautiful buildings. The way to accomplish this is to have a universal voucher.