Tuesday, July 18, 2017

End NJ's Public Pension Corruption Once and For All–Replies and Responses

In response to my comments on the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s column by Paul Mulshine, Steve Sweeney wins one as the unions try to put the arm on the taxpayers, here are a couple of replies to my comments and my responses:

Paul Mulshine, the article’s author, replied to me that “Sweeney has mentioned that as a solution. The problem is that as long as the funds are out of balance, that can't be done. Obviously it should have been done by some prior governor when the funds were flush.”

I answered: I understand. I suggest packaging the under-funding solution with a process for turning the funds over to the unions. At least taxpayers would see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For What It's Worth replied: “Sure, all public sector new hires should be part of a 401k with matching taxpayer funds like in the private sector, but since those new employees will not be paying into the pension system to support others before them, then that money must come from taxpayers. This means that taxpayers will have to endure years of increased taxes until equilibrium is reached. Certainly, that's not what you want is it?

“For those of you that have children, I resent having to pay for your kids education. Makes me sick to see how much of my property taxes are for education. And please don't feed me  that nonsense that I derive a social benefit from educating your kids. All I know is it's money out of my pocket, just like your complaining about taxpayer funded pensions. They are your kids, not mine. You did not ask me for approval prior to your getting married or have to have kids. They are solely your responsibility, yet I have to help pay not only for their education but for the tax breaks you get that I don't but still must pay for. So, you see, it works both ways, doesn't it?”

I answered:

My sentiments also, except for one thing: prior tax-funded promises should be honored. This goes for the public sector employee pensions, social security, etc. People build their lives around these government commitments. But tax-funded promises are immoral and should be phased out, longer term. People should fund their own retirements, their own children’s education, etc. out of their own earnings.

True, “taxpayers will have to endure years of increased taxes until equilibrium is reached.” It’s not what I want. It’s the trap we’re in. This is the legacy of welfare statism—the dead end of politicians’ “compassion” funded by other people’s money. The sooner we recognize its immorality and stop electing politicians who support it, the sooner we can start to phase it out.

By the way, a pension is theoretically built on worker contributions (or contributions made on behalf of workers as part of their compensation) invested to grow and fund future pension payments. Pensions are not wealth transfer schemes like Social Security. Pension funds are supposed to have real money in them, not IOUs. Theoretically, new pensioners are not needed to “to support others before them,” because the pension is supposed to be fully funded according to actuarial standards. So theoretically, there should be no problem converting from a pension system to a defined contribution plan. The problem is that the politicians the majority of voters elected didn’t keep the state pension fully funded. They just dished out promises while hiding the cost to taxpayers.

[Full disclosure: My wife is a retired public school secretary of 27 years, now on promised state pension payments (though not a union member), and we are both collecting Social Security, which we see as restitution for a lifetime of FICA taxes.]

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Monday, July 17, 2017

End NJ's Public Pension Corruption Once and For All

New Jersey’s public pension system is in deep, deep trouble. The problem is classic: It’s woefully underfunded, meaning the promised benefits to public retirees far exceed what the balance of the funds can provide. And it is the taxpayers who are ultimately on the hook. The source of the problem is what I would call a blatantly corrupt connection between public employee unions and vote-seeking legislators, who can promise benefits while sticking future taxpayers with the bill.

This has been going on for a long, long time. But the chickens are now flocking home, and will begin roosting in the very near future unless drastic action is taken to fix the problem. Of course, expecting politicians to fix problems that politicians themselves have caused is like Linus camping out all night in the pumpkin patch waiting for the rise of the Great Pumpkin.

Some politicians, in cahoots with their public union allies, have thrown their support behind a ridiculous quick-fix; an amendment to the state constitution requiring the state to fully fund the pension. It’s been some three decades since any governor managed to find the money to do that. So these simpletons have concocted a solution less plausible than the Great Pumpkin: Just pass a law, and the $billions upon $billions of dollars that no governor in 30 years has been able to find will suddenly materialize!

Paul Mulshine shined a light on this corruption in an article titled Steve Sweeney wins one as the unions try to put the arm on the taxpayers. Sweeney is the state senate president, and one of the most powerful Democrats in the state. The thing is, Sweeney leads a private sector trade union, the ironworkers, and so is very sensitive to the stark difference between the public employee unions, which have these “sweetheart” deals with legislators to jack up pension benefits, and the private sector unions, which fund and run their own funds and thus are responsible for balancing the intake and benefits of the funds. As Mulshine observes, Sweeney understands that the public unions’ benefits now far exceed anything the private sector can get, and that the private sector is on the hook for the public sector’s over-generous benefits—a double whammy for the private sector, including his ironworkers union. His members know it, too.

Incredibly, the public union officials, oblivious to the differences, still believe in unity among all unions, public and private. As Mulshine observes,

"Stay united because people will try to divide you," [Assemblyman Daniel] Benson, [an NJEA puppet] said [at a public union rally demanding that the legislature “post the bill now” to put the Amendment on the ballot], "Whether you're teachers, public employees, private laborers, public trades, building trades, we need to stay together as laborers as citizens of this state."

Whoever was trying to divide the public-sector from the private-sector unions was doing a good job of it.

Highlighting the corrupt relationship between the public unions and the politicians, Mulshine cracks, “Forget arm's length. There's not a finger's length between many legislators and unions such as the New Jersey Education Association.”

I left these comments:

I would call this corrupt to its core. So why not end it? There’s already a working model to emulate—the private trade unions. The unions control and operate their own pensions and benefits, both deciding what level of benefits to provide their members and how much of their pay packages—negotiated periodically in “arms-length” negotiations with employers—to allocate toward the funds (which are pre-tax).  

I’m a retired plumber from a local union which I joined in 1967. That’s the way it’s always been. It’s up to we the membership to keep benefits and contributions in line. We pay the price for our mistakes, if any. We reap the rewards of good management. I know of no local trade union that doesn’t have a self-managed system. You’d be amazed how responsible people can be when they are actually responsible for paying their own way.

We have two problems: the unfunded current liability, and the corrupt “finger's length” system that caused it. Any “fix” that doesn’t end the current state-managed/taxpayer funded system is worthless, in my view. I’m surprised Sweeney isn’t pushing this long-term solution rather than trap the taxpayers into a constitutional mandate, given that he’s an official of a private trade union.

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Tomorrow I’ll post my response to others’ replies to my comments.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trump’s Leadership on Paris Withdrawal versus Obama’s Delusions of Unearned Greatness

After President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the New Jersey Star-Ledger whined that the withdrawal is a “sign” that Trump “is ill-equipped to lead the free world” (Sick of Winning (Cont.): Presidential petulance dooms the planet).

As I’ve observed before, “leadership” seems to be the leading theme animating the Left’s  apocalyptic response to Trump’s action. But what kind of leadership should an American president practice? That’s the question.

I left these comments, slightly edited and expanded:

There may be “signs that Trump is ill-equipped to lead the free world.” But at least he abandoned the Paris Accord—Obama’s idea of “leading” the free world away from freedom.

I’d have preferred that Trump suspend America’s participation in the agreement rather than outright withdraw, and then submit the Paris Accord to the Senate for ratification. Americans deserve a robust political debate on the merits and principles behind the Paris Climate Accord. That way, the Paris proponents would have to stop hiding behind simple-minded sloganeering, smear mongering, wild doomsday speculation, and actually explain themselves against the rational and (I believe) stronger arguments of the Paris opponents, who would get the full and fair hearing they have long be denied by the climate catastrophists. A ratification debate would have given the American people that.

Nonetheless, Trump made a step in the right direction. The impetus behind the Paris Accord is thoroughly regressive. Paris is a call for world political control of energy, the industry that makes all other industry possible—and thus central government control of the economy. It also calls for a world socialist regime of massive wealth redistribution from “developed” countries to “developing” countries, with the U.S. citizens bearing the brunt of the cost—which potentially could amount to 10s or 100s of $billions, and ultimately $trillions; out of as much as $2 trillion per year, overall, all of it paid by developed countries led by the U.S. Essentially, it is a demand that the United States of America bow its head, apologize, and pay atonement for its very virtues—its intellectual, political, and economic freedom and freedom’s consequence, prosperity.

The Paris Accord is not about facts or established science, which point to mild and manageable warming, not catastrophe. It doesn’t recognize the vital necessity of reliable economical energy, and vastly greater benefits versus drawbacks of fossil fuels. The Paris Accord is more about waging war against the reliable energy humans need to support their lives. Supporters say the agreement marked “the end of the era of fossil fuel” and a call for world governments “transform” and “shape” the world economy—a massive attack on freedom and prosperity, all to avoid a projected mere fraction of a degree of warming by 2100. But if the Paris Accord were really about global warming, nuclear energy would have topped the list of replacements for fossil fuels, rather than the highly unreliable, super-expensive, subsidy-sucking, growth and job killing “green” solar and wind. Yet, nuclear is not even mentioned. It is also about promoting socialism and destroying capitalism, not about solving some unsubstantiated “climate crisis,” which exists only in perpetually failed computer models. The Bolivian government put it more honestly: Echoing Pope Francis, it called for “a world without capitalism”—i.e., without liberty—rationalized as preventing “the destruction of Mother Earth and humanity.” Naomi Klein explicitly ties climate change catastrophism to the Left’s anti-capitalist crusade, calling climate science “the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism.” Any wonder why so many dictatorships signed on?

The exact opposite of Paris is needed. As Ronald Bailey argues over at Scientific American—and, more extensively, in his book “The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century,”—“To truly address climate change, responsible policy makers should select courses of action that move humanity from slow- to high-growth trajectories, especially for the poorest developing countries. This includes honest bureaucracies, the rule of law, free markets, strong property rights and democratic governance. Whatever slows down economic growth will also slow down environmental cleanup and renewal.” [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fast-growth-can-solve-climate-change/] The facts, evidence, and experience are demonstrably clear: the more advanced an economy, the better its environment becomes. In other words, more capitalism, not central planning, is the answer to any problems caused by climate change (natural or anthropogenic), because the kind of innovation that can combine rising prosperity with cleaner development and industrialization can only happen when people are free, rather than subservient.

Pulling out of the accord does not abdicate America’s “leadership” role in the world. It enhances it. America has never been a leader in selling out its own citizens’ rights and property—and shackling its own progress—at the behest of the greedy, the power hungry, the envious, and the resentful of the world. America’s leadership consists of being a beacon for the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—the right of individuals to live, work, and trade through voluntary consent in mutual pursuit of individual personal self-interest, which in turn made America a leader in scientific, industrial, technological, and [real] environmental progress uninhibited and undirected by central planning statists.

The Paris agreement itself is an abdication of American leadership, committing the U.S. to a course of increasing statism both internally and globally, all in the name of containing carbon dioxide emissions. Control of carbon emissions means control of human beings. It’s that simple. Such grandiose central planning schemes directly contradict the Declaration of Independence, America’s Founding philosophical document. What kind of leader repudiates his nation’s own values? Is national self-immolation an example of leadership, or subjugation?

There is nothing inherently wrong about international agreements to address problems that transcend borders, so long as American involvement doesn’t come at the expense of American’s wealth, or America as a sovereign, progressive, free country. Belying the Left’s hysterical reaction, recall that Trump asked for a renegotiation of the Paris Accord, or the negotiation of a new treaty, more in America’s and its people’s interests.

But a threat to America is exactly what the Paris Climate Accord threatens to do. Trump was absolutely right, “The Paris framework is a starting point — as bad as it is — not an end point”—a start down a very dangerous road paved by Environmentalism, the religious ideology that holds Mother Nature above human well-being. For America, the Paris Accord is Obama’s Pyramid—a uselessly grandiose monument to his “legacy”; i.e., his vanity and his craving to be canonized as “a great leader,” a leadership built on the backs of productive American citizens. Paris is not about American leadership. It is about the repudiation of America. America is based on the ideal that governments are created to secure individual rights and liberty, not serve as a platform for any politician’s delusions of unearned greatness. On this issue, Kudos to Trump.

Related Reading:








Related Listening:

Bjorn Lomborg: The U.S. Was Right to Withdraw From the Paris Climate Accord [Reason Podcast]

Ayn Rand: The Monument Builders, from The Virtue of Selfishness, Parts One and Two

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Serviceman Who Lost Leg Carries Woman Across Finish Line—Thanks to Prosthetics Industry

A video getting a ton of coverage shows Army Staff Sergeant Earl Granville from Carbondale, Pa., carrying a woman across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, 4/18/17. What’s notable is that Granville is fitted with a prosthetic leg. As Fox Sports reports:


Granville, who was on his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, carried his race partner across the finish line.


He has competed in multiple marathons using a hand bike.


On Monday, he completed the Boston Marathon without a bike. He ran the marathon with his prosthetic leg and also proudly carried an American flag.


Kudos to Granville. It takes strong will and determination to lose a limb and still fight back to resume a more normal life. But in all of the coverage I’ve seen, no one mentions the unsung heros of Granville’s accomplishment.


Let me paraphrase from an article I wrote for The Objective Standard in 2013. The article, Koni Dole: Loses a Leg, Shines in Football Anyway, covers a high school football player who lost a leg, but managed to return to lead his team to victory on the field:


Cheers to Earl Granville. His courage and determination is an inspiration.


Cheers also to the scientists, engineers, and businessmen who have advanced the designs and practical applications of prosthetics such that a serviceman who lost a limb in combat can nevertheless shine in a gruelling event like the Boston Marathon.


Reason and determination are beautiful things.


Related Reading:

Koni Dole: Loses a Leg, Shines in Football Anyway

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How Earth Day Anti-Industrialists Hijack ‘Science’ to Deny Humans the Benefits of Science

Earth Day, established in 1970, is the leading symbol of the movement that began with the 1960s New Left “back-to-nature” ecology movement. Under its more sophisticated ideological Environmentalism incarnation, Earth Day works from the premise that holds “pristine”—i.e., humanly unaltered—nature as its standard of value and moral ideal.


Though spearheaded by anti-industrialism, Earth Day also drew in many people concerned about some very real problems with pollution. Since 1970, anti-pollution efforts have made our industrial society cleaner even as industrial progress continued apace—so much cleaner, in fact, that by 2000 environmentalist ideologues didn’t have much to complain about in the way of pollution control. Instead of industrial stagnation and decline—“back to nature”—we got cleaner industrial progress and growth. Air and water pollution declined steadily even as industrialism progressed. This was not the result the Earth Day fundamentalists wanted. So in order to keep its anti-industrial campaign alive, the focus was switched to global warming—the alleged environmental disaster of disasters—and a consequent war on fossil fuels.


Think of what this means in the context of Earth Day’s new March for Science project.


Scientific knowledge is the starting point for the productive process that ends in nature-altering, human life-enhancing material products made from Earth’s raw materials. Everything from transportation, agriculture, building materials, medical industry, indoor plumbing, central heating and air conditioning to electrification, high tech communications, space travel, movies, the printing press, and the energy that drives it all—the list is endless—is the result of science leading to invention leading to investment leading to the entrepreneurial business corporation that transforms it all into useful, mass market products for the betterment of the “common” people.


This role of science as man’s benefactor clashes diametrically with the fundamental meaning of Earth Day. Don’t forget, this is the movement that tells us that carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas without which life as we know it couldn’t exist on Earth, is a pollutant, because it is a factor in climate change (which, they claim, is bad only to the extent human activity is a factor). The declaration of CO2 as a pollutant is a direct attack on human life, because humans are by nature “CO2 machines.” As Princeton physics professor William Happer observed, "If you want to get rid of CO2, you want to get rid of people.”


Foremost in the environmentalists’ crosshairs is reliable, affordable, progressive, industrial scale energy—hydro, nuclear, and especially fossil fuels, all of which are derived from the science-led productive process cited above. Why focus their hostility on fossil fuels? Because energy is the industry that makes all of the rest possible—the industry of industry—and fossil fuels at this time are the most used and most practical of the three reliables. In particular, the environmentalists target fracking, an amazing leading edge technology derived from scientific knowledge that has unlocked vast new heretofore unreachable shale oil and gas energy sources; and coal, the most plentiful fossil fuel, for abolition. All of these energy technologies are vital to human progress. All are targeted for outlawing. (Never mind solar and wind. These so-called “renewables” are scientifically proven to be incapable of powering industrial civilization, which is precisely why environmentalists champion them. You can bet that if science ever discovers the knowledge needed to make solar and wind superior economically and technologically and in reliability to fossil fuels, the environmentalists would turn against them, too.)


It follows from the logic of their premises that environmentalists oppose capitalism, the only social system that delivers the human freedom necessary to transform science into practicality. What is the leading economic achievement of capitalism? The institution that forms the last vital link in the productive chain that starts with science and ends with general material abundance and prosperity—business. The businessman organizes all of the factors of product toward a productive goal that betters people lives. Steve Jobs got to the heart of the virtue of the business corporation:


The only purpose, for me, in building a company is so that that company can make products. One is a means to the other. Over a period of time you realize that building a very strong company and a very strong foundation of talent and culture in a company is essential to keep making great products.


The company is one of the most amazing inventions of humans, this abstract construct that’s incredibly powerful. Even so, for me, it’s about the products. It’s about working together with really fun, smart. Creative people and making wonderful things. It’s not about the money. What a company is, then, is a group of people who can make more than just the next big thing. It’s a talent, it’s a capability, it’s a culture, it’s a point of view, and it’s a way of working together to make the next thing, and the next thing, and the next one. [P. 232]


Notice how much the Environmentalists hate business, railing against it as “greedy corporate polluters” and such. They promote business-hobbling statism at every turn, through a growing labyrinth of stifling environmental and other regulations in its path. Is it any wonder? The business corporation is the indispensable link between the knowledge of the scientist and the fulfillment of human needs and desires—i.e., industrial progress. Why would Environmentalists want to hobble or break business? For the same reason Steve Jobs loves it.


It seems outrageously hypocritical. You can’t love science and hate business. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of science? What is the role of science? It is to discover new knowledge of the natural world we live in. To what purpose? To give humans the tools of technological industrial development. Why? To reshape the danger-filled, hostile environment nature gives us into a safe, clean environment for humans to live and flourish in. It is this very human reshaping—the reshaping that science makes possible—that environmentalists want to “protect” nature from.


Yet environmentalism extolls science and hates business and capitalism. This only seems like a paradox. Environmentalists don’t really love science. The environmentalism that is manifested as Earth Day seeks to use science to deny humans the practical benefits of science—on principle.


Don’t fall for the new “science” aspect of Earth Day. Science is too important to human progress. Man cannot live and flourish without impacting nature in a big way. This is not to say all human impact is good. The value of science is as a means to maximize human flourishing on Earth—good impact—while minimizing the negative side effects—the bad impacts. The role of ideological Environmentalism is to minimize human impact on his Earth, whatever the cost to human well-being, for the sake of their moral ideal—not human flourishing, but non-impact as an end in itself. The two premises are diametrically opposed.


So why bring science into Earth Day?


Science—the physical sciences—will give you the knowledge. It will not tell you what to do with it or about it. That’s up to human judgement. For that, you need a moral standard of value. Only the science of ethics can give you that. That’s the science that environmentalists ignore. Hence, what is good or bad for humans does not enter their evaluations. They tell you climate is changing because of human activity. That, by their standard of value, is by that very fact bad. If you disagree with their nihilistic anti-humanist solutions, based on an ethical evaluation that answers “good or bad for humans,” they smear you as anti-science or a climate denier.


Environmentalists seek to exploit science for the purpose of “proving” that man is ruining the planet—or, as Pope Francis asserts, is turning the Earth into “an immense pile of filth”—in order to stop the maximization of human impact and flourishing. If science demonstrates that human activity is altering the natural world in some way—whether it’s affecting climate or the polar bear population or a coral reef, or whatever—then that very fact warrants stopping the human activity, regardless of the impact on human flourishing. That’s what it means to intersect science with the anti-humanist premise of non-impact as the moral ideal. Others have used science in equally destructive ways. The Marxian communists declared for ‘scientific’ socialism as their goal, and built a totalitarian death machine. The Nazis exploited the ‘science’ of eugenics to construct their racist, murderous fascist state. The ideological Environmentalists exploit science to deny humans the benefits of science, and reduce man’s life to a living hell status of harmony with unaltered nature. Science, then, becomes not a guide to reasoned, evaluative action, but a final authority not to be questioned, as determined by those who claim to speak for science. Science, in effect, is turned into a secular version of God.


In the end, it may backfire on the Environmentalist movement. As long as respect for science is alive and well in the culture, entrepreneurial individuals will seek to apply the science to the practical concerns of human beings, including to mitigate legitimate negative side effects of industrial progress—as long as humans are individually free to do so. It all comes down to freedom and individual rights. Bringing science into Earth Day may signal the death knell for anti-humanist environmentalism, because the science of ethics tells us that science should benefit, not harm, humans. Let those of us who value freedom and progress promote the true role of science as human benefactor, not a tool of human impoverishment and slavery. Let us promote the freedom that applied science requires.


Related Reading:



The Church Of Climate Scientology: How Climate Science Became A Religion—Alex Epstein

Sunday, July 9, 2017

On the People's 'Influence' Under Socialism

The essay Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian by George Reisman difinitively explodes the lie that Nazi Germany, a country controlled by the National Socialist German Workers' Party, was a derivative of capitalism.


Yet, despite socialism’s brutal history, people continue to fall for the idea that socialism somehow empowers the people. Here is a comment from TomPaineCommonSense, posted under Reisman’s essay:


If Nazi Germany was socialist, how come all the corporate leaders, bankers, and military generals were able to make so much money and spirit it out of Germany through banks for themselves and their families? Why did their leading companies - steel, chemical, construction - make such fat profits from all the armaments, materiel? Why weren't profits distributed to the people if it were socialism? Why would a socialist state form such a close alliance with the fascist state of Italy? WWII Germany had elements of private enterprise, fascism, and socialism blended for the economic and political benefit of their elites, and because the people had little if any influence I would say socialism was the minor element of their economic system.


It is naive believe that socialism is the system of the people. Under no manifestation of socialism do people retain influence or control over their own lives. Why? Because socialism is the political expression of collectivism. Collectivism holds that the standard of moral concern is the group; the individual’s only moral purpose is to serve the good of the collective. Therefore, the individual’s life, liberty, property, goals, and values—his personal pursuit of happiness—have no moral relevance under socialism, and elicits no concern of the state. “The people” under socialism is not a collection of individuals possessing rights to life, liberty, and earned property. Under socialism, individual rights are the first thing to go.  The collective, whether described as society, the public,  “the people,” etc., is merely an abstraction—and for a socialist, an abstraction seized on to create the illusion of popular power, but in whose name the state rules with an iron fist. Actual individuals, aside from the ruling political class, have no actual influence.


The people had little if any influence” in Nazi Germany precisely because Germany was a socialist state. Hitler laid out in brutally honest fashion the nature of Germany’s path to socialism. From Herman Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, as quoted in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, page 231-232:


“The party is all-embracing… Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good…This is Socialism--not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape? Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over all, regardless of whether they are owners or workers…Our Socialism goes far deeper…[the people] have entered a new relation…What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.”


“We socialize human beings!” Fascism is back-door socialism—state control of the means of production through the front of quasi-private “business.” Like the Great and Powerful Oz, big business was the front: The “man behind the curtain” was the Hitler regime.


Socialism begins with promises of free stuff through legalized theft, and ends the only way any system that repudiates the moral relevance of the individual can end; in widespread terror under a totalitarian state. The result is the same whether the government owns or controls “the means of production.” The means of production, after all, is individuals. Ownership or control of the means of production is ownership or control of people. The result is the same whether or not the government is democratically elected, and regardless of original intentions.


The only alternative to any form of socialism is laissez-faire capitalism, the system based on individualism. Only capitalism recognizes individual people power—the only kind, for the people, that counts; for real, breathing, thinking, planning, flesh-and-blood people individually controlling his own life’s decisions. Only under capitalism do the people actually exercise social control over “the means of production”—control not by force but through voluntary exchange; i.e., through his choices as a consumer, because the cumulative choices of consumers—the market mechanism—ultimately determines which companies survive, profit, and flourish, and which individuals succeed and prosper, and to what extent. Only capitalism actually relegates power to the people—the power of choice exercised through individual liberty. Every other system relegates power to the state—the power of aggressive physical force over the individual.


Related Reading:





Is There a 'Balance' Between the Rights of the Individual and the Benefits to Society?

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Capitalistic 19th Century, Not Public High School, Paved the Way for ‘The American Century’

I have long noticed that the government education establishment is quite full of itself. One example of this self-righteousness, which is matched only by the arrogance of statists, is evident in a New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial that ran last August, during the presidential race. In Clinton's free tuition plan deserves a robust debate, the Star-Ledger makes this startling non-sequiturial assertion:

It's been 100 years since we've made high school compulsory, and the result was The American Century - economic and technological advances that changed the world, because we had families that could be supported with jobs that high school educations would provide.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

This is classic statist historical revisionism. It ignores the entire 19th Century, the greatest period in terms of economic and technological progress the world has ever seen; the foundation upon which “The American Century” was built.

Within 100 years of American Independence, America went from an impoverished colonial backwater to the world’s mightiest economy, surpassing Great Britain by 1890. Technological progress was astounding, taking America from agrarian poverty to indoor plumbing, electrification, and the birth of the automobile and airplane industries. We got vulcanized rubber and an agricultural productivity revolution that freed up massive amounts of human capital to feed new industries. Telephone and telegraph and sewing machines were invented and commercialized, as was standardized, mass-market photography. We got steel and skyscrapers and suspension bridges. In medicine, we got anesthesia. Real average wages at least quadrupled after centuries of stagnation, as entrepreneurs figured out ways to flood the mass market with more and cheaper consumer goods that improved everyday lives. The middle class was born as people moved from farms to new industries and jobs. This is just a sampling. The list goes on and on. The phrase “You can’t stop progress” became popular in the 19th Century. And all of this progress happened even as America absorbed millions upon millions of mostly poor immigrants attracted by the opportunities provided by freedom and the lack of European-style social caste systems—in fact, largely because of these immigrants.

Progress, like its prerequisite, knowledge, is hierarchical—a stair-step process. You can’t get the car until you get the wheel. The 20th Century progress could not have happened without the economic, technological, and human/financial capital accumulation foundation established in the 19th Century. Life is so much better now than 100 years ago precisely because life was immensely better 100 years ago than 200 years ago. In fact, you couldn’t have gotten government-funded schools without the private wealth generated by pre-existing economic prosperity: Who would the government have taxed without it?

The Star-Ledger ignores all of the progress that pre-dated compulsory high school. This is not to claim that government schools contribute nothing to progress. It’s to say that government-funded schools are not the cause of progress. Education would have, did, and will continue to exist without government involvement—and better and cheaper to boot. Government funding is the primary cause of the soaring cost of higher education, as basic economics teaches. We shouldn’t have more of it. Except for the GI Bill, we should phase it out.

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I don’t know about anyone else. But my K-12 public school years were marked by excruciating boredom. I have very few memorable moments of those 13 years. For me, they were an academic wasteland. I can honestly say that almost all of what I’ve learned in my 68 years on this planet, including learning how to think, came after I graduated from public high school in 1966. My graduation was, for me, a personal declaration of independence.

Many public school teachers have an over-inflated view of their own importance. I have encountered teachers who oppose “parental interference,” arguing that education should be left up to “the experts”—like themselves. To whom I ask, “Do you own a car, or a house, or a computer, invest, consult a doctor or lawyer? Are you an expert in automobile technology; or plumbing, electrical, or other facets of home construction; information technology; investing; medical science; law?” It’s ridiculous to say parents shouldn’t have a say in education, by virtue of not having the label “expert.” Average, non-expert everyday people are capable of making all kinds of rational judgements about all kinds of things to buy. If not, the division of labor industrial economy would not be possible. It’s all about becoming an expert in a single productive field of one’s choice, in order to make money to trade for things that others make in productive fields they are expert in, but in which we are not ourselves experts.

Childhood education is crucial, which is why the school choice movement steadily gains steam despite the vicious work of the government school establishment and its apologists to demonize and roll back school choice education liberty. The last two centuries have been American Centuries, which is why we should bust up the government education straightjacket—so it can continue. We need to reform and liberate the moribund statist American education according to free market capitalist principles, where entrepreneurial educators compete for students and parents are free to choose.

Related Reading:

The Inventive Period—Andrew Bernstein