The state, its minions, and morality

Murray Rothbard once observed that the first truth to be discovered about human action is the simple fact that human action can be undertaken only by an individual human actor. Only humans have human ends and preform acts to obtain those ends. If the truth is that only individual humans can act purposely to attempt to accomplish their goals, then we must ask if there is anything that a group of two men or more may morally do that would be immoral for them to do individually. After all, this observation means that nations, states, collectives, churches or other groups do not act, but rather these are abstractions that are shorthand for the individual humans that form the group and it is the individual humans in the group that do act.

murray-rothbard-enemy-stateIt may be a useful metaphor to say that the American military invaded Iraq, but it is not the real truth. The truth is that millions of men and women took actions that supported the killing and brutal occupation of the Iraqi nation. The metaphor is only useful as long as we understand that it was really an invasion by many individual humans each preforming individual tasks that went to make up the overall invasion. The metaphor often is used to obfuscate the truth that each human that was involved in any capacity is responsible for his own actions and guilty of any crimes committed by the collective.

I find that there can never be a morality for a mob that is different from the morality of the individual. How can two men join together to murder a third man morally if each could not do so individually? The ancient view of the state was that there were special rules of morality which had to be used to judge the actions of the State which was said to be above the moral judgments that we apply to individual men. This “special standard of morality” was said to allow an individual to kill, rape, bomb, torture, pillage, or humiliate others in the name of his nation-state with moral impunity since he was acting as a minion of the state. The individual, it was said, could remain “moral” as long he committed these crimes in the service of the state.

It was the Classical Liberal  tradition that abolished this evil idea and replaced it with the notion that we are all responsible for our own actions. We get no special dispensation from God or the State to act immorally by virtue of being a minion of the state, or any other group for that matter. The classical liberals argued that the actions of the nation-state was to be judged in the same manner as an individual human actor and that the actions of each human in the group are to be judged against a common moral standard that goes for the individual and the group itself.

This new idea of moral judgment by the classical liberals changed the face of politics. It meant that individual humans were to be judged based on their individual actions even if they were in service of the collective. No longer would “I was following orders” be an acceptable excuse as the Nazi found out after WWII. Unfortunately, modern Americans somehow believe that they are “exceptional” and therefore exempt from this idea that each individual is responsible for his own actions and that the state must be held to the same morality as the individual. In fact, Americans seem to believe that they are never to be held to any standard of morality as long as they act as minions of the U.S. government. In this they are horribly wrong.

The NEA and hypocrisy

I made a tweet about a story concerning the NEA coming out against background checks that was reported on FOX News and wrote in the tweet, “A new bill would prevent sex offenders from working in schools and the public school Teachers Unions oppose it” and included a link to the following story from FOX news:

The House of Representatives just passed a bill aimed at keeping convicted sex offenders and violent felons from working in schools. As it heads to the Senate with bipartisan support, the teachers unions are now objecting.

Megyn Kelly asked on her show tonight, “What is the real endgame by the unions? Because you can’t imagine that the unions want convicted rapists to be working next to their children in these schools. So what is the motivation?”

Kyle Olson, from the Education Action Group Foundation, said the unions are out to protect adults, the members who pay their dues, and not the interests of the children. “We should have a higher ethical standard for teachers and school employees.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) also opposes the bill because he says the language would ignore the ability of people to overcome their criminal backgrounds by imposing lifetime bans.

Olson said, “We’re not saying these people shouldn’t be able to have a job. […] But they shouldn’t be in a school, they shouldn’t have direct access to children.”

“Who wants a convicted sex offender working next to their children?!” Megyn Kelly reacted. “There are certain rights you give up if you rape somebody and get convicted.”

This story and my tweet led to long back-and-forth between me and a fellow on twitter (who I thought was a “popehatter” at the time but is not —  thanks to @clarkhat for pointing that out). The fellow just could not understand why I think that the NEA is guilty yet again of rank hypocrisy in their stance against this bill. He referenced the following NEA statement that came from the government relations office of the NEA:

October 21, 2013

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we would like to offer the following views on H.R. 2083 to require criminal background checks for school employees, which will be voted on tomorrow.

