Saturday, December 27, 2008

Preschool, Crime, and Public Education

The intellectual package-deal is a means of sneaking in the acceptance of an agenda or idea that would not be accepted if offered openly, under cover of some legitimate issue that few would have any reason to argue with. For example, a liberal would say that if you oppose SCHIP you don’t care about childrens’ health, or if you oppose environmentalism you favor “polluters” over clean air and rivers. Or a conservative would say that if you oppose government restrictions on media content you favor pornography over “family values”, or you are pro-abortion if you oppose a legal ban on that procedure. Smuggled in via these examples are the undermining of property rights, the first amendment, and government’s proper role of protecting man’s individual rights. The “cover” is adequate healthcare for children, cleaner methods of industrialization (which is not the goal of environmentalism), shielding minors from age-inappropriate information, or the protection of human life (which is not the goal of the “pro-life” movement). The result of the efforts of the practitioners’ “cover issue” advocacy is expanded government control and consequent erosion of individual rights.

In other words, the means are inextricably linked to the ends. The desired results, which are presented in a generalized, out-of-context way that few people would disagree about, leave people to accept a stealth premise without debate. Unless, of course, one were to break apart the package deal to expose its fundamental essences.

It is through such a package-dealing process, which the Left is particularly adept at, that statism is advancing, and freedom is eroding, in America. The art of the package-deal is what Fran Wood is counting on to pave the way for the continuing intrusion of the public school monopoly into the private preschool market. I wrote about this “hostile preschool takeover” in a 2007 post. Here, Wood cites a very dubious study, to put it mildly. In her recent N.J. Star-Ledger article entitled Funding Pre-K and Fighting Crime, she writes;

“Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national nonprofit anti-crime organization, unveiled a report touting the results of several studies contrasting violence and crime among children who were enrolled in early childhood education programs vs. those who were not.

“Data released in 2004, according to Fight Crime; Invest in Kids vice president Jeff Kirsch, showed that 23 years later, those who had no preschool program were five times more likely to be criminal offenders.

“By age 40, according to the report, those not enrolled in the program were "more than twice as likely to become career offenders (with more than 10 arrests) and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

“They also were more likely to abuse illegal drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies and seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs.”

Does the old saying about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” come to mind? “Right! It’s like preschool is the only variable”, to paraphrase my daughter Christine’s remark to me. This litany of statistics “that will get your attention” goes on. When you read the article, though, it becomes obvious what issues Ms. Wood doesn’t consider important enough to mention. The basic premise here is that if you reject the means…government-run preschool…you are against the desirable ends…early childhood education and “fighting crime”. After all, who doesn’t want properly educated children and a low crime rate? The fog of the package-deal smothers real issues involved here.

I left the following rebuttal to her article:

Posted by Zemack on 12/12/08 at 4:32PM

The implication here is if you don't submit to a hostile government takeover of pre-schooling, you are pro-crime. This is a classic statist intellectual package-deal. Pre-school is not the issue here. Expanded government power over education, and the consequent violation of individual rights, is the issue.

Whose educational philosophy will be imposed on the parents and children? Will children be trained to subordinate their own judgement to the arbitrary will of some authority, whether the teacher or the class as a group? Or will they be encouraged to think independently? Will they be coerced into "sharing" their learning experiences with any other child who wants to nose in on their current activity? Or will they be allowed the freedom to concentrate their attention on the task at hand without interruption, thus discovering the principle of respect for the rights of others?

Will the government-run pre-schools be used as an indoctrination tool for the purpose of bringing about "social change", as the father of modern "progressive" education advocated...the self-described socialist John Dewey? Or will the pre-schools be an environment where children can develop their individual cognitive mental skills consistent with each child's unique developmental timetable, with the ultimate goal being intellectual independence, as advocated my Maria Montessori? Will children "learn" through rote memorization (i.e., Give them a fish.), or will they learn to use their conceptual, abstract faculty in order to hierarchize and integrate their acquired knowledge according to essential principles (Teach them to fish.)?

What is meant by "public dollars"? There is no such thing. The "Public" dollars of which Ms. Wood refers are the earnings of private citizens taken by force of taxation, to be used by politically powerful groups for purposes that the earners may oppose such as the ongoing hostile pre-school takeover by the coercive government education monopoly. To push public pre-school funded by money confiscated by force from unwilling taxpayers...including those parents taking responsibility for their own children's pre-school...under the pretense of preventing crime is a monumental conceptual evasion. At least street thugs are honest enough not to claim that they are robbing their victims for their own good, or for the good of "society".

Why is it "investment" when politicians spend other peoples' money, but not when spent by those who earned it? Why is it just to force parents to pay for the education of other peoples' children in accordance with someone else's agenda?

