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The real debate that needs to be had… and it is not evolution vs. creationism

I want to reproduce, in somewhat edited form, a comment I left on Adam’s blog on the political issue of evolution vs. creationism…

The only debate that should be had on the issue of evolution vs. creationism is “does the state have a role in ‘edukshun’?” I say no and I suspect Ron Paul agrees. I have no problem with people believing whatever wacko things they want (and for me that includes all religion), but the evolution vs. creationism debate should be a non political one and the only way that can ever be true is when the state is no longer involved in education.

I think creationism is nuts and it makes me think less of Ron Paul that he has a religious objection to the theory of evolution. But frankly this should not be a matter for political concern and he at least is highly unlikely to force state schools to teach it (or anything else for that matter). The fact that it is a political matter shows something it very wrong and the correct ‘something’ that needs debating is not evolution, it is state schooling. Return all schooling to the private sector and the whole issue goes away from the political sphere. Let the market decide if there is demand for schools that teach creationism, I have no problem with that at all.

To which I would add…

The way to get people behind this is to argue that the only way to make sure your children are not subjected to [choose one: (1) Godless indoctrination (2) religious gibberish] is to make education non-political and the only way to do that is for schools to not take tax money. The moment anything involves ‘public money’, it perforce becomes political because that means you are trying to spend the money of people who do not agree with you. Dis-intermediating the state is in the interests of both sides of this issue.

The same logic applies to homosexual marriage. Get the state out of the ‘recognising marriage’ business and the political issue goes away. Want to shun/accept same sex couples? The only way you can be sure you are free to act on your belief on this subject is to make it a social issue, not a political one, by getting the state out of the way.

91 comments to The real debate that needs to be had… and it is not evolution vs. creationism

  • Billll

    The problem with getting the state out of the marriage business is that marriage is, in the end, a contract with implications regarding child support and inheritance to mention only the first two that come to mind.

    Imagine that the state suddenly decided that marriage was whatever the individuals involved said it was. A friendly, or calculated, roll in the hay now entitles someone to half or more of the assets of the other?
    A rich eccentric marries their pet. The pet inherits upon the demise of the eccentric. Can the pet marry the executor of the estate?

    Here’s a field day for lawyers, and the issues get settled on a case-by-case basis by judges (the state) and no precedent is set.

    Marriage is a sacrament offered by a religion. The state recognizes it as a contract. If the local religion won’t recognize your idea of marriage, then start your own religion. The state should lay down ground rules for what it recognizes as the contract underlying a marriage, and insist that everyone abide by them.

  • a contract with implications regarding child support and inheritance to mention only the first two that come to mind

    Courts (be they state courts or private arbitrators) are the way contract disputes are settled, not in legislative chambers. Just treat these things as any contract is treated.

    The state has no business whatsoever being involved with inheritance, which should just be a matter for wills and custom. Likewise child support is an issue of implied contract with a very long history of custom behind it. The state is a terrible way to deal with that. People have been getting married and having children for a great deal longer than states have been legislating on the subject. We have sophisticated cultures: let them work.

    The pet inherits upon the demise of the eccentric.

    I have no problem with a pet nominally inheriting something. It is up to the executor to spend the money in the pet’s interests. It has been done before.

    Can the pet marry the executor of the estate?

    No more that a tree or a statue can marry someone. Pets cannot agree to a contract because they are not subject to human rationality (even nominally).

  • Pa Annoyed

    Billll,

    You say that as if it was something bad. I think many people around here would go for the idea of marriage contracts defined by the participants rather than the state.

    What would be more interesting is to get the state out of the enforcement of contracts.

    But parentally selectable education has all sort of possibilities. You can have a range of qualities and prices:- so a high-powered scientific education is provided at a price only for the select, down to a more basic reading-and-writing-only education that can be had for only a few thousand dollars. Education might be sponsored, so you get discounts if you allow your children to be shown infomercials like Al Gore’s Oscar-winner, or perhaps first dibs on recruitment of the best and brightest. The Scientologists would obviously be market leaders here, although probably under a different name. And the political parties and campaigns would all get involved, with Communist schools, Neocon schools, Islamist schools, Nazi white supremacist schools, Black Power schools, Environmentalist schools, post-modern Morally Relative schools, and so on. Poorer families would be able to afford great deals for a better education than they would otherwise be able to afford from such philanthropists, as well as assuring future support for their chosen politics.

    Parents would be able to select their chosen propaganda from a menu. If daddy is a troofer, he can be assured that history lessons will not miss out the truth about the Illuminati. If mommy is anorexic, biology lessons will be sure to identify the best dieting techniques. Parents may thereafter be assured that their children will never come home contradicting their beliefs. The crazier superstitions will obviously cost more, of course, due to the difficulty of getting teachers with sufficiently flexible morals, but the market will adjust, as the increasingly popular ‘flexible morality school’ gears up to supply the demand.

    There would even be schools for those people who believe their children should be taught what is true, in preference to what their parents choose for them to believe!

    I suspect, given how the tax system works to make the rich pay disproportionately more, that even the average education kids get now will be out of many people’s reach. Home schooling I think would become the norm, which is no bad thing. Sadly, none of the above is likely to happen. Education is one of those things that the majority are quite happy with the state providing. The majority is a bit stupid that way… I blame their education.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Agree entirely on the issue of state education, and the need to remove the state’s role from other private spheres, such as marriage and inheritance. The argument that certain social activities are so widespread as to necessitate uniformity is clearly contrary to the principle of voluntary contract and introduces, and introduces the third party to all contracts, the state, through which ever-greater intervention is justified. When Bill, above, makes the point that “the state should lay down ground rules for what it recognizes as the contract underlying a marriage,” he endorses this and, as elsewhere expounded on samizdata, encourages the growth of totalitarianism.

    A question, though, arises concerning children, and the extent of parental sovereignty. When you say, “let the market decide if there is demand for schools that teach creationism,” there is an unnamed actor demanding creationist schools. If that is the parents, at what point is their demand for a creationist education overtaken by their child’s preference? Suppose they wish to truant – a phenomenon which occurs in both public and privately funded schools; is coercion justified to satiate the demand of the parent that their child undergo certain religious or political indoctrination?

  • Pa Annoyed

    Perry,

    “Pets cannot agree to a contract because they are not subject to human rationality”

    Oh, how anthropocentric! Of course they’re not subject to human rationality, but they are subject to animal rationality. Animals do deals all the time, not just the “I do the roll-over trick and you give me a biscuit” sort of contract, but all sorts of examples of symbiosis; reciprocity, dominant/submissive behaviour, gift-giving, mating rituals, grooming, food sharing, territoriality, and so on. Whenever a dog cocks his leg to a lamp post, that’s the signature on a land claim. Whenever a young bird presents a beak full of bugs to his lady friend, that’s consideration in a marriage contract for the entire breeding season.

    Of course animals have contracts. And should the human go through the proper process of bottom sniffing prior to the, er, you know, there’s no reason a human could not marry a pet and have it ‘legal’ according to animal law. If the pet in question consents freely (and it’s not unknown*), all the rest is mere stuffy convention and traditional religiously-based prejudice. Don’t be so narrow minded. :-)

    (PS. *I was of course referring to the common TV sit-com practice of the family dog falling in unrequited love with a visitor’s right leg, for humorous purposes. This is a family blog.)

  • Alan Peakall

    Pa A’s observation recalls a classic quote of Eric Raymond’s:

    Anybody who has ever owned a dog who barked when strangers came near its owner’s property has experienced the essential continuity between animal territoriality and human property. Our domesticated cousins of the wolf are instinctively smarter about this than a good many human political theorists.

  • Imagine that! People making free choices on how/when/with whom to educate their children,and free choices how/when/whom/what to marry.I like it! How many other things can people decide on without the states blessings?Your point is very valid,thanks for this interesting conceptual insight.

    Blessings

    Elle

  • Ian B

    Deleted by the management as too off-topic too early on… moved here.

  • Ian B

    On a more positive note, as a libertarian I’m entirely in favour of parental genetic choice. I believe that as the technology becomes available, parents should be entitled entirely free choice to design their children. I support this because it would mean there would be more hot women, and nobody would ever go bald again.

  • steve_roberts

    “does the state have a role in ‘edukshun’?” I say no and I suspect Ron Paul agrees.

    I think you’re safe there. He wants to abolish the federal department of education and remove barriers to homeschooling.

    Our compulsory state schooling system was imposed in very different circumstances than today, it has no justification now.

  • Ian, this is a thread about the role of the state and politics rather than the utterly bananas issue of Creationism and Evolution. In fact it is specifically not about that :-)

  • Ian B

    You can’t narrow the argument like that Perry, without understanding the motives of the lobbies fighting for control of the educational system. The evolution vs. creation debate isn’t bananas. It cuts to the very core of the statist education programme.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Ian B,

    Creationism has little or nothing to do with a reaction against eugenics. It was more a reaction against sex and drugs and rock and roll. It is a reaction against the rebellion of youth against tradition and conventional morality, of sexual freedom and lifestyle freedom, of easy divorce, legally available abortion, encouragement of homosexuality, of pornography and superficial titillation appearing in popular entertainment, of disrespect for authority and one’s elders and betters.
    Things have changed since, and there are plenty who like religion while being keen on a little rock and roll themselves, but it is still primarily the degradation of the nation’s moral fibre that motivates the hardcore fanatics, like those wild-eyed pedants despairing at youth’s mangling of English grammar. Totalitarianism is a common human inclination, and while by no means specific to religion, to the extent that religious morality is supposed to regulate every aspect of people’s private lives, religion is an essentially totalitarian system.

    But you’re absolutely correct that evolution is attacked more because it is seen as the weak point in the secular rationalist edifice, not because it is a critical point of Christian doctrine. A more direct challenge to Genesis literalism is posed by astronomy, where it is proposed that daylight comes from the sun, when the Biblical truth is that the sun, moon and stars were created on the fourth day and this is not a problem even worthy of a comment from whoever wrote the account in Genesis (God, presumably, there being no other witnesses to the event). You don’t seem to get the same fuss about the teaching of the theory of daylight in science class, though.

  • You can’t narrow the argument like that Perry

    Indeed I can.

    The evolution vs. creation debate isn’t bananas. It cuts to the very core of the statist education programme.

    No, because any diametrically opposed politically charged theories could be placed in the same role as creationism and evolution. That is specifically why I also mention same sex marriage and how the same logic applies, to make it clear this is in fact a much wider topic being discussed in this article.

  • Ian B

    Okay, let’s try this again. The state education system uses a different definition of “education” to us lot out here. Normal people think of education as “learning stuff” or “acquiring a skill”, but the people in control of state education don’t mean that, they mean, hmm, “ideological imprinting”. They see the definition of education as being the creation of “good citizens” and screw whether they can do quadratic equations or not. Most of the people running the thing can’t do quadratic equations. But they can tell you about Gramsci.

