Saturday, December 18, 2010

Freedom for Schools

All right, I'm a bit late with my first return post. I just didn't have any inspiration yesterday evening. I still don't right now, so I'm going to have to force it.


It has just suddenly occurred to me to write about state-funded education.


State-funded education sucks. At best it does a poorer job than the free market could do unhindered, and at worst it is actively indoctrinating children with a statist-authoritarian world-view. I don't know about you, but I'm not at all thrilled about that.

First, let's pretend that the State schools are not indoctrinating children. The trouble here is that the government is crowding out a market-driven alternative. Consumers must be permitted to make choices about what goods they will consume. Otherwise the market cannot function. There is a market for education, just like every other good or service. Private schools mostly cater to the upper class, because they are able to present a niche market not currently fulfilled by government schools. There's nothing at all wrong with that, but the fact is that there isn't enough private alternatives. Without state schools, we would see the same upper class private schools, as well as less expensive schools catering to the blue collar working class, and absolutely everything in between. It is also entirely natural to suggest that there would be a variety of non-profit and not-for-profit schools that would be dedicated to providing heavily discounted, and even free education to poor families. Non profit schools would of course be financed by churches, wealthy philanthropists (this is not farfetched, as there are plenty of philanthropists around already, and there would be even more without our punitive government taxation regime), and corporate sponsors (again, a very realistic expectation).

Second, without government intervention, the quality of educators would steadily increase. Yes, there are good teachers out there now. I'm a product of the public schooling system in Canada, and I met enough of them. The problem is that there aren't enough. Performance is not rewarded under our system. Creativity and initiative are not rewarded. What is rewarded is experience. The union system, which is not a product of the free market, but rather a government-backed extortionist system, makes it quite literally impossible to punish poor performance of teachers, especially "experienced" teachers. A teacher who has been in the system for any moderate amount of time is nearly impossible to fire, barring something extraordinary like sexual abuse or theft, so no matter how awful they are as teachers, they move through the system and end up "experienced", at which point they quite possibly become administrators. We can only hope that as administrators they have less and less access to the educating aspect of their jobs.
In a market-driven education system, quality teachers would be rewarded with higher pay, better positions, and better working conditions. Poor teachers would receive lower pay, lower positions, and may be fired if their performance is considered lacking. Performance would be judged by a combination of grades, student feedback, and parent feedback. It would be within the best interests of both the schools and the parents to have in place objective criteria for evaluation, and steps would be taken to ensure that dishonest teachers could not "game the system", which is quite common in my own experience. I've heard stories of teachers changing low marks, disallowing certain lower performing students from writing standardized tests, etc..
Under this system, higher performing students may well be offered discounted tuition or scholarships to attend more elite schools, as their performance would reflect well on the teachers and the school itself. Lower performing students would not be neglected. They would simply enrol in a lower tier school, or in an alternative specialized program that caters to their particular difficulties.
Of course I haven't even mentioned homeschooling, which is a perfectly acceptable choice. In a free system we would see a greater number of homeschooling collectives which would pool resources and talents and capital, to teach their children on their own, or in some cases hire private tutors.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, is the fact that the State is currently in complete control of curriculum. In Canada it is illegal to attempt to circumvent this system; even homeschoolers are forced to abide by the arbitrary State-mandated lessons. Do you think the State is going to teach in a fair and objective manner when it comes to its own actions? To expect honesty from the systems that have without exception lied and cheated and defrauded their subjects since their inception is ludicrous. Is the State going to sanction lessons that expose central banking for the fraud-driven counterfeiter that it is? Will the State ever present legitimate free-market economics in a fair light? I hadn't even heard of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, et. al. until about this time last year. My school education started with Adam Smith, then immediately launched into how well Keynes and Friedman corrected the poor ignorant radical that he was. Our State sponsored lesson plans never once touched upon the problems inherent in the command-economy systems. In fact I distinctly remember the Soviet economy being presented as a tradeoff between stability (under the communist system) and uneven high profits (in a capitalist system). Well the only thing stable about the Soviet economy was that you knew exactly how expensive the goods were, even when there were none on the shelves, and there hadn't been for weeks at a time. In fact the most stable thing is probably that there were no goods on the shelf in the first place.
State curriculum indoctrinates students to accept without question the coercive power of the government. It indoctrinates students to accept the central banks, and war after war after war, and arbitrary tyrannical laws as the price that is paid for "freedom", or "security". In fact, we are every single day sacrificing our freedom and our security to a State which cares only about lining its pockets and lording over its subjects. We're never going to be taught any alternative lessons though. Not if the State is in charge.

