Paying for Public Goods

An extremely insightful class discussion today led me to wonder about the usefulness of public goods.  A public good could include, as it did in this conversation, education systems such as higher education or K-12 education.  The inherent values of investing in these systems… such as “the betterment of society” and “improving access for those historically marginalized” are regularly cited reasons as to why the investment is worthy.

I wonder, then, why does this country demand public goods, claiming their worth, and then refuse to pay for it?  Furthermore, if we are to change people’s minds about decisions to pay for public goods, how much should we ask them to pay?

There are unlimited answers to this.  As a liberal, supporter of big government, and one who desires higher tax rates for all, my answer is clear.  I feel we should invest a lot of money for the above-mentioned reasons.  We should increase access to education, from K-16, we should support a variety of vocations, community colleges, and public universities.  We should also give persons the opportunity to refuse a higher education, in case they want to carve their own path.

Now, this doesn’t mean we should allow these systems to become bloated and inefficient.  So, then, how much should we pay?  What is the benchmark to say, “PAY THIS MUCH?”

One suggestion in today’s discussion was to pay enough for the democratic republic, aka The United States of America, to function.  Enough education should be shared with members of the society so that one could vote in an election with a well-grounded, thought out reason.  I support this idea.  I also think that, if this is the benchmark, we have a long way to go in improving education on all levels.

This idea has implications far beyond systems of education and legislature.  It affects families, spending, taxes, policies, and most notably, the culture and value society, especially American society, places on education.  However, if the “return on investment” is worth it, why aren’t we putting our money where our mouth is?

It’s probably because Americans are simply bad at saving or managing money.  Thoughts?


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