    So talking about whether schooling should be private, fine. Of course it should. But you’re being utopian. You won’t get that in our statist system because the asshats running things aren’t going to let go, since it’s a central plank of their ideological programme. Even if you get some kind of voucher system they’ll make sure there’s a state-decided curriculum and your free choice will go out the window.

    So let’s all sit here and talk about how things are going to be when we’ve created our utopia, with its no tax and total freedom and complete freedom of choice and no regulations and every day is the first day of spring, clutching our halves of snakebite and well-thumbed Socialist Workers.

    Or, we can at least try to understand what we’re up against to try and get there, which means recognising that the establishment are about as libertarian as Mussolini. The state are not going to let go of control of education, nor of marriage come to that. As such, a discussion of a stateless education system is about the same as planning what furniture we’d like in our Mars Colony.

  • Alice

    A friend was having dinner with her husband a while ago at a trendy restaurant. The owners had apparently gone out and bought old books by the lineal yard to line the walls and give the place the feel of a gentleman’s library. Out of interest, my friend pulled the closest book off the shelves — a title like “Mathematics for Carpentry Students” — and found herself looking at a fairly advanced level of co-ordinate geometry & algebra. And this for a 1930s shop class! [For those not used to the US educational system, shop class is for those who find basket-weaving class too challenging].

    State education was once quite demanding. Then the baby boomers got control and dumbed it down, made it politically correct. Ever notice that everything left-wingers get hold of turns to dust — BBC; Church of England; UN; Carnegie Trust; etc?

    Maybe the real debate is not about state control, it is about how to stop left-wingers getting control of education. Simply moving education from state-control to private control will not accomplish that — those left-wingers are just too persistent.

  • Maybe the real debate is not about state control, it is about how to stop left-wingers getting control of education. Simply moving education from state-control to private control will not accomplish that — those left-wingers are just too persistent.

    I disagree. There will indeed be ‘left wing’ private schools but as long as there is a market, the problem is self correcting… in fact it is not really a problem at all.

    State control inevitably and inexorably leads to the place where stupidity becomes a virtue. It is not a left vs. right thing, it is a state vs. society thing.

  • Aeon Phux

    You can’t narrow the argument like that

    Dude: Root = God

  • Ian B

    Alice-

    Perhaps the significant question is why left wingers have control of all those things.

  • Ian B

    Perry, perhaps it’d be easier in the long run to just define “left” as statist and “right” as anti-statist.

  • Or, we can at least try to understand what we’re up against to try and get there, which means recognising that the establishment are about as libertarian as Mussolini.

    I really don’t think anyone who writes for Samizdata doubts that.

    The state are not going to let go of control of education, nor of marriage come to that. As such, a discussion of a stateless education system is about the same as planning what furniture we’d like in our Mars Colony.

    And that is where you are not quite right. Already there are many people who avail their children of private schooling or home schooling. These things are not theoretical and are the basis upon which really quite effective insurgency are possible.

    This is also why I will not allow this particular thread to be diverted into the utterly arid debate on creationism. People will support the roll back of the state if they can be made to see that would serve their interests. I am not talking about libertarians or Goldwater Republicans, but people who disdain/demand religious elements to their children’s education… or anything else that is always going to be controversial.

    The homosexual ‘political establishment’ is, bizarrely, dominated by the radical left and so a great way of separating a great many homosexuals from their self-appointed spokesmen would be to convince them they have a personal stake in ending the ‘nationalisation’ of marriage.

    The same logic applies to the often resoundingly illiberal ‘religious right’.

    These are the practical underpinnings that I would like to see implemented in some fashion as applied politics. Compared to many anti-statist ideas, this is both a pragmatic and immediately usable approach to getting political enemies to agree on rolling back the state on grounds of self-interest.

  • just define “left” as statist and “right” as anti-statist.

    Except that just ain’t so.

    Are the Republicans in the USA or the Tories in the UK or the UMP in France or the CDU in Germany, all generally described as ‘right wing’, in any way non-statist?

  • Alice


    There will indeed be ‘left wing’ private schools but as long as there is a market, the problem is self correcting… in fact it is not really a problem at all.

    Perry, the question is — What is the market? We can (& do) have state schools, religious schools, private schools, home schooling. But if there is a mandatory state-prescribed curriculum, the market in education will not be what you hope.

    A friend successfully home-schooled her three sons, all of whom went on to good colleges. The creativity she had to use to get round state control was worthy of an award. But once the statists realize the gaps they have left in their curriculum control system, they will eventually plug them.

    As an aside, I like to use the term “left wing” to tweak the usual suspects, who have entirely discarded the term while using “right wing” as a term merely to distinguish anyone of whom they disapprove. Realistically, we are talking about Neo-Stalinists, who seek power & control for themselves under the guise of promoting the common good. That kind of person is naturally attracted to government, where they can impose their views on others, either by law or by regulation. To quote one of their own, all power proceeds out the barrel of a gun — and that, unfortunately, is the only way that left-wingers will ever be persuaded to back off.

  • Ian B

    Are the Tories actually “right wing”?

  • They are usually described as such which is why the term ‘right wing’ is not very useful anymore. Left and right are often just tribal markers these days.

  • Paul Marks

    They all claim to be less statist than their foes Perry – to be less likely to put up taxes and so on.

    Even ardent Republican statists were denounced, in their time, as not statist enough by the Democrats and the media.

    Even Richard Nixon was denounced for not imposing price controls before he did, and for not increasing taxes, Welfare State spending and regulations even more than he did.

    It is much the same in Britain, France and Germany.

    Of course, that does not mean that one should demand a real choice – and this is possible.

    One does not have to have the situation of, for example, Arkansas where the two main Republican Governors since World War II (Rockefeller and Huckabee) were just as eager to increase taxes and governmen spending as all the Democrat Governors elected since World War II.

    However, my “favourate” Arkansas Governor would have to be Faubus – who distracted attention away from attacks on his tax increases for teachers pay (as well as about his lying about his going to a Communist controlled college and his father’s Socialist Party activities) by whipping up racial hatred.

    Even Clinton and Huckabee never went that low (indeed Huckabee was fanatical about handing out every form of taxpaying funded help to illegal immigrants, as part of his dream to create a time when “people who look like me are a minority” – from one extreme to the other ).

    Still I am going off at a tangent – I will do a comment on education after this.

    I prefer a situation like South Dakota where the Republicans always win and they keep the taxes down.

    People working in the government school system (and other such) are never going to vote Republican anyway – so why steal lots of taxpayers money and give it them?

  • Ian B

    They’ve virtually swapped definitions- the old Right were the statists and the old Left were the libertarians. Now the left are the statists and the right are associated with mild libertarianism. May as well just go the whole hog. Do what the left do. Steal a term and make it our own.

  • Pa Annoyed

    “Already there are many people who avail their children of private schooling or home schooling. These things are not theoretical and are the basis upon which really quite effective insurgency are possible.”

    Same goes for education by internet. You can get any schooling you want, and reject any bits of it you want. We are all agreed that the state’s interference by politicians in education is bad; what I don’t think we’re so clear on is whether the educational establishment, the market, or parents would be any better. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the school boards causing this particular controversy were elected by parents, not appointed by politicians, and therefore all the controversy is a question of wielding parent-power, not statism. (I had heard the Dover school board got kicked out by such elections, so it would seem a non-statist mechanism already exists for resolving this sort of issue.) Whether the President believes in 9-11 trutherism, primal light emitted from God’s firmament, or pixies living under the carpets in the oval office has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the role of politics in education, only on their individual rationality and education as an indication of their fitness for office.

    The political correctness that infects our education system is not driven by the likes of the president of the USA, but by teachers and universities and curriculum boards and by textbook authors and by the media-masquerading-as-the-public debate. It’s mostly defined by what teachers were themselves taught. The state takes part, but on such topics it takes its lead from society.

    We have no idea, even now, whether this particular politician is really a Creationist, or merely trying to get some of the Creationist vote. He has simply researched his market and tried to figure out what will sell. All politicians do. In this case, it’s not the state interfering in education, it’s society – if you make the distinction. There’s a bigger problem in the UK, with the state mandating an official line on environmentalism for example, but that’s a different topic entirely.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    People will support the roll back of the state if they can be made to see that would serve their interests…

    The homosexual ‘political establishment’ is, bizarrely, dominated by the radical left and so a great way of separating a great many homosexuals from their self-appointed spokesmen would be to convince them they have a personal stake in ending the ‘nationalisation’ of marriage.

    The same logic applies to the often resoundingly illiberal ‘religious right’.

    I can find little evidence that ordinary constituent members of minority groups are satiated by the denationalisation of an issue when they can gain extra advantage by controlling the state’s apparatus for their own benefit. As a typical example, the Civil Rights Movement, far from ensuring equality under the law (as the denationalisation of marriage would achieve for homosexuals), sought to acquire political privilege by outlawing segregation in private hotels and private businesses, coupled with anti-discrimination laws which enforced the state’s recognition of racial equality onto the private individuals. In the same manner, the religious right is unsatisfied with being permitted to teach their children of creationism or perform certain religious rituals; their end is the compulsory introduction of such measures for all, with central curricula, prayer in school and the Ten Commandments in court rooms. The end, in both instances, is not achieving equality under the law, but in enforcing a moral outlook through political force.

    I very much doubt that, were you to survey homosexuals, a majority would endorse the rights of (private) Catholic adoption agencies to discriminate, or those of hotel owners to refuse entry based on their sexuality. Freedom is often diametrically opposed to self-interest; the coincidence of the two in the short term is no sign of long term compatibility, especially for minority groups.

  • Paul Marks

    As E.G. West pointed out as long ago as 1965 (“Education and the State”) even the low wages of the 19th century England and Wales did not prevent most people getting their children educated (at least as well as the state later educated children).

    Literacy rates were on the rise and the new government schools, if anything, slowed down the rise. Government control also meant that education became more standardized (especially after the destruction of the local school boards in 1902) with less teaching of the natural sciences and less local knowledge.

    With modern wage levels there is no excuse for mass government education.

    There is also no excuse for the central direction of schools. For example, in my home town of Kettering I was taught nothing of the history of the town at school, I was taught nothing about men like John Alfred Gotch or Thomas Cooper Gotch. And it was and is not considered odd that children go through all the years of education without knowing anything about their local area.

    But then the government school did not teach me to read or write either.

  • I suspect Ron Paul agrees

    You suspect wrong.

    Ron Paul is not a libertarian. He is an anti-federalist (some use the term “neo-confederalist”). He believes is broad, almost unlimited, states powers, including over education, and is on record as saying that states or school districts could, e.g., mandate prayer in schools or teach creationism in science classes.

    In short, Paul does not love liberty. He merely hates Congress.

  • Billll

    “Courts (be they state courts or private arbitrators) are the way contract disputes are settled, not in legislative chambers. Just treat these things as any contract is treated.”

    The legislature defines the basic form which contracts take, but yes, contract disputes are settled in court or by arbitration.

    “The state has no business whatsoever being involved with inheritance, which should just be a matter for wills and custom.”

    Apparently the death tax has not yet reached England.

    I don’t actually mind being taxed to educate other peoples children. In the long run, it’s beneficial to me. What I object to is being taxed to mis-educate, or poorly educate children. Under an all-private, all voucher system, parents could pick any school they wished, and have some minimum amount of money follow the child into the school. Most parents want their children to be more successful than they are, so the market would quickly select out the lower performing schools. If a parent has a problem with evolution or capitalism, then fine, send your kid to the Tale-Baptist madrassa or the local Marxist middle school, but don’t expect junior to become a cellular biologist from the former or a filthy rich investment banker from the latter.

    Will there be better schools available at a cost premium? Certainly. Will the children of the poor be able to go there? Probably not, but I’m sure some scholarships will be available. My parents couldn’t send me to Harvard Law, but I did all right with the degree I got.

    To paraphrase, you don’t go out in the world with the education you’d like to have, you go out there with the education you’ve got.

  • Sunfish

    A rich eccentric marries their pet. The pet inherits upon the demise of the eccentric. Can the pet marry the executor of the estate?

    I’m going to pretend that this is a real question.

    Pets, not being humans of legal age, cannot contract. At least not in the US.

    I’m just tired of hearing about how, if Adam and Steve both want to wear white dresses and assless leather chaps down the aisle to the strains of Handel backed by a techno beat, it’ll destroy the institution of marriage (which, to hear them tell it, has ALWAYS been heterosexual and ALWAYS been monogamous and God said so!).

    Nope. The former Mrs. Sunfish and I destroyed the institution of marriage without any homosexuals being involved at all. Two women wanting to file a joint tax return didn’t do it and if they think they can make a go of it then more power to them.

    Also, I note that you mention the existence of the death tax as a reason for government to screw with inheritance. I don’t think so. The mere fact that government thinks it can interfere, does not mean that it has any right or business to do so. And the existence of previous interference doesn’t all by its lonesome justify continuing the same.

    Andrew Roocroft:

    is coercion justified to satiate the demand of the parent that their child undergo certain religious or political indoctrination?

    If the kids are not yet adults, then yes.

    I mean, my folks tried to turn me into a good little guilty white suburban liberal Democrat. They’re the parents. That’s their business and not the state’s.

    They ended up with a libertarian-sympathizing gun nut cop for a son. Worked out REAL well, huh, Mom?

  • I can find little evidence that ordinary constituent members of minority groups are satiated by the denationalisation of an issue when they can gain extra advantage by controlling the state’s apparatus for their own benefit.

    No shit. But then you completely miss my point. Control over the legislature is transitory. Sooner or later your political enemies get their payback time. Getting that notion into people’s heads as to why so many issues need to be removed from the political arena is why their own self-interests are served by getting the state out of the way.

    Freedom is often diametrically opposed to self-interest;

    Which is why at no point would I suggest appealing to homosexuals, creationists or militant atheists on the basis of liberty but rather on the basis that it is actually ih their self-interest. I am calling for nothing less that the re-rehabilitation of the twentieth centuries pet boogie man word (no, not ‘Nazi)…”discrimination’. I am arguing that people actually need to be able to discriminate against whoever they don;t like in order to serve their self-interests. And just incidentally to be free. It is all about shifting the meta-context. Until you do that nothing significant changes.

  • Apparently the death tax has not yet reached England.

    Huh? Are you under the impression any of the things I am arguing against are not currently in existence?

    I don’t actually mind being taxed to educate other peoples children. In the long run, it’s beneficial to me.

    How about in a madrasa then? Cool, they feel free to contribute. I would rather not.

    What I object to is being taxed to mis-educate, or poorly educate children. Under an all-private, all voucher system, parents could pick any school they wished, and have some minimum amount of money follow the child into the school.

    Great, and I guess you like the idea of funding other people’s choices in housing, clothing, medical care, transport and food too? No doubt the answer is yes as you seem like a logical fellow.

  • Ian B

    Control over the legislature is transitory. Sooner or later your political enemies get their payback time.

    Is it? Looking at history since, say 1900, we see a consistent rise of statism with a couple of weak downward blips. The “political enemies” here in UK for instance are broadly just two factional cartels of the ruling class.

    People may point to Thatcherism, but Thatcher was a statist. As Sean Gabb of the LA has pointed out, Blair was the inheritor of Major, who was the inheritor of Thatcher, who put in place the state apparatus New Labour are now using against us. Under “right” and “left” the state has continued to grow and a consistent policy of consolidation of power within the ruling class has been effected.

    Further back, Churchill made the state bigger, Attlee made it bigger still. There was a little rollback in the 50s, then it grew explosively in the 60s and 70s, with a very minor rollback under Thatcher. That’s a consistent trend.

    We’ve waited over a century now for some “payback”. How are we doing?

  • Ian B

    Under an all-private, all voucher system, parents could pick any school they wished, and have some minimum amount of money follow the child into the school.

    Great, and I guess you like the idea of funding other people’s choices in housing, clothing, medical care, transport and food too? No doubt the answer is yes as you seem like a logical fellow.

    Indeed. A voucher system wouldn’t be “all private” or private at all. It would make every school a government contractor. Effectively it’s a power grab by rent seekers (both schools and parents) and as such I would personally strongly oppose it.

    You’ll only get genuine private schooling and choice if you disconnect it entirely from government. I think there’s a pretty strong case that vouchers would be worse than what we have now, not better, since they’d entirely end any independence of school from government.

    And personally, I really don’t want my tax money being used to fund other peoples’ choices, especially if I find those choices personally offensive.

  • We are doing very well. I know Sean and he is a great guy but he is also is wrong on this and so are you. In some ways we have lost ground, no doubt about it, and in many other ways we have gained huge amounts of ground, truly stupendous amounts in fact. The notion of the ‘minor roll back under Thatcher’ is actually preposterous.

    Under previous Labour and Conservative governments, marginal rates of taxation were (in effect) in excess or 100% for some people. Vast swathes of the economy were nationalised. The productive simply became tax exiles. The movement of capital was tightly controlled. We had ID cards (on-ongoing struggle). The UK was a quasi-national socialist nation under fucktards like Wilson and Heath [spits on ground] and it was not that different in a great many western countries.

    Changing all of that was not a ‘minor roll back’. A little perspective please, Gentlemen. We have many serious fights ahead of us but we are by no means at the Last Ditch.

  • Before ignoring Creationism, or dismissing it out of hand, consider the view point put forth on catholicfundamentalism.com
    God, as Programmer, has the ability to program in three dimensions. With subprogrammers (angels), He programmed particles, compiled them into structures and beings, and put them in operation. In a week.
    Fossils, carbon 14, etc. were all provided in order to give us free will, which we use to approach or avoid The Programmer.
    The poor, lost souls of the tax-addicted avoid both God and loving their neighbors.

  • Tony

    As a person who believes in God, I 100 percent agree with Perry’s argument that the state should have no role in education. People who know little about either theological or scientific world-views turn into demagogues, motivated by a desire to get the state to endorse a ‘correct’ view, which is indeed a crucial consideration if and only if we are all paying for a viewpoint. Let’s not, and see what happens.

  • Tatterdemalian

    My opinion is that providing a free, baseline education for children falls under the basic federal responsibility of “keeping the peace,” much like providing food and water services. People who don’t get any kind of basic education will grow up treating the most bizarre beliefs as facts, with creationism being one of the least harmful to civilized society. Think the sort of things suicide bombers and FARC guerillas believe. No matter how we choose to educate our children, we need to at least provide our fellow citizens with an option to get their children a solid grounding in the scientific, social, and economic facts of life. Most parents will gladly let their children receive education for free, regardless of what beliefs they or the teachers hold. As for those that are so fearful of “indoctrination” that they won’t let their children learn basic arithmatic, they’re still free to do so, but their numbers are kept low enough that the police can deal with their eventual turn to crime.

  • Jews have been doing marriage contracts for at least 500 years. Perhaps a look at Jewish marriage laws might be of some value.

    A body of common law has been built up.

  • Think the sort of things suicide bombers and FARC guerillas believe. No matter how we choose to educate our children, we need to at least provide our fellow citizens with an option to get their children a solid grounding in the scientific, social, and economic facts of life. Most parents will gladly let their children receive education for free, regardless of what beliefs they or the teachers hold.

    What about parents? I think their influence is large because it starts sooner.

    a solid grounding in the scientific, social, and economic facts

    From State Schools?

    Har.

    Are you kidding me? Pulling my leg? Having me on?

    Current fads:

    1. Global warming is unnatural and caused by man
    2. White men are no good
    3. Scientific Socialism works

  • Ian B

    I don’t know whether there’s any proof that education (defined as “schooling” here) reduces crime as you seem to imply in your last sentence. Crime is far higher now (compulsory free education for all) than it was in say Victorian times (some sort of education for most) or earlier than that (no education for most, private education for an elite minority). It’s not clear to me which bit of education is the crime-stopper. Arithmetic? Most people would learn that anyway, just in their daily lives (can’t shop or trade without it). The level of speling and granma today is appalling anyway- I’ve had to fill in forms for work colleagues because they could barely do more than sign it with a cross and a thumbprint. Science? Little use to most people, and most of the population are fundamentally ignorant anyway. I remember a TV show where they interviewed a bunch of primary school teachers on their graduation day with basic science questions like “what are trees made of?”. Most thought they’re made from soil, which they suck up through the roots. One, when asked by the interviewer, “what would you think if I said they’re made of carbon?” and the reply was “I’d think you were mad”. As to economics, most of the population believe some degraded toytown Keynesian mish-mash.

    It’s difficult to know what use most education is. For fun, ask anyone who did O-Level (or GCSE I guess, I’m too old to know anything about that) to tell you the quadratic equation formula. You’ll find hardly anyone can, and most can’t even remember what a quadratic equation is. What was the point of all those maths teachers wasting time on it?

    OTOH I’d suggest there may be a strong link between teenage dropoutism and schooling. One can argue that “feral teenagers” everyone wrings their hands about are young people who are ready to leave the dreary prison camp of school and start on the first rungs of an adult life. More education is no use to them. They’re not interested in quadratic equations, they want to start growing up. Instead we trap them in the school system and they react by emulating what they can of adult masculinity in negative ways- violence, drugs, drink, undiscipined sex and so on. And the idiots in government think the solution is to keep them in school for two more years. Madness. It’s a reaction IMV against retarding their development as citizens. As such, they’re the victims of too much schooling and a one-size-fits-all dogma that it is inherently good and more of it is better.

    That doesn’t apply to all students, needless to say. All human beings are unique. Some are academic and thrive on learning in a school environment. Some need a less formal environment. And some just need to go out and get a job as a plasterer’s apprentice.

    One of my first acts as fantasy prime minister would be to take the “compulsory” out of schooling.

  • Re: Education. Is a large part of the problem the whole issue of credentialism?

    If there is to be a “market” for education, then one has to look at what is being sold by the educators. In essense, it is credentials that are accepted by the general marketplace for the purposes of obtaining employment.

    So while an autodidact might cobble together a wonderful education via the internet, it would be worthless to him for the purposes of getting a job from Company Y, which demands a Masters degree from a government accredited university as a primary qualification for the job it is offering.

    As long as that is the case, I don’t see much of a marketplace opening up for various sorts of educational models. If you want a good job, you have to go to a good, state-controlled school with a good, state-recommended curriculum. (Yes, I’m aware that companies complain all the time about the quality of the grads they hire, but I don’t see that has changed their demands for degrees in the slightest).

    A step further: vis Dewey, it may well be that the job market is in some part exactly seeking certain “non-educational” attributes imbued by state edu systems: Attendance, time clock punching, deadline meeting, socialization skills, etc., that they believe are only provided by the formalized system as it exists today.

  • Before ignoring Creationism, or dismissing it out of hand, consider the view point put forth on catholicfundamentalism.com
    God, as Programmer, has the ability to program in three dimensions. With subprogrammers (angels), He programmed particles, compiled them into structures and beings, and put them in operation. In a week.
    Fossils, carbon 14, etc. were all provided in order to give us free will, which we use to approach or avoid The Programmer.

    I have a plan for loading a virus into the boot sector.

  • Bill Quick,

    I am an aerospace engineer. Without benefit of degree.

    So I have just falsified your premise.

    BTW I started out as a bench technician.

  • Let me add that I was never qualified for any of the jobs I held.

    Har.

  • So I have just falsified your premise.

    No, I don’t believe you have.

    You were hired for a job that the company did not demand a college degree for. I presume, however, that they did demand a high school degree? Or are you a high school dropout as well?

    However, at the time you were hired as a technician (by the way, is your company still hiring non-college-degreed applicants for that job these days?) you would not have been hired as an aerospace engineer without a degree in the field.

    One outlier, by the way, does not falsify a general premise.

  • Ian B

    I think the thing here is that increasingly a degree is changing from what it once was (a diploma which says you have knowledge and skills in a specific field) into a kind of Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to the ruling class :)

    We see this in that increasingly people will only hire people who have a degree, largely regardless of what it is- whether it be in science, sociology or spoon bending and in the increasing expansion of higher education into irrelevant fields, trying to churn as many students as they can through the sausage factory. We often see statements that a degree proves various things about a person e.g. that they can commit to a project or that they have a wide experience of life (why dressing up as a nun for rag week or getting kidnapped in Palestine counts as more use than work experience and fending for yourself isn’t clear) but I think what the “degree, any degree” crowd are really after is tribally shared values. The general assumption that somebody with a degree is “one of us”; thus leading to farcical situations like the new gubmint regulation of nurseries will mean anyone hoping to run one will need a degree (be it in astrophysics or political science and mountaineering, doesn’t matter).

    It’s basically a way to sharpen a class divide by imposing an entry barrier. “Once you’ve been to Uni like all us nobs, we think you might be trustworthy, but there’s no way we’re allowing any snotty chavs in”.

    As an aside, I’ve generally found this contention to meet with much more approval among those with real degrees (e.g. math, real sciences, engineering) than those with ruling class degrees (english**, sociology, film studies, environmental studies).

    Note for instance that most of the government have ruling class degrees; especially law, though most of those only have a passing acquaintance with actual law practise.

    **What exactly does this degree prove? That you’ve read more books than the average dustman?

  • My opinion is that providing a free, baseline education for children falls under the basic federal responsibility of “keeping the peace,” much like providing food and water services.

    ‘Free’ eh? So I guess there is no need for the content of this ‘baseline’ of education to be a political football. Why? Because as it is ‘free’, you say, I obviously do not have to pay taxes to fund it as the government just pays for the ‘baseline education programme’ with money picked from the state owned orchard of money trees. I doesn’t cost me a bean, so why should I get to demand my views get taught? Cool, that’s education sorted then.

    As for the state providing our food for us, I take it you are leaving this comment here from North Korea? I never knew you guys even had the Internet! I hear obesity is not a big problem in your part of the world, which must be nice.

    For the rest of us, we are generally pretty happy that the state does not ‘provide’ our food supply system.

    People who don’t get any kind of basic education will grow up treating the most bizarre beliefs as facts, with creationism being one of the least harmful to civilized society

    So then you think the large chunk of the US population who do indeed believe in creationism did not get a ‘baseline’ state ‘education’? Ditto for those who believe in the fixed quality of wealth fallacy and Keynesian economics (both vastly more damaging than creationism)?

  • Perry, if you read a 100 academic political books on how social policy works, about 99% of them will say that libertarianism-minarchism- anarchism is a tarbaby and will never work in real life and will result in the tyranny of the rich. It’s a established fact among ivory-tower academic set.

    If you read a 100 science books on the origins of humanity, 99% of them will state evolution from a lower species of animal as the cause and vehemently dismiss anyone who says otherwise as a crank.

    In the former view, the dynamics at work are groupthink, ossified conclusions from over a hundreds of years, institutional bias to keep the government scholarships coming in, innate psychological bias of professors who want structure and equality, and a (political) philosopher’s will to power–if you have an anarcho-capitalist political system, what kind of politics is left to study or admire?

    Some of us are just as skeptical of the later view for the same reasons: a biological elite insisting that their view–a biological view–explains life, the universe and everything. Their premises were settled long ago and dare not be questioned.

    Whenever someone raises questions the premises of evolution–lack of transition species in the present or fossil record, mind-bending complexity of even the simpliest life, how most human “vestigal organs” have been shown now to have some use, why human-DNA now structures its enviroment in a way completely different from the environment that supposedly structured human-DNA–we’re a bunch of mystics and religious nuts. And by the same type people who, in the academic building across campus, call republicans, libertarians and capitalists a bane to civilization.

    Dont’ get me wrong. I’m a Messianic Jew who believes that a interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is true, but have no concern for how exactly things played out eons ago. There’s enough empirical confirmation of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that my faith won’t be shaken over how God chose to explained the origins of life and the universe to pre-industrial peoples.

    One the other hand, when modern sciences can’t even agree on whether the climate is getting warmer or colder, or whether red meat and eggs are good or bad for you, I’m not going to carte blanche to them on where humanity came from.

  • Protagonist, my problem is not that someone might have some scientific disagreement with the theory of evolution, it is that someone who I want to take seriously has a religious problem with a scientific theory.

    However…

    I am perfectly willing to vote for religious people, even if their religion is the main driver of their politics, provided I agree with their politics. I do not really care why they think what they think, just what do they intend to do as a practical matter. If Ron Paul wants to shrink the state because he thinks it will bring The Rapture one day closer, I am still willing to cheer him on (despite the waves of existential angst that I may feel).

    The fact I regard all religion as gibberish nonsense does not really matter when it comes to the pragmatic decision of which lever to pull. But it does not make me think more of a person when they evaluate a theory on the basis of the existence of an entity that I regard as being on a par with The Tooth Fairy or Harvey the invisible rabbit. But as I am supremely tolerant of the weird things other people believe, just so long as they return the favour (which is NOT a minor qualification), then I am still willing (if not happy) to support the likes of Ron Paul.

    And that is because his religious views are really not all that important in the overall scheme of things. The role and size of the state. THAT is important.

  • Tatterdemalian

    “Are you kidding me? Pulling my leg? Having me on?

    Current fads:

    1. Global warming is unnatural and caused by man
    2. White men are no good
    3. Scientific Socialism works”

    Consider those some examples of the social facts of life, which can be summed up as, “Popularity is where the real power is, not truth or morality.” A harsh lesson, and one that very few people on the internet can accept, mostly because the internet tends to attract people who can’t deal with others except from behind an LCD display. But whether we believe or disbelieve it, it remains quite true, and the politicians and lawyers will always have the upper hand over us until we learn it, accept it, and find ways to harness it.

    “‘Free’ eh? So I guess there is no need for the content of this ‘baseline’ of education to be a political football. Why? Because as it is ‘free’, you say, I obviously do not have to pay taxes to fund it as the government just pays for the ‘baseline education programme’ with money picked from the state owned orchard of money trees.”

    And here we see what happens when deeply held beliefs are being challenged: rants, obfuscation, and ad hominem. This is why lawyers exist, folks: because some people will try to read hidden meanings into anything that isn’t written in explicit leagalese, to serve their own petty ends.

    By ‘free’ I do not mean ‘nobody has to pay for it,’ only that the recipients do not have to pay additional money for it. That’s right, you there pay out your taxes so some stranger you have never met gets an education for his children without having to pay a goddamn penny. No doubt this will be met with even more bawling, but it’s really quite a lot cheaper than letting those same strangers’ children grow up knowing only how to survive by forming into a guerilla army and carrying out raids on random neighborhoods, stretching the police so thin that they can’t even rescue a kidnapped former mayor of your town by themselves, as is the case in lovely libertarian utopias like Columbia.

    If you want to get your children an education that hasn’t been kicked around the political football field, you know what you can do? PAY EXTRA FOR IT. ‘Free’ education, like free food and water, should be restricted to a ‘you get what you pay for’ level that government, by its nature, will only barely meet.

  • as is the case in lovely libertarian utopias like Columbia.

    You might start by learning the difference between “libertarian utopia” and “anarchy.”

    Perhaps you could go to a free government school somewhere….

  • Tatterdemalian: yet strangely literacy was pretty much as high as it is today before ‘free’ education and western civilisation did not turn into Somalia.

    Just because the tax man does not pay for ‘something’, it does not mean that ‘something’ (such as education) will not get done if people want it enough.

  • Ian B

    but it’s really quite a lot cheaper than letting those same strangers’ children grow up knowing only how to survive by forming into a guerilla army and carrying out raids on random neighborhoods, stretching the police so thin that they can’t even rescue a kidnapped former mayor of your town by themselves, as is the case in lovely libertarian utopias like Columbia.

    Isn’t it a bit of a leap to make the assumption that that is due to taxpayer funded schooling? Would it not be better to consider that there many be many possible explanations?

    Isn’t Colombia rather linked with the drugs trade (entirely caused by statist intervention, by the way), and doesn’t that tend to create organised crime gangs and so on? Just as an example, there.

  • Mike McDaniel

    Interesting premise, but there are many practical problems. Full disclosure: I am a high school teacher.

    I agree fully that minimal government intrusion in education is ideal. The politicization of education in any direction is harmful and subverts what is a very good, and very necessary ideal: free public education for every American child. One thing is certain: the federal government has no business whatever being involved in education policy or practice. The further removed any governmental entity is from the local classroom, the more likely is their “help” to be harm.

    The problem is that, with the notable exception of some few private schools on the coasts with enormous endowments, and/or tuition of tens of thousands per semester, k-12 education is not, and cannot be, a for-profit enterprise. If it was, would we not expect thousands of thriving private schools across America, instead of relatively few private schools barely kept afloat through their affiliation with various churches and religions? Do we really want the length and quality of education for a given child to be dependent upon what their parents can afford? There are broader consequences for society here.

    The construction and maintenance of facilities alone makes it impossible for private education to exist as a for-profit endeavor, thus do many private schools meet in church basements. Tax support is very much necessary. Fortunately, local citizens can hold their elected school boards and state and local politicians accountable when they indulge in political whims instead of working to see that the lowliest teacher in the smallest classroom has what they need to teach as well as possible. It is when we forget that this must be the primary goal of a school district–hiring the best teachers and fully supporting their efforts in teaching the best, most competent information in their individual disciplines–that we run into trouble. Rigorously following this guiding pricipal would immediately eliminate much political mischief. Creationism would not be taught in science classes because it is not science. Political correctness would not be enforced, because it destroys individual accomplishment and responsibility.

    The means for local citizens to see that everyone in a school district is “accountable” exist, and always have. Citizens merely need to be involved and use the power that democracy grants.

  • Ian B

    The problem is that, with the notable exception of some few private schools on the coasts with enormous endowments, and/or tuition of tens of thousands per semester, k-12 education is not, and cannot be, a for-profit enterprise. If it was, would we not expect thousands of thriving private schools across America, instead of relatively few private schools barely kept afloat through their affiliation with various churches and religions

    The problem is, whenever government provides a free service, the rest of the market has a big problem, and the result is only the “luxury” end survives. We can see this also with government free housing, or rent control, which result in a reduced private market which is more expensive than in cities without government intervention.

    One way to look at it is; if you can send your kids to a bearable quality free school, you’re not going to pay anything out of your pocket to send them to a fee-paying school of comparable quality. Firstly because you gain nothing, secondly because you feel you’re paying already through taxes. So the private sector can only survive, in a much reduced form, by offering a premium service which is so demonstrably better than the free one that it’s worth buying; which means it’s going to be much more expensive (or needs itself to be subsidised e.g. by church organisations).

    If the government gave you free bread, I can only sell you a loaf if it’s super high quality much better bread.

    So if you have free education, it’s hard to say that the small, expensive private sector is all that there would be without it.

  • I agree fully that minimal government intrusion in education is ideal. The politicization of education in any direction is harmful and subverts what is a very good, and very necessary ideal: free public education for every American child.

    But I think you fall at the first fence, Mike. ‘Free’ public education means tax funded education and ANYTHING that involves money taken from people via the political process (i.e. tax money) is necessarily a political matter. If you are going to spend my money, you CANNOT deny me political input in the process of how that money gets spent. No taxation without representation, remember?

    The only way to have education without political interference is to not spend money acquired at gunpoint via politics… and that perforce means no tax money.

    The problem is that, with the notable exception of some few private schools on the coasts with enormous endowments, and/or tuition of tens of thousands per semester, k-12 education is not, and cannot be, a for-profit enterprise.

    But that is in an environment in which the market is wildly distorted by tax funded (please stop calling it ‘free’) education. If people with less money want education are you seriously saying the market will not be willing to offer a product to fit their budget if not crowded out by the state? The historical evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. The state is not the only way for less affluent people to get an education and in this era of cheap internet access, the notion people even need to physically go to school at all in order to become educated is very much open to question.

    Citizens merely need to be involved and use the power that democracy grants.

    Democracy only ‘grants’ one power and that is who the means of collective coercion get used on. It is primarily the means by which a plurality of voters, under the leadership of the best organised activists, use force to allocate people’s resources in ways they would not choose to if given the choice (which is why they are not given a choice if they disagree with political outcome). If you are less well organised or have unpopular views or are a member of a fashionably despised minority, there is nothing empowering about ‘citizenship’ and the politics you are subject to, democratic or otherwise.

  • m@t

    In reading the post and comments, the obvious would seem to me to be the following:

    First, Education:
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Regardless of one’s views it is for the most part currently provided by the state–if they provide funding, they may dictate content. If they don’t provide any funding, they should not be afforded any say in the content. Percentage of funding should dictate the percentage of control.

    Ultimately, those hiring the graduates should be most concerned with the level of competence of the finished product. If accreditation is to be required, it should be done by private entities, and those should be clearly separated from both government and schools. Any accreditation awarded should be based solely on results, not on the funding agency (public, private, or personal).

    Second, Marriage:
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=
    There are several vital reasons for having “marriage.”

    First, the (simplistic) groundwork:

    Nations are conglomerations of individuals ruled by a hypothetical entity (government). Most governments can point to clear geographic boundaries, a majority ideology, and some history. Governments are (of necessity) parasitic: each must be funded to operate — if citizens don’t fund their government, it will fall, dragging the citizenry inside the geographic area into chaos. Therefore, the government gives incentives (in the form of institutions) to individuals to produce taxable revenue.

    Second, the (simplistic) explanation:

    Incentive “A” is the institution recognized as “a business” (whether a normal corporation, an S-Corp, partnership, LLC, etc is immaterial); businesses are taxed at different rates as individuals, hold different privileges, and offer rights and protection to the individual citizen(s) that created the entity. With some exceptions, all of these entities are expected to generate revenue for the state (exemptions are non-profits — whether secular or religious in nature — in return for recognition, they receive no monetary loss/gain to/from the state and assist in promoting domestic tranquility — basically, an uncontrollable, unfunded asset of government).

    In contrast, any entities that attempt to overthrow the government or foment any type of activity affecting the domestic tranquility of the government are not assets, and do not receive any type of recognition from the government.

    Incentive “B” (marriage) is another institution vital to government. By it, 2 separate citizens agree to become 1 (in the eyes of the state) for tax purposes; this 1 entity becomes a family. The state offers special rights to families just as they do to businesses. In return, the family provides the primary ingredient vital to the survival of all governments: more citizens (children) to pay taxes and support a future generation of the government. To minimize government interference, exceptions are expected. Not every family can (or will) produce citizens, but the possibility is there, so the recognition is awarded — to promote domestic tranquility.

    Therein lies the problem for individuals in same-sex relationships. Legitimizing their union by receiving state recognition is of great benefit to them: the 2 receive the same rights, protection, and privileges accorded a family. However, there is no benefit to the government to recognize same-sex relationships because there is no possibility of producing citizens.

    Thus, same sex relationships fall into a similar category as entities that attempt to overthrow the government: they promote a lifestyle that denies assets (citizens) to the government. While not an overt threat, the long term result is the same.

    Conclusion:
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Opinion of what constitutes right or wrong is just that — opinion. However, from a purely logical standpoint, there aren’t any “good” reasons for any government to offer this recognition.

    If those in same-sex relationships receive any benefits from their union the government becomes the biggest loser in terms of quantifiable assets. However, those in traditional families will have lost the benefits they presently derive from their union as well — lost to dilution.

    The only reason to offer this recognition is to ensure political correctness. Political correctness dilutes the benefits afforded to the majority to appease a minority.

    Any way you slice it, it still sounds like stealing to me.

  • Ian B

    Creationism has little or nothing to do with a reaction against eugenics. It was more a reaction against sex and drugs and rock and roll. It is a reaction against the rebellion of youth against tradition and conventional morality, of sexual freedom and lifestyle freedom, of easy divorce, legally available abortion, encouragement of homosexuality, of pornography and superficial titillation appearing in popular entertainment, of disrespect for authority and one’s elders and betters.

    I don’t think that history supports that assertion, largely because the Creationist movement took off long before sex drugs and rock’n’roll (look at the date of the Scopes Monkey Trial). It was a reaction against social darwinism, not social liberalism.

    I’ll agree though that much of the christian right are reaction against social liberalism (libertinism) but they started doing that in the 60s, well after the Darwin vs. Creation argument was well underway. Most of your list are behaviours are best described as libertine and some are opposed stridently by voices in the secular left too; e.g. pornography and sexual freedom (the strong left wing feminist strand seem to be increasingly arguing themselves into the same position as the average ranting mullah, see Naomi Wolf here for instance) and I think it’s unwise to associate libertine social values with the left or assume all conservatives, even christian ones, are Moral Majoritists.

    At best we can perhaps see the “liberal” left and the christian right as too opposing statist philosophies, which is one reason libertarian ideas get crowded out. Even so, with the exception of sexual stuff, even “conservatives” tend to be far less statist than leftists, who want to control everything rather than just what we do with our naughty bits.

    (I’m sorry Perry if this is off-topic but since the post I’m replying to was apparently allowed I’ve felt okayed to answer it).

  • Tatterdemalian

    “Isn’t it a bit of a leap to make the assumption that that is due to taxpayer funded schooling? Would it not be better to consider that there many be many possible explanations?”

    I included at least two other factors in each post I made (free food and water). No, free education isn’t the only factor. It is, however, a factor, one of the additional ones (beyond the simpler needs for survival) that has developed as technological change resulted in changes to societies’ expectations.

    “Tatterdemalian: yet strangely literacy was pretty much as high as it is today before ‘free’ education and western civilisation did not turn into Somalia.”

    ‘Free’ education in the US actually predates the signing of the Declaration of Independence; it was provided throughout New England, funded by county and later state taxes. Literacy in those areas, by some strange happenstance, was much higher than it was in states without similar systems, such as in the Carolinas and Georgia. Within five years of the end of the Civil War (which Somalia is currently being torn up by), all states provided free elementary education.

    Coincidence? Perhaps.

    “You might start by learning the difference between “libertarian utopia” and “anarchy.”
    Perhaps you could go to a free government school somewhere….”

    Anarchies don’t build skyscrapers. Labeling Columbia an “anarchy” is like labeling Chairman Mao a “conservative.” People do it because they can’t stand to look at the dark side of their own beliefs.

  • Vadept

    (Apologize if its already been said) The way to deal with the “government and marriage” issue is to create contractual relationships and let EVERYONE have them. I can think of plenty of situations where straight, non-romantic, same-sex couples will want a contractual relationship (for example, long term roomates who are close friends, and would take care of each others kids or visit the other in a hospital). Whether or not that contractual relationship is a “marraige, sanctified by god, till death do you part,” is up to the Chuch, not the state. As it should be.

    As for education, I’m not quite ready to get behind the abolition of public education. We already HAVE private education, and not everyone can afford it. What do you do for those poor, inner city kids who can’t afford private schooling? I think public education will be around for a while.

  • Alice

    Our host wrote:

    Democracy only ‘grants’ one power and that is who the means of collective coercion get used on.

    To extend that thought — democracy (as practised) is a pretty weak construct. All those Brits who thought that Brown would allow them to vote on the Euro Constitution might tend to agree. All those Brits who don’t remember voting for Brown as their Supreme Leader might tend to agree.

    There are not many recent examples of successful democracy. The rejection by English citizens of the Poll Tax, maybe — although that relied on ordinary citizens being prepared to stand up and defy a “democratically approved” law. Or perhaps the failure of the illegal alien amnesty program agreed by the US political class — although the politicians lost interest only when they realized that their bill might provoke out & out rebellion from mere citizens.

    Seems that actual democracy in practice means direct action, or the credible threat thereof. Which is getting rather close of Mao’s power comes out the barrel of a gun.

    Maybe we should be rethinking democracy.

  • wolfwalker

    Perry, you wrote: “Whenever someone raises questions [about] the premises of evolution … we’re a bunch of mystics and religious nuts.”

    That’s right. You are. Either that, or simply uninformed. Because evolutionary theory is science, based on the observed facts and reasonable deductions from them. I have several hundred books full of data that supports evolution — and zero books that contain any data which contradicts it. Questioning evolution is closer to questioning that the Sun rises in the East than it is to questioning the veracity of the latest political fad.

    Regarding the state’s role in education: I agree with the general consensus that involving a government agency in education is a generally bad idea. My question to you all, however, is this: do you have a better one? Not just a different one, but a demonstrably better one?

    For example, schools are expensive. If you have a town with five or six or ten different factions, none of which can afford its own school but none of which wants to cooperate with any of the others to jointly fund a school, what do they do?

    Next, having established funding for a school, what do you teach? Who establishes the curriculum? buys the textbooks? writes the tests? defines the grading scale? assigns grades? Note that if you answer any of these questions with any variant of “a council of parents and/or teachers,” then you defeat your own principle because you are handing control of the school over to what is, in effect, a government agency. There is little real difference between a twenty-member School Board and a four-hundred-member Legislature. Madison knew it and warned of it in the Federalist Papers two hundred twenty years ago: any group that is granted decision-making powers for the community will experience the problems of factionalism, regardless of its size. If you accept any form or level of government you must accept all the problems it brings with it. You can try to minimize those problems, and more power to you in the endeavor, but you can’t eliminate them. They’re inherent in the system.

  • Ian B

    There are not many recent examples of successful democracy. The rejection by English citizens of the Poll Tax, maybe

    I’d argue that that was a well orchestrated campaign by pressure groups in which the general public had a useful role. Had there not been a strong faction within the ruling class eager for an excuse to ditch Thatcher, and the usual well organised mob of media and pressure groups, “Teh People” could have done nothing except grumble and put up with it, much like e.g. Council Tax, the smoking ban, the rubbish collection farce, myriad other impositions.

    It was a surgical strike by the insider left and (Gabb term again here) the quisling right, against a leader who had outlived her usefulness to them (having been so kind as to quash their main opponent, the trade unions, introduce some desired economic reforms, and so on). The ordinary folks were marshalled to provide the necessary figleaf of “popular support”.

  • Perry, you wrote: “Whenever someone raises questions [about] the premises of evolution … we’re a bunch of mystics and religious nuts.”

    Really? I don’t recall writing that and it sure doesn’t sound like me. Unless I was drunk (by no means impossible at this time of year), I think you are quoting someone else!

  • Ian B

    Regarding the state’s role in education: I agree with the general consensus that involving a government agency in education is a generally bad idea. My question to you all, however, is this: do you have a better one? Not just a different one, but a demonstrably better one?

    One way of looking at things is to start going back to one’s implicit assumptions and addressing them. It can be useful, or a waste of time, but it’s worth a try. So, musing here-

    We make an automatic assumption that “education” means “schooling” and when we think “school”, we think a very specific thing- a single building which children attend approximately the same as standard work hours, which utilises a batch education system with schooldays, divided into periods assigned to specific subjects. We tend to presume it has some considerable function of “citizenship construction”. It awards some kind of diplomas for knowledge earned. It’s a coherent encapsulated social system, like a company, to which children “belong”.

    Is that the only practical means of educating children? It’s only recently in human history that such schools have existed, or at least have been something most or all children attend.

    It’s suspicious for instance that apparently we believe that the quantity of education a child requires, which seem to measure in time units, is an exact match for (a) the amount of hours children need minding while their parents work and (b) the number of years between toddler stage and the age their allowed to get a job. What a coincidence! What would we do if children had had sufficient education by the age of 12, for instance? Who would mind them during the day? Not the parents, they’re busty working.

    Is batch schooling the best form of education? What of the child who is just getting to grips with long division, then the bell rings and they have to go learn about history, then they’re just getting to understand the Corn Laws and RING, off to play some sports which they may or may not like, do nothing for their health, and so on.

    Many children hate school. It’s at once rigid and formal, but also a bear pit. They’re locked in with any tormentors who may arise, driving some kids to suicide or shooting sprees. For an adult, a lousy job is something they can walk away from. Not a kid in school. I think sometimes we adults forget what school was like; it’s all-encompassing, moreso than a job, a strange microcosmic society in which you’re forced to participate and which is a benign police state, and which isolates the child from their protectors; their family (particularly the parents). Children in the past never had to cope with this (in the tribal societies that most humans have lived in, learning was something informal done mostly from the parents, or with their supervision anyway). Is this artificial factory society good for children? Does it teach them self-reliance, or does it teach them how to function in a violent communist dystopia?

    For instance, can we challenge the assumption that a child must attend a (particular) school? Beyond perhaps a first stage gaining basic numeracy and language skills, could not parents and offspring choose courses from a range of private sector providers? As a kid, I was fascinated by astronomy. Sadly, there was no time in my school’s curriculum, nor facilities, for astronomy study. Perhaps in a private sector non-school based system, I could have selected to study astronomy as a specific course. Of course I’d have needed to study physics and math, probably chemistry as well, and so on.

    Maybe there’s no astronomy course in my little town. Well, boarding school has always seemed a bit grim, but boarding at an educational institution for a limited period, to study among the like minded- I’d have rather fancied that. Child-minding included!

    etc

    Yes, I know this is all a bit utopian. But I do challenge the school paradigm as it stands. I think we need to, um, think outside the box a bit.

    Let’s face it, for huge numbers of kids, school as it stands is just a farcical bollocking waste of their time and everybody else’s money.

  • wolfwalker

    Sorry, my mistake, Perry. It wasn’t you who wrote that, it was Protagonist. Keeping track of who wrote what in this non-threaded interface can be curst difficult.

    Ian:

    Is that the only practical means of educating children? It’s only recently in human history that such schools have existed, or at least have been something most or all children attend.

    Is it the only practical means? Is it merely the most practical means? Is it neither? I don’t know.

    I do know that it’s only recently that it became necessary for such things as general schooling to exist, because only recently has the scope of human knowledge, even “basic numeracy and language skills” (to borrow your own phrase), become so complex as to require some systematic form of general schooling. Two hundred years ago you could have learned everything that was known about astronomy in a year, maybe less, and then you could go out and start discovering new stuff on your own. Fifty years ago you could have learned everything that was known about electronics in a year or two, then gone out and started inventing new devices on your own. As recently as twenty years ago a retired nuclear engineer was able to become the acknowledged world authority on sauropod dinosaurs by educating himself on his own time, without a day in college. But today, you need at least some background in many subjects just to function — and just as important, to know when somebody’s trying to snooker you. Every day I see people falling for slick scams that they would never look at twice if they understood basic statistics, economics, critical-thinking …

    Creationism, to return to the original topic, would die — dead, completely, instantly, for all time — if more people knew the scientific method and understood that most scientists really do try to get it right. Most con games and scams would vanish, instantly and for all time, if most people understood that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most modern leftist (and many ‘conservative’) political parties would fail utterly and completely if more people understood There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Somebody always pays — somehow, somewhere, sometime.

    Unfortunately, all that takes time to learn. How much time? Maybe not twelve years, but it does take some time — and it has to be the right time, when the child is mentally advanced enough to grasp it.

    Also, prior to about fifty years ago, it was not only possible but necessary for a child to spend the minimum practical amount of time learning basic skills before moving into the workforce, because every available pair of hands was needed in the workforce. “Summer vacation” is a relic of the days when kids were needed so badly home on the farm that they couldn’t spare the time for school.

    But I do challenge the school paradigm as it stands. I think we need to, um, think outside the box a bit.

    And I agree. However, part of my schooling (I’m a computer programmer) was a deeply set reflex to always ask “what can go wrong?” and then plan for every foreseeable answer to that question. Thus my question: granted that the current schooling system is mediocre at best and should be replaced with something better, what can that “something better” be? If you don’t think things through, in detail, you risk replacing the current system with something much worse.

  • Ian B

    Wolfwalker; firstly I’d say that we shouldn’t be looking at is necessarily “replacing the current system with something” else. That’s a collectivist view; top down decision about what schooling should be. I’d rather that different people could try different things, and we can’t have that in a statist system. Maybe trad schooling would be good for some pupils, perhaps pick’n’mix courses as I tentatively suggested might work well, or homeschooling or unschooling or other ideas. In a free society with parents making choices, the good ideas would, we hope, succeed, be copied and spread like that. At the moment we have monolithic departments deciding what is a good curriculum, what children need to be taught and so on and it doesn’t seem to be working very well.

    So I’m not saying that “we” should decide how children shiould be taught; I’m saying I’d like to see people trying things out and having the chance to try them out and I think good things would bubble to the top.

    I’m not sure that the modern complexity of human knowledge is the issue here. THere has been more knowledge than anyone can know for a very, very long time. Schools can’t even dip a toe into that. If you’re going to be a nuclear physicist, you need intense education in that subject. If you’re not, it’s hardly worth knowing what a quark is. General schools can’t be of much use here.

    You’ve given lots of examples of how schooling is failing; very few people really understand the scientific method, economics or statistics, which I agree everyone needs to understand to avoid getting hoodwinked. But clearly education isn’t teaching these skills at present and I’m not sure anyone wants it to. Do politicians or the expert class really want everyone understanding their cooked statistics or able to come to a non-expert opinion on economics or global warming? I don’t think there’s much incentive for that. I think most of the people I know who’ve got some understanding of such things have pretty much gone out and learned it for themselves out of interest. Most people learn most stuff for themselves, even today. The amount of practical knowledge the average bod is carrying around from their schooling is negligible.

    I think the simple fact here is that people only retain knowledge they need. Even if they learned the size of the banana crop of Alaska, once they’ve no geography tests left to take, out of their brain it goes, forever. I have yet to meet somebody (in my informal survey) who is a non-specialist (or non maths fan) who can remember the quadratic equation formula from school. I really am not sure that the average person needs more basic knowledge (literacy and numeracy) than they did 100 years ago (when it appears standards were much higher). Useful understanding of how to “think about things” as per your examples simply isn’t taught, as we can agree from the general lack of understanding in the populace.

