Thursday, March 5, 2009

Really Interesting Political Economy

Here's Carden on a working paper by Pritchett and Viarengo:

They argue that, in spite of ample evidence that private provision is superior to public provision and no evidence that public provision is superior to private provision, governments generally tend to produce education instead of relying on private suppliers. ...

Pritchett and Viarengo argue that government schools exist to produce not just values-neutral skills like literacy and mathematical competence, but beliefs and values. In other words, governments have a stake in controlling schools for the same reason they have a stake in controlling media: socialization and inculcation of regime-friendly values.

Their new wrinkle is that they expand conventional models of schooling supply and demand to include provision of beliefs in addition to skills. As evidence, they cite the prevalence of religious schools as the alternative to government schools. Both governments and religious organizations "are willing to subsidize skill acquisition in order to link it with socialization and the inculcation of belief" ...

Casual empricism and my experience with American schools suggests that the key problem is common ownership with multiple parties claiming the legitimate right to be "the regime." The ideological commitments of the polity should then determine the degree to which regime-ownership is contested.

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