Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Moral Factor Enters the 2012 Campaign

A recent ad put out by a Christian Left group exposes the ethical rift between Ayn Rand and Jesus – probably the worst kept secret ever. The point of this ad is to target Christian conservatives and Republicans who embrace Ayn Rand on some level. The ad, entitled "Christians Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus", has triggered a (possibly orchestrated) flurry of related articles and initiatives apparently intended to draw ethics (and religion) into the 2012 political campaign. Below the ad there is a list of the articles – quite an extensive one, in fact, and continuing to grow.

This tells me two things. First, Ayn Rand’s ideas have reached a level of cultural penetration that the Left now believes can no longer be ignored. In other words, the collectivists are getting nervous. They find themselves in unfamiliar territory: They must defend their ethical underpinnings against a potent and growing challenge. Second, the Left apparently believes Judeo-Christian ethics, the dominant moral code of the last two thousand years and the ethical foundation of socialism, can be a political winner against the Objectivist ethics. (This is not to imply that Jesus would approve of socialism. But there is no way around the fact that socialism is the political implementation of the doctrine that “We are all our brother’s keepers”.) The strategy: Tie Ayn Rand to the GOP, disenfranchise the Christian Right, win the election.

Of course, as is typically the case among Rand’s critics, her actual ethics are ignored, and a false straw man is foisted in its place. This is obvious both in the ad and in the related articles. That straw man consists essentially of equating Rand’s egoistic moral theories with the conventional definition of selfishness, by implication. This is vital to their strategy, because, properly understood and explained, one would come to realize that most Americans – Christians included – live their personal, private lives more in tune with the Objectivist ethics than Judeo-Christian ethics. In other words, Americans are by and large rights-respecting rationally selfish individualists at heart, even though few recognize it as of particularly moral significance. This is the potent secret weapon in the Objectivist arsenal.

So, the Left will pit altruism against selfishness and count on people’s superficial understanding of the two to carry the day, and to one more electoral victory. But they are between a rock and a hard place, and they seem to know it. Otherwise, why run this ad at all? Why draw attention to Ayn Rand at all? Altruism is the dominant morality, is it not? It has always been a winning political strategy to tie expanded government to altruistic motives. And Rand’s ideas are the antipode, right? The Rand/Jesus flap can only help raise Rand’s profile, so why help her? The answer can only be: Rand is gaining too much momentum to ignore any longer. So, the Left must believe that the less risky course is to draw Ayn Rand into the political fray, and attempt to discredit her.

This is not to say that their strategy will not succeed. If they can peel away the Christian Right from the secular right via the ethical debate, they’ll win in the short term. And this is not to say that Ayn Rand has anywhere near as much influence inside the GOP - especially among the leadership - as the Left would have us believe. There is undoubtedly a large element of preemption involved. As of now, most alleged admirers of Ayn Rand peal off only her economics and her politics, while ignoring the deeper ideas supporting them, including egoism and the supremacy of reason (and the consequent rejection of faith and religion). The Left has long claimed the moral high ground, and the Right has never challenged that moral hegemony. They want to keep it that way. Pro-capitalist, pro-freedom champions burdened by the contradictions of the altruist ethics can’t win against the statists’ unity of collectivism and altruism, as the history of the last century plus has proven.

The Christian Left has a powerful weapon against the Christian Right – they are the consistent side. They understand that altruism – or, more precisely, Judeo/Christian ethics, a somewhat diluted form of it - is incompatible with capitalism: On this, they and Rand thoroughly agree. The Right that upholds both capitalism and altruism is burdened by an irreconcilable, fundamental contradiction. Capitalism is fundamentally about the pursuit of individual self-interest, and - as Rand understood - must be defended on that moral base; something that conservatives both religious and secular have historically been unwilling to do, with devastating results.

