My Dissertation

Working Title: “From Laissez-Faire to Vouchers: An Intellectual History of Market Libertarian Thought on Education in 20th Century America.”

Committee: Bob Hampel (U of Delaware, Education; Chair), Eugene Matusov (U of Delaware, Education), Jan Blits (U of Delaware), Matt Zwolinski (U of San Diego, Philosophy)

My dissertation is an intellectual history of American market libertarian arguments for educational privatization over the course of the 20th Century. With the increasing presence of market libertarian ideas (think Ron Paul) in contemporary politics and continued policy discussions about various forms of educational privatization, I want to analyze the long tradition of market libertarian thinkers who have, using various arguments and rationales, called for educational privatization. Not only do I want to philosophically examine the arguments they have used (and how their arguments about education fit into their overall libertarian philosophies), but I want to find out

what influences they drew on to make those arguments and how those arguments were received by others.

In each chapter, I profile and analyze  the educatonal thought of a different market libertarian intellectual: 1) Albert Jay Nock, 2) Frank Chodorov, 3) Isabel Paterson, 4) Ayn Rand, 5) Murray Rothbard, 6) Milton Friedman, 7) Myron Lieberman.

While my research is ongoing, there have emerged five broad arguments market advocates have used to argue for markets in education. They are:
1) Government redistribution of wealth for social services like education violate right to property is morally wrong.
2) Parents, not the State, are the appropriate stewards of children’s education.
3) Markets in education, rather than government quasi-monopoly on education, is compatible with freedom of thought.
4) Government control of education will often be used for government’s “self-serving” political purposes.
5), Markets in education respond to competitive market pressures in ways government bureaucracies cannot.

While each thinker that I analyze uses various combinations of these arguments, there is a broad historical evolution we can observe in market libertarians arguments over time. Earlier thinkers (Nock, Chodorov) largely emphasize the moral arguments of 1 and 2. Thinkers of the 1950's and 1960's (Rand, Rothbard) put more emphasis on the arguments to 3 and 4, markets' relation to freedom of thought (Rand, Rothbard). The later voucher proponents (Friedman, Lieberman) largely dismissed or avoided the moral arguments against redistribution, putting emphasis on 5 - that while government could have a role to play in redistributing educational funds, private enterprise alone was susceptible to competitive pressures that would lead to quality educational institutions.