TANSTAAFL, My Foot. It All Starts With Free Lunch

Sorry, Robert Heinlein and Milton Friedman, but in public school there is such a thing as a free lunch. And then a free breakfast. And then, in case going to the cafeteria was too much effort, free breakfast brought to your classroom. And then a free after-school snack.

When did schools become restaurants? They’re not. They are a means for buying the loyalty of politically active constituents of parents. And, because funding comes from USDA, they are a means for buying support for subsidies to farmers. In Congress, it’s called logrolling; I’ll support your farm supports if you’ll support my subsidies for urban school food programs. Everybody wins, (except those paying the bill, because, as we know, in reality, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

But the budgetary issues are really secondary here. More disturbingly, these kinds of programs cement in some of the most destructive trends in our socioeconomic culture: dependency, loss of personal responsibility, paternalistic government, decline of the family. Okay, I hate to sound like Bill Bennett here, but sometimes I have to agree. School breakfast was promoted as a means to provide nutrition, to those who could not afford it, for improving educational outcomes. It quickly morphed into a program that subsidizes all the kids’ food. Eligibility applications are unchecked, so they are widely falsified, and kids get it fraudulently. Instead of a stopgap to help a few kids in need, the program inevitably becomes the norm for everyone. And before you know it, parents balk at providing lunch or breakfast (or snack!) for their kids, because “that’s the government’s job.”

The newest trend is establishing medical clinics in school. MoCo announced this week plans to establish a school health center at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School. Typical services at such a center are described by a principal: “We have a pediatrician once a week, a nurse practitioner who can write prescriptions 20 hours a week, a registered nurse 40 hours a week and a health technician for 40 hours a week.” Access to the services will not be limited to children in the school, or even their families, but to anyone in the neighborhood. Nor will it just be for uninsured students.

And sadly, once again, the scope of civil society and voluntary activity decreases, and the scope of Leviathan spills over. Soon we will hear the cry, “Why should I take my child to the doctor? That’s the government’s job.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Montgomery County, The War on the Poor

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