What would happen if supermarkets were like public schools?

Posted on 05. May, 2011 by in Blog

This morning, Donald J. Boudreaux, a professor of economics at George Mason University, posted a blog posing the hypothetical comparison of education and government run grocery stores, in the Wall Street Journal.  Here is the link:

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748704436004576299571015982098-lMyQjAxMTAxMDAwNDEwNDQyWj.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

The piece is brilliant and the logic is good.  What if you could only shop in the grocery store that someone else told you to shop in?  What if they didn’t have the selection you desired?  What if you had a gluten allergy, yet this store didn’t carry any gluten free products?  Many parents find themselves dealing with just such situations, struggling with schools that are understaffed or unprepared to deal with issues such as autism and learning disabilities.  The problem is compounded by state mandated curriculum and testing.  The system is rigid, institutional and blind to chronic problems such as boring, irrelevant curriculum and student apathy.

So, your “assigned” grocery store doesn’t carry the types of food you need and desire, and you can’t go to another store, what do you do?  You grow your own.  It’s healthier, more fresh and it’s what you want.  That’s what home school parents do.  How does society and the institutions of education view that?  Instead of being lauded for taking intiative and responsibility for “growing their own”, institutions of education traditionally view this solution as substandard and question the motivations as if these people are undermining the system.  These are the same people that are blind to the epidemic drop out rate, which is often greater than 50% in decaying urban schools.

Do you remember the days before UPS and FedEx?  Mailing packages was slow and the often got lost or damaged.  Today, we have lots of choice.  We can use snail mail, email, video, text, including a host of national and regional package shippers.  Did the USPS go away?  No.  You can still buy a stamp and send a letter and have you noticed a decrease in service since the Post Office went private?  Just the opposite.  Now you can buy cards, shipping supplies and more.  That’s the power of the free market.

Back to the grocery and school analogy and childhood obesity.   Were you aware that public schools serve free lunch and breakfast?  That means, in a give year, 180 days out of the year,  students each 66% of their meals at schools.   So the biggest contributor of childhood obesity is….. the government.  Yet another example of a well meaning idea, creating unintended negative consequences.

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