A safe and secure learning environment is a critical component of a quality education. Educators firmly believe that students need a safe and non-threatening environment to be able to learn to their full potential. Time and again educators have done everything in their power to ensure the health and safety of the students entrusted to them, sometimes even giving their lives—shielding students from harm with their own bodies when a tornado hit in Oklahoma, a shooter invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a gunman hijacked a school bus in rural Alabama, and on countless other occasions.

NEA supports timely pre-employment criminal background checks for all school employees who work with children without supervision. NEA also supports the sharing of the results of such checks while protecting employees’ due process and privacy rights.

However, the debate around this issue on the Hill seems to be playing out without considering that criminal background checks often have a huge, racially disparate impact. In addition, we are concerned that H.R. 2083, while well intentioned, may run counter to existing state laws requiring background checks.

Educators are everyday heroes: teaching, protecting, purchasing school supplies with their own money, filling backpacks with food for needy children on weekends, and performing countless other acts of ordinary exceptionalism. We look forward to working with Congress to attain the goal we all share: ensuring safe schools for all of our nation’s children so they have the opportunity to focus on learning.


Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations

The statement tells us that “teachers are heroes”, spend their own money sometimes, and want the children to be “safe” and not “threatened”. All that is well and good but they are opposing a federal law on background checks to keep predators out of the schools. Why? Why should the Teachers Union demand that school employees be free from the sort of background checks that many of us “mundanes” have to undergo?

Well, they did say that they do sometimes support “timely pre-employment”  background checks but not a federal bill that would make the checks on-going apparently. They seem to be opposed to this federal bill that would unify the requirements across the nation and perhaps require the employees to undergo periodic background checks like the ones that occur in the nation’s largest private school system. The Catholic schools, at least in Florida, require fingerprinting and FBI checks every five years for all its employees and even its volunteers. Even parents may not help with the school in any way until they are finger printed and checked out. But the public school teacher’s union says that this sort of thing could lead to a “racially disparate impact”. Say what? We should have a few felons working with the kids so that there is no “racially disparate impact”?  Jesus, Joseph, and Mary that is ridiculous. So how many convicted felons and sexual predators does the union think it has in its ranks anyway?

I was also told by “@firehat” that “as a libertarian” I should be against this sort of federal intervention into the state’s business. That is funny considering the NEA has been for federal intervention on uncountable occasions and now I hear that since federal intervention might be bad for the Union Members they want to go all libertarian on us? Oh really? Now that the members are looking at what they see as onerous federal involvement they complain do they? This is utter hypocrisy. There should be no government schools at all and hence no government employees indoctrinating our young, but there are such things today. As long as there is this horrific system in existence we should endeavor to make sure that perverts are not running the classroom.

The federal government and the states force every citizen to go to school and they do their best to make sure the parents have little option other than the “free” government indoctrination camps called “public schools”. When millions of mother are forced to send their children to the state, then the “intervention” has already occurred. The law that would seek to prevent the Union Members from being convinced rapists, sexual predators, thieves, murderers or the like is not too heavy a burden to bear for the poor NEA members who never saw a federal program they did not like.

Rothbard on the the State’s long war with parents:

The issue which has been joined in the past and in the present is: shall there be a free society with parental control, or a despotism with State control? We shall see the logical development of the idea of State encroachment and control. America, for example, began, for the most part, with a system of either completely private or with philanthropic schools. Then, in the nineteenth century, the concept of public education changed subtly, until everybody was urged to go to the public school, and private schools were accused of being divisive. Finally, the State imposed compulsory education on the people, either forcing children to go to public schools or else setting up arbitrary standards for private schools. Parental instruction was frowned on. Thus, the State has been warring with parents for control over their children. ~ Murray Rothbard

The teacher’s union has long been on board in this war against the family and their rights. Now they have the the audacity to claim that some of their own might get hurt? Kama you bastards, Karma.