Rather than expand the government school monopoly, the pre-school market should be left free. Rather than having their earnings confiscated through taxation, parents should be able to claim a direct credit against their existing school taxes so that they can use their own money for their own child's pre-school education. That some parents would renege on their responsibilities is no reason to violate the rights of all other parents. To sacrifice the responsible parents to the irresponsible is a moral crime. Aiding responsible, but poor, parents is certainly a worthy undertaking, and I commend anyone who chooses to step up in that regard. But charity is a private, voluntary matter, engaged in by people of good will. Good will ends where physical coercion begins. Show me someone who strives to practice charity with other peoples' tax money, and I'll show you a phony.

This much Ms. Wood and I agree on. I believe that the first few years of any child's life is a critical time for mental development. Consequently, pre-school should be a cornerstone of that period. Because learning how to think, the essence of early childhood education, is exclusively a private undertaking, it is a time when the privacy needs of the child must be stringently respected. So the right pre-school, governed by the right philosophy, is critical here. I favor the "concentrated attention" method of Maria Montessori, which focuses on the development of the child's proper method of mental functioning, the conceptual faculty. Homeschooling, which at this age level is well within the means and capabilities of any motivated parent, is far preferable to an inferior pre-school, which can do more harm than good. The responsibility for these decisions rests with the parents.

The public schools should stay out of the pre-school area of education. But if it is going to offer pre-school, it must be offered strictly on a voluntary full tuition basis only. Their should be no taxpayer "public dollars"...whatsoever. Forcing already over-taxed parents (or anyone else) to foot the pre-school expenses of other parents is immoral. Forcing anyone to support educational ideas with which one disagrees is contrary to the principles of a free society. The educational needs of the child are fundamentally the responsibility of the parents who brought that child into the world. A free pre-school market protects the rights of all parents to fulfill their obligations according to their own rational judgement. Pre-school is too important to be placed under state control

Ms. Wood concludes that “Here in New Jersey, there has been an abundance of public resentment at spending tax dollars on such programs. But without public programs, pre-K education simply won't happen for most low-income children.” There are no low-income parents, it seems, who care enough about their children to homeschool, or pool resources with other parents to form neighborhood preschools or to hire private tutors, or to try to earn a few extra bucks for their children’s preschool. Maybe some simply don’t believe in preschool, or simply don’t care.

No matter. The very same over-funded urban public schools that are currently failing will miraculously excel at pre-K, somehow.

There are, of course, alternatives to a state takeover of preschool. Florida has a donation tax credit, and New Jersey has a similar law pending, which Ms. Wood wrote negatively about. My own proposal for transitioning to a free education market includes the same thing on a larger scale. If Ms. Wood wants to really help poor children obtain preschool education, a laudable goal, she should stop doing the bidding for the government school monopoly and, instead, get it out of the way before it completely crushes the private market (which is already happening). Education tax credits…the wave of the future…is the moral and practical way to advance the pre-school cause.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mandatory Health Insurance...A Violation of Religious Freedom

Dr. Paul Hsieh, co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM), reports on his post of 12/19/08 about the innovative approach to health care pursued by the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries

Writes Dr. Hsieh:

I fully support the right of organizations such as AHCSM to engage in such charitable mutual aid, free from the onerous restrictions that the government places on insurance companies. And although the AHCSM bases its policies on Christian Biblical principles, in a free society any group of people (religious or non-religious) could band together to create a similar system of voluntary mutual aid.

I therefore commend the AHCSM for showing that it is possible to create a real-life positive alternative to traditional insurance that many Americans would gladly support and benefit from.

The AHCSM has also correctly taken a strong position against government-mandated health insurance.

That strong position is based, properly, on individual rights. Although the term "individuals rights" is not specifically mentioned in these excerpts, it is implicit in this AHCSM policy briefing reported by Dr. Hsieh:

Mandatory Insurance Infringes on Religious Liberty. Members of HSCMs are presently in charge of the decisions regarding their own health care and able to refrain from supporting practices contrary to their moral convictions. Mandatory insurance, on the other hand, would legally require the purchase of insurance policies that force citizens to give financial support to treatments that violate their convictions.

Encouragingly, several states have passed laws "exempting health care sharing ministries from the insurance code, making it [Florida] the eleventh state to do so", according to AHCSM's website. This may be a significant crack in the seeming inevitability of socialized medicine. If these organizations can be exempted, why not all similar ones...and all individuals.

That is exactly what AHCSM demands. The aforementioned policy statement demands:

THE SOLUTION: Do not mandate the purchase of health insurance. Instead, give increased liberty to all consumers and allow them to control their health care dollars. In HCSMs this approach has resulted in greater individual control of health care spending and improved quality of care... (Emphasis added.)

The AHCSM seems to understand the deeper significance of its fight for its own members' rights. No one's rights are safe unless everyone's rights are secured. By fighting for its own rights, it is fighting for everyone's rights...and vice versa.

The only way to stop the "Universal Health Care" juggernaut is to fight on the moral ground of individual rights.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Learning Experience", or Anti-Americanism?

Western culture has been under attack for about 200 years, or from shortly after America’s founding. That attack is in large part rooted in collectivism, the antipode of the principle of individualism that forms the foundation of the Enlightenment ideas that gave rise to our nation. Collectivism holds that the group…any group, whether society, the race, the nation, the family…is the standard of value, to which its individual members are merely subordinate. Individualism holds that each person is an autonomous entity, possessing the power of reason and volition, as well as the power to determine the course of his own life and, thus, is the ultimate standard of value.