It is this contradiction that the Left hopes to exploit. And they already have some allies on the Christian Right who do fully understand the Rand-Jesus rift. Chuck Colson claims to be an opponent of big government – and proceeds to concede the moral high ground to the Left. No matter how sincere their devotion to freedom and capitalism, Christians will forever be at odds with capitalism, the system of individual rights, as long as they stand opposed to its ethical base that Rand identified. Colson’s rant dramatizes that on the deepest level, the future hinges not so much between Left and Right, but between egoism and altruism, which means between reason and faith.

Some on the Left now see this, led by President Obama. In regards to his “virtue of selfishness” campaign remark, I said, “Barack Obama knows who his real enemy is. And it’s not McCain-Palin, the GOP, or the modern conservatives.” I believed, and still do, that Obama is one of the most philosophically astute politicians on the modern American stage. He saw, sooner than most on the Left, the threat posed by the rise of the Ayn Rand Right. He was dead on, as the surge in interest in Ayn Rand since he took office attests. He also saw the political moral gold mine that the Christian Right represented; hence, what I dubbed Obama’s Christian Strategy. He seemed to recognize then what the AVN and others on the Left have just discovered – It’s either/or; either Ayn Rand or Jesus.

So Obama’s Christian Strategy seems set to shift into high gear. They will attempt to split the Right along ethical grounds, and they will have logic on their side. Despite the attention garnered on Ayn Rand during the recent surge of interest in her ideas, conservatives by and large have never been true, philosophical adherents. As Rand has said, the fundamental battle between socialism and capitalism, collectivism and individualism, freedom and tyranny, is a moral one. It is on the moral battleground that the future of America will be won or lost. The penetration of Ayn Rand into what loosely passes for the American Right has been wide but generally shallow. Much has been said about her Atlas Shrugged “predictions” of today’s economic events. Few have any idea how or why she was able to do it.

The how and why is rooted in her understanding of the role of ideas in determining the political/economic direction of a culture. It is these ideas that most of her newfound admirers on the Right can not or will not address, because those ideas are rooted in the clash between altruism and rational self-interest. The Left seems poised to exploit that failing by seeking to hoist the Right and thus by extension the GOP by its own contradictory petard. It will brand the Right’s smaller government agenda, such as it is or will be, as heartless anti-Christian Ayn Rand selfishness. Faced with the choice of upholding the free market’s moral underpinnings or melting like butter in the hot sun, they will probably melt.

Perhaps I am overstating the political significance of the Rand-Jesus campaign. But if the moral factor enters the coming electoral Left/Right clash in a significant way, it will vault the political campaign squarely onto the battlefield upon which Objectivists have always fought. And if the Right is cowed on the moral issue at this critical juncture in American history, the full weight of the fight will fall on Objectivists, the only fully consistent – i.e., philosophical – defenders of capitalism. With numbers way to small, it will be a tough battle indeed.

But, for better or for worse, a major opportunity is at hand; the chance to focus on the most important issue of the day – the moral factor. If the Rand/Jesus gambit takes hold, this could be one of the most defining political campaigns in American History; certainly the most significant in my lifetime. The AVN ad gets it right: “The choice is simple: Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. We must choose one and forsake the other.”

Indeed. Let the debate begin.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A “Regulation-Free Zone for Home-Schooling Families” Comes Under Attack in NJ

Another education battle has erupted in NJ, this time involving homeschooling.

In 2003, a New Jersey child abuse case involving four homeschooled children prompted state Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg to propose a law “requiring other home-schooled children to get an annual physical and pass standardized tests.” Under pressure from homeschooling parents, she withdrew the bill, leaving New Jersey to remain “one of 11 states that are regulation-free zones for home-schooling families [whose children] get no public monitoring from the school system”.

Now, eight years later, another child abuse case – this time involving the death of a child – has prompted renewed calls for homeschooling registration and regulation. Led again by now state Senator Weinberg, politicians are considering new legislation.

What I find abhorrent here is the injustice of what can only be called guilt-by-association. Homeschoolers are specifically targeted, as if the abused children were victims of homeschooling. Before I go on, though, let me state my fundamental position: The responsibility for the education of the children rests with the parents, not the state (or “society”), and as such any parent that so chooses has an unalienable right to opt out of the public school system in order to school his/her child as he/she sees fit, no questions asked. The government’s job is to protect that parent’s right to do so, not chase him/her down for any kind of “public monitoring”.