    We’re not teaching understanding that would be useful to people (economics, statistics, scientific method). We’re wasting billions of groats and billions of hours on this. The system’s already broken. Could anything else be much worse?

  • wolfwalker

    Ian,

    So I’m not saying that “we” should decide how children shiould be taught; I’m saying I’d like to see people trying things out and having the chance to try them out and I think good things would bubble to the top.

    I understand. I also agree: I’d like to see some experimenting too. However, I’m saying that your proposed change amounts to “deciding how children should be taught” just as much as the current system does. Have you heard the saying that “failing to make a decision is itself a decision?” To me your position equates to “we decide that children should be taught in whatever way ________ (fill in the blank) believes they should.” Currently that blank is filled in by “the State.” You can fill in the blank with “parents” or “community” or “religious leaders” or “education experts” or anybody else you want, but the core meaning remains the same. That’s not a top-level decision; it’s a simple statement of reality. Children always have been and always will be educated in the way that those who control their lives think is best.

    The system’s already broken. Could anything else be much worse?

    Look at the religiously-run and -funded madrassas so common in Islamic countries. Their standard curriculum includes religious bigotry, racism, sexism, and mass murder as an acceptable form of political discourse. Do you really need me to answer that question?

  • Ian B

    wolfwalker:

    hmm, I think maybe I’ve conflated discussing things from two different points of view. On the one hand, playing “fantasy prime minister” and on the other hand playing “general public”.

    From the fantasy PM position, I’m advocating the state having nothing whatsoever to do with schooling, as is the general tenor of this thread. I’m then saying as Joe Public that what I’d like to happen in such an environment would be lots of companies setting up different educational offerings on the market, and then good educational products would succeed and bad ones wouldn’t. The only way new ideas could be tried would be if people thought of them, discussed them, and they came on the market for people to buy. I can’t say what products would become available, I’m merely saying what I’d like to happen.

    But there’s no need in that situation for an educational establishment to set the menu. Maybe I’d set up a little school running astronomy courses for the over-8s. Who knows? :) I actually don’t think there’d be a shortage of ideas.

    As to the madrassas- what do you do about religious cults in general? These people believe insane and evil things. Their running of schools is just one element of their insane and evil doings. What does a free society do when an insane and evil idea is in its midst? Support free speech, or try to prevent it?

    As such, that’s not a problem for a discussion on education, because it’s a problem for a much broader discussion on freedom vs. security, or something. You might say that the problem to address wouldn’t be the madrassas; it would be the problem that there are people who want to send their children there at all.

  • Ian B

    Sorry, just to add, I don’t think I was clear. I meant that if different patterns of education were to be tried (i.e. my “pick’n’mix” suggestion) clearly that wouldn’t just happen because schooling had been entirely privatised- you may well end up with just thousands of traditionally run private schools. It would only happen if new ideas were discussed and considered and thus a market for these experimental ideas developed. A government couldn’t and shouldn’t make that happen.

    Such ideas may come from educators, parents, or just people waffling on the internets. So I’m saying I’d hope that kind of discussion would become widespread and increase educational diversity that way. It’s not a plan, just a hope.

  • —-Education—-

    Government control of most education in the US is indeed a problem. But credentialism (a nod to Bill Quick), and the “professionalization” of educrats is even worse – it contaminates the private schools also. Furthermore, these trends are not a direct result of government control, but rather more subtle social forces. Businesses enforce credentialism. Society wants “professional” teachers (meaning those who know nothing but educational theory and a bit of practice, rather than those who know a subject).

    Libertarian solutions are not going to fix these problems. Go look at the private schools and you will see the same credential requirements, the teachers who know nothing but “education” and all this implies.

    —Creationism etc—

    Okay, it’s not the subject. Fundamentalism, however, is a significant issue. Libertinism (often mistaken by some, such as Bill Mahr, as Libertarianism), enshrined in governmental action primarily through court decrees (Roe v Wade, for example), has fired up the fundies (and the religious right in general). The Creationist argument just comes along with the rest, and frankly, is a bit stale at this point, having been superceded by the harder-to-refute Intelligent Design movement. The latter attempts to use the methods of science to disprove Darwinism, and in the process asks good questions. Unfortunately, it offers an unacceptable (i.e. unscientific) hypotheses – supernatural intervention. Even if the ID’ers are correct, their thesis cannot be used in a scientific context – only their challenges have any value.

    —Libertarianism—

    I see many libertarian arguments here, some of which are quite appealing. They suffer (so far) from one fatal flaw: few citizens are willing to accept libertarian government. They accept certain libertarian arguments (and there is a growing libertarian wing of the Republican party), but have shown no tendency over the years to accept the stronger anti-statist prescriptions. And, I happen to think they are right – libertarianism in the large scale is utopian, not practical. Libertarianism on the margin is valuable, both as a source of actual solutions, and as an intellectual check on statist tendencies of the right (it won’t do anything about statist tendencies on the left, because the left is fundamentally and absolutely statist).

  • wolfwalker

    Ian,

    Thanks, that does make it clearer. If I read you right, then this:

    I’m then saying as Joe Public that what I’d like to happen in such an environment would be lots of companies setting up different educational offerings on the market, and then good educational products would succeed and bad ones wouldn’t.

    is really the heart of your proposal, yes? It’s a fine, lovely, idealistic idea. Unfortunately, it also demonstrates my primary objection to libertarianism as a large-scale political system: experience shows that the real world doesn’t behave this way. Consider Betamax vs. VHS, or Windows vs. Macintosh. For that matter, consider the competing worldviews of superstition vs. science. Market share goes to the product that’s marketed most effectively, not to the product that is qualitatively superior.

    Then there’s the question of how the companies design and develop their products. To draw a rough analogy: I can think of at least four different mapping services I can find either on-line or as stand-alone programs. Wow, there must be lots of competition with four manufacturers, right? Not really. You see, all four use the same set of mapping data, from the same ultimate source. If there’s an error in the underlying data, it gets carried over to all the services that use that data. Likewise, if all or even several of your educational-product companies consult the same set of experts in order to develop their products, then it’s those experts who are actually controlling the curriculum. And if the experts are wrong, then every product developed based on their ideas will also be wrong. What do you do if all the major choices for educational products embody ideas that you know — not think, not judge, not believe, but know, in the “water is wet and the sun rises in the east” sense — to be wrong?

    Then there’s the question of what happens to the children. Your proposal would lead to some, perhaps most, of a generation of kids being used as experimental test subjects. What happens to the kids whose parents force them to use bad educational products? It takes years, sometimes decades, to get enough data to analyze how any particular educational method works. We’re seeing that right now, as we watch the children of the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate the flaws of educational ideas that arose in the 1970s. Is it ethical to knowingly condemn children to failure as a result of flawed or corrupt educational methods and products?

    I want to emphasize that I don’t have any answers to these questions. I’m simply trying to point out that they are questions which need to be considered. When you do have answers for them, then you’ll be several steps closer to having a workable plan, rather than just an interesting and thought-provoking idea.

  • michael i

    Yeah, let’s “denationalize” marriage. Have any kind of marriage contract anyone likes, too.

    Just don’t use the State to bludgeon me into treating whatever anyone wants to label a “marriage” as my idea of a real, no-scare-quotes-needed, honest to goodness marriage. That means, among other things, that if I choose not to rent to anyone with a “marriage” I consider objectionable I don’t have to. I’d also have a free right to withhold marital benefits to anyone in my employ whose “marriage” doesn’t fit my idea of a real marriage. Additional examples abound.

    Libertopia may very well be a lot more restrictive in reality than libertarian theorists are willing to recognize. I find that most libertarians take the cosmopolitanism enforced by State decrees — employer nondiscrimination laws for instance — for granted when constructing their New Social Order fantasies.

  • Michael:

    find that most libertarians take the cosmopolitanism enforced by State decrees — employer nondiscrimination laws for instance — for granted when constructing their New Social Order fantasies.

    You are new to Samizdata, aren’t you.

  • Ian B

    wolfwalker-

    I think your reasoning is fallacious on two counts. Firstly the idea that markets are bad at choosing products, and secondly the idea that may be summed up “we shouldn’t try something else because we can’t prove it’ll definitely be better”.

    On the first count, you use examples of two products that failed to conquer despite being “qualitatively better”. People often do this. But who is to decide which is better, and based on what qualities? In each case, the winner had some clear advantages; for instance on price and on a wider availability of software. Was Beta really “better” than VHS? Take a look at one of my favourite sites, Total Rewind, a VCR museum. You’ll need to select the page “Beta 1976-1988″ since it’s a framed site and I can’t directly link to the page. Now I’m no expert on VCRs, but this guy is and he says–

    “Speaking of quality, you will often hear Betamax fans claiming that Beta was technically better than VHS. However, on closer inspection this turns out to be something of a myth; an advantage Beta might have had was quickly matched by VHS, and anyway was only apparent using sophisticated test equipment. In fact, independant tests of picture quality at the time actually put VHS ahead, the scores over four tests being VHS: 2, Beta: 1, No difference: 1. This urban legend probably reflects Sony’s marketing rather than any actual quantifiable difference.”

    Did Beta really lose despite being a “qualitatively better product”? Dunno.

    As to Windows vs. Mac, again, by whose criteria? Macs for instance are often declared to be better engineered, but this often comes down to things which are better in a “luxury market” sense than practically a great advantage, kind of “the power supply glides out on carbon composite rails after releasing the single hand-crafted titanium screw”, and the punters en masse don’t care much about that. They’re much more interested in a moderate price, software availability, whether it can run their favourite games and so on. Or, to give a personal example, my sister was looking for a new computer recently and I went along. I said she should also consider the Macs. She took a look at the Mac on display, with its big white bezel, said “ugh, it looks like a fridge” and that was pretty much that. Whether the Mac interface is better than Windows is subjective, whether they’re really better machines is subjective. When you say qualitatively, you mean that by your criteria. Linux fans use the same argument. They’re mystified why people buy Windows boxes and presume the purchasers are stupid. But people are buying based on criteria which are important to them, and care little for the superior technical purity of the codebase; they’re interested in what it does, not how it does it. We can’t say that Windows is some kind of market failure. It’s a perfectly decent OS that the market has chosen to use.

    Or, another example; a Rolls Royce is a technically superior car, but few people buy them. It’s too good and thus costs too much.

    The market actually makes pretty good choices, even if some people think it should make different ones. But now, consider if we had one government-led nationalised computer company (and had always had just that). Would we have computers anywhere near as good as Macs, Nix boxes or Windows? Probably not. We’d probably still be staggering along on the Command Line with a 3Mhz processor. We probably wouldn’t even have PCs at all, since the Planning Committee would laugh at the idea ordinary people would need a computer on their desk.