Peter Schwartz, in his essay Multicultural Nihilism, describes one such threat:

“The characteristics by which they (multiculturalists) group people-e.g., race, language, ancestry-are ones that can be important only to the crudest, most primitive, tribal mentality. To any rational individual, these characteristics are insignificant-which, again, is exactly why they are selected.

The multiculturalist designates the unchosen as the core of your identity. Concomitantly, he belittles that which actually shapes your character and values: the volitional-which means, fundamentally: your faculty of thinking. Individual thought is a myth… Your ideas are simply part of your unchosen ethnic makeup.” Return of the Primitive(, page 256-257)

Keep the above in mind, when you read this article by Ana M. Alaya of the Star-Ledger. Commenting on a supposedly uplifting fact, she writes;

“With no racial group claiming a majority, Rutgers-Newark once again has been dubbed by U.S. News & World Report as the most diverse campus in the country.”

An institution of higher learning is supposed to be preparing young men and women for a productive career, which means to become self-sufficient and independent. Why, then, is it important at all whether or not the particular characteristics which one shares with a certain number of others, but which one has no control over, places him in a group that cannot “claim a majority”? No answer is given.

Now don’t get me wrong. Diversity, in regards to such things as foods, recreation and even dress, can be a rewarding thing. My wife and I enjoy a variety of ethnic foods. But what is one to make of the following?

“When an Indian student brought her new husband to Sherri-Ann Butterfield's sociology class at Rutgers-Newark, their arranged marriage became the lesson of the day.

‘It was a powerful moment,’ Butterfield said -- the kind of ‘unscripted’ moment she hopes other faculty members will embrace on a campus where the students come from 81 countries and those born in the United States are largely from minority and immigrant households.”

We are not to question the practice of parents imposing on children their choice with regards to so fundamentally important a decision as the choice of a spouse…a decision that has life-long significance. We are not to proudly uphold Western culture for casting off this hideous, primitive custom. According to multiculturalism, that would be “intolerant”. The values of one culture are just as good as the next. What multiculturalism attacks is value and moral judgements, as such. Yet, making judgements as to right and wrong is a fundamental requirement of man’s life. Without judgements as to the value of specific cultural practices, no advancement in the human condition would ever have been possible.

Yet multiculturalism itself is a judgement…on Western Culture. What is the great achievement represented by Western Culture…and, specifically, the United States of America? The primacy of the individual. By elevating group identity into primary significance, multiculturalism denies that principle and, thus, Western Culture and, consequently, America. It establishes primitive tribalism (collectivism)…specifically, racism…as the supreme standard of value. Far from being all-inclusive, multiculturalism…or “diversity”…is a declaration that all cultures are to be tolerated…except American culture. That is because America, and Western Civilization, represents the fundamental negation of precisely that which the multiculturalists are seeking to establish…the primacy of the tribe. The multicultural attack on America is just another manifestation of the age-old battle between individualism and collectivism.

America represents individualism. Multiculturalism represents collectivism. The two are mutually exclusive. Multiculturalism is the repudiation of America.

Undoubtedly, many Rutgers personnel, and students, miss the sinister purpose behind multiculturalism. This may be both good and bad. Many of the students may enjoy the camaraderie of meeting people with interesting new customs and heritages, and see it as an educational experience. But the insidious message is there, just under the surface. Don’t judge people as individuals, but by insignificant similarities attributed to the group…the culture…to which he “belongs”. Don’t make value or moral distinctions between different cultural groups. Forcing a marriage on one’s children is just as valid as preparing one’s child to make his own informed choice in marriage based upon his own values.

Rutgers itself seems to be confused. Chancellor Steven Diner said, "This is an extraordinary learning tool if faculty know how to use it”. How a teacher seeking to educate his students…a uniquely individual undertaking for the student, since no one can do the thinking for him…within the context of a tribal premise makes it understandable that the teachers wouldn’t “know how to use it”.

Sociology teacher Sherri-Ann Butterfield also wonders where to go from here. "But we haven't figured out, once we get diverse, what to do. How do you go from a representational diversity to a transformational diversity?" That a question like that could even be asked by a professor on an American college campus demonstrates the corruptive nature of multicultural ideology. The proper question to ask is: Why is racial “diversity” desirable to begin with?

The results of Rutger’s diversity goals seem to be having the logical effect on campus.

“Jonathan Blandino, a junior who heads a student Hispanic organization, still sees a problem on campus: black students hanging out with black students, Latinos with Latinos, Asians with Asians, and so on.

‘To be honest, as diverse as it is, it is segregated,’ Blandino said. ‘Everyone sticks to their groups.’ ”

What would one expect, after extolling the virtues of group identity? The implied premise of multicultural diversity is that reason, volition, value judgements, ideas, intellectual independence…all attributes of the individual mind…are irrelevant. What’s left are all of the traits that one has no control over or that are essentially irrelevant to individual character…skin color, national origin, language, the cultural practices of past generations. Once you’ve convinced people that their own minds are second to the collective, is it any wonder that they will gravitate toward the safety of the group?

Only Western culture offers the antidote to the “problem” Mr. Blandino cites. Western culture’s focus on the individual as the unit of value casts off all of the historical baggage of tribalism and racism. The belief in each person as a unique entity possessing volition, the capacity for reason, and a self-made soul runs completely contrary to the goals of the multiculturalists.

Opposition to multiculturalism should not be confused with xenophobia, the fear of “foreigners” or “strange others” that feeds the anti-immigrant fervor that penetrates part of American culture. Both xenophobia and multiculturalism are based upon the same collectivist premise. The multiculturalists see themselves as anti-xenophobes, but, in actuality, the only answer to both is Western Culture’s core Enlightenment values of individualism. Multiculturalism and xenophobia are two sides of the same collectivist coin.

It’s a shame that young people have to put up with such intellectual garbage as multiculturalism in order to attain the higher educational skills necessary to their future. The best advice to give is to just “grin and bear it”, get the most out of college while discarding this anti-American nonsense, and always remember that each person one meets is an individual first and always. And, above all, never never never fail to pass moral judgement on ideas that one encounters. All cultures are not equal, and neither are all people, morally speaking. People possess volition and the capacity for reason, and should be held accountable for the ideas they accept, good or bad. Better ideas and, thus, a better world, cannot triumph in a climate of moral agnosticism.

And neither can America.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Problem of the "Unemployed and Uninsured"

What is the answer to the problem of people who lose their jobs simultaneously losing their health insurance? According to Marie Cocco;

“Only a single, government-financed system can eliminate the administrative waste, unfairness and economic burden of our current health insurance scheme.”

I posted the following sharp rebuttle to her article.

I must have sent shudders down Ms. Cocco’s spine, who apparently can’t imagine people actually taking personal responsibility for their own lives.

There is no word about people losing their homeowners insurance due to loss of a job. Or life insurance. Or car insurance. I wonder why.

The answer to the problem Ms. Cocco frets about is hidden in plain sight. Our absurd and unjust government-imposed third-party-payer system of health insurance should be abolished. There are multiple causes for the current healthcare crisis...all of them due to massive government interference in our semi-socialized hodgepodge. (Advances in medical treatment and living longer are only a "problem" in the mind of a bean-counting bureaucrat in a government-controlled system.)

But in regards to this one piece of the crisis, the solution begins with shifting all tax preferences to the individual through some version of HSAs. (These preferences include payroll, not just income, taxes). The money spent by third-party-payers (business, labor unions, etc.) would simply be deposited into the worker's HSA every year. The employee could then buy the policy best suited to his and his family's own needs, values, and budget, and keep the balance for out-of-pocket expenses, savings, or other health-related purposes. Or he could still participate in a group plan...but that would be his choice. Those currently without employer-paid insurance could, of course, still direct a portion of their earnings into an HSA. The insurance being his, rather than some third party spending his earnings (employer-paid insurance is purchased with the employee's money, since that is part of his compensation package), there would be no automatic loss of benefits due to job change or loss. Just this one simple reform would be a tremendous relief to all employees and their families, who would have enough to deal with due to loss of a job. It gives them the ability to plan long range in regards to their health needs, and likely would encourage more employers to contribute to HSAs.

I'm always amazed at how breezily and flippantly people such as Ms. Cocco can suggest totalitarian control of so vital an industry as medicine. No need to be concerned with the individual rights...of doctors and other healthcare professionals...or the producers of life-enhancing drugs and other medical products...or of any citizen who may not want to be forced into a government-run system. Simply impose a healthcare dictatorship at gunpoint...i.e., by legislative force. No muss, no fuss, and no "administrative costs".

The choice we face in healthcare is either rewarding the cause of the crisis, the government, with total control...or turning to a free market, which is based on the rights of the individual. Ending the current third-party-payer system is just one part of the solution. A massive rollback of government controls is vital here. Protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and property, which includes strong anti-fraud laws and enforcement of contracts, is the only proper role for government.

The choice we face is either a free market or a slave "market".

Friday, December 12, 2008

Others' Commentary 2- Ammunition for Fighting Socialzed Medicine

Following are a pair of op-eds by two well-informed activists for healthcare freedom in America.

Asking for trouble in health care

November 24, 2008 - 5:38 PM

In the 1990s, politicians wanted to make home ownership as universal as possible. They used laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act to force banks to make unsustainable loans to millions of people. They also expanded quasi-government agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to guarantee these loans.

This scheme could last only a few years. In 2008, the housing bubble finally burst and economic reality caught up with the politicians. American taxpayers were stuck with the tab for these "toxic" mortgages. The result was the Wall Street Bailout of 2008 and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In 2008, politicians want to guarantee "universal health care" with new laws and new government programs. President-elect Barack Obama wants to require health insurers to sell policies whether or not those policies are economically sustainable (for instance by requiring them to issue policies regardless of pre-existing conditions). He has also proposed creating a massive new "National Health Insurance Exchange" to help ensure "universal coverage."

