This post is offered in honor of school choice week.

We are accustomed to hearing economists lecture on the virtues of markets and choice.

Here is an economist who sees choice differently.

Here is the money quote:

“Today institutions of higher education, public and private, remain largely segregated by race, religion and economic condition. White colleges and universities remain primarily white, Black institutions remain primarily black, and denominational institutions remain even more religiously identifiable.

“Such segregation is sanctified with tons of federal and state money in the forms of tuition vouchers, tax credits and government subsidized loans. The Obama administration has been largely foreclosed from remedying the situation for fear of offending powerful political forces representing the investors and private institutions. The higher education voucher/loan dilemma portends a probable scenario for the future of tuition vouchers and charter schools at the primary and secondary levels.

“Stiglitz quotes Alexis de Tocqueville who said that the main element of the “peculiar genius of American society” is “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words, “properly understood,” are the key, says Stiglitz. According to Stiglitz, everyone possesses self-interest in the “narrow sense.” This “narrow sense” with regard to educational choice is usually exercised for reasons other than educational quality, the chief reasons being race, religion, economic and social status, and similarity with persons with comparable information, biases and prejudices. But Stiglitz interprets Tocqueville’s “properly understood” to mean a much broader and more desirable and moral objective, that of “appreciating” and paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest. In other words, the common welfare is, in fact, “a precondition for one’s own ultimate well being.”17 Such commonality in the advancement of the public good is lost by the narrow self-interest. School tuition vouchers and charter schools are the operational models for implementation of the “narrow self-interest.” It is easy to recognize, but difficult to justify. “