Monday, January 29, 2018


David Friedman’s comments on an old Lost Legacy Post (August 11, 2005):
Adam Smith:
"The expense of the institutions for education and religious instruction is likewise, no doubt, beneficial to the whole society, and may, therefore, without injustice, be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole society. This expense, however, might perhaps with equal propriety, and even with some advantage, be defrayed altogether by those who receive the immediate benefit of such education and instruction, or by the voluntary contribution of those who think they have occasion for either the one or the other."
“Or in other words, some public funding of schooling is not unjust but an entirely private system is also not unjust and might even be preferable.”
And this week, 2018) from David Friedman:
"Smith in Book V of “Wealth of Nations” favoured state investment in defence (the ‘first duty of government’); justice (without justice society would ‘crumble to atoms’); public works for projects beyond private finance (roads, canals, harbours and bridges); education of youth (a school in every village)" Except that Adam Smith did not "favour ... state investment in ... education of youth." He has a very long discussion of the arguments for and against government involvement in education, in the course of which he raises a number of possibilities, including a modest subsidy to local schools--one paying only a minority of their costs. By quoting from the arguments for government involvement one can make it look as though that was the position his supported. By quoting from the arguments against ("Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no public institutions, are generally the best taught") one can create the reverse effect. But his final on There are Regulations and Regulations: some help, others hinder
Resurecting a debate about the education of 18th century youth that ignores context is more than a trifle disingenuous in the 21st Century.
At the time, most children (mainly the poor) in England did not go to school at all. Illiteracy was widespread. In contrast, in Scotland, most children did go to school following the reforms from the 16th-17th centuries that established ‘little schools’ in every village, mostly funded by local government and parents, enthusiastically supported by the (protestant) Church of Scotland. Also parents were encouraged (in Church sermons - then an active social media). - to send their boy children to school at least to read and write simple language until 8 years old. Adam Smith in the 18th century went to the village grammar school until he was 14 near to where he was brought up by his mother in Kirkcaldy. (The space where it was then situated is now small carpark).
But private education was largely unavailable except to the relatively well-off. That remains true over much of the world as it did until the 1880s in the UK. 

David Freidman takes a narrow focus. Has he ever been poor - I mean really poor? I have and I can report that even very modest wealth is much better. My route out of poverty was education, almost all of it provided by the UK state and my own inner drive. 


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