Archive for the ‘laissez faire’ Category

James is knocking it out of the park again!

My dad hit me when I got bad grades. Particularly when I was young and got a bad grade in “Conduct”. Happiness was an “A”. Even better: an “A+”. Sadness was an “F”. It was almost like a joke. Like the only way to get an “F” is if you tried to screw up almost as much as you tried to get an “A”.

But  in twelve years of basic schooling I can’t’ remember anyone asking where the “E” was. It goes A, B, C, D (which was really horrible to get a D. It means you were trying somewhat (so as to avoid the “F”) but you were just plain stupid and got a D. Not even a C.) and then, the magic “F”. Which was more than just a letter but a one-letter acronym. None of the other letters stood for anything. They were just letters. They could’ve been replaced by numbers (Claudia tells me in Argentina they were graded by numbers from one to ten. No letters). It’s not like “A” stood for Amazing. Or “B” Boring. “C” Crazy. “D” Dumb. You could’ve just replaced them by 1, 2, 3, 4. Or a “1+”. But F was irreplaceable.

(the mirror image of the tattoo says “Never a Failure, Always a Lesson”)

“F” stood for “Failure”.  [Note: except when I was really little. There was “O” for outstanding. “S” for Satisfactory. And “N” for needs improvement. I got an N for conduct and it’s the first time I remember my dad hitting me after the teacher told him I was always calling her old, which she was and there is no shame of that but I only realize that now that I am as old as she was.]

So why no “E”. I think teachers got together 5000 years ago. Maybe 10,000 years ago and came up with the horrifying conclusion: Some students might think “E” stood for Effort. As in, “at least I didn’t get an ‘F’. I got an ‘E’ which means I put in an effort.” And doesn’t that go along all too easily with the lie teachers say, “I’m not going to judge you on your grade, I’m going to judge you on the effort you put into this class.”

Did they ever really judge you on that? And if they did, do you really think they would want you to get an “E” on a test and then have to put up with your arguing at the end of a semester when you would say, “See! I put in the effort! I got an “E” on everything and you said that would be how you would judge me.”

“This is awful”, said a teacher at that first convention of the union of the national teachers club. “We have to take the ‘E’ out of the alphabet.”

“But,” said Mr. Maroon. “We spend years teaching them that song: A, B, C, D, E, F, G… to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star. And now we have to tell them there is no E?”

“There is an E! Just not in grades. Why is this such a difficult thing to understand? If we put an ‘E’ in there then our schools will NEVER get funding. All our schools depend on our students, smart or stupid, doing well on those standardized tests where they fill in the multiple choice circles and cyborgs read them and grade them and the better they do, the more funding we get. If we put an ‘E’ into the system the students might clog up the pipes with Effort instead of Amazing. They might even think “E” is for Exceed because at least it beats Failure! WE CANNOT HAVE AN ‘E’!”

I doubt that conversation really happened. They really backed themselves into a corner. They thought by using letters instead of numbers that would fool kids into some state of confusion where they really didn’t know how they did. Like, “is a B good or bad?” But everyone knows where they stand when it comes to 1 through 10.

But now they were stuck with the “E”. Until they decided to strike it from the alphabet. But only some of the time. Except for that one time an entire novel was written without using the letter “e”. That guy knew what he was doing. The insidious removal of the most common letter in the English language.

Because that’s what English is about. It’s not “Anglo”. It’s not quite “Saxon”. It’s not “Latin”. But its a weird mixture of all three, concocted like a test tube baby in some scientist’s laboratory when the aliens landed and impregnated our ancient Mothers with the sperm from their dying planets (since they came from a Federation of planets surrounding a supernova, or perhaps supernovae (there’s that “E” again) ).  So we can keep on experimenting and investing and twisting and testing. Now “google” is a verb, a noun, a business, the beginnings of an artificially intelligent singularity, a map, an email, a social network, and a photo album with the flowers as bookmarks. We don’t need those anymore thanks to Google. No memories are special enough to mark them with a flower, thanks to the newest word in the dictionary.

Ugh, trying to unravel the Rubik’s Cube-like scam of lower education is a full-time job. Once you get a side with all one color you realize you’ve hopelessly prevented yourself from getting the other side to be one color.

I have not read much about home schooling or unschooling so I am no expert. But I’ve thought about it. And this is how I would do it if my kids were to let me unschool them.

A) First, (and again, this is without reading about it at all so I, at best, uneducated on the topic). I prefer the word “unschooling” to “home schooling”. I assume home schooling means I replace the teacher, buy them science textbooks, math, Canterbury Tales, etc. I don’t want to do that. That sounds boring to me and I assume to them as well. Unschooling sounds more like it – i.e. just completely no education at all.

B) Only one requirement: read one book a week. It doesn’t matter what book. I will pay them 10 cents a page. WHAT!? How can you pay your kids to learn? Well, I want my kids to get used to being paid for doing things they enjoy. Later in life (just a few years really) they will have to do it anyway. Why not get used to being paid for something they enjoy right now? This way they will know easily to avoid getting paid for things they don’t enjoy. (this is hopefully a way to avoid them going into a life of prostitution).

Then we talk about it. Then we visit the bookstore and they get to browse other books and see what they like. I get a synesthesia of experience when I go into a bookstore, some sections have bright colors and draw me to them (fiction, current affairs, philosophy, art, comics, history) and some I can just feel the drab greyness (interior decorating, crafts, children). They would browse until something pulls at them. Then they would buy it and read it.

C) Every day: I’d set out drawing and painting materials. They’d also be encouraged to keep a diary. I want the creative neurons going. I can’t force them to do this. But maybe they would want to.

D) At least an hour of sports a day.

(sports are good for kids)

E) I’d set up playdates for after school so they can get socialization. Or playdates with other kids that are being unschooled or home schooled (there are more than you think out there). My kids think that all home-schooled kids are “weird” because they aren’t social. But I ask them, “when do you talk to your friends anyway?” And they say, “after school”. So that argument is out the window.

F) The rest of the time they can do whatever they want: eat, read, watch TV, sleep, blow stuff up, do nothing but stare at the wall, walk around the block, go to the movies. Whatever. In fact, I hope they do a lot of nothing. People get addicted to doing “something”. What’s so great about “something”. I like to do nothing. Even when people do nothing they try to label it: like “meditation”. Ugh, what a boring thing: meditation. Try, “I just did nothing. I even thought about nothing in particular.”

When you are capable of actually doing nothing (not so easy after decades of “something addiction”), there’s a deep well that springs up, and fills every corner of you, crowding at the anxieties, the fears, the pressures put on you from government jobs colleagues bosses friends family. The nothing replaces all the vomit they try to kiss into your mouth.

By doing all the above they have more opportunity to discover their passions, more play time, more creative time, just as much social time.

The standard criticism: kids should learn how to deal with kids they don’t like and doing things they don’t like. People say this to me all the time, ranging from Harvard graduates to my own kids. “Kids should do things they don’t like!” Really?

My answer: Why? It doesn’t seem like adults are any good at that so how did experiencing it as a kid help them?

What makes me an expert on unschooling? Absolutely nothing. And that’s the point. I just don’t want them to do any of the 100 bad memories I (and just about everyone else) has about standardized schooling. Why should they have to go through with it?

And I’m going to grade them every week. I’ll give them a big piece of paper with the letter “E” on it. And we can talk about what it means. Maybe every week it will mean something different. That sounds like fun.

I feel bad. I feel like a sucker. Like one by one I fell for every lie. I talk about “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, and yet I fell for all of them. I’ve been in everything from a cult to the cult of homeownership, the cult of college, the cult of sex, the cult of drugs, every cult imaginable, the cult of corporate safety, the cult of money. Why couldn’t I just be smart from the beginning? Why does it take stupidity to become smart? Or maybe I’m still stupid. Who knows?

Let’s do one of those psychology tests where I ask you something and you say the first word that comes to mind. Here’s the usual responses I get after years of doing this:

  • Me: Home ownership.  Other: “Roots”
  • Me: College:  Other: “Good job”
  • Me: Good war. Other: “World War II”
  • Me: Success. Other: “Fame and money”
  • Me: Iran. Other: “They want to kill all the jews”. 
  • Me: Voting. Other: “Doing something for your country”. 

Home ownership – think about why you want to own a home. Just really take a step back and forget about all your biases. You think “renting is flushing money down the toilet”. You might think “home ownership is ‘roots’ for your family”. Why do you think these things? Isn’t it suspicious to you that everyone else says the same slogans? That I just wrote down the exact things that are you in your head when you try to justify buying a home?

Does it make sense at all that there is a trillion dollar industry (over 20 trillion to be exact when you add in mortgages plus the part of the economy that is dependent on home building) that wants you to own a home? Banks, the government, home builders, furniture makers, real estate agents, etc are all the priests and ministers of that religion. Don’t you think a small part of that 20 trillion goes into hammering again and again the marketing message that you need to own a home?

Just do the basic math on home ownership. It does not work. It will NEVER work. Maybe if home prices go down another 80% but that’s it.

But this isn’t about home ownership. I’ve bought and sold two homes. And I lost money on both. So maybe I’m just bitter. Who knows.

This is about hypnosis. Why we believe, at the bottom of our hearts, the things that are told to us that have such obvious trillion dollar agendas.

Like college. Here is what everyone says: “You won’t get a good job if you don’t go to college”. I’ve proved countless times how this is a lie. Yes, you won’t get a 90 hour a week job at Goldman Sachs if you don’t go to college. And yes, there is no chance in hell you can be a proctologist (although I have known people to start a private practice in this without any degree at all) if you don’t have a medical degree. Ok, you win. On those jobs.

But don’t you think this trillion dollar industry (where costs have gone up ten times faster than inflation, three times faster than the scam healthcare industry) might have an agenda when they put out these “statistical” studies.

What else happens in college? Well, one in four women are raped in college. But because college campuses are one of the few places in the country (Indian reservations maybe being the only other) that provide their own security, you never hear about this. Campus security is not there to protect you. It’s there to hide things from you.

So you can get a job at Goldman Sachs, but you’re more likely to be raped. Or, I guess, be the raper. You choose.

But “don’t you learn how to think” in college? I don’t know, do you? Did you really learn how to think there? Does it really cost $200,000 to think? And what is so great about thinking. Since 1950, when college started becoming almost a pre-requirement for success, incidence of depression has gone up 50 times. How come colleges don’t report on this statistic?

Again, ask yourself where you got these slogans. Even my ten year old repeats the slogans. They are marketing slogans created by, again, a trillion dollar industry.

Insurance. “Everyone must be insured”. “Insurance companies can’t deny you because of pre-existing conditions.” Everyone says this. Again, why does everyone say the exact same thing. Again, this is a trillion dollar industry. They are telling you what to think.

Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s say you have a pre-existing condition. Do you really think they are going to charge you the same amount that someone without a pre-existing condition is charged? Of course not. Your prices are going to go up. A lot! And everyone’s prices are going to go up. Do you think the insurance companies are going to lose money? Of course not. And if you don’t sign up, you have to now pay a fine (a “tax”) to the government. So who wins in this? Do you win? And then the other side tries to go to the other extreme. “Death panels”. Oh my god! Someone’s going to decide who lives or dies?

Of course not. The other side of a lie is not the truth. It”s just another lie.

“The War against Terrorism”. Terrorism is horrible. I lived five blocks from ground zero and watched the first plane go into the towers. Then watched the bodies jump off the top of the building. Now, 11 years later, we’re still at war in two countries. Someone the other day was upset at me and said, “we pulled out of Iraq.” Why did he say that? Because the government told him. We have more soldiers in Iraq now than when the statue of Hussein was toppled. And we are still at war in Afganistan. And everywhere we go we kill civilians and babies. Millions of them. Not to mention our own 18 year olds. And everyone gets upset. “We have to protect our way of life”. “The muslims are going to kill us”. Really? Well, then go fight them. Whenever I say that, everyone shuts up. We don’t need 18 year olds to fight people. 50 year olds can do it. Everyone gets quiet.

I was for the war in Iraq. I listened to Colin Powell in the UN. He said they had nukes or weapons of mass destruction aimed right at Israel. Oh no! I thought. We have to get them. And I believed him. And now millions are dead. And what was the result? The only country that kept Iran in check was Iraq. And now Iraq is pretty much a colony of Iran. We not only killed millions of people, we destroyed the balance of power in the entire region. Now the only way to restore balance, and its our own fault, is to become friends with Iran.

“We need to invade Iran before they invade Israel!” This was said to me the other day. By a guy who quoted statistic after statistic. But who couldn’t explain to me how it will happen. There’s 70 million people in Iran and Iran is completely surrounded by mountains. How are you going to get in there other than nuking tens of millions of civilians. You can’t get in there by ground or boat. Or even aircraft. You have to nuke. And, by the way, most of Iran hates their leadership – as demonstrated by the protests after the last election. Most of the people in Iran are people just like you and me, terrified of being invaded by the US. And Israel has nuclear weapons. Is any country going to really risk Israel, a country that has won every war it’s been in, nuking them?

(everybody eager for war should take a geography class first)

“I won’t be happy unless I’m successful or famous”. Look up Ozymandias for the veracity of this one. And yet, it’s the American dream. So it must be true. Right?

I get many emails: “I need to find my passion.” My question is: why? Passion is like a bridge between your current unhappiness and some mysterious future happiness. Guess what – you might be dead then. Passion is also a trillion dollar myth. First, check to see if your breathing. Are you? That’s pretty good. You’re ahead of most of the other people who have ever lived on this planet.

And finally, we can throw in the massive food industry. Bigger, better, more filling, more nutritious. I have yet to see a food product that doesn’t have a lie on its packaging. Look around your supermarket. 80% of a grocery store is filled with processed sugars that are proven again and again to be bad for you but the lobbyists in charge of the food pyramid (the “FDA recommended daily value” on every box) want you to BELIEVE the religion they propose.

Marketing is not just about clothes or facial products or vacuum cleaners. It’s about the very ideas that you dress up in to lead your daily existence. It’s the lies that trillions of dollars are spent fabricating that are repeated to you over and over again like mantras until they appear to be baked into your soul. Every lie is one step further from you being calm and happy.

You wake up every morning with a clean slate. But within seconds your mind dresses you up in all the lies for the day. Must aim for promotion at the job, must kiss ass to customers, must send my kids to school, must stay with my wife forever, must write a blog post, must go to war to defend American values, must vote, must eat organic (the irony being that if everyone ate organic the world would starve), must must must MUST.

The real you is always there. Before the thoughts enter it. Before the lies obscure it. Before you are convinced you are either one of “us” or one of “them”.

The real you is neither. Test every thought you have. Your thoughts are not you. They are your children. But we forget that children often need to be disciplined. Else they will test your boundaries and slowly take over the sense of what the “real you” is. You will forget the real Self that has always been there. Don’t let that happen.

Most people live in the dark. Do you think the sun ever sees the dark? The sun is outside. But the dark is by itself, with the shades closed, the door locked, afraid to take a peek, afraid to look into an infinite sky.

June 28, 2012
Mises Daily

Laissez-Faire Learning
by David Greenwald on June 27, 2012
As a teacher in a public high school, I am daily confronted with the lamentable realities of state-monopoly education. Student apathy, methodological stagnation, bureaucratic inefficiency, textbook-publishing cartels, obsessive preoccupation with grades, coercive relationships, and rigid, sanitized curricula are just a few of the more obvious problems, attended by the cold-shower disillusionment and gradual burnout among teachers to which they almost invariably lead.

While outcomes such as these are certainly tragic, the process that produces them is not exactly the stuff of Greek theater. There is no climactic battle, no cathartic denouement, no salvific moral lesson to be taken home when the curtain falls, and seldom are there any readily identifiable heroes or villains. It is not a single, epic calamity but a thousand trivial defeats a day, each too mundane and too quickly obscured by its successor to be considered noteworthy. Like a bad movie, public education somehow manages to be both tragic and boring. It is only its cumulative result that would have impressed Sophocles.

Oddly enough, although there is overwhelming public support for compulsory, tax-funded schooling, enthusiasm for what actually goes on in public schools is noticeably lacking. Not only are they generally acknowledged to be falling short in their efforts to produce an enlightened citizenry, but it is even conceded that they have failed in what is ostensibly their most exalted mission: the provision of equal opportunity for all via a standardized system of mass instruction in which all students receive the same basic set of knowledge and skills. Nor has this indictment originated solely from among the ranks of those opposed to egalitarianism on principle. To the contrary, it is largely the refrain of embittered progressives for whom “free” universal education has long been the desideratum of social justice, and who cannot understand how the behemoth they so vigorously midwifed into existence and then wet-nursed for a century could have so thoroughly betrayed their loftiest and most cherished ideal.

Yet ironically, it is the unassailable faith in the achievability of precisely this ideal of universal equality that immunizes public education against every reasonable argument advanced in opposition to it. Notwithstanding its manifest shortcomings, none of which has found a remedy despite decades of legislative reform, hardly anyone is prepared to see this system replaced by anything resembling a real market in education due to the deeply held conviction that that those of lesser material means either would not be able to afford market-based schooling or, in the very best case, would receive only substandard services inadequate to the task of ensuring equality of economic opportunity later in life. It is a further irony, though hardly surprising, that neither the economic knowledge nor the analytic discernment necessary for an examination of these claims has ever been or will ever be taught in a public school. No emperor willingly trains his own subjects to recognize nakedness when they see it.

Given this state of affairs, it devolves on individuals, both within and outside of the school system, to educate others about education. In what follows I will attempt to address what I see as the three primary objections raised against the idea of market-based education:

that educational services on the market would be at a premium, with prices high enough to exclude at least the lowest-income strata of society;

that even if the less affluent could afford some market-based education, it would be of a substantially inferior quality to that received by wealthier consumers of educational services; and

that the lack of a universal curriculum and standardized criteria of achievement would render the market incapable of providing the equality of opportunity that public education, however unsatisfactorily, at least aims in principle to ensure.

We will examine each of these arguments in turn. As will be shown, the first two rest on a misunderstanding of markets, while the third stems from a grossly distorted concept of education from which, if they took the time to examine it closely, probably even most progressives would recoil in horror.

Argument 1: Affordability

In order to understand why educational services on a free market would as a rule be priced well within the reach of the vast majority of income earners, we must first ask why the market produces anything at all for such persons. Since it is obvious that the wealthiest few have far more purchasing power per capita than those in the middle- and lower-income strata, why does the market not produce only for the former group and leave the latter two homeless and starving? Why is sugar, once a luxury of the rich, today a household item so widely and cheaply available that the US government feels called on to impose tariffs on imports and buy up domestic surpluses to keep the price artificially high? Why is the same kilobyte of computer memory that cost around $45 twenty years ago today priced at a fraction of a cent?

The simple answer is this: competition. When a good first appears on the market, the supply of it is strictly limited. To the extent that consumers value it highly, they will bid against each other for the minimal stock available, causing the price to rise until all but the wealthiest consumers drop out of the market. As long as there is no expansion of supply, and assuming the consumers do not change their valuations, the good will remain a luxury of the rich.

However, it is precisely this condition that provides producers with the incentive to increase production of the product. The high price yields supernormal profits that draw venture capitalists and entrepreneurs into that line of production, thereby increasing the supply, lowering the price, and most importantly, bringing exponentially greater numbers of consumers into the market. This process continues until that portion of profits that exceeds the general rate prevailing in other industries disappears, bringing the expansion to a halt. But by that time, the good has long since ceased to be a toy for the rich. To paraphrase Mises, yesterday’s luxury has become today’s necessity.

Of course, while this process works in essentially the same way for all goods, some goods — diamonds, for example — tend to remain luxury items indefinitely due to the high cost of producing them. It is, after all, the consumers who, in the aggregate, must ultimately pay for any lasting expansion of industry. If the capital expenditures necessary for the production of a good exceed the willingness or ability of the consumers to offset them, no sustained increase in the supply of that good will be possible.

So how would this dynamic work on a market for education? Assuming that educational services as such would be given high priority on the value scales of most consumers, would the cost of producing them keep them priced beyond the means of the typical wage-earner? Here we must be particularly careful not to engage in what psychologists call static thinking. We must ask ourselves, not how much it would cost for private entrepreneurs to produce curricula and instruction as these are presently constituted, but rather to what extent and in what ways schooling in its current form squanders resources, and how it might be streamlined and otherwise improved in the crucible of free competition.

One point is clear: the greater and more numerous the inefficiencies of the current system, the more radical its transformation by the market would be. And just how inefficient is the present system? Well, who runs it? On what principles does it operate? Does it allow students the freedom, for example, to take courses in what they are most interested in and eschew subjects they do not wish to study? Or does it rather saddle them with a bloated, one-size-fits-all curriculum prodigiously crammed full of skills and information they neither need nor want, thereby creating artificial demand for teachers and administrative staff, stimulating construction of needlessly large (or simply needless) facilities, boosting energy consumption and capital maintenance costs, and so forth? To get an idea of the sorts of “practical competencies” students in today’s public and state-regulated high schools are expected to (pretend to) master and retain for use in later life,[1] here is a randomly-selected excerpt from the scintillating epistle “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Mathematics,” issued by the Texas Education Agency:

§111.35. Precalculus (One-Half to One Credit).

Knowledge and skills.
The student defines functions, describes characteristics of functions, and translates among verbal, numerical, graphical, and symbolic representations of functions, including polynomial, rational, power (including radical), exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and piecewise-defined functions. The student is expected to:
describe parent functions symbolically and graphically, including f(x) = xn, f(x) = 1n x, f(x) = loga x, f(x) = 1/x, f(x) = ex, f(x) = |x|, f(x) = ax, f(x) = sin x, f(x) = arcsin x, etc.;
determine the domain and range of functions using graphs, tables, and symbols;
describe symmetry of graphs of even and odd functions;
recognize and use connections among significant values of a function (zeros, maximum values, minimum values, etc.), points on the graph of a function, and the symbolic representation of a function; and
investigate the concepts of continuity, end behavior, asymptotes, and limits and connect these characteristics to functions represented graphically and numerically.
Got all that?

$15.00 $10.00

Of course, administrative costs and restrictions on entry and labor-market flexibility also impact cost-efficiency. How do public schools hold up in these areas? Are their operational rules and procedures clear, concise, and easy to follow? Or does it take, say, 670 pages and whole cadres of lawyers, consultants, and administrative support staff just to implement a single program? Regarding entry, how easy is it to qualify as a member of the academy? Is anyone who demonstrates a potential aptitude for meeting the educational demands of students given the opportunity to try to do so? Or is club membership restricted by legal quotas and licensure requirements necessitating lengthy and expensive formal training?

And how flexible is the labor market? Can an underperforming or incompetent employee be readily replaced? Or does even a mere suspension require a hearing before a three-member commission?[2]

We do not have space here to speculate on all the optimizing innovations creative entrepreneurs might come up with, and to do so would be presumptuous in any case. As John Hasnas has pointed out, if we could forecast the future market accurately, our very ability to do this would be the greatest possible justification for central planning.[3] Suffice it to say that today’s public and government-regulated private schools dissipate resources with a profligacy that would have made Ludwig II blush. We can hardly claim, then, that these institutions — whose costs are externalized onto the whole society — are paragons of affordability. Yet education is not a capital-intensive industry, and market competition would surely eliminate most of this waste in short order, allowing educational entrepreneurs to reduce their costs, lower their prices, and take advantage of economies of scale. As for those few who might still be unable to pay, lower prices would mean that private scholarships, grants, and student loans would be available in greater abundance than they are today, and the latter would no longer require ten years of indentured servitude to pay off.

Just as with sugar, automobiles, civil aviation, and cell phones,[4] so too in education high initial profits would draw competition, increase supply, reduce cost, and multiply innovation. There is no reason for market-driven educational services tailored specifically to the desires of those who consume them to be prohibitively expensive.[5]

Argument 2: Quality

A second argument against leaving education to the market is that to do so would result in grave disparities in quality of service. The rich, it is said, would get steak, while the poor got rump roast. Of course, there is a kernel of truth in this. The more you are prepared to offer for something, the more quality you are in a position to demand. The market is indeed a place where the principle embodied in the cliché “You get what you pay for” prevails.

But what exactly do you pay for? The answer to this question is not necessarily obvious. To illustrate, I offer a personal example.

Many years ago, I worked at a tavern-style restaurant that was part of a nationwide chain. With its eclectic menu, modest prices, and dollar-a-mug draft beers, it was a place where families could go on a budget, and weekend drinkers could go on a binge. Not exactly Alain Ducasse, but we did offer a steak (T-bone, as I recall) for around $10. What is interesting about this is that right next door was a more upscale steakhouse that also served T-bone; only this one went for something like $22. Nothing unusual about that, but here’s the catch: both restaurants were owned by the same company and both served exactly the same T-bone steak.

At first blush, this seems absurd. Why would any company compete with itself? And why, for that matter, would anyone in his right mind pay $22 for a steak he could get for less than half that just by walking across the parking lot? Situations like this have led to calls for governments to step in and “protect” consumers from their own “irrationality.” But there is nothing irrational going on here. The two restaurants were not in competition, because they served different clientele, and patrons had definite reasons for the choices they made about which restaurant to patronize. Ours wanted to cut the frills, sit at the bar, and save money; theirs were willing to pay more than double the price for the plush seats, subdued ambience, and tuxedoed waiters. The essential thing, however, is that both were eating the same steak.

The relationship between price and quality is therefore not as straightforward as we might imagine. It is certainly true that you get what you pay for, but it is equally true that you pay for what you get. To be sure, on the education market, those with the wherewithal could attend schools equipped with indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, amphitheaters, and state-of-the-art IT. But this does not mean that everyone else could not make do with less extravagance and still get the same basic service.

Of course, all this in no way suggests that quality of educational services would be identical. Such a conclusion would be absurd. What we have demonstrated is simply the fallacious reasoning behind the common assumption that where price is low, product must be unsatisfactory. What does not satisfy is not profitable. Products and services that do not meet the needs of consumers — rich and poor — will soon have, not a low price, but no price.

Argument 3: Opportunity

We now turn to a final argument for public education that goes beyond economics, though even here there is a parallel. Deeply rooted in the belief that justice means equality and equality means identical circumstances, this view holds that educational standards and curricula must be essentially uniform for everyone if all students are to be given the same opportunity to succeed in life. Here, the anticipated failure of the market lies, not in its high prices or disparate quality, but in its presumably excessive flexibility and diversity. In essence, this argument is really nothing more than a special case of the more general socialist contempt for the division of labor. But what is the “division of labor” in education? What is its meaning, and why should we fear its emergence?

We are accustomed to conceiving of education, not as an abstraction, but as a “real thing” existing in the world outside; a commodity possessed by some people whom we call “teachers” and transferred, more or less mechanically, to other people called “students.” This habit of thought is reflected in our language: it is far more common to talk about getting an education than about becoming educated. Yet the greatest thinkers in this area have repeatedly emphasized that education is, in fact, a process of becoming. This is what Maria Montessori meant when she said that if our definition of education proceeds

along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?

Montessori urged an approach to pedagogy that would “help toward the complete unfolding of life,” and “rigorously … avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.”

John Dewey expressed similar views. In his seminal work Democracy and Education, Dewey places the onus of responsibility for education squarely on the shoulders of the individual student:

One is mentally an individual only as he has his own purpose and problem, and does his own thinking. The phrase “think for oneself” is a pleonasm. Unless one does it for oneself, it isn’t thinking. Only by a pupil’s own observations, reflections, framing and testing of suggestions can what he already knows be amplified and rectified. Thinking is as much an individual matter as is the digestion of food. [Moreover], there are variations of point of view, of appeal of objects, and of mode of attack, from person to person. When these variations are suppressed in the alleged interests of uniformity, and an attempt is made to have a single mold of method of study and recitation, mental confusion and artificiality inevitably result. Originality is gradually destroyed, confidence in one’s own quality of mental operation is undermined, and a docile subjection to the opinion of others is inculcated, or else ideas run wild. (p. 311–12)

For both Dewey and Montessori, education starts from the inside and moves outward.[6] Its purpose is to stimulate discovery and development of the personal resources latent within the self by allowing the student to experience the myriad possibilities for bringing them to bear creatively on the external world.

This means that becoming educated is not a matter of passively acquiring what is given, but of actively discovering what one has to give. It means that education does not create opportunity; opportunity creates education.

Regimentation and uniformity must therefore be jettisoned entirely; the individual must reign supreme within the sphere of his own development. The function of the school is to provide a stable environment rich in stimuli across a broad spectrum of disciplines, while the role of the teacher becomes primarily that of the observer who watches as closely — and intervenes as sparingly — as possible.

From this it follows that no two individuals would or could possibly educate themselves in exactly the same way. The self-directed intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual explorations of millions of people simultaneously thus result in an unfathomable diversification of interests and activities that amounts to an educational “division of labor” — one that supports and enhances the division of labor of the market economy, and is in fact its logical precursor.

It must surely be obvious that such a philosophy is in every way wholly incompatible with systems of compulsory or universalized schooling aimed at “equalizing opportunity,” and moreover, that even to use the word opportunity in connection with compulsion or regimentation is to abuse language, otherwise we might just as well reinstate slavery in the name of providing equal “employment opportunity.”

Education, if it is to be worthy of the name, demands a method opposite to that of bureaucratic management and entirely irreconcilable with it. It requires flexibility, parsimony, innovation, and above all, a means of daily subjecting the producers of educational services to the competition of their peers and the approval or disapproval of their clients.

It requires, in other words, the free market.

Conclusion

$10.00 $7.00

In Slovenia where I teach, the verb “to learn” literally translates “to teach oneself.” If the truth behind this linguistic convention were widely recognized, it would discredit the very premise on which all systems of public education are founded. But, as the great economist Frédéric Bastiat warned more than a century and a half ago, there is a pronounced tendency when confronted with important questions to consider only what is seen and ignore that which is not seen. And this just as true in education as it is in economics. We see students go to school day after day for 12 years, do as they’re told, get their diplomas, and finally go on to do something with their lives. Perhaps from our vantage point it does not look so bad. But what we do not see is what they might have become had they been allowed to be the architects of their own fate from the beginning

Guest post from Kevin Hayden’s site, TruthisTreason.net.

Source: Kevin Hayden – TruthisTreason.net

Date: May 16, 2012

Original Source: Don Rasmussen Contributor at the Blaze

MEDIA SHOWS NO SIGNS OF UNDERSTANDING THE RON PAUL STRATEGY, SO LET ME EXPLAIN IT

Over the last couple of weeks, the Ron Paul campaign has picked up a majority of delegates in Iowa, Colorado, Maine, and Nevada.  He’s on pace to also pick up the majority of delegates in at least four additional states…and those are just the sure things.  This is all part of a process that actually started over 4 years ago when Paul ran for President and his deputy campaign manager, Debbie Hopper, did yeoman’s work with the grassroots to recognize the intensity and develop this strategy.

The media is now belatedly noticing that this has been happening.  It has already succeeded in taking control of slews of local and county GOP organizations, putting at least seven Paul backers on the Republican National Committee, and completely taking over the party in multiple states…and counting.

The question that much of the legacy media is now starting to ask is “Why?”  As with so much reporting, they then go on to attempt to answer their own question and fail. The supposition has included…

  •     He still thinks he can win
  •     He’s laying the groundwork for Senator Rand Paul in 2016
  •     He wants a convention floor speech
  •     He want to force Romney to make Senator Paul the veep
  •     He seeks to influence the platform
  •     They want to make floor motions about pet issues

The funny thing about this is that these reporters and opinion makers could know the answer to their own questions if they had bothered to listen.  There is no great mystery.  Ron Paul, his staff (Full Disclosure: I’m a former staffer to both Dr. Paul and Campaign for Liberty), his activists, and his backers have been talking about this, writing about this, and meticulously implementing this strategy for years!  Ron Paul himself has been going on national television and discusses this strategy for months!  Heck, they started laying the groundwork by winning local GOP boards and committees in 2008.

The current project for all of those folks is nothing less than to take control of at least 77 seats in the RNC and a majority of state parties. That’s the first step.

They don’t care about floor speeches. This is a revolution. They’re taking the party. Then they’re taking the government so they can eliminate the Federal Reserve, the IRS, the domestic spy apparatus, the military-industrial complex, and every coercive federal power except for those enumerated by the Constitution.

They are doing this because they studied history and learned about the causes of the post-ISI crash in Latin America and the rise of the military dictatorships in the 1970’s. They learned about the Versailles treaty and how it forced the German state to destroy its currency trying to make war reparations, imploding the economy and seeding the ground for the Third Reich.  They learned that the Federal Reserve is a private banking system that has destroyed 97% of the value of the dollar by using inflation to transfer our wealth to a small ruling class. They learned that right versus left is an illusion; a football game for the masses.  They learned that the real battle is and has always been up towards freedom or down towards tyranny.

I was first presented the case of public opinion and the revolutionary war in Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign headquarters. Did you know that only about 10% of the US population actively supported the American Revolution?  The rest of the population was pretty well split.  You hear a lot of talk about “tipping points” from Paul people, often with quotes from the book of the same name or emphasized with Margaret Mead…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”

Spend a little time with them and you will also likely hear about Eugene Debs. Debs was a socialist. He ran repeatedly for president a hundred years ago, once from prison. Eugene Debs never won a state, but today his entire platform is the law of the United States. Last year, an overwhelming number of Republican congressmen voted to pass Ron Paul’s Audit of the Fed bill after failing for over 20 years. It has already started.

Another common meme is about human psychology. As it goes, even after Kristallnacht (the first coordinated pogrom against the Jewish people by the German state), over three quarters of a million Jews remained in Germany. Why? Because it was just so far beyond their experience that they could not accept that their government intended to kill them to the last child. Would you?

Americans aren’t dealing with what’s coming because we won’t accept it. Tomorrow will always be like yesterday because it always has, right?

You will also hear that if one carries all of our debt obligations out to the life of the loans or programs, we are actually in the hole to the tune of about 105 trillion dollars. That is more money than has been created in the whole sum of human history. You will hear that our debt to GDP ration is over 100% and no country has ever recovered from that condition without collapse or revolution.

Are they radical? Yes, they believe that nothing less than radical action has a chance to change the trajectory and save the country. Ron Paul and the millions that have been inspired and informed by him believe these things, even if journalists and the masses don’t.

Start you education by visiting these top personal freedom and liberty sites.

Hat tip to The Capital Free Press for putting the list together!

This is a ranking of the top libertarian websites based on the number of unique visitors in the most recent month according to the data compiled by Compete. They only compile data for domains and subdomains, so perhaps this list is more accurately described as the most visited libertarian domains rather than websites. It is compiled through calls to Compete’s API, so it will automatically update when they release new data each month. For more information on this list, see the blog post introducing it.

Automating everything means that adding a new website is as simple as plugging a new url into my list, so you have any suggestions for a website to add, please email me at patrick@capitalfreepress.com.

Due to the restrictions on the free use of the Compete API, there is a chance that I could run out of API calls in a 24 hour period (resets at midnight EST). The way that I compile this list and the terms and conditions on the use of their API prevent me from displaying the number of unique visitors for each website in the chart, though that information and more can be accessed via the link I have provided.

Rank Name Website
1 LewRockwell.com lewrockwell.com Compete Site Profile
2 Electronic Frontier Foundation eff.org Compete Site Profile
3 Ron Paul 2012 Official Campaign Website ronpaul2012.com Compete Site Profile
4 Reason Magazine reason.com Compete Site Profile
5 Daily Paul dailypaul.com Compete Site Profile
6 The Cato Institute cato.org Compete Site Profile
7 Ludwig von Mises Institute mises.org Compete Site Profile
8 AntiWar.com antiwar.com Compete Site Profile
9 RonPaul.com ronpaul.com Compete Site Profile
10 Outside the Beltway outsidethebeltway.com Compete Site Profile
11 Economic Policy Journal economicpolicyjournal.com Compete Site Profile
12 Library of Economics and Liberty econlib.org Compete Site Profile
13 The Daily Bell thedailybell.com Compete Site Profile
14 Ron Paul Forums ronpaulforums.com Compete Site Profile
15 Endorse Liberty PAC endorseliberty.com Compete Site Profile
16 Tenth Amendment Center tenthamendmentcenter.com Compete Site Profile
17 Cato-at-Liberty Blog cato-at-liberty.org Compete Site Profile
18 The Freeman thefreemanonline.org Compete Site Profile
19 Future of Freedom Foundation fff.org Compete Site Profile
20 Campaign For Liberty campaignforliberty.com Compete Site Profile
21 The Independent Institute independent.org Compete Site Profile
22 Advocates for Self Government theadvocates.org Compete Site Profile
23 Marginal Revolution marginalrevolution.com Compete Site Profile
24 The Agitator – Radley Balko theagitator.com Compete Site Profile
25 Carpe Diem – Mark J. Perry mjperry.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
26 Libertarian Party lp.org Compete Site Profile
27 Tom Woods tomwoods.com Compete Site Profile
28 Whiskey and Gunpowder whiskeyandgunpowder.com Compete Site Profile
29 Revolution PAC revolutionpac.com Compete Site Profile
30 Run Ron Paul runronpaul.com Compete Site Profile
31 The Ayn Rand Institute aynrand.org Compete Site Profile
32 Cop Block copblock.org Compete Site Profile
33 Acton Institute acton.org Compete Site Profile
34 Free State Project freestateproject.org Compete Site Profile
35 Adam Vs The Man adamvstheman.com Compete Site Profile
36 United Liberty unitedliberty.org Compete Site Profile
37 Reason Foundation reason.org Compete Site Profile
38 Moment of Clarity – Tim Nerenz timnerenz.com Compete Site Profile
39 Cafe Hayek cafehayek.com Compete Site Profile
40 Downsize DC downsizedc.org Compete Site Profile
41 Free Keene freekeene.com Compete Site Profile
42 The Humble Libertarian humblelibertarian.com Compete Site Profile
43 Laissez-Faire Books lfb.org Compete Site Profile
44 Strike-The-Root strike-the-root.com Compete Site Profile
45 Foundation for Economic Education fee.org Compete Site Profile
46 John Locke Foundation johnlocke.org Compete Site Profile
47 Break The Matrix breakthematrix.com Compete Site Profile
48 BuildFreedom.com buildfreedom.com Compete Site Profile
49 Competitive Enterprise Institute cei.org Compete Site Profile
50 Libertarianism.org libertarianism.org Compete Site Profile
51 Vox Popoli voxday.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
52 The Institute for Justice ij.org Compete Site Profile
53 OpenMarket.org – The Blog of the CEI openmarket.org Compete Site Profile
54 Freedomain Radio freedomainradio.com Compete Site Profile
55 Institute for Humane Studies theihs.org Compete Site Profile
56 Peter Schiff Show schiffradio.com Compete Site Profile
57 Center for a Stateless Society c4ss.org Compete Site Profile
58 Learn Liberty learnliberty.org Compete Site Profile
59 Young Americans for Liberty yaliberty.org Compete Site Profile
60 Young Americans for Liberty yaliberty.org Compete Site Profile
61 Reason.tv reason.tv Compete Site Profile
62 Free Talk Live freetalklive.com Compete Site Profile
63 The Future of Capitalism futureofcapitalism.com Compete Site Profile
64 Doug Wead The Blog dougwead.wordpress.com Compete Site Profile
65 Libertarian Republican libertarianrepublican.net Compete Site Profile
66 Adam Smith Institute adamsmith.org Compete Site Profile
67 The Capital Free Press capitalfreepress.com Compete Site Profile
68 Bleeding Heart Libertarians bleedingheartlibertarians.com Compete Site Profile
69 Militant Libertarian militantlibertarian.org Compete Site Profile
70 Students for Liberty studentsforliberty.org Compete Site Profile
71 Coyote Blog coyoteblog.com Compete Site Profile
72 Ron Paul News ronpaulnews.net Compete Site Profile
73 Republican Liberty Caucus rlc.org Compete Site Profile
74 Bastiat Institute bastiatinstitute.org Compete Site Profile
75 The Libertarian Standard libertarianstandard.com Compete Site Profile
76 AgainstCronyCapitalism.org againstcronycapitalism.org Compete Site Profile
77 Coordination Problem coordinationproblem.org Compete Site Profile
78 Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom c4sif.org Compete Site Profile
79 realfreemarket.org realfreemarket.org Compete Site Profile
80 Goldwater Institute goldwaterinstitute.org Compete Site Profile
81 Liberty Radio Network lrn.fm Compete Site Profile
82 Ideas – David Friedman daviddfriedman.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
83 Daily Anarchist dailyanarchist.com Compete Site Profile
84 Stephan Kinsella stephankinsella.com Compete Site Profile
85 NeverTakeaPlea.org nevertakeaplea.org Compete Site Profile
86 Liberty Underground 1787network.com Compete Site Profile
87 Liberty Pulse libertypulse.com Compete Site Profile
88 Peace, Freedom & Prosperity peacefreedomprosperity.com Compete Site Profile
89 Free Advice – Robert Murphy consultingbyrpm.com Compete Site Profile
90 Libertarian Leanings libertarianleanings.com Compete Site Profile
91 Americans for Limited Government getliberty.org Compete Site Profile
92 Liberty Documentaries libertydocumentaries.com Compete Site Profile
93 Liberty PAC libertypac.net Compete Site Profile
94 Taking Hayek Seriously hayekcenter.org Compete Site Profile
95 Liberty Maven libertymaven.com Compete Site Profile
96 Congress Shall Make No Law: IJ’s Free Speech Blog makenolaw.org Compete Site Profile
97 Ron Paul Radio ronpaulradio.com Compete Site Profile
98 LacrosseWatchDog lacrossewatchdog.org Compete Site Profile
99 Bad Quaker badquaker.com Compete Site Profile
100 Libertarian Papers libertarianpapers.org Compete Site Profile
101 Porcupine Freedom Festival porcfest.com Compete Site Profile
102 The Libertarian Patriot thelibertarianpatriot.com Compete Site Profile
103 The Southern Libertarian thesouthernlibertarian.com Compete Site Profile
104 The Tireless Agorist tirelessagorist.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
105 Liberty Classroom libertyclassroom.com Compete Site Profile
106 Government by Contract governmentbycontract.com Compete Site Profile
107 Freespace – Timothy Sandefur sandefur.typepad.com Compete Site Profile
108 Austrian Dad austriandad.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
109 JasonPye.com jasonpye.com Compete Site Profile
110 Libertarian Advocate libertarianadvocate.blogspot.com Compete Site Profile
111 Liberty Web Alliance libertyweballiance.com Compete Site Profile
112 Liberty On Tour libertyontour.com Compete Site Profile
113 Libertarian Book Club libertarianbookclub.com Compete Site Profile
114 Run Rand Run runrandrun.com Compete Site Profile

Below is a recent post on Mises Daily by Joel Poindexter. I highly recommend both Mises Daily and Mr. Poindexter. See his blog at EconomicHarmonies.

Joel Poindexter is a student working toward a degree in economics. His writing has been published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, LewRockwell.com and the Tenth Amendment Center. He lives with his wife and daughter near Kansas City.

Full article below:

In the course of my deployments to Iraq I learned a great deal about economics, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I hadn’t yet been introduced to the Austrian School or a Rothbardian view of laissez-faire capitalism. Looking back, however, I can see quite clearly that in several important areas voluntary systems not only existed in that country but thrived.

My first deployment was to Baghdad, that ancient Mesopotamian city positioned on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was there I discovered how, even during the most violent and unstable times, markets can adapt to the needs of consumers and peacefully provide essential services to humanity.

The focus of this article will be on economic provision, rather than the war itself. However, it’s important to note that the following free-market solutions have blossomed in spite of being in the heart of a country ravaged by economic sanctions and all but total war. Not only was the US-led war destructive of the physical means to provide such services; it also destroyed the institutions that delivered them, adding to the difficulty in restoring them.

Utility Services

In the United States virtually all utilities are a service provided by government. Whether they are directly controlled by municipal governments or simply regulated to the point of being creatures of those organizations, relatively few cases exist where the market provides utilities unhindered. Baghdad, however, was not so tightly regulated.

Being the capital city, it is home to all of the major government offices and thus has a priority for electrical power; this was true before and after the invasion. However, after a decade of brutal sanctions, followed by a relentless bombing campaign of “shock and awe,” the socialized infrastructure was entirely unfit to meet demand. The solution arrived at by the Iraqi people was brilliant.

Taking advantage of economies of scale, residents would pool their resources and either buy a large generator or contract with someone who already owned one. Then a mechanic would be hired to maintain the generator, guarding it against thieves and ensuring it was properly fueled. The more clients a neighborhood had, the lower the consumer cost and higher the profits for the owners.

The one flaw in this system was that fuel was supplied by a centrally planned government agency. As might have been expected, shortages were frequent, leading to power outages. Had fuel been freed from the highly politicized and bureaucratic web of government, there’s no doubt an equally innovative and peaceful solution would have arisen to address this need.

Money

Another pocket of freedom that many Iraqis enjoy is in market-based currency, or something similar. After the collapse of Iraq’s government, the central bank no longer issued notes for the Iraqi dinar. At this time the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which was the US-lead interim government, began a large-scale influx of the US dollar. Between large shipments of currency from the CPA, and the widespread use of the dollar by hundreds of thousands of troops, its supply quickly increased. And while many thought the result would be large-scale abandonment of the dinar, quite the opposite in fact occurred.

B.K. Marcus describes the result here, wherein the dinar actually increased in value and was in many cases the preferred currency by many in the country. One primary reason seems to be that the value of the dinar remained fairly constant, due to its supply being more stable. But other currencies existed, some fiat-based, others springing from the market.

In another account of the market in Iraq, Edward Gonzales described how in the western region of the country, sheep and bottled water acted as money. Their value floated based on the season and relative quantities of one or the other. While I never witnessed trades made with livestock or other commodities, I did see that not just dinars and dollars were used for exchange.

My second deployment was to the Babel province, south of Baghdad, and the Iranian rial was fairly common there. This was particularly true in the Shia towns and neighborhoods, as might have been expected. I was not familiar with the exchange ratios among the currencies, but all were used in trade. It was not uncommon for a man’s wallet to contain two or more of a different states’ moneys, even all three at times.

Defense Services

Perhaps the state’s longest running and most institutionalized monopoly is that of defense. Advocates of limited government will quickly concede that most services ought to be provided in a free market. This provides incentives for firms to compete for market share, thus raising quality while driving down prices. One service that must be provided by the state, according to everyone from socialists to minarchists, is defense of persons and their property.

Even many who claim to believe steadfastly in free enterprise will concede that defense is the sole purview of government. By doing so they implicitly argue that the same economic laws that govern the provision of trash collection are rendered impotent when applied to defending property. This certainly does not hold water theoretically, nor is it true when applied to the market in Iraq.

In most of the country there were multiple layers of government police and military, and martial law had become the norm. Despite (or perhaps because of) the saturation of the market by government defense monopolists, private services were a valuable commodity. In Baghdad, circa 2005, there were 175,000 US troops engaging various guerilla forces. On top of that, the government’s police never bothered with the pretense of scruples and corruption was standard fare. Private security quickly became a profitable enterprise.

It is often suggested by advocates of a free society that, theoretically, defense would be an individual endeavor. So long as individuals are free to own property, goes the argument, they’ll be able to arm themselves for protection. This is largely how it played out in Iraq. Each adult male was permitted to own one AK-47 rifle, for personal defense, and gun ownership was nearly ubiquitous. (This allowance was expanded later to allow shotguns for hunting).

As an added layer of protection, many neighborhoods employed night watchmen. These were typically middle-aged men who were contracted by their neighbors to patrol the streets and defend against thieves. Their teenage sons would often assist, and we came to know the groups well. Some took employment in the markets, hired by the business owners to protect commercial interests. Others were posted near residential street corners, keeping a watchful eye on their clients’ homes through the night.

These were trusted men in the community, who had found a way to earn a living in a ravaged economy by supplying a highly valued service to their fellow man. They did as good or better a job than we did at securing neighborhoods. Recognizing this, we equipped them with infrared lights, indicating they were friendlies, to help protect them from our helicopter gunships and other units passing through the area at night.

Conclusion

In each of these cases, where proponents of the state argue we must have active government involvement, individuals found voluntary, peaceful solutions to their problems. In spite of the failure by both the Iraqi and US governments to provide essential services, such as adequate electrical power and the defense of property, private solutions quickly sprang up among the violence and disorder. Money too was not something that required a government fiat to make trade possible. The market, unhindered by the state, provided a currency by which individuals could exchange with one another.

Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.