Almost Accidentally Useful

by thethoughtgang

The way to deal with falling social mobility is to bring down the quality of good schools by levying a tax on them, apparently.

Longrider points out the first thing that sprang to my mind:

And what does Dr Seldon think that progressive taxation actually does? Oh, yeah, it means that the more wealthy you are, the more taxes you pay

This is true, but the point of ‘progressive’ taxation is that those with more pay more, but we all get the same out. After all, if paying more tax entitles one to better services, then what’s progressive about it? (I should note, at this point, how much I despise use of the word ‘progressive’ in this context.. but that’s for another day.)

Anyway, the tax system is not how people pay to send their offspring to good state schools. It’s the property market that does that. People pay more for homes near good schools. I’ve seen maths, even, showing near-perfect correlations between the premium paid to live near certain schools, and the concurrent implied ‘saving’ on private schooling fees.

So would Dr Seldon’s daft plan have an unintended, but beneficial, consequence? Would it remove the school premium from the price of land? Would it appropriate the gain in house values from proximity to a good school for the state (which, after all, runs the school) instead of it going to the landowner? Would it remove the problem that us childless have if we want to live in those nice areas that have good schools.. namely that we have to pay the school premium too? In the long run, will those middle class patents asked to pay a free be no better or worse off, because their housing cost will fall to cover the fees (or, at least, 2.4 children’s worth).

There is little I’ve heard of Dr Seldon’s proposals that it intentionally right. Most crucially, it is oblivious to the fact that the main reason good schools are good is that good parents send good children to them.