Education and the State first appeared in 1965 and was immediately hailed as one of the century's most important works on education. In the thirty years that have followed, the questions this book raised concerning state-run education have grown immeasurably in urgency and intensity. Education and the State re-examines the role of government in education and challenges the fundamental statist assumption that the state is best able to provide an education for the general population.
West explores the views on education of the nineteenth-century British reformers and classical economists who argued the necessity of state education. He demonstrates that by the Foster Act of 1870 the state system of education was superimposed upon successful private efforts, thereby suppressing an emerging and increasingly robust structure of private, voluntary, and competitive education funded by families, churches, and philanthropies.
This new and expanded edition of Education and the State addresses the American situation in education, applying the lessons learned from the study of British institutions. It also broadens their application from education to the conduct of democracy as a political system.
“The classical economists are typically associated in the popular mind with the early nineteenth-century doctrine of laissez faire. Nevertheless, as has been frequently observed by historians of education, sometimes quizzically but always with happy approval, these same writers were of all people among the most forceful advocates and pioneers of state education.”
Edwin G. West
Edwin George West (1922-2001) - Professor Emeritus of Economics at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Eddy West broke into academic publication in 1964 and 1965 with two articles, "Private vs. Public Education: a classical economic dispute", in the Journal of Political Economy, and "Tom Paine's Voucher System for Public Education", in the Southern Economic Journal. He spent much of the rest of his career elaborating on the problems of government monopoly in education, and on analysis of various methods for having students pay for education, and professors be paid for teaching and research.
His interests were wider than the structure of the educational system, but they always fell within a domain dependent on the spirit of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. He argued relentlessly for the virtues of competitive markets over government agency with its inefficient monopolistic and motivational failures.
Professor West was a visiting professor at Berkeley, Virginia Polytechnical Institute, Emory University, and the University of Chicago. He was a member of several advisory or editorial boards of independent economic institutes around the world, including the Board of Research Advisors of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.