Saturday, May 05, 2007

Reading and malinvestment

My latest blog post over at Mises.org:

Reading and malinvestment
Jim Fedako


Ludwig von Mises warned of the unintended consequences that result from government interventions. In line with his warnings is the misallocation resulting from malinvestment by government in activities that are not the best use of scarce resources. These malinvestments create capital structures unsupported by real wants and desires. Bust comes when resources are cutoff or shift to the lines that are truly productive from those lines which exist solely because of these government interventions.

How in the world does this relate to reading? The answer is quite simple and telling, and it's also an excellent lesson in Austrian Economics.

At the same time that Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, Elaine Bruner, is currently available on Amazon.com for $8.14, the federal and state governments are wasting hundreds of millions, if not billions, on Progressive reading strategies that are of little use, and are potentially harmful. In addition, local public schools are spending untold tax dollars implementing these strategies, leaving many children semi-literate at best.

Go to Amazon.com and search for 100 Easy Lessons, then sort the customer responses in reverse order of ranking - lowest to highest - to see the objections to the above reading program. You will find that the objections typically suggest another book or series of books that are themselves reasonably priced and readily available. None of the comments I read said that 100 Easy Lessons fails to teach reading. And, neither this program nor suggested alternatives rely on continual government resources for R&D. They are programs that are tried and true, successful yet cheap, products of the free market.

The result of the government expenditures in reading is a capital structure that is nonproductive and wasteful, but is also a dollar-consuming Leviathan. A significant portion of the funding received by these programs and departments goes back into continual lobbying and PR expenditures. As a result, the programs and departments, along with their sycophant lobbyists and PR pushers, grow and grow; a financial Backdraft that consumes tax-dollars and lays waste to the dreams of future generations.

Government has to fear the bust that will inevitably occur when funding ends for these programs and departments. The result will not just be thousands upon thousands of bureaucrats, administrators, and teachers hitting the street. The result will include the loss of capital invested in private enterprises that exist solely to remedy the ills caused by the government-funded reading programs.

Should the products of the private sector - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, etc - replace those created by interventionist policies, you will save tax dollars while student achievement rises[1]. Just be ready to ignore the administrator or teacher holding the cup and the sign that reads, "Will whole-language for food."

Notes:
[1] Of course, privatizing both schools and school funding is the real solutions.

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