One of the surprising features of the Australian political identity survey results for classical liberals was the large proportion with statist views on education. From a purely ideological perspective, it seems unlikely that a classical liberal could conclude that any monopoly control of curriculum was a good idea, and especially not a government monopoly. And from a purely practical perspective, the public education system isn’t exactly the greatest advertisement for the state as a service provider.
No 20th century classical liberal did more to argue the case for decentralising control of school education than Milton Friedman. So I wondered if the classical liberals in the survey who said that they had read Milton Friedman would have different views on education issues compared to those who had not. It turns out that they do.
Now of course correlation is not causation. Perhaps people who believe in school choice are more likely to read Friedman’s work because they want to read somebody they think they will agree with. On the other hand, there are a lot of people – I’m one – who were directly influenced by Friedman, and so it is plausible that his worked encouraged his readers to think counter-intuitive thoughts about how our schools should be run.