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Class Conversation: Should Free School Meals be Provided to Everyone?

04 Jan, 2022 KDIS News Center 1,202

I would like to share the most impressive lecture given during last semester’s Analysis of Market and Public Policy (AMPP) class. The topic in question was whether free school meals should be provided to everyone. My classmates and I answered the professor’s question with our opinions.

Several answers were given by students of various nationalities. The representative argument for proponents of free school meals for everyone was the stigma effect. The opinion was that if a shortlist of free school meals were selected, students from low-income families would inevitably be revealed in the process, which could harm teenagers who are emotionally sensitive.

Another argument concerned the size of the budget for offering free school meals. It was estimated that a budget of 300 billion won per year would be required to provide step-by-step free school meals, while a budget of 400 billion won per year would be required to provide full free school meals. The majority opinion was that while 100 billion won is by no means a small amount, the budget being used to feed students is much more important than the budget being used for little purpose every year, such as changing the road bricks.

After hearing all the opinions, the professor asked one more question: “What do you think about ‘Free Medical’ and ‘Free College Tuition’”?

Students who were generally proponents of free school meals were confused. Most of them opposed free medical care and free college tuition. I likewise agreed with free school meals, though I opposed free medical care and free college tuition. Here, I was quite confused. On what basis did my answer change? Is it more generous to feed children?

Interestingly, the professor explained the answer to the question he posed through the role and meaning of price.

What is the role of price? Price is commonly known only as the conceptual definition of a balance between supply and demand. However, the largest role of price is to perform the function of distinguishing between those people possessing higher and lower willingness to pay. In other words, price distinguishes between those who desperately need the goods in question and those who do not. What if there is no price? There is no way to distinguish people’s individual desperation. If there were, the method of obtaining th goods would be in the form of a lottery or a first-come, first-served line-up. Victims of this method become those who desperately want the goods.

As a result, prices control demand according to the aforementioned roles. When hospitals or universities are accessible free of charge, people’s demand increases indefinitely because human greed has no end. Therefore, if hospitals are free of charge, people in desperate need of medical treatment become the victims, while if universities are free, even those who do not need university education will attend college, resulting in a large number of highly educated unemployed people. Therefore, free medical care and university education are inappropriate targets to be provided as universal welfare.

Instead, a free school meal program is the field that should be actively supported by the government. This is because people’s demand for food is not infinite. All students can eat only one meal for lunch, and it is impossible to eat 10 or 100 times.

This is what I wanted to learn at KDI School. We all have our opinions, and you can never give a clear answer when your views and other views are ignited because your view is correct, while my view is also correct.

Therefore, what we need is a solution. Such a solution will be more valid when supported by a logical basis through quantification.

As such, I believe that economics is the most important field of study for politicians. Never without a balanced policy calculation is it possible to study economics.

I hope that my current study at KDI School will serve as a solid cornerstone of my future, and I wish to begin the second semester vigorously.


Written by Song Myungsup (2021 MPP)