But no politician can evade the laws of economic reality. Massachusetts' program of "universal coverage" requires hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money a year to stay afloat, paid for by the taxpayers of the other 49 states. If the U.S .attempted this at a national level, there would be no one to bail us out.

When Obama's proposed national system inevitably collapses under the weight of market inefficiency and bureaucratic overhead, this will merely pave the way to fully socialized single-payer health care. Health care spending now comprises one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Forcing taxpayers to pay for everyone's medical expenses would make the $700 billion Wall Street bailout look like pocket change in comparison.

Even worse, under nationalized health care the government will eventually have to ration medical services to control costs. This is already commonplace in other countries. A Canadian woman who feels a lump in her breast oftens wait months before she receives the surgery and chemotherapy she needs. In contrast, an American woman can get the treatment she needs within days.

According to The Telegraph, Great Britain's National Health Service paid bonuses to primary care physicians who reduced the numbers of referrals to hospital specialists - thus forcing those doctors to choose between their oaths to their patients or the government which pays their salaries. Whenever government attempts to guarantee a "right" to health care, it must also control it. Bureaucrats then decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients.

The fundamental problem with "universal health care" is the mistaken premise that health care is a "right." Rights are freedoms of actions (such as the right to free speech), not automatic claims on goods and services that must be produced by others.

Individuals are legitimately entitled to health care that they purchase with their own money, are promised by prior contractual agreements, or are given to them via voluntary charity.

Attempting to guarantee an alleged "right" to health care must necessarily violate someone's actual rights - the rights of those compelled to pay for it. The ultimate victims will again be the taxpayers, just as they were the ultimate victims of the Wall Street bailout.

Instead of universal health care, we need free market reforms that reduce costs, reward individual responsiblity, and respect individual rights. Some examples include eliminating mandatory insurance benefits, repealing laws that forbid purchasing health insurance across state lines, and allowing individuals to use Health Savings Accounts for routine expenses and to purchase low cost, catastrophic-only insurance for major expenses. Such reforms could lower costs up to 50 percent, making health insurance available to millions who cannot currently afford it.

We can't go back in time and avoid the Wall Street Bailout of 2008. But we can still make the right decision with respect to health care. We must reject calls for "universal health care" or else we'll be faced with a massive "Health Care Bailout of 2018." The events of the past few months have taught us some important lessons about economic reality. The only question is whether we're willing to learn from them.


Hsieh, of Sedalia, is the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Freedom from the FDA

By Richard E. Ralston
November 28, 2008

It took the Food and Drug Administration more than a century to grow into a massive, expensive, wasteful, inflexible, ineffective, distant and indifferent bureaucracy. It now violates a founding principle of the practice of medicine: "First, do no harm."

The FDA does a lot of harm, every day. Why do we allow that?

The FDA has kept some unsafe or ineffective drugs off the market (although a consortium of independent research organizations could have done the same thing). But at what cost? We can summarize in ten ways how the FDA threatens or does real harm to our health:

1. The FDA adds billions to the development cost and price of new drugs.
2. The FDA delays the availability of new drugs for years.
3. The FDA prohibits the use of new drugs that treat conditions for which other drugs are available, regardless of how much better they might work for some patients.
4. The FDA withholds new drugs—even those that passed initial safety tests—from terminally ill patients, in the name of preserving safety. When one of these patients wins access to the drugs by going to court, the FDA, apparently in a relentless effort to protect the health of the dead, appeals the ruling until the patient dies, at which time the appeal is of course dismissed.
5. The FDA and Congress allow the drug approval process to be politicized to protect the interests of firms with political pull or to serve the anti-corporate political agenda of those who would rather see Americans die than allow any investors or businesses to make money developing new medications.
6. The FDA suppresses off-label use of drugs with proven ability to treat other conditions and restricts the circulation of information about such successful off-label use of drugs that have already been approved as safe.
7. The FDA actively seeks to extend the authority it so ineptly applies to drugs—and for which it asserts to have insufficient staff—to controlling all vitamins and food supplements. Whenever the reach of the FDA exceeds its grasp, it always tries to extend its reach.
8. The FDA constitutes a roadblock to new developments in anti-aging drugs by refusing to consider any science that would extend healthy lifespans—because "aging is not a disease."
9. The FDA states that it lacks the resources to ensure human drug safety but requests more resources to review veterinary medicine.
10. The FDA now publishes lists of drugs it approved but the safety of which it questions—leaving physicians in the lurch and creating a potential jackpot for litigation.

The FDA adds billions of dollars to the cost of developing new drugs and delays their use for years. Yet it is so obsessed with predicting exactly how each drug will perform for any patient—with any condition, in any dosage, for any length of time and in any combination with any other drug or combination of drugs in any dosage—that it often loses sight of safety. So a few years ago the FDA proposed the creation of a new "Drug Safety Board" to provide for drug safety. One would have thought that was the purpose of the whole agency.