This does not imply that the state has no role to play in regards to the welfare of minors. For a full discussion of the proper nature of that role, see my essay "Regulating" Business - the Good and the Bad. The principles that apply to the business-government relationship apply also to the issue of child welfare. In this case, the crime of physical child abuse should be treated like any other crime – prosecute the villains. In the absence of any evidence or suspicion of rights violations, the government takes no action.

But punishing the guilty is not what this is all about. There are already ample laws on the books for doing that. It’s really about statists exploiting these crimes against children to expand government controls under the guise of protecting children. What we have here is a microcosm of one of the causes of the expanding regulatory state; punishing the innocent many for the wrongdoing of the few. (A huge example of that; Sarbanes-Oxley, under which, in response to the fraud of a handful of corporate shysters, draconian regulations were foisted on the thousands of public companies that didn’t cook their books.)

The proper way to view the homeschooling issue is: until and unless evidence of an actual crime surfaces, leave them alone! That is how objective law works. In regards to homeschoolers, my Italian analogy from my above-cited essay applies.

But that is not the mindset behind the push to end NJ’s regulation-free zone. Consider:

“We just want to know your child exists,’’ Weinberg said. “How do children disappear from view?’’

“I think it’s a big issue. I absolutely support the state not only requiring children to register, but to track the curriculum and track that the kids are there,’’ [national child welfare expert Judith] Meltzer said. “I understand why parents would choose to home school but not why they object to registering and certifying they have a curriculum that has standards for their children.”

It’s a big issue, all right. Who is “We”? “Disappear from view” – of whom? Apparently not the families, friends, clergy, family doctor, etc. Whose curriculum? Whose standards? And here we come to the core issue, and it’s not about protecting the rights of the child and prosecuting child abusers. After recounting the horrific and heart-wrenching death of an 8-year-old girl, the regulation-supporting NJ Star-Ledger chimes in:

Parents don’t have to notify the state when they choose to home school. They aren’t required to show evidence their instruction is academically equivalent — no curriculum, no textbooks, nothing. They don’t even have to be high school graduates. And their kids don’t have to take state tests or earn high school diplomas.

As my daughter pointed out, only two cases of abuse in eight years and thousands of those whom the Star-Ledger acknowledges are “dedicated parents” successfully producing well-educated children must submit to intrusive bureaucratic interference. But as I said, it’s not about catching abusive parents, who exist also among public school children. As the Ledger makes crystal clear, the goal is expanding the government’s grip on education. (It’s interesting, in this context, that no mention is made of the percentage of abused homeschooled children vs. abused public school children. If statistical proof showed a higher level of abuse in the homeschool community, you could bet statists would be shouting the news from the rooftops.)

Supporters of homeschool legislation tell us they’re only after some reasonable middle ground. “A physical or basic skills test doesn’t interfere with the right to home school. And it could save lives”, the Ledger tells us. And Robert Kunzman of the Indiana University School of Education “supports requiring home-schooled children to be registered with the state and to undergo periodic ‘basic skills’ testing to measure literacy and simple math proficiency.” Many homeschooling parents in states that have such laws may say that it’s not all that bad or intrusive, and perhaps it’s no big deal or at least bearable for many of them.

But that’s not the point, and homeschooling activists who believe there could be some middle ground between freedom and government controls are falling into the same statist trap that has given us the cancerous growth of the ever-expanding regulatory state. When Kunzman suggests “Home-school supporters could compromise a little more and not lose the autonomy they cherish”, he is setting a dangerous trap. There is no compromising “just a little”. Once you accept the principle that government officials may determine standards relating to curriculum, textbooks, or the education level of the parents; impose state-approved standardized tests; even determine how much bible instruction or TV watching is appropriate – the “autonomy they cherish” is what is compromised and, sooner or later, on its way out.

