Applying Laws of Gravity to Deep Space
In response to my post on RI’s education problems, Klaus makes the following request and commentary:
… could you please explain to me again how eliminating the teachers’ unions would improve education? I mean, I’m just a stupid socialist (according to a lot of commenters here), so could you big, bright conservatives please enlighten me?
Because, if I understand Free Market Theory, if you drive down the wage paid, you drive down the number and quality of applicants.
And do not attempt an explanation unless you address that question. It is the very heart of the proposed solution.
On the one hand, eliminating the union eases the tax burden, which is a positive.
But if you end up with teachers who really aren’t competent enough to do anything else, the end result is to cut our own throats by reducing the quality of teachers even more.
The simple answer to the opening question is that free market dynamics do not apply in situations that do not count as free markets. To take the point to an extreme, it would be ludicrous of a dictator to declare that he is raising the salaries of his staff (consisting of family and partners in crime) in order to attract the best candidates. The roles are filled at his pleasure. He does not compete with other employers. And his staff cannot negotiate under the presumption that they are free to leave. Moreover, to the degree that candidates compete for positions within the dictator’s government, the competition is centrally over their ability to please the dictator, not to perform the functions of a particular job, and if they are able to do the former, they need not fear repercussions for failing at the latter.
In a heavily unionized system, in which it is difficult to dismiss low-quality teachers, or even to allow them to fall behind in pay scale, the free market relationship between salary and quality is nearly reversed. The more comfortable the job and the better the compensation, the less likely that teachers who are not particularly adept at their jobs and/or not particularly interested in teaching, of itself, will make way for better qualified and more passionate candidates. Indeed, the more attractive their seats, the more vehemently they will guard them.
One need only look at the pitiful pay of private schools to see that competent teachers are driven to their vocation for its own sake. Disproportionate compensation packages that are freed from market forces and that are studiously disconnected from proven ability are certain to draw those whose competency is mainly in manipulating the system.