That hypocrisy is consistent with the history of the agency. Every failure to fulfill its purpose is met with a review or a study by another government-related organization hired by the FDA to make recommendations. The recommendations are always the same: more staff, more budget, more authority, more buildings, more office furniture and more regulations.

If we want the tremendous progress in the development of medications in recent years to continue, we must act to eliminate the awesome ability of the FDA to destroy that progress. The first steps in reform should be to direct the FDA to focus entirely on safety and allow physicians and their patients to determine efficacy. Research must be encouraged, not restricted, and information on that research must be open to all.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

D.C. Schools-continued

Part 2

In his article, Leonard Pitts describes the educational establishment as an “alternate universe”. Although he stops well short of making the obvious conclusion, one can nonetheless sense his deep frustration and incredulity with the status quo. Given Mr. Pitts’ liberal leanings, it’s doubtful he would ever endorse a radical restructuring of American education, preferring instead to work within the existing system to bring about incremental change. But radical ideas are exactly what is needed.

So I want to expound on the points raised by clarapurdy (discussed in my last post), as the choice between a government-run school system and a free market requires a firm understanding of just what a free market is…and isn’t. This discussion is by no means exhaustive, but rather is a part of my continuing efforts on behalf of freedom in education.

Clarapurdy’s slap at competitive advertising misses the point (11/18/2008 01:07:12 AM). The point is that educators…from for-profits to non-profits to private tutors or homeschool teachers…can appeal to parents in any fashion they choose, and parents can make their choices based upon their own values and judgements. If no school offers exactly what they want, they can either settle on the best available, or seek alternatives…including starting their own school or homeschooling.

There is no “we” or “they” in the market. That collectivist fallacy fails to take into account the fact that every individual mind represents potential ideas and thus competition, if he is free to act upon his thoughts and chooses to do so. There are no inhibiting factors such as the current entrenched monopolistic political education establishment. The solution to any and all educational needs can freely emerge from any mind free and willing to act…especially including the minds of the parents.

Take, for example, the question that I addressed in one of my comments regarding special needs children. To supplement my answer for clarification, I would use an analogy based upon personal experience. My daughter, Susan, had problems that prevented her from conceiving. Her problems were so severe that she and my son-in-law had trouble finding a fertility clinic that would accept her for IVF (invetro fertilization), because of the high probability of failure. Susan faced the prospect of not finding the help she needed. But guess what? She did find a clinic…one that specializes in low probability in-vitros. She now has two little girls. Of course, if no one chose to address this particular segment of the market, would it be just and moral to force someone else to provide the service that no one chose to offer voluntarily, under the fallacious guise of “market failure”? Not in a free and just society. But Susan had a “special need”, in regards to procreation, and someone was there to meet that market demand. The same would undoubtedly be true in regards to the “special needs” segment of a free education market.

This leads to my next point. Clarapurdy expresses the concern that only “smart rich kids” will get an education because no school will take anyone else. But this line of thinking is self-contradictory and is refuted by the whole history of capitalism. Can only the rich get access to a car, computer, house, television, electricity, food, air conditioning, or any number of the thousands of products and services available in the market? The free market doesn’t guarantee that everyone will be able to afford every available product or service. What it does guarantee is that everyone is free to think, produce and trade, which has always resulted in products and services spreading wider and farther down the income scale. That is how the middle class was created. But cause and effect cannot be reversed. The “free” in free market is the fundamental requirement for widespread prosperity. It is absurd to think that the needs of tens of millions of children who are not at the upper end of the scale in terms of intelligence or wealth…a vast market…would go unmet, in a free market. One would have to think that the parents of those children would simply give up on them.

She also worries the schools will only be concerned with keeping test scores up, in order to attract more business, which leads them to seek only the “highest IQs”. Again, she misses the point entirely. And here is where one must break outside of the mental box created by the accepted wisdom that public schools are the prism through which any discussion of reform must be viewed. One cannot look at the miniscule private school segment operating today around the periphery of the public school behemoth and extrapolate from that the way a free market would work. Those schools do not represent a free market…even a limited one. A limited free market is, in fact, a contradiction in terms. The only kind of private schools that can, in fact, exist under the cloud of the government monopoly are facilities specializing in some isolated sector, such as religion or high-end schools catering to the rich. That is because the government has monopolized all of the rest.

Success in any business depends upon what you are trying to achieve. Some schools may specialize in the gifted, some in the athletically or musically inclined, some in special needs or the autistic, some in multiple categories. In each market segment, the rules of competition remain the same. Those who provide the best education at the best price are most likely to thrive. She wants to call this “segregation”. But segregation is only possible through governmental coercion. Her alleged “segregation” is actually the result of free people living and acting according to their own rational judgement, in seeking to perform a market service or in seeking the best for one’s children. Segregation, in fact, cannot exist in a free market…if by segregation one means forced separation. It must be remembered that the purpose of education is to prepare the child for a self-sustaining, independent adulthood, by developing his mental capabilities to the fullest possible. It is not the proper purpose of education to establish a “diverse” student body as a primary goal, apart from that which would occur naturally (non-coercively) through the voluntary choices of parents acting on their own judgement about what is best for their child. The fact that some will act irrationally is no excuse for violating the rights of all.