It's very hard to want freedom when Big Brother tells you that you've already got it. It's hard to want to live outside the influence of the State when the State tells you day after day that your life depends upon its benevolent intervention. It's especially hard when you tell the children these things every day from the age of about five to eighteen, or even upwards of twenty five and twenty six for master's and PhD students. Where is the critical thinking? Where is the personal initiative? The State thinks for us, until we choose to live otherwise.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

...And We're Back!

My brief hiatus is over and I will be posting regularly again. I intend to post something tomorrow, although I'm not sure what it will be yet.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Short Break

Hey everyone. I'm taking a very brief hiatus from my blog while I finish up my final exams. I should be posting again by Thursday or Friday.
Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Objection Rebutted

2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.186 The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. the appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.
2403 The right to private property, acquired by work or received from others by inheritance or gift, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. the universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.
2404 "In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself."187 The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.
2405 Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.
2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.188


A rather damning indictment against libertarianism, isn't it? Hardly.

To be clear, I am Catholic, and I believe everything taught by the Catholic Church that falls within Her competency. Proper understanding of this passage is key.
"Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good." Well sure political authority does. So does private authority. Remember, authority ≠ power.
If a man is threatening me with a gun, I have the authority and the right to take that gun, even if it belongs to him. So too does government. That is legitimate regulation of the use of private property.
Good cheese is clearly a basic human right.
We believe in the universal destination of goods. Man has the right to have his basic needs met. In return he has the obligation to, inasmuch as he is able, earn those basic needs. If, due to circumstances beyond his control, he cannot earn those needs, he still possesses the right to them, however if he willfully rejects the possibility of earning those needs, so too does he forfeit his rights to them.
All men, and therefore government as well, have the authority to regulate the right to private goods in this manner.
What may never be approved of is aggression or violence against those who infringe upon nobody's rights. The State commits this violence when it dictates that you must help fund abortions, or that you must fund contraceptives, or that you must fund projects of questionable economic benefit (such as social security, federal health departments, and state-run education). Not only does this not contribute to the common good, it actively infringes upon it, both through the policies being funded themselves, and the inherent violence used to secure the necessary funds.
Sir, we noticed that you forgot to pay your income taxes this year.


I'll add as a sidenote, that #2405 above is hardly even worth framing in a market libertarian perspective. The only way to benefit the greatest number is through the workings of the market. The State has no right to arrogate themselves to this 'duty', and even if it did, we have seen time and again how spectacularly it fails.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Blog

I started a new blog this evening which reflects my interest in karate.

For anyone who is interested in martial arts and/or self defense, my link is http://soul-of-karate.blogspot.com/.

I only have one post as of right now, but I have put together a page of links to videos of all Shotokan kata and embusen (pattern) diagrams.

Thank you for your interest!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ethical Action

I make a distinction between legality and morality. There are many things which are both legal and moral, and quite a few which are illegal and immoral. In between, there are acts which are illegal and moral, and acts which are immoral and legal.
Not everything which is immoral should be illegal. It would be immoral and downright lousy for me to promise to pick my friend up from the airport if I have no intention of doing so, yet to make a law that addresses this would be the height of absurdity and tyranny.
Likewise, many of our laws address things which are not immoral. There is nothing inherently immoral about running a stop sign. If there are no cars or pedestrians around, this action carries no moral weight. (On the other hand, if the roads are covered with a layer of sheer ice, as is often the case in Calgary, it may very well be dangerous to attempt a full stop.) An arbitrary law does not bring a moral dimension to an inherently amoral action (an action which lacks a moral dimension).



Just as I make a distinction between legality and morality, I make another distinction between power and authority. Power is the ability to act, and is amoral. Authority the moral element, which determines whether or not use of power is legitimate.
One can have authority and power, or lack either or both of these elements. The State and the State's police force have power, but authority is not guaranteed. The State does not create its own authority, and a 51% majority does not create authority.

"[T]here is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (CCC 1899)
What does this passage mean? Well first I will say very certainly: it does not mean that the State has authority given to it by God. The State can have authority, but it does not necessarily possess it.

One has authority when he stands for morality and natural law. I have morality when I defend myself, or my family, or my friends from aggression at the hands of a criminal. The Pope has authority when he speaks on behalf of the unborn. The Canadian government and the American Government have no authority whatsoever when they fund abortions, or recognize them as a "right". They have no authority when they tell you what you can eat, or drink, or buy, or by what methods you may protect yourself.

The governments have power though, and if we don't listen, we will be fined. If we don't pay their graft, we will be imprisoned. If we resist, we will be killed. So we listen, down the barrel of a gun wrapped in the guise of "the common good".


Now I finally get to the point which I had set out to make:
A legitimate State may act with no more authority than any single individual possesses.


Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself (CCC 1902), so therefore any State may only do what its citizens already have the moral authority to do themselves. Nobody, not even the State, has the authority to do or enforce that which is immoral. The State has the power to do so, which it has continually exercised, however when we resist tyranny, we do so with authority (if not with power).

Everybody, whether appointed by the State or not, may only do that which is moral.

Friday, December 3, 2010

16 Horsepower and Music in General

Today I wanted to share a band that I enjoy listening to, called 16 Horsepower.

Wikipedia describes 16 Horsepower as alternative country, and I would be inclined to specify it as dark roots or black folk.
This song is, in my opinion, the best example of their sound:


They are very distinctly country, but with a dark tone that calls to mind dark cabaret and even the industrial sound.

It's a style of music that I think I want to learn how to play. What it seems like to me is the kind of thing that I've tried to play in the past, not quite realizing what it was, so therefore not quite actualizing the style I was approaching.

This is a picture of my guitar:
(The one on the left is the one I currently play.)
It really seems to fit for a bit of country twang, as well as anywhere from mellow folk to some really crunchy buzzed rock. It's got a lovely tone, especially when I'm pushing the amp beyond volumes at which it's still comfortable. It's an old amp and it's starting to give up on me, but in the meantime it has an awesome natural overdrive if I just turn the volume up.

The music I'm most influenced by is darker country, like 16 Horsepower, and especially Johnny Cash's later work on American recordings. After that I'm influenced by such bands/musicians as Social Distortion and Rancid, Steve Wynn, Tom Petty, The Trews, some of R.E.M., XTC, etc.. I'm sure I'll think of a bunch more after I publish this post, but such is life.

I'm a big fan of the sound of slide guitar. I love fiddling around with an open tuned acoustic and a slide. I'm not particularly good at it, but I wish I was. There's so much that can be done with a good lap steel. Given the free time someday in the future, that's first on my list to learn. Second is country/folk violin, but I imagine that would be a lot harder.

Happy second Sunday of Advent, starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Politics

Over the last year, I've almost completely lost faith in the political system. This has happened mostly thanks to one very influential individual that I met online, and since then many authors of a similar mindset whom I have searched out.
I've been spending some time on LewRockwell.com and the Ludwig von Mises Institute and have come to identify with many of the opinions presented there.

Most of them are of the anarcho-capitalist persuasion. At a very basic level, the idea is that coercive government is corrupt and harmful and should be abolished, and that the free market will thereby be permitted to assert itself and (in both a moral and efficient way) serve legitimately the common good.

I don't want to talk about anarcho-capitalism right at this moment though. I would rather outline the reasons I have lost faith in Government (as we see it today).

Morally speaking, I simply cannot find a way to justify or legitimize in my own mind any modern government.
I agree very strongly with St. Augustine when he said that "an unjust law is no law at all." I believe that we are not morally compelled to obey an unjust law, and may in fact be obligated to disobey.

The modern theory of government seems to be based on the concept that the majority opinion lends legitimacy to an organization that may thereby act with more authority than the sum authority of it individual members. Well my first problem with this is the majority opinion. A majority opinion gave us the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. A majority opinion gave us (in the past) slavery and segregation.
The majority opinion has no moral authority.


No organization, governments included, can possibly have more authority than any individual. I cannot take thirty percent of your income to use for whatever projects I think it is best suited for, and nor can the government. I have no authority to tell you what you can and can't drink, what goods you can buy, and what associations you may join, but the government has decided that it may. This is wrong. This idea of legitimate governmental authority is in fact moral relativism under one of its most subtle guises. It tells us that what is wrong for us becomes right when it comes from higher up. It's crap.

Our governments have no moral authority. Our governments have told us that it is perfectly right to murder an unborn child. Our governments razed cities full of civilians during the Second World War. Some of our governments have told their citizens that public expressions of their opinions are illegal. Of course only opinions that the government disagrees with are illegal. Our governments have for years been directly laying claim to our incomes for as long as anyone can remember, and for decades have been indirectly stealing still more of our purchasing power through inflationary tax.

After recognizing all this and processing it, I've been forced to conclude that our modern system of government has zero authority in and of itself. It does not derive authority from itself, and it does not exercise legitimate moral authority which comes from outside itself. Once recognizing this, everything else just slowly fell apart. That's where I am now. In every issue I've examined so far, the radical libertarianism has beat out the traditional statist arguments. One of the first to go was the fractional reserve banking system, then the drinking age, then minimum wages, then copyright... No telling what's next.

So what do we do with an illegitimate and corrupt power system? Well I don't know yet. Passive resistance? One thing I know for sure is that we as individuals must assert our own moral authority. We have the authority to educate and raise our children, to defend ourselves, to enjoy the fruits of our labour, and to hold and express any opinion we please. We should never submit to The State just because The State said so. We submit to moral law and legitimate authority (which always go hand in hand) and nothing else.