Homeschool advocates have it right. “This is not a home-education issue; this is a problem that is squarely with DYFS [Division of Youth and Family Services],” said Carolee Adams, president of Eagle Forum of New Jersey: i.e., It’s a law enforcement problem. Eight years ago, homeschooling parents fought and defeated the last attempted statist attack on their fundamental rights as parents. "You would have thought I had suggested the end of the world as we know it,’’ Weinberg said. They should fight just as hard this time around. They should fight against the injustice of being held accountable for crimes for which they had nothing to do with; against being used as tools for the alleged purpose of “saving lives” or serving “society’s right to know children are protected in the rare cases of abuse and neglect”; against the notion that homeschoolers are guilty until proven innocent.

A government should and already does have the legal tools necessary to deal with legitimate cases of physical child abuse and parental neglect, when and where it can be objectively proven to exist. For example, it can remove the child from the home. But government’s proper role here involves physical – and only physical – abuse. It has no business in a free society to interfere in the field of education … i.e., the field of ideas.

Though some supporters of this potential new legislation may innocently believe that it is about protecting children, nothing can be further from the truth. It’s about expanding government education control over one of the few bastions of semi-freedom existing in that field.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some Recent Activism

I've left comments under the following three articles.

A Refreshing Defense of Individualism by CATO's Edward H. Crane triggered some brief supportive comments from me.

Tax Credits and the Separation Issue by Linda Stamato and Sanford M. Jaffe deals with a recent Supreme Court decision.

And in Wolves, Vultures, Consumers - and New Debit Card Regulations, Chuck Jaffe @ MarketWatch attacks merchants and banks for fighting in Congress over the new regulations - a fight that would not and should not have to take place except for the intrusive regulations themselves.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Title 2: Government vs. Private Action

Inspired by a recent correspondence on this blog, I'll return to a subject that I began to address in 2010; Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A further reason to return to this subject is the entrance into the 2012 GOP presidential primary race of Ron Paul, father of Kentucky's US Senator Randal Paul. Senator Paul, you may recall, set off a firestorm with his opposition to Title II, which opens with:

SEC. 201. (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

The issue of Title II is likely to be raised again once the presidential contest gets going in earnest. The Left will undoubtedly attempt to cash in with a smear campaign. If so, bring it on. As I’ve said, it is an issue best engaged in at a later time. But it is an issue that must be engaged in by the Right – if by “Right” one means laissez-faire – sooner or later.

This post will center around a comment made relating to a video of an O'Reilly Factor segment, O'Reilly takes apart Stossel's Civil Rights Act comments.
Christopher Howard posted:

“I notice how Stossel continued to pretend that Jim Crow racism was only about the government and not about corporate and private entities (Woolworths, bus companies, restaurants), as well as by individuals. It wasn't the government who murdered Emmett Till. It was endemic to the very fabric of society, with pillars of the community attending lynchings.”

There is a huge difference between government and private action; i.e., between political and economic power. It is the difference between a gun and an argument. Government is legalized physical force. Jim Crow has no coercive power except when it is enforced by governmental coercion. Private economic power (Woolworths, bus companies, restaurants, to use Howard's examples) relates to the sphere of productive endeavors. Economic power is necessarily very delimited to the individual's (or his company's) affairs, and have no power beyond it. As another correspondent observes, "a business that decides to discriminate would fail, [while] businesses who do not discriminate would be successful. Not only would they have a wider customer base, but they would draw customers who are offended by such discrimination." Government power has unlimited scope, as it can compel any number of private actions to conform to its dictates. A business owner can refuse to serve blacks, but it cannot compel other businesses to do the same, nor forbid the establishment of competing non-discriminatory businesses. Only the power of law - governmental action - can do that.