And here we come to the altruist-egalitarian essence of clarapurdy’s whole argument. Notice that the parents with normal (non-special needs), or gifted children…or who are financially successful…are to be denied their rights to choose the best educational paths for their children because some children have special needs, or are poor. The number of children fitting the categories that clarapurdy agonizes over are a very small percentage. Education need not be a major expense, at least not as compared to the bloated expense of the public schools. Freed from the taxes that support today’s government-run school monopoly, almost all parents would be able to afford to give their children a good education. To say otherwise is absurd, since taxpaying parents are already supporting the existing school systems. The lower cost and higher quality made possible in a free education market would leave most parents and their children better off.

But clarapurdy and the public school apologists, in true egalitarian fashion, would sacrifice most parents and their children on the alter of the “neediest”. This is what’s so immoral about public education. Someone must always be sacrificed to someone else’s agenda…and it’s usually the best and brightest who are sacrificed. Just look at No Child Left Behind. In a free market, no one’s interests are sacrificed, because no one has the state’s coercive power at their disposal. Those concerned about the problems of the small minority that have special needs or are too poor to afford a proper education for their children are free to address that market segment. What is forbidden in a free society is for them to impose the costs of their efforts on others against their voluntary judgement. Ultimately, it must be remembered that all children are the responsibility of the parents who brought them into the world.

A free market won’t “give every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic statis etc.”? Well, they all go to school now…and look at the results. Public school apologists want to herd the children into government-run schools, where people like Ms. Rhee need to fight an uphill battle just to make some small common sense reforms to improve the disastrous conditions in those D.C. schools. Imagine the entrepreneurial Ms. Rhee as the owner or administrator of a string of private, for-profit schools. She could simply implement the reforms necessary to improve the quality of her schools, and then the parents can vote with their wallets...and their rational judgements.

It can’t be stated enough. The bogus “opportunity for every child” argument is a thin cover for the massive violation of individual rights engendered by a coercive political monopoly that has no place in a free society. Only a free market gives “every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socio-economic status etc.” …and enables him the opportunity to get the best education most suited to his needs. That’s because his parents are free to choose what’s best for him, which is ultimately their solemn responsibility, and only theirs. Freedom offers opportunity...the right to take action based upon one's own rational judgement...and that’s all. The rest is up to the free individuals that constitute society. A government that attempts to guarantee to all a man-made service such as education is a dictatorship…which precisely describes, despite its superficial appearance and widespread popular support, today’s government-run public education monopoly.

What the debate between government-run public education and a free market comes down to is this. Should force be the determining factor steering the course of education for the young, or should it be rational, voluntary persuasion and free judgement? I’ll conclude with a challenge to those ferociously defending their coercive political stranglehold on American education. Quoting Isabel Paterson from The God of the Machine (Caxton Printers, LTD, 1964, page 274);

“The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogical profession for any suggestion that they be dislodged from their dictatorial position… Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher [or apologist for the entrenched establishment] moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you or pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Problem With D.C. Schools...and the Solution


In an article entitled, Improving D.C. Schools is a Test for All of Us, Leonard Pitts describes the efforts by Michelle Rhee, who is trying…maybe I should say struggling…to bring some reforms to the public schools of the nation’s capitol;

“You might not know the name yet, but I'm betting you soon will. She is the Washington, D.C., schools chief who has drawn national attention for an audacious attempt to remake some of the nation's worst schools.

“Among the changes she has instituted, or is attempting to institute, is a cash reward for students who meet certain benchmarks of performance and attendance. She also wants to make it easier to fire teachers who do not perform; under her plan, educators would give up tenure protections for a merit plan that would allow the best of them -- i.e., those whose students actually learn something -- to earn upwards of $100,000 a year.

“Many educators told me that high on their wish list would be the ability to reward good teachers and fire bad ones.”

Mr. Pitts reels off the awful statistics documenting the utter failure of the D.C. schools to educate the children, stating that those results are “hardly unique” to the nation’s capitol.

Mr. Pitts goes on to describe how the teachers’ union “has fought Rhee with bitter tenacity, seeking to block her at every step.” He wonders if that union “exists in some alternate universe where everyone is rewarded equally regardless of the quality of their work.”

The teachers’ union, of course, is no ordinary union. It is indeed at the core of an “alternate universe”… a dictatorial political monopoly…the government-run public school system. It is a union maintained by the physical power of the state. Below are some comments I left in response to that article plus another correspondent who took me to task for advocating the abolition of the public schools, and the institution of a free education market. Following that in my next post will be some additional comments.


