How Milton Friedman Aided and Abetted Segregationists in His Quest to Privatize Public Education

Nancy MacLean over at INET:

The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the “school choice” cause as Republican control of a majority of state legislatures combined with pandemic learning disruptions to set the stage for multiple victories. Seven U.S. states have created new “school choice” programs and eleven others have expanded current programs, with laws that authorize taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling, provide tax credits, and authorize educational savings accounts to invite parents to abandon public schools.

“School choice” sounds like it offers options. But my new INET Working Paper shows that the whole concept, as first implemented in the U.S. South in the mid-1950s in defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, aimed to block the choice of equal, integrated education for Black families. Further, Milton Friedman, soon to become the best-known neoliberal economist in the world, abetted the push for private schooling that states in the U.S. South used to evade the reach of the ruling, which only applied to public schools. So, too, did other libertarians endorse the segregationist tool, including founders of the cause that today avidly pushes private schooling. Among them were Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Robert Lefevre, Isabel Patterson, Felix Morley, Henry Regnery, trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), and the William Volker Fund, which helped underwrite the American wing of the Mont Pelerin Society, the nerve center of neoliberalism.

Friedman and his allies saw in the backlash to the desegregation decree an opportunity they could leverage to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources. Whatever their personal beliefs about race and racism, they helped Jim Crow survive in America by providing ostensibly race-neutral arguments for tax subsidies to the private schools sought by white supremacists.

More here.