What If Coffee Shops Were Run Like Public Schools ?
Over at The American Spectator, Andrew Coulson wonders what might happen if coffee shops were run the same way we run public education:
Imagine what would happen if coffee shops were run like schools. Let’s say that state and local officials granted Starbucks a “public coffee” franchise, paying it $10,000 annually per customer (about what the public schools spend per pupil) to keep us all in caffeinated bliss.
It would be the espresso shot heard round the world.
Not everybody likes the same brand of coffee, and the decision to let Starbucks give its product away for free would drive most other suppliers out of business. Coffee drinkers would get mighty steamed about that. Aficionados of competing shops would demand the right to spend their share of the coffee franchise money on the baristas of their choice.
Of course, if things played out the way they have in education, these dissenters would get nowhere. In the end, they would be forced to cave and join the tax-funded coffee queue at Starbucks, or foot the bill at their preferred shops and kiss $10,000 a year in free coffee goodbye.
But that would be just the beginning. Once Starbucks had a guaranteed source of tax revenue, customer satisfaction would fall by the wayside as a motivating principle of its business. After all, it would get paid the same amount whether or not folks were served well or promptly. To improve its bottom line it would no longer need to focus on consistency and innovative new products. So it would look for ways to cut services.
Of course, that’s not how the coffee shop market works. Starbucks competes with Caribou Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts and countless other local and regional coffee stores and franchises (not to mention the national brands available in supermarkets). And we’re all the better for it.
Why, then, do we insist on socialism in the education marketplace when the alternative seems all so simple ? As Coulson says:
In a free education marketplace, popular, well-managed schools would grow, while unpopular, poorly managed schools would close. There would be no politburo-like board threatening to merge schools together or close them down for its own budgetary reasons. The incentives of that marketplace would encourage innovation and a variety of options to cater to the diversity of families’ demands. Children would not be treated as interchangeable widgets to be processed through a single official system based on their age, or be shuffled around from one school to another just to make someone’s numbers work out.
We don’t trust our coffee to the government, and yet we’re willing to entrust our children ?