I am 60 years old, and the same old laments about the poor quality of public education keep surfacing decade after decade, followed by another official with another plan. Not to take anything away from the laudable efforts of Ms. Rhee, but it’s the suffocating educational establishment itself that is the problem here.

The brutally honest fact is that the “experiment” that has failed is government-run schooling itself. Phasing out and ending public education, and allowing a fully privatized, competitive free market to emerge is the solution. The so-called “competitive cut throat environment” of business is exactly what is needed in education, to weed out the inferior teachers, schools, educational methods and philosophies.

A free market would restore the rights of all parents, not just “parents of means”, to seek out the best education for their children, and liberate educators to compete for their business based on quality and price, just as in the “cut-throat” business world.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 06:15:08 PM:
ZEMACK...Competition does not promote the teamwork that is needed in public service forums such as law enforcement, firefighting, education, and the military. Can you imagine competitive law enforcement? Jones:"Any leads on that murder case?"Smith:"Yep, but I'm not telling you anything, I need to solve this case to get that big raise." Some jobs are not meant for competition.


Clarapurdy, you are comparing apples to oranges here. The proper role of government is to protect individual rights, which is what the police force and military are for. They represent the retaliatory use of force, to protect us against domestic criminals and foreign enemies.

Public education inverts this role of government. Here, the government violates the rights of people by forcing them to pay for schools that they may not want for their children, to pay for other peoples’ children, or to send their children to a school chosen by a government bureaucrat based not on the child’s needs or parents’ choice, but on where the parents live. And it imposes on educators the text books, curriculum, and so forth.

“Teamwork” is fine, as far as it goes. But we don’t need a government school monopoly for that. What we really need, though, are the new ideas of entrepreneurial, independent thinking individuals. That is what flourishes in a free market.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 06:30:25 PM:
If you "privatize education" who is going to want the poverty and "special needs" children? Remember, this is a competition. The school with the highest test scores gets the most students. The more students you have, the more money you make. Where do the children who have learning disabilities go? Shall we put them in their own schools? Segragate kids according to their IQ's? Where do you think the best teachers are going to be, if they get paid according to how well their students do? Are they going to be with the students who need them most, where the test scores are the lowest? Where would you want to teach? You'd want to teach the kids with the highest IQs.


“If you ‘privatize education’ who is going to want the poverty and ‘special needs’ children?”

The answer is, anyone who wants them. A free market means parents and educators are free to act on their own best judgement, and that means “special needs” parents and teachers as well. They are free to seek solutions that are best for their own children and students…just like everyone else.

But the point is, people need to be liberated from the school monopoly shackles to pursue what’s best for all of the children…at all income and intelligence levels…and be free to solve any problems that may arise.

It must be remembered that schooling can take many forms, and the assembly line method of public education will likely come to an end. As many methods of education as there are childrens’ needs would flourish, as people act freely on new ideas.

There is no “we”. There are only individuals thinking and exercising their rights to pursue their educational goals, whatever they may be.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 07:34:35 PM:
Zemack...Individual rights are why the public schools were started. To give every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic statis etc. The government forces you to pay for schools...If school is not paid for by the government, who is going to pay for it? If students can't afford school then what? Put them out on the street, where they end up in jail and we pay for them anyway? Ofcourse private schools have good results. They aren't under any obligation to take children who are poor, they kick out the kids who don't "make the grade",they send special needs kids to the public schools, they can expell discipline problems, in other words their full of smart rich kids. Take your voucher and your kid with autism to a private school. They'll tell you "Sorry, we don't have the necessary specialists or educational tools to help your child. Your son would be better served in the public school system where they are set up for a child with his needs."


“If school is not paid for by the government, who is going to pay for it?”

Who do you think pays for schools now? We do, as you say, by force. Force is the negation of individual rights. Rights are a sanction of freedom of action, such as freedom of speech, religious practice, association, etc., coupled with the single obligation to refrain from violating the rights of others. In other words, when government forces you to pay for its schools, and forces you to send your children there via compulsory attendance laws, it is violating your (and your children’s) rights…not protecting them, as it should.

Freed from paying coercive school taxes, each of us can then meet our education expenses as we see fit, with our own money. We can even contribute to charitable scholarship funds to help out poorer parents.

The crucial purpose of education is to prepare the child for independent, self-reliant adulthood. Public schools have long failed most children at that.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/18/2008 01:07:12 AM:
Zemack-A "free market" school system just like the business world...what do you get? Agents for the "good" teachers to negotiate terms and conditions of contracts/salaries? "My client Mr. Jenson is demanding 75,000 per year, choice of top students, and room 13 it's closest to the lounge." How about Brokers for the smart kids? " Little Johnny wants a full scholarship, why should he pay you, his test scores help your school keep it's fine reputation." Marketing " Our school was built entirely from green materials. Students are served the very best in organic vegan cuisine." Advertising " Wesley Academy is the best. We only accept children of the highest quality." Smear campaigning." Wesley Academy says it only accepts high quality children, but it is also full of low quality cockroaches. Come to Eastridge preperatory we are free of low acheivers and vermin."

To be continued…