Without the power of laws, private segregation is not a violation of anyone’s rights. Individual rights, properly understood, stands on the principle of the non-initiation of physical force. The basic right – the right to life – is essentially the right to act according to your own judgement in pursuit of your own self-interest. The only means of violating another’s right to life – the right to freedom of action – is to initiate force. (Force initiation includes indirect coercion, such as fraud and breech of contract, whereby the victim is separated physically from his property under false pretenses – which is basically no different from armed robbery.) Without force, racial discrimination in private establishments of “public accommodation” is simply some ignorant person exercising the same rights as everyone else on his own property, albeit in an abhorrent way. It can certainly be offensive or hurtful. Offensive and hurtful people are, unfortunately, part of the social fabric. The freedom to act does not guarantee rational action, but that you can act free from physical compulsion. As long as all people are free to act, however, irrational people will inevitably be subject to isolation and reduced to harmlessness.

Everyone agrees that the private initiation of force – armed robbery, fraud, murder, breaking and entering, etc. - is wrong, whatever the reason, and should be punishable by law. But there is a gimmick available to enable men to make an end run around the moral law that private citizens must abide – employ the mechanism of government’s legal monopoly on physical force in order to act as criminal, and get away with it – i.e., through legislative law-making powers. Only a government constitutionally constrained by the principle of individual rights can block that end run.

Jim Crow laws empowered private segregaters by legally shielding them from the powerful tool of economic competition, public protest, and social ostracism. Remove governmental enforcement of segregation, and the private segregaters lose their protection and fall like dominoes. No business can thrive or grow or stay large for long by chasing customers or talented potential employees away – especially when people sympathetic to the victims of the store’s policy would also stay away. The few bigots that may remain become pitiful, harmless pariahs of society. But they have as much right to exclude a customer as any customer has to bypass his business. Remove force, and racism becomes an inconsequential absurdity, unable to squelch the forces of enlightenment from flourishing around it.

The only moral way to fight private segregation is through the powerful tools of the First Amendment - boycotts, publicity campaigns, non-violent non-obstructive public protests, and old-fashioned logical persuasion – as well as economic competition. Jackie Robinson and the Dodger organization broke the color barrier without threatening our freedom - i.e., without governmental coercion - and we’re all better off for his heroism. Segregation was soon swept away throughout baseball, even though bigotry lingered in the hearts of many baseball professionals long after the color barrier was broken. That is the way free people fight private injustice. Attacking the rights to hold and live by one’s own ideas, freedom of association and disassociation, and property rights is the road to tyranny. Those rights must be protected for all people, or all lose them.

Now let's take a look at another heroic American. Rosa Parks challenged segregation sanctioned and enforced by law in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. After she refused to heed an order issued by the driver of the bus she was a passenger on, "The bus driver then proceeded to call the police, who subsequently arrested Rosa." Why shouldn't the police be involved in this private dispute? After all, do I not argue that a business owner or his representatives have a right to segregate? Rosa refused to comply with the rules established by the property owner, so the police were abliged to protect the owners' rights by escorting her off of the bus. After all, she was on private property, right? Well, not quite: "It is important to note here that in 1900, the city of Montgomery, Alabama had passed a city ordinance that allowed drivers to segregate their passengers by race. If necessary, they could assign specific seats." It is also important to note that the city of Montgomery had only one bus line - the city-owned one. No other bus lines were permitted. In other words, there was no chance for economic competition by non-segregated lines. It is also important to note that the city-owned monopoly was contractually operated by a private bus company that had already eliminated segregation on its own in response to public pressure (a boycott by blacks and their sympathizers). The Associated Press, via The Montgomery Advertiser, said in reporting on the ensuing court challenge seeking "an injunction to stop the city and state from enforcing ... anti-race mixing laws":

Montgomery City Lines, Inc., a privately owned carrier which operates the city's only bus service, has already abandoned segregation for its part. Its drivers have been ordered to refrain from separating white and Negro passengers.

The City of Montgomery has asked Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones in circuit court for an injunction to compel the bus company to rescind the integration order.

So here we have a private company - whether on principle, economic necessity, or both - taking voluntary action to end an injustice, and the government whose constitutionally mandated job it is to protect its right to do so acting to legally force it to act against its own rational judgement.

Here is proof that public pressure and non-violent, non-rights violating private action can score significant victories. We have further proof of how injustice is essentially powerless against concerted moral action, until and unless it is backed by force, i.e., law. To top it off, we further see here that private cultural trends against segregation and racism drives legal changes, not the other way around. Remember that we are dealing here with the seminal private action that ignited the mid twentieth century civil rights movement - a movement that led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I made these significant points in my opening essay on the subject.

As for the reference to murderers and mobs, it is the government’s job to protect us from them, and prosecute the thugs - not dictate how we live our lives. It's not the government that murders the store clerk in any convenience store robbery, either. But if the government "looks the other way" and allows violent predators to flourish without consequence, then predation will become "endemic to the very fabric of society". A civil society requires objective laws, objectively and equally applied, that protect individual rights of all. That is the answer – the only answer - to injustice.

No, there is no need "to pretend that Jim Crow racism was only about the government and not about corporate and private entities". But neither can you pretend that the seeming power of Jim Crow racism was anything but an extension of government power. In this fundamental respect, Jim Crow racism was "only about the government and not about corporate and private entities". Jim Crow laws applied not only to public facilities, but to the private sector as well. Legally enforced private segregation in transportation, housing and other private businesses abounded.

This is not to say that private parties didn't act to segregate independent of direct government action. It is to say that the overturning of state sanctioned and enforced segregation was all that would have been needed to wipe away any meaningful remnants of racial segregation. Immorality and irrationality cannot win over reason and morality in a fully free society where all rights are equally protected. "Morality ends where a gun begins", and so does reason. Take away the gun, and reason and morality win in the long run.

Never underestimate the power of law to affect private behavior. Jim Crow laws morally empowered those in the private sector who favored segregation, and morally disarmed their opponents. Indeed, in Brown v. Board of Education, the case that overturned the Plessy decision, the US Supreme Court agreed, saying "The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law." I would argue much greater. It's noteworthy that in that case, the court did not overturn private, voluntary segregation. Decision-making in private businesses not directly subject to legally enforced segregation had to be influenced by the legal atmosphere. We saw a similar effect in regards to the financial crisis, where - after decades of adherence to sound market-derived lending standards established home mortgages as one of the safest loans around - political "affordable housing" policies led to quick-buck artists gaining the upper hand within many private mortgage lending firms. It was only after the government explicitly sanctioned lower lending standards and then rigged the system in favor of them that the financial crisis exploded. Prior to that, quick-buck artists were an inconsequential piece of the mortgage loan business. (See my links to this subject under the left sidebar heading "Of Special Interest", and also Thomas Sowell, Housing Boom and Bust, pp 101-121.)

In summary, the crucial distinction between government and private action must be understood. Segregation and bigotry are evils that were empowered by government force. The cultural tide was turning against both for years and decades prior to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is that social pressure that made the passage of the Act possible. Once all vestiges of legalized segregation – force - were removed, that pressure would have finished the job in the private sector without Title 2. As I stated in my post of 8/10/10, “That the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan congressional– which necessarily means popular – support (Republican – 80%, Democrat 64%) is my proof of that.”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What is the "Key" to Job Creation?

"Creating jobs is the key to making long-term deficit reduction achievable and providing the relief working people need. An investment in transit and other infrastructure will create jobs and keep our communities safe and thriving. And we need to lay the foundation for long-term economic growth by investing in clean energy, education and job training."

As tiresome as it is, the repulsive and destructive arguments presented in this article must be countered as often as they are made. In this article by two top AFL-CIO officials, entitled Rep. Ryan's tax plan moves us backward
, labor's leaders propose to perpetuate a trend that is moving us back to pre-American days of Imperial Government.

I've left the following comments:

zemack May 02, 2011 at 8:13PM

What is the source of real jobs?

Jobs are created by the person(s) whose intellectual energy and ambitions exceed his physical capacity to realize them. He then needs to hire one (or more) persons to help him transform his ideas - his intellectual labor - into useful products and services. The more productive his intellectual labor is, the more people are willing to buy (i.e., trade for) his product, meaning the more people he must hire. The only thing that stands in his way is coercive interference – i.e., government regulations, taxes, etc. What is required for the job creators to flourish? A government that protects his rights to think and act upon his own judgement, and his right to his earnings, every bit as strongly as it protects those described as “working families”. The job creator – i.e., the businessman – simply requires laissez-faire, or freedom – along with his employees, customers, and everyone else.

