John Stossel

One exciting thing about the free market is that you can't predict what the market will create. Big-government advocates tell you exactly what will happen when their plans work (as if they actually would work!), but we who trust the free market can only say that people will compete and good ideas will win. We don't set out to make all your choices for you, and, not being psychic, we can't predict what decisions you'll make.

Take education. Bureaucrats like to say, you will go to this school, because we said so, and you will be taught according to this program, because we said so and we know best. Those of us with confidence in markets think you could do better deciding for yourself. Neither the bureaucrats nor the freedom lovers can judge what's in your interest better than you can. One big difference is, we know what we don't know, while they think they know everything.

We do know that competition works. It works because it gives people the chance to be creative. Educational experts, freed from the massive regulations that snarl the public schools, can come up with new and better ideas for teaching. Competition works because it gives people incentives to produce -- it inspires them to work constantly at trying to find better ways to please their customers. The bad producers lose their jobs -- but the best ones gain new customers. Bad schools will close and better schools will open.

And the better schools won't all be the same.

I can't tell you about all the wonderful schools that would appear if students were able to bring their public funding to any school, public, private, or religious. No one individual can begin to imagine what competition would create. But because a few experiments in school choice have been allowed, I can tell you about a few of the possibilities:

Some schools now focus on technology, foreign languages, or music; there are charter schools that operate as boarding schools. At the KIPP charter schools, teachers must give kids their cell phone numbers, and in the evening, every teacher is available to answer questions until 9 p.m. The students call "constantly," say teachers. KIPP kids are in school until 5 p.m., some Saturdays and for weeks in the summer.

So many students want to get into charter schools like those, many have to hold lotteries. The winners get a shot at a better future; the losers are generally stuck with whatever the bureaucrats deign to give them. Why should kids have to win their future possibilities in a lottery? If school money were attached to individual students in the form of vouchers, every parent could take their child to new schools.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate