Libertarians and educating children

Back in 1966 Murray Rothbard reprinted a chapter from a book on education by Herbert Spencer who was a famous and respected 19th century classical liberal social philosopher. The book by Spencer was entitled “Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical” and the chapter Rothbard re-printed was titled: “Moral Education”.

I will quote a small part of Spencer’s work, but first I would like to point out that educating the young, both morally and intellectually, is perhaps the most important task assigned to any society. For nearly two million years the homo species has been on planet earth. Modern man is said to have arisen about 200,000 years ago and ever since has had to teach the young since we don’t come into the world with a complete set of instincts as the other animals do. We must teach our children if they are to survive and prosper. We must teach our children morality if society is to survive.

While it is seen that for the purpose of gaining a livelihood, an elaborate preparation is needed, it appears to be thought that for the bringing up of children, no preparation whatever is needed. In the absence of this preparation, the management of children, and more especially the moral management, is lamentably bad. Parents either never think about the matter at all, or else their conclusions are crude, and inconsistent. In most cases, and especially on the part of mothers, the treatment adopted on every occasion is that which the impulse of the moment prompts: it springs not from any reasoned-out conviction as to what will most conduce to the child’s welfare, but merely expresses the passing parental feelings, whether good or ill; and varies from hour to hour as these feelings vary. Or if these blind dictates of passion are supplemented by any definite doctrines and methods, they are those that have been handed down from the past, or those suggested by the remembrances of childhood, or those adopted from nurses and servants — methods devised not by the enlightenment, but by the ignorance of the time. ~ Herbert Spencer

By this day and age in America we see that bad parenting has nearly destroyed the American family; especially the families of the inner city poor. But this bad parenting is a direct result of the government’s welfare state along with the atrociously bad government school system. Thomas Sowell once wrote that centuries of slavery could never break the back of the black family but that the welfare state destroyed it in just a couple of generations. This destruction of the family is certainly not limited to blacks but is destroying the family of all races. The incentives to single parenthood, sloth, and all the rest are inherent in the welfare state.

As libertarians we know that when the state started taking over the “education” of the young we were faced with indoctrination and not education. This evil is on top of the evil incentives of the welfare state. Moral education in such a cesspool of pathologies becomes next to impossible.

Let us go on to consider the true aims and methods of moral education. When a child falls or runs its head against the table, it suffers a pain, the remembrance of which tends to make it more careful for the future; and by an occasional repetition of like experiences, it is eventually disciplined into a proper guidance of its movements. If it lays hold of the fire-bars, thrusts its finger into the candle-flame, or spills boiling water on any part of its skin, the resulting burn or scald is a lesson not easily forgotten.

Now in these and like cases, Nature illustrates to us in the simplest way, the true theory and practice of moral discipline. Observe, in the first place, that in bodily injuries and their penalties we have misconduct and its consequences reduced to their simplest forms. Though according to their popular acceptations, right and wrong are words scarcely applicable to actions that have none but direct bodily effects; yet whoever considers the matter will see that such actions must be as much classifiable under these heads as any other actions. Note, in the second place, the character of the punishments by which these physical transgressions are prevented. Punishments, we call them, in the absence of a better word; for they are not punishments in the literal sense. They are not artificial and unnecessary inflictions of pain; but are simply the beneficent checks to actions that are essentially at variance with bodily welfare — checks in the absence of which life would quickly be destroyed by bodily injuries. It is the peculiarity of these penalties, if we must so call them, that they are nothing more than the unavoidable consequences of the deeds which they follow; they are nothing more than the inevitable reactions entailed by the child’s actions.

Let it be further borne in mind that these painful reactions are proportionate to the degree in which the organic laws have been transgressed. A slight accident brings a slight pain, a more serious one, a greater pain. When a child tumbles over the doorstep, it is not ordained that it shall suffer in excess of the amount necessary, with the view of making it still more cautious than the necessary suffering will make it. But from its daily experience it is left to learn the greater or less penalties of greater or less errors, and to behave accordingly. And then mark, lastly, that these natural reactions which follow the child’s wrong actions, are constant, direct, unhesitating, and not to be escaped. No threats: but a silent, rigorous performance. ~ Herbert Spencer

There was one educator that I knew who ran a private school that liked to say to children that they would reap the “logical consequences” of their actions. If a child refused to do his homework then he would most likely do poorly on the test that would come later. If the child made fun of another child then that child and others who witnessed the action would most likely not think much of the offending child. The man was teaching Karma even if he did not realize it.

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How is a child to learn the logical consequences of its actions if we deny the child (and adults) the freedom to fail? Libertarians, radical ones at least, know that the voluntary exchanges of a laissez-faire market and voluntary society can enforce a common decency as people learn from interacting with others. By the same token, we can allow our young to understand the logical outcomes of their actions by giving them the room in which to experience the world. Or as I like to put it, “little failures, big learning“. But if the welfare state and the re-education camps called “schools” try to make sure that no child suffers any consequences of its actions (or lack of action), then how is the child to learn how to act as a civilized human being? Where are the proportional and logical consequences of the child’s actions?

The latest fad in government school education is the concept that a child can not lose points on his grade if he does not do his homework, can not be graded on behavior good or bad, can not be graded on effort or lack of same, since only the “summative” assessments should count in the grade. And further, the “summative assessment” (you are not ‘cool’ if you call it a test) can be taken over and over until the child has the grade that he is satisfied with. Hence the child can be as disruptive and uncaring as he pleases and still find a way to make whatever grade he would like to have. It is the welfare state brought to the classroom.

The “summative assessments” are also being used in many places to make sure that it is the teacher herself who is blamed for all lack of learning on the part of the students. All responsibility for failure to learn has been removed from the parent and child. After all, why should be expect the child or parent to take any responsibility say these educrats.

What would Herbert Spencer say about our modern indoctrination system? One shudders to think about that. One also shudders to think of the words H.L. Mencken would be typing about now if he still lived.

As Americans see their scores on tests fall generation after generation, many still do not understand that the whole system is rotted and that sending your child off to a government indoctrination camp is perhaps the worst thing you will ever do to your loved one. But even more importantly, the morals of the child are to be put in grave danger if you believe that parents should not teach morality but the public schools should do that job. The schools do not allow for the sort of moral learning via “logical consequences” that Spencer was teaching us about.

A great advantage of letting children experience the logical consequences of their actions is that this is a natural system of discipline. It is a system of Karma or pure justice and will be recognized by every child as such. A child who suffers from his own misbehavior is apt to appreciate that he is the cause of the misfortune, but if artificial punishment is used then he is more apt to blame others for the consequences. Spencer used the example of a boy coming in the house after playing and getting mud all over the place. It is far better to make the boy clean up after himself — restitution — rather than some punishment like being sent to bed or a spanking.

Let the child suffer the logical consequences of his actions. As libertarians we understand that restitution is far and away the best way to deal with crimes great and small. The history of the anarchy in Ireland and its Brehon legal code was dependent on restitution rather than a prison system like modern America. Most radical libertarian theorists (like Rothbard for example) have always envisioned a real justice system where the individual was made to provide restitution to his victim if he was found guilty of aggression against another or another’s property. Raise your children by this doctrine and keep your kids out of the government indoctrination camps if at all possible.

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Iran and nuclear power

A lot of Americans need a physics lesson on nuclear power and centrifuges because the U.S. empire and the mainstream media present the most insidiously deceptive propaganda on the issue every time Iran is mentioned. I find that even many ordinary people claim what many Americans have been told to believe; they say that Iran must be working on a nuclear bomb because they would not need all those second generation gas centrifuge devices otherwise.

Natural uranium comes with only about 0.72 % U-235 with the rest of it consisting of U-238. Oh what a difference between the two isotopes. You need U-235 to be about 3-4 % to be able to generate electrical power in a conventional nuclear power generating plant. We have several nuclear power plants here in Florida that use fuel rods that have been “enriched” via gaseous centrifuge to the proper percentage so that we can generate electricity and cool the air in our homes. (sometimes it gets to be 95 F degrees every day here in August)

Why would Iran want nuclear power? For the same fracking reason we in the U.S.A. want the stuff. Only a total fool would think that the Persians don’t deserve to generate electricity via nuclear power while everyone else in the west does. Even more amazing is that leftists who don’t want the Iranians to burn oil to make electricity due to their CO2 fantasy also do not want the Iranians to use uranium to generate electricity. I suppose our progressive friends want them to return to living as they did before the industrial revolution. (but then progressives would like to see a lot of us freeze and starve without cheap power)

The Iranians are an industrial society just as we are, and that means they use and need large amounts of cheap power. How hard is that to understand?

What is often conflated and confused on this issue is that centrifuges can be used to enrich the uranium to the 90 – 95 % needed to make nuclear bomb. There is one hell of a difference between 4 % and 90 %.

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Since Israel cheated and used their domestic power plant program as a cover to build nuclear weapons, they accuse Iran of doing what they themselves did. No proof has ever been offered of the Iranians doing this, only bluster by the regional nuclear super power who lies about most of its regional neighbors on a continuing basis.

Iran has signed the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on nuclear power but Israel has not. Why then do we not threaten military attack on the one country with many nuclear bombs rather than the peaceful country without any nuclear bombs?

By the way, Iran’s Rouhani: Israel should sign non-nuclear treaty.

It is time to acknowledge that the Iranians, who have not launched and aggressive war in centuries, are not the problem in the middle east — the U.S. and Israel are the problem.

CO2 sense and nonsense

Once in awhile I write about the government control freaks and their “global warming is going to kill us all” scam. Since the IPCC political atrocity called the AR5 is just out I decided it was time for another post on the climate scare mongering. I keep notes on things that I have seen here and there and the following is a compilation of a few of those notes. Some of the words are all mine, and some are paraphrases of those by skeptics that I have read. I hope you find something of value in this small rant.

If you pay attention to the facts and not the alarmist delusions about CO2 you are certain to find that their hysterical nonsense always gets slaughtered by the facts. Any appeals to bought-and-paid-for ‘authorities’ is über-lame, because Planet Earth disagrees with them.

For example, you see people opine:

Each decade is warmer than the last, the polar bears are drowning, the arctic ice is melting … and so on

Arctic ice has melted before and it will melt again, yet the polar bears survived or else they would not be here. When the melt happened in the past it was not due to human activity, and it will not be due to human activity when it happens again because CO2 has nothing to do with it. On net balance, CO2 is harmless, and beneficial to the biosphere. Falsify that testable hypothesis if you can.

Global temperatures have been extremely, unusually mild for the past century and a half, yet the fraudsters of “climate science” find ways to scare the population. The periodic step changes in global temperature are completely natural, and they occur regularly as admitted even by arch-alarmist Phil Jones. Note that the same warming has taken place repeatedly, and during times when CO2 was very low. What does that fact do to the theory that a trace gas controls the planet’s temperature and a bit more of it is going to kill us all?

Let us look back a few hundred years in climate history and look at the temperatures recorded. As you can see there is nothing unusual or unprecedented happening.

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Current temperatures are routine, and lower than in recent past decades. The reality is that we have been fed nonsense. Planet Earth (you know — reality) which is the ultimate Authority has been busy debunking the self-serving ‘experts’ who couldn’t predict their way out of a wet paper bag if their grants depended on it. Everything observed today is fully explained by natural climate variability. The Null Hypothesis has never been falsified — unlike the catastrophic AGW nonsense.

One thing  missing in the alarmist’s scare stories about “global warming” is a proper timescale. Over the past 10,000 years (the current Holocene epoch) has been progressively cooling since the early “climate optimum”. Overall in the 10,000 years the world has cooled gradually by about 1.0 °C. There were however well documented temperature high points during the period, including the Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods. The most recent period of 1000 – 2000 AD is the coolest millennium of the whole epoch

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As for this recent, short, 30-yr period of slight warming which ended in the mid 1990s, the Earth experienced it’s 2nd and 3rd strongest solar cycles since 1715 which marked the end of the strongest 63-yr string of solar cycles in 11,400 years, FIVE El Nino events including the largest Super El Nino ever recorded, a 30-year PDO warming cycle and the start of a 30-yr AMO warming period. And the CAGW alarmist “scientists” want us forget that there hasn’t been ANY statistically significant global warming trend since 1995, despite 1/3rd of ALL man-made CO2 emissions since 1750 were made since 1995.

As we consider the above let us also recall that dozens of governments are paying scientists all over the world to falsify results and “adjust” the temperature record. It is amazing that all “adjustments” cool the past and warm the present to create the illusion of warming. And yet, even so, we have seen no warming for the last 18 years or so. Unfortunately, scientists who don’t bow to the government mandated line on the CO2 scare are risking their careers. Google up Lysenko or Lysenkoism to see that this is not a brand new phenomenon in science. Peter Ferrara writes in Forbes magazine about the similarities between Lysenkoism and Global Warming.

Should we listen to the “experts” any more who tell us that hurricanes are increasing in number and intensity, even as the plain facts are quite the opposite? We have had one of the mildest periods for hurricanes and tornadoes this last decade in our history. When did a cat 3 or stronger hurricane last hit the U.S.?  Even the MSM has had to admit the intensity and frequency of tornadoes has been in the basement for two years. Since CO2 computer climate models all predicted the exact opposite, one would think that a “scientist” would see that the hypothesis has failed the test of reality.

I once saw someone ask that if reality has debunked the alarmist’s theories then why are the “scientists” not “on it”? It is because the world’s so-called climate scientists are being paid billions of dollars to make CO2 and CAGW the propaganda campaign that it started as, stayed, and will likely remain until those so-called scientists stop denying the science and the measurements. Governments give huge amounts of money to support the agencies and the scientists and the research that will provide those governments the answers they want and the taxes they are desperate for.

The government programs that have come from this mindless fear of a trace gas needed for life on our planet is impoverishing the western world. The current global warming is largely natural and cannot be stopped by denying men life, food, fuel, fodder, feed, and energy for safe water, clean air, and efficient farming. Unless we, like many in the CAGW sphere, want men to die a short life of pain, illness, starvation, thirst, and cold we must stop this mindless attack on our energy sources. Global warming has been natural in the past, and was not affected by man either stopping nor starting. In the future, global warming will continue to be unaffected by man’s release of fertilizer for all plants and life on the planet.

We have been fortunate to be living in a “Goldilocks” climate. With any luck, that will continue for a while longer. We are much better off than the poor sods who had to live through the Little Ice Age. The LIA is universally recognized by real climate authorities even if the alarmist crowd hates the LIA because it destroys their religious belief in the magic “carbon” molecule. But the fact is that the LIA was one of the coldest episodes of the entire 10,700 year Holocene. It cannot be wished away; it happened — and it happened when CO2 was much lower than now. Has it warmed since then? Thank the gods — yes it has!

Just like the Medieval Warm Period and the Minoan Warming, when the planet warmed significantly more than it has currently, and when CO2 was very low. Those facts show conclusively that with a static, low CO2 level, the planet warms and cools naturally — and much more than it has over the past century with high CO2.

The entire AGW scare is based on the demonization of “carbon”. But verifiable, real world facts and evidence show that the alarmist view is completely wrong. This, my friends, is a government backed fraud and scare.

Voluntary Exchange

It should be obvious to all that the modern progressives (who hate progress) are people who detest individuals acting freely without direction from some planning board. The latest round of economic woes reminded me of an essay by Rothbard.

Austrian Economist Murray Rothbard wrote the following in his great essay called “Anatomy of the State“:

Man is born naked into the world, and needing to use his mind to learn how to take the resources given him by nature, and to transform them (for example, by investment in “capital”) into shapes and forms and places where the resources can be used for the satisfaction of his wants and the advancement of his standard of living. The only way by which man can do this is by the use of his mind and energy to transform resources (“production”) and to exchange these products for products created by others. Man has found that, through the process of voluntary, mutual exchange, the productivity and hence, the living standards of all participants in exchange may increase enormously. The only “natural” course for man to survive and to attain wealth, therefore, is by using his mind and energy to engage in the production-and-exchange process. He does this, first, by finding natural resources, and then by transforming them (by “mixing his labor” with them, as Locke puts it), to make them his individual property, and then by exchanging this property for the similarly obtained property of others. The social path dictated by the requirements of man’s nature, therefore, is the path of “property rights” and the “free market” of gift or exchange of such rights. Through this path, men have learned how to avoid the “jungle” methods of fighting over scarce resources so that A can only acquire them at the expense of B and, instead, to multiply those resources enormously in peaceful and harmonious production and exchange.

This seems so simple to me that it should not even be necessary to point these things out to people past middle school age, and yet it comes as a shock to many. Few people in the general public seem to be able to understand it. A man can live by trying to be a self-sufficient hermit, taking from others by force or fraud, or a man can cooperate voluntarily with others to enrich everyone.

I believe that voluntary cooperation is in our very genes. We are programed by millions of years of evolution and experience to divide tasks up so that the division of labor allows everyone to be better off than if the task was undertaken individually. When a group of men work together to get a job done and there is division of labor, we get far more productivity than if only one man tries the same job. Just try making an old time pencil for your school child all by yourself someday. Be sure and start with absolutely no tools at all since you are going to make everything yourself.

I think that the voluntary cooperation piece of the “division of labor” is more important than most people appreciate. We can not tell in advance where the innovation and marginal improvements are going to come from, and so to attempt to dictate the billions of exchanges that happen each day from a central committee is to hamper and hinder the progress of all mankind. This has been seen in socialist experiments around the world. Central planning and control is just plain inefficient compared to a free market situation where everyone is free to voluntarily trade in goods or services with others.  And besides the inefficiency aspect of central planning, we have the fact that people are meant to live free and not as slaves to faceless bureaucrats who use the brutality of the police state to enforce their mindless edicts.

One state has a motto that reads, “live free or die”. I like that and would just add that one can never live free as long as he is a subject of the nation-state.

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A food mission and the economy

I wrote last year about a tour of a local “food mission” that I took and I went again this year. The organization is in Daytona Beach, Florida and is a church supported mission that helps to feed the poor and homeless.  The mission is a totally volunteer operation run by mostly retired folks that can donate time to keep the little operation open. They are able to serve about 500 families each month giving them food, toiletry items, and some clothing. I was with a tour group of supporters last week and we had a look around.

One of the leaders of the mission volunteer group gave a presentation to the various people who were there to see the operation. The speaker asked a group of middle school kids a very hard question, one that he claimed no one ever gets right till they hear the answer. He said that in Daytona Beach, Florida there are a some annual events such as the Daytona 500 or “Bike Week” that causes the population to explode to many times its normal size for the duration of the event. These events cause the number of people who line up for free food and items to drop. The number goes down as the population of the town goes up. Why? Why is it that during Speed Week, Bike Week, or the 500 the number of people who will line up on the sidewalk to wait their turn at free food goes down?

The man gave the young people countless attempts to guess the reason until he finally answered that during these huge events there is more work to be had than normal in town. Work for the unskilled. Work for the homeless. Work for the down and out. Work that these people can get! And they would much rather work than be fed free. They want to find work.

It is heart breaking to know that the U.S. government at all its levels uses its minimum wage laws, health insurance requirements, countless regulations, and so on to make a large percentage of America chronically unemployed. Everyone knows that the unemployment situation is very bad even if the official figures lie and understate the problem. Ludwig von Mises pointed out that in a totally laissez faire market there would be nearly no unemployment. There would be some people between jobs or some who were unable to work for various reasons, but any who wanted to work and were physically and mentally fit would be able to find work.

Government spending cannot create additional jobs. If the government provides the funds required by taxing the citizens or by borrowing from the public, it abolishes on the one hand as many jobs as it creates on the other. If government spending is financed by borrowing from the commercial banks, it means credit expansion and inflation. If in the course of such an inflation the rise in commodity prices exceeds the rise in nominal wage rates, unemployment will drop. But what makes unemployment shrink is precisely the fact that real wage rates are falling. ~ von Mises

Government intervention into the market place can never help the overall economy, it can only help the favored at the expense of the rest of us. But government can certainly hurt the economy. It can destroy the economy.

Concerning unemployment itself, it is the minimum wage laws and unemployment benefits programs, both supposedly designed to help workers, which directly lead to higher costs of employment and hence to higher joblessness and misery. Economists have known for generations that embracing those policies implies embracing many additional people being without jobs even as the favored are aided in some ways. The infuriating thing is that it is not a lack of work to be done but that it becomes too expensive to pay for the work to be done.

Lew Rockwell once gave a short list of barriers to employment:

  • The high minimum wage that knocks out the first several rungs from the bottom of the ladder;
  • The high payroll tax that robs employees and employers of resources;
  • The laws that threaten firms with lawsuits should the employee be fired;
  • The laws that established myriad conditions for hiring beyond the market-based condition that matters: can he or she get the job done?;
  • The unemployment subsidy in the form of phony insurance that pays people not to work;
  • The high cost of business start-ups in the form of taxes and mandates;
  • The mandated benefits that employers are forced to cough up for every new employee under certain conditions;
  • The withholding tax that prevents employers and employees from making their own deals;
  • The age restrictions that treat everyone under the age of 16 as useless;
  • The social security and income taxes that together devour nearly half of contract income;
  • The labor union laws that permit thugs to loot a firm and keep out workers who would love a chance to offer their wares for less.

That list by Rockwell is just a few of the government interventions that impoverish the people at the expense of the favored — the cronies of the powerful. If the government interventions on the above list were eliminated today we would see full employment. Not the fake “full employment” that government has claimed in times long past, but the situation where everyone who wanted a job could get a job.

It is time to end the welfare state and let people go to work. People naturally like to be useful and to voluntarily cooperate with others. It is time to again try the laissez fair system that built the Western world in the first place.