This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
No expenditure commends itself more than that for education. It creates the groundwork political institutions. No expenditure in the opinion of Geffcken is more " reproductive " than that which the State makes for the development of its future citizens. But the expenditure of the various countries for this purpose cannot very well be compared, because it is very difficult to obtain a complete statement of all the outgo under this head. The local governments generally have certain lower branches under their control and pay a part or the whole of the expense of those. In federal governments the remainder of the system is generally under the control of the component parts. The United States federal government has rendered assistance to the commonwealth and local schools by grants of land of unknown value, and by the collection and dissemination of information through a bureau of education, and in various other ways. In England the provision for education made by public authorities is generally less than in most other countries, the sole exception being the provision for technical education.
Until very recently this line of public activity has been regarded by that country as one conferring a special benefit and to be paid for in part by fees. But it is now pretty clearly the accepted policy of all modern nations to provide at least the primary education necessary for every citizen as a common benefit and to make it compulsory and free to all the recipients.In treatment, then, it is as much a benefit for the rich childless man that the sons of his poorer neighbour should be educated as that he should have the protection of the police in the enjoyment of his property, and he is made to pay on that principle. In regard to higher education as given in the secondary schools, and technical education, there is no such uniformity of practice. Education in the rudimentary mechanical arts is in fact becoming as important a need of society as elementary education in theusual branches. As the pace of industry becomes more rapid and its organisation more perfect, the possibility of giving this sort of instruction by the old apprenticeship system vanishes. There is no place for the boy in the modern factory. Private initiative cannot be depended upon to supply the opportunity for this sort of education. The State has to do so if it is done at all. In this respect many of the English cities are far ahead of any American city.1
1 Shaw, Municipal Government in Great Britain. s
Whether University education should be given the recipients free of charge at the common cost is, in practice also, an open question. Had not liberal private endowments been made for this purpose, it is probable that the question would long ago have been settled, and that this branch of education would have been treated as the primary was. University education, even though enjoyed by but a relatively small number of the citizens, is far more " reproductive " and far more beneficial to the State as a whole than even a widely diffused system of primary schools. It is quite as important, if not more important, to have highly trained leaders of public action and thought as it is to have a low degree of intelligence widely disseminated. The University as a centre for research alone is worth many times what it costs. In proportion to the benefits which it confers on the State it is, where run at the general cost, the least expensive part of the whole system. The provision made by many of the western commonwealths of the United States for the liberal endowments of Universities from the public funds has been without exception the most beneficial and economical expenditure they have made. In Germany, too, a large part of the expense is borne by the State. Closely related to education is the maintenance of museums, libraries, picture galleries, and scientific investigations. These comprise in most countries an important part of the provision for education. The United Kingdom spends on all these educational works £9,783,469 from the general treasury, and a far larger amount from other sources. In the United States in 1890 the total public expenditure for education was $145,583,115, which was by far the largest expenditure for any one purpose.