Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Child Care Premises

The starting point with respect to government child care programs, as I see it, is to ask the question of whether or not the government should be involved in the child care market at all.

If the answer to this first question is yes, then the second question (in a federal system of government) is to ask which level(s) of government should be responsible for the program(s) (I talked about that in this post).

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we have agreed that government should be involved in child care, and furthermore, that the Federal Government should implement a child care plan (this is not an unreasonable assumption given that every federal party a child care plan). Now we just have to figure out the best way for it do that.

Obviously people have different answers to this question, but I've been thinking that where people end up on this question, largely depends on what premise they start from. I can think of 4 plausible premises from which people might start their thinking on child care1:

  • Parents know what is best for their children, so a child care plan should maximize the choices available to parents

  • Provincial governments are responsible for implementing child care programs so a Federal program should just provide funds to provinces as part of some sort of framework, like in health care

  • Scientific study and research can identify what elements of child care are more beneficial and government should intervene to ensure that the care provided to children matches this criteria as closely as possible in order to maximize children's wellbeing

  • Child care is just another product/service and government should only get involved to correct any known market failures

To be sure, it is an over-simplification to present these approaches as if they were completely discrete and non-overlapping when, in reality, any child care plan is likely to incorporate elements from multiple approaches, but I think it will be interesting (for me, anyway - you may not be such a nerd!) to go through and see what kind of child care program you get starting from each of these different premises.

1 If you have more, that's what the comments are for.


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