Though Milton Friedman won a Nobel Prize in economics, his most significant long-lasting effect may in the world of K-12 education. Specifically, the fate of American education may lie in how quickly and fully we implement his vision of parental choice in education.

In Capitalism & Freedom (1962), Milton and Rose Friedman addressed public education. The ideal, they said, would be for parents to pay for their own childrens’ education. But they allowed that due to “neighborhood effects” (the benefits that other non-parents receive from seeing to it that children learn), a citizenry may decide that it is important to underwrite education through tax funds. They offered several reasons why that might not be a good idea (for one thing, it subsidizes the wealthy). But in conceding that “a minimum degree of literacy” is needed in a functioning democracy, they agreed, and turned toward the question of how to spend the money.