Chile Increases Taxes to Fund More Government Education

Chile passed a huge tax increase to further socialize education but the National Bureau of Economic Research isn’t convinced that it will work well.

We investigate whether the inclusion of social rights in political constitutions affects social performance. More specifically, we analyze whether including the right to education in the constitution has been related to better “educational outcomes.” We rely on data for 61 countries that participated in the 2012 PISA tests. Our results are strong and robust to the estimation technique: we find that there is no evidence that including the right to education in the constitution has been associated with higher test scores. The quality of education depends on socioeconomic, structural, and policy variables, such as expenditure per student, the teacher-pupil ratio, and families’ background. When these covariates are excluded, the relation between the strength of constitutional educational rights and the quality of education is negative and statistically significant. These results are important for emerging countries that are discussing the adoption of new constitutions, such as Thailand and Chile.

Chile is falling into the middle income trap. Many countries prosper for 20-30 years but decline as the government takes more control of the economy. The Chilean government has devalued the currency by 15% relative to the dollar during the past year and there are no signs of a resurgence of capitalism. Chileans have forgotten or never learned why they prospered during the last 20 years.

Andrew Coulson summarized the disaster the Chileans are creating.

Sadly, the government seems unaware of how successful the existing system has been. It wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs without even having noticed the eggs. The Bachelet government, and the student leaders who encouraged it to adopt these reforms, want to believe that a centrally planned school system would work better than the more free enterprise approach that exists today. Camila Vallejo, for instance, once said that Venezuela’s centrally planned education system is more advanced than Chile’s. But on the famous PISA international test, Venezuela’s most developed state performs far below Chile’s national average. And the avowed mission of Venezuela’s system is to indoctrinate youth with the government’s ideology. There seems to be little appetite for that sort of system in Chile.

It is good that Chileans are unsatisfied with the status quo and eager to improve it. High standards are crucial for the advancement of nations as well as individuals. But if the desire for improvement is to be satisfied, it must be accompanied by an honest appraisal of what works and what does not—in the real world. Chile’s entrepreneurial approach to education has elevated it above its regional peers, narrowed its educational gaps, and is helping it to improve overall. Central planning, as Venezuelans are rediscovering, has a less encouraging record.

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