Michael Shermer, CGU Professor and founder of the Skeptic.com, has a great op-ed on Reason.com about innovation and government control in which he argues that truly great breakthroughs can come when entrepreneurs are "free to try." Shermer cites numerous technological innovations that have undeniably made life better. He compares the fruit of the private sector to that of the public sector. Unsurprisingly he finds the public sector lacking, especially with respect to infrastructure and education, while the private sector anticipates wants in a way that's truly innovative.
I couldn't help but notice the power of his final paragraphs.You might remember my politically incorrect -- though correct -- statement in December about the rather weird relationship liberals have had with public schools, which they support in principle, but seldom in practice. Much like some conservative support draconian measures on immigration and yet employ illegal immigrants, liberals demand more funding for schools and yet still refuse to send their children to those same schools when they can afford otherwise. (You can read my commentary on the school choice debate between the Claremont Democrats and the Claremont Republicans and on how Democrats, when given the choice, prefer private to public schools.)
Why is America's public school system an abysmal failure (UNICEF, for example, ranked it 18th out of 24 industrialized countries in 2008)? Because the public education system has not been allowed to thrive and grow in a competitive and voluntary market. Only when it is, will significant innovation be generated.
This is why private schools are so superior to government schools, and why even pro-public school liberal presidents such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama send their children to private schools—just as most pro-public school liberals do who can afford it. Why can't most Americans afford private schools? Because education has not been allowed to flourish in a free market in which—like wireless communications systems and computer hardware, software and search engine technologies—education quality would grow exponentially while the price would drop precipitously. This can only happen if education innovators and entrepreneurs are free to try.