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Education Tops Government Employment

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Good enough for government work.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently revealed that the majority of the 16.6 million full-time government employees at the state and local level work in the education field. There are 9.0 million people around the country who work in secondary and elementary education, which also happens to total more than double of all the government employees at the federal level combined, to include the military and the post office. The consequences of so many government employed personnel in education are bad for the taxpayers, bad for the economy and bad for the children who are supposed to benefit from public education.

From a basic economic perspective, we as a society have far too many government employees (>20 million) relative to private sector employees (~130 million). Because public sector employees generally create no value (they do not provide goods and services that people voluntarily pay for), they exist as a burden on the economy which must pay their salaries and benefits. They also divert capital and resources from value producing activities and endeavors to those that destroy value. This burden, coupled with the burdens of corporatism (government distortion of the markets or directly funneling taxpayer money to preferred corporations) and social welfare makes everyone except for a select few worse off, it keeps people poor and it destroys prosperity for future generations. 9 million government workers in public education cannot be justified when the private economy only employs ~130 million people – it is wasteful, and it is destructive.

But if money were no issue, if the government could spend endlessly on public education without harming the economy, the taxpayers or future generations, the 9 million government workers in public education would still be a terrible deal for America because they are destroying the lives of millions of children per year. The reasons are partly economic, as our lives are inherently tied to economic forces. Public education exists by way of government coercion and force. Public education requires forced taxation of people who do not support it, compulsory schooling laws to strong-arm parents and children who do not care for public education, and government policies that ensure effective monopolies at the district level throughout the country. When an organization can survive on government force alone, without competition from entrepreneurs who are willing to provide a better service, that organization becomes more expensive to the consumer (taxpayer) while providing an inferior offering.

The virtual absence of competition in public education allows non-market forces to alter education so that it doesn’t serve the end user. Public education ends up being dictated and controlled by those who can siphon money from taxpayers through a system that is not expected to make a profit for shareholders, but like most government programs, to maximize the benefits paid out to politically influential organizations and individuals. More government employees in such a system does not result in higher quality education for the children who are supposed to benefit from the system, it results in more political power for the groups that are trying to take even more money from taxpayers. The bigger and more powerful this mob becomes, the less they need to concern themselves with educating children because their political leverage becomes far stronger than that of despondent parents who feel they have nowhere to turn.

While budget crises across the nation are forcing some states and districts to reduce the number of employees in education, the reductions are not enough to fundamentally improve the lot of the taxpayer, the health of the economy or the quality of education.  As long as the government can justify taking our money to fund a coercive system that treats children as prisoners, nothing is going to change. Real change must come from the voluntary action of the people. When parents opt out of the public education system by sending their kids to private schools or by homeschooling them, they are not only giving their child a better education, they are putting stress on a system that cannot otherwise justify its existence through its work product. As more and more children leave the system, the state will be left defending an ever increasing cost of education per child, which will eventually become indefensible. When the mass migration away from the public education system begins, the government will be forced to slash the number of government employees in public education resulting in happier taxpayers, a healthier economy and better educated children.

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