What the alleged representatives of the workers advocate is something entirely different, however. It can be summed up with this analogy: If I were to embark on a string of convenience store stick-ups, then use the loot to put an addition onto my or anyone’s house – to “invest” in the homebuilding industry – I will have been said to have “created” construction jobs. As ridiculous as this sounds, once you cut through the socialist/Orwellian double-speak above, that is exactly what is advocated on a national scale in this article.

In the name of creating jobs, we are presented with a worn-out old scheme to punish free production and trade, transfer still more wealth and power to a bureaucratic/political governmental elite, empower politically-connected special interests, force more and more people into dependence on and therefor slavery to the state – and to make actual, original productive job creation ever more difficult. Socialist governments can’t create jobs, or wealth. Socialist governments forcibly transfer wealth, and that’s it.

I will not defend or criticize the Republican plan. Their track record of reigning in galloping statism is horrific, to put it mildly. What I will say is this: Socialism in all of its manifestations (including Keynesian welfare statism) has proven economically unworkable, and immoral because it violates every individual’s right to manage and live his own life. What’s needed is something the GOP is currently too cowardly to advocate: Phase out and end government’s involvement in such areas as retirement (Social Security), healthcare (ObamaCare, Medicare), charity (Medicaid, SCHIP, etc). The government has mismanaged those horrendously, bringing America to the verge of banana republic status. Return power in those areas literally to the people – the people who earn the money before it is confiscated. Replace the graduated income tax with a flat, low-rate tax, fair and simple. End the insanity of trying to spend the economy into prosperity. What can’t work in your personal life, can’t work on any scale.

These are for starters. The fundamental issue is statism (the individual’s life belongs to the state) vs. freedom. By using the government-created economic crisis to rationalize expanded government, Mr. Trumka and Mr. Wowkanech are following a hundred-year-old pattern. Labor’s leaders choose statism, not “working families”. They do job seekers great harm by attacking job generators, denigrated as “Wall Street and the rich”, and the economic freedom a dynamic economy requires.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is "Desegregation" the Answer to NJ's Education Problems?

It's hard to believe, but some in New Jersey are trying to resurrect the idea that "desegregation" is the answer to the serious problems of the public schools, especially inner city, mostly poor and "minority" school districts. In a recent NJ Star-Ledger article (Bringing N.J. schools' racial segregation into open), columnist and unwavering defender of the public school system Bob Brawn called "racial segregation - in schools, in cities - the worst of unresolved issues that make for injustice in New Jersey."

"By any measure, New Jersey has one of the most segregated school systems in the country," said David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center, the organization that brought the school aid cases to the state’s highest court.

"We have to reopen that front," he added. "We have to start to talk about what we need to do to break down district boundaries."

His remarks at a recent event echoed those of other participants both eager and well-placed to disinter once again the buried issue of racial segregation in New Jersey.

"If we achieve nothing else, we will finish the work begun by Brown vs. Board of Education," said Benjamin Jealous, the 35-year-old national director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People...

Brown v. Board of Education properly ended legally enforced segregation in government-run schools. It properly did not authorize "desegregation" in the private sector. But it should be noted that the de facto "segregation" that still exists in housing and education is oriented around a government owned and operated institution, the public schools. When Sciara talks about "district boundaries", what created those artificial boundaries - dictatorial political fiefdoms, run by central planning entities called school boards, that effectively traps residents and their children and forbids all but the most well-to-do from seeking alternatives to their centrally assigned public schools? They are government-imposed boundaries. And what is one of the primary considerations of people seeking a community to settle in? - finding the districts with the better-run public schools. Economics clearly plays a role, too. Race is not a significant factor. (Several correspondents in the comments section pointed - correctly, in my judgement - to the regulatory welfare state as a prime culprit in the decline of inner cities and thus the decline of inner city education as well as the persistence of the "segregation" problem.)

