(Guest post by Greg Forster)
OCPA carries my article on the government school monopoly as “reverse patronage system”:
In the 19th century, under the patronage system, hiring and firing in most government jobs was directly controlled by political officeholders. Politicians in each party would hire their party’s people to staff the government from top to bottom. (On one famous occasion, Abraham Lincoln kept his Civil War generals waiting while he attended to more important business: deciding which party faction to give control of a Post Office appointment.) Each change of party would bring massive turnover. This was also called the “spoils system” because government jobs were like the spoils of war for whoever won the election.
It’s not hard to see why we got rid of patronage. But at least it was transparent and evenhanded. Nobody was under any illusions about what was going on. Both sides had equal rights to use the system for their own advantage. And when abuses got too far out of hand, there was always a measure of accountability—however attenuated—at the ballot box.
In the government school monopoly, we have a reverse form of patronage. Instead of politicians picking their government employees, government employees pick their politicians. This is far worse, both because it greatly increases the power of special interests to leech money out of the system and because it undermines the only power that imposed even an attenuated form of accountability upon the old patronage—the power to vote the rascals out.
Let me know what you think!