The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

School Choice Can Create Jobs for South Carolina

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The first lesson of Campaigning 101 is that during an economic downturn you talk about jobs. Everything a politician does during a bad economy is apparently to create jobs. Thus, in the name of job creation, we’ve seen an $800 billion dollar federal stimulus package that has debased the dollar, saddled our children with debt, and funneled billions in pork to special-interest groups – all in the name of job creation.

Except the government can’t create jobs and isn’t even very good at pretending to do so. As the French economist Frederic Bastiat argues in a famous essay, everything the government does comes with a price. Bastiat would thus compare government job creation efforts to breaking perfectly good windows for the sake of giving work to the window industry. In other words, Cash for Clunkers.

The government can’t create jobs because, government, by definition, is not a productive enterprise. At best, government exists to facilitate and protect its citizens who themselves should engage in productive enterprises. Thus government should be about the business of sustaining those institutions necessary for people to become prosperous. These include providing for the national defense, discouraging crime and enforcing contracts.

It is important to recognize, however, that even these limited functions of government have a cost. And economists have identified this cost as somewhere between $1.60 and $1.82 in lost economic productivity for each tax dollar collected. All this is to say that every job the government claims to create actually leads to more private sector job loss.

There is one policy, though, that state leaders could implement that would create jobs in South Carolina – especially in struggling rural counties. That reform is school choice.

Before your eyes glaze over, check out this new report from the Policy Council on how school choice can create jobs in the counties of Clarendon, Hampton, Lee, Marlboro and Williamsburg. Jobs created, not by the government, but by young, homegrown entrepreneurs.

The real news here is not how school choice can improve student performance or save the state money, but that school choice changes lives by creating a culture where innovation and self-reliance thrives. As the report concludes, drawing upon the work of economists Russell Sobel and Kerry King:

School choice programs create an atmosphere of competition, innovation, and risk-taking within the administrative infrastructure of schools. These are also precisely the qualities that must be embraced and learned by individuals wanting to become entrepreneurs. Our hypothesis is that the entrepreneurial environment created within schools by school choice programs fosters a sense of competition and innovation among the administrators and teachers in the school that is infectious, being witnessed and copied by their students in their own personal lives.

School choice, in other words, is a key component of the free market revolution underway as reflected in the Tea Party movement as well as the Policy Council’s new Unleashing Capitalism campaign. The message: we need to change the culture – and education reform is the key to doing that.

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Written by Jameson Taylor

November 25, 2009 at 10:03 am

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