That segregation is still being seriously talked about almost half a century after the last vestiges of direct legal segregation were expunged from American society is quite astounding, in my view; and instructive. This, after half a century of explosive welfare state growth - or because of it. The implications are insidious; that the individual's life is primarily directed by his environment, rather than his own choices and intiatives; that racism abounds; that force must be used to override "unacceptable" private voluntary decisions on where people live and send their children to school.

My Commentary:

zemack May 19, 2011 at 8:36PM

So, now we’re back to looking for racism in statistics. We’re back to black kids can’t learn unless they’re surrounded by white kids. We’re back to predominantly white communities are proof of racism, while predominantly black ones are not. We’re back to skin color matters – not character.

Racism is still with us, and it resides on the collectivist Left.

"Has anyone heard the governor or the Legislature say anything about race, social justice, or affirmative action?"

Race is not the issue, Mr. Harris. It is irrelevant , and I commend the governor for not centering on that. “Social justice” is a euphemism for socialism, and is at the root of the problem. Tax supported, government-run schooling herds children into authoritarian, assembly-line like “progressive” systems, divided into the very districts Sciarra deplores. His answer: Redraw district lines so that black ants can be mixed better with white ants to form one big human ant colony.

Affirmative action? What can be more affirmative than talking about the subject that reactionary defenders of the educational status quo deplore, parental school choice – or, empowering parents to seek the best education they can find for their own individual children.

Christie is on record as favoring tax credit-based universal school choice. He has declared this as his number one goal as governor. I don’t fully favor the technical structure of his grand plan, which the pending Opportunity Scholarship Act is his model for. But school choice in the abstract points in the right direction – toward a free market in education. The combination of parents seeking the best education for their children coupled with educators competing for their business will unleash the intellectual forces of free minds acting and contracting freely in their own mutual best self-interest. In a free market, the same forces that brought computers and cell phones down to prices that poor people can afford will do the same for education, once the government’s bureaucratic educational establishment is swept aside. Private schools catering to all income levels and educational needs – for-profit and non-profit alike – will flourish in number, bringing quality education across the board. There are no “district boundaries” in a free market.

Christie is taking the first halting – even flawed – but meaningful steps in that direction. Reactionaries have no argument against the burgeoning school choice movement. They are morally and philosophically bankrupt, so they change the subject to race. But it makes no difference to a child’s mental development whether his neighbor has the same skin color or not. Give the better parents who care about their children the free market empowerment to guide their own children’s education, and we will see motivated children who want to learn flourish – and as adults acquire the skills and thus means to move to better neighborhoods of their choice. There is no meaningful embedded prejudice in white America today.

But first, it’s time to face the facts. The current school system emerged in the mid 1800s. A century and a half and trillions of taxpayer dollars later, we are down to determinism, collectivism, and skin color. The tax-supported, government-run public school system has had its chance and it has failed, especially for the poor and the inner cities. It’s time for the radical, the innovative – a revolution in education.

A free market leaves people free from physical coercion. That is what the "free" in free market means. Reason and character are attributes if individual human beings. Braun's statistics are meaningless in relation to this fundamental nature of man, as long as people live in a political atmosphere that leaves them free to act upon their own judgement. It is only in relation to collectivism that skin color supersedes reason and character. That is why champions of the collectivist educational status quo cling to the former, and recoil from the latter: It is the only defense open to collectivists. They trot out reams of statistics that allegedly "prove" the existence of "injustice", while engaging in a real and monumental injustice; blocking parents from seeking the best education they can find for their children. Recognizing reason and character as factual attributes of the individual - and only the individual - leads directly to where Christie wants to go, parental school choice.

Education is one area where the political winds are at the backs of advocates of free markets; i.e., of individual rights. Not all school choicers, perhaps not even most, are full advocates of individual rights - if they even know what they are. But the widening support for parental school choice is an indication that government-run education and its supporters have their backs to the wall. That race is being dragged back into the school debate is evidence of that.