    So we can say that under a private system, even if the punters didn’t opt for some “optimal” choice, the average level of the choices available would probably still be higher than the nationalised offering.

    Regarding the remainder of your post, I’d say that all these problems are problems which already plague the nationalised education system, but currently most parents have no chance to escape them. For instance, as you’ve pointed out, they have been educationally experimented on, often with terrible results. This has been imposed from above. Children have been arbitrarily chosen to participate in various experimental educational ideas and parents have just had to put up with it.

    So we’re comparing what is already failing, with a system which may be better, and which reasonable arguments from basic principles suggest would be, even if not by much. Given the choice between certain continued failure or a possibility of success, I’ll take the possibility of success.

    And finally- in a free country, would some parents make terrible choices for their kids? Yes, yes they would. But the reality is, birth is a lottery. Some kids get great families and some kids get awful ones. It’s not fair but there’s little we can do about that unless we entirely nationalise child rearing. I don’t want to live in that type of country. Do you?

    Most of the people I know are just ordinary folk trying to do the best for their kids. I believe that’s true of most families in all social strata, from the wealthy elite** to the underclass teenager pushing a pushchair around Kwiksave. The number of really bad parents is pretty small.

    **And let us not forget here that the wealthier classes, who can currently afford private education, are not necessarily good parents. Many of them are such cranks that they’re effectively starving their children due to food faddist nonsense. Bad parenting comes in many guises.

  • Just don’t use the State to bludgeon me into treating whatever anyone wants to label a “marriage” as my idea of a real, no-scare-quotes-needed, honest to goodness marriage.

    I agree entirely as that is exactly the point I have made on many occasions. If you want to pour scorn on same-sex marriages, you should be at perfect liberty to do so and to discriminate to your little heart’s content on that basis as well if you like. If you own a business, you should be able to advertise for employees as following:

    HOT BABE WANTED FOR SECRETARY. NO QUEERS, JEWZ OR NIGGERS NEED APPLY

    That is exactly the right I am arguing for. Chances are all your (hypothetical) actions have done is create a market opening for a business that is perfectly happy to cater to the people you dislike.

    So yes, I am also arguing for the right of gay people or anyone else, to discriminate against you too and to refuse to employ you or do business with you because they think you are a bigot or just because they hate the way you comb your hair.

    It’s called liberty, you should try it sometime. It ain’t always pretty but it beats the alternatives.

  • Paul Marks

    There were plenty of inexpensive for-profit schools in England and Wales in spite of the government subsidizing some non for-profit ones (1833 onwards).

    But then subsidized “Board Schools” were set up in some areas (under the Act of 1870) and then School Boards were made complusory even if the local people voted against them (as they did in my home town of Kettering) – and attendence was made “free” (i.e. at the expense of the taxpayer, local and national) under the Act of 1891.

    If someone is giving away something “free” it is hard to compete. So only top-end-of-the-market schools tended to survive (especially after the Act of 1944 took over the independent Grammar schools).

    However, the government schools provide a very poor quality of education (for example the ones I went to did not even teach me to read or write), and people are starting to notice this.

    St Peter’s Independent School in Northampton is hardly an elite school (full disclosure – I taught classical civilization, history and politics there for a couple of years) is hardly an elite school – and fees tend to be “well can you afford?” level.

    However, it certainly provides a better education that nearby state schools.

    And St Peter’s also provides a better environment – without the endless violence and other such of the local state schools.

    As for religious schools (St. Peter’s is not particularly religious, in spite of the name, just standard morning assembly and R.E. class – the same as in government schools in Britain):

    Roman Catholic schools in the United States do not brainwash people – many people who go to them do not turn out to be fanatical Catholics.

    In Australia (before R.M.s government started to use taxpayers money for them) the Catholic schools showes that a vast numbers of children (certainly not all Catholic) could be educated outside the government system without subsidies.

    As for Pakistan:

    It was the first Prime Minister Bhutto who closed down the Christian mission schools – but even he did not claim that they turned people into Christians (the Christian run schools had been good enough for his own children, but he denied them to other people).

    This led to the rise of religious Muslim schools, as the government schools were very bad (this is NOT a matter of how much money is spent on them).

    But let us be careful here:

    What do we mean by “religious Muslim schools in Pakistan”.

    Do not forget the vast amounts of money put in by Saudi Arabia to finance Wahabbi style Islam (as part of the Hanbali school of Islamic legal thought).

    This is not really “private” at all – as this money comes from the oil and gas money in Saudi Arabia.

    In short the type of Islam taught in many Pakistani schools is another fruit of “Jack” Philby (the father of Kim Philby) – his betrayal of the Hashamities putting the House of Saud in power.

    Many of the House of Saud are moderate, even pro Western, but the House has been linked to the Wahabbi for centuries – so they give vast amounts of money. The Wahabbi vary – but the extreme version of their teachings is strong.

    And some of that money goes to very bad people indeed.

  • wolfwalker

    Ian,

    Firstly the idea that markets are bad at choosing products,

    Markets are not necessarily bad at choosing products. The problem with trusting the market process is that the selection criteria for a successful marketing effort are not the same as the selection criteria for a successful product. Microsoft proved that with Windows. It was not the best available GUI for the Intel platform, but it became the industry standard entirely because of its marketing. I know that’s what happened. I was there, I watched it happen.

    But if you don’t like the Beta and Windows examples, here’s another: As the whole world knows ad nauseam, the US is about to begin the serious process of picking a president. A dozen candidates will go into the two major-party primaries. Two candidates will emerge, one for each party. They plus several minor candidates will run in the general election, and the winner will gain the Oval Office next January. Right now, it appears that the two leading candidates are the Queen Bitch and John “Believe my words, not my record” McCain.

    We have 300,000,000 people in this country. At least a third of them fit the statutory requirements to run for president. No one can ever convince me that these two are the best available candidates for the office. What they are, is the best campaigners for the office. Campaigning is marketing, nothing more. The candidate with the most effective marketing campaign wins. Whether or not that winner will actually make an effective officeholder is left completely out of the equation. And so, we get a political system in which offices are filled with showmen who may or may not have any of the qualities they need to be effective leaders.

    and secondly the idea that may be summed up “we shouldn’t try something else because we can’t prove it’ll definitely be better”.

    My objection is often summarized that way, yes. But that summary is inaccurate. I’m not saying “we shouldn’t try something else because we can’t prove it will be better.” I’m saying “before we try something else, we should first think it through, and do all we can to see that it is better.” Yes, the current system is a disaster. Yes, let’s try something new. But for pete’s sake, let’s show a little smarts about how we do it. We’re supposed to be intelligent entities, able to foresee the consequences of our actions and learn from experience. Let’s use that ability.

    Can you show me that you’ve thought your idea through? Have you forecast the likely consequences? What are they? What about unlikely consequences? What are they? The positive consequences? the negative consequences? the possible ways of neutralizing or minimizing the negative consequences?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: You’re an idea man and you’re proposing an idea to solve a really nasty problem. Fine. Great. I like it a lot. But an idea for a solution isn’t a solution yet. It needs to be fleshed out with details. I’m asking about those details.

  • Ian B

    Wolfwalker-

    I’d argue you’re making two errors here. The first I’ve already described. You’re making a subjective judgement about which is the “best” OS without defining “best”, and it seems you’re basing “best” on one aspect of the product- the GUI interface. But in the market, people are buying based on a whole set of criteria, some of which they probably don’t even themselves realise they’re using. For instance Windows ran on a wide range of machines which can be custom built from parts from a wide range of suppliers and are cheaper than Macs, where the OS is tied to the hardware platform. That’s a major criterion which biases my preference towards Windows. Other criteria appeal to other people. You can’t say which is “best” objectively. Indeed, that’s the glory of the free market, which harnesses the wisdom of crowds to choose a “best” product based on millions of subjective choices. As such it’s the only “best” that matters, regardless of whether some people think the one with the purest code or cutest icons is objectively “best”.

    The other issue here is your political analogy. Politics is inherently collectivist. As a product, a president isn’t a market item. Everyone gets to vote, and then the greatest voted for president is the one everyone has to have. There’s only one product allowed on the market at a time.

    The free market doesn’t work that way. Windows may be the most used product, but Mac users can still use Macs, Linux users can still use Linux, and so on. That’s a fundamental difference. We don’t have a vote every 5 years to choose which OS everyone must use, thank gawd. We wouldn’t put up with democracy in most things in fact; imagine democratic religion (we all vote, everyone has to be whichever religion wins) or democratic hobbies, or even a democratic restaurant (you can’t have profiteroles because jam roly poly won the dessert vote, so everyone must eat that).

    So the political analogy is flawed. Democratic votes do indeed seem to lead to lousy compromise products. That suggests that a school system run the same way is a bad idea (everyone must suffer the same middling compromise system) just as it would be for religion, hobbies or restaurant foods.

    Think how much better it would be if everyone could actually have the candidate they voted for, simultaneously! That’s what a market solution provides.

    That’s the only “idea” I’m presenting. What educational products people would actually choose, I can’t say.

  • Ian b – that is some fine rational thinking. thank you. it leads me to believe that you manage to remain relatively happy/content despite being routinely accosted on all sides by morons.

  • Tennwriter

    I’d take Perry’s offer. I’m a socon with as is common for most of them, a lot of libertarian tendencies, but an overall skepticism of good ideas pushed too far.

    A freer market of education would be a great thing for America. It probably has to start with vouchers which is a HUGE step in the general right direction.

    One problem with this is that people would get taught the scientific method…which if I remember right goes…

    1. Hypothesize
    2. Predict Results
    3. Experiment
    4. Verify a Positive or Negative Answer on Prediction
    5. Repeat process to make sure Murphy didn’t get ya’.

    I got taught the Scientific Method very clearly in a private school. The fact that I didn’t retain it in its crystalline purity, but have a general notion of how it works is not their fault.

    I was taught it in the context of pointing out flaws in Darwinism, and for general science.

    This is what will happen. The Religion of Darwin will get exposed to a great deal of informed and not so informed skepticism. It might be enough to finally create the ‘preference avalanche’ I’m expecting when everyone over the space of five years leaves the RoD for True Science, except for hard-core believers. Just like the Soviet Union collapsed like a dead, hollow tree hit once too hard by an axe named Reagan.

    And that is why this proposal won’t fly. Most Creationists would love it. Its the Darwinists who benefit from their state monopoly, and they have enough power to block this reform.

    I do appreciate seeing a Libertarian trying to reach out to Socons instead of the usual ‘bite the hand that feeds ya’.’ methodology. I wish this idea could work. But, sadly it won’t.

    Happy New Year.

  • Greg

    Oh, yeah, I would go for it too. Stragely enough, though, education in Malaysia is a two-tier system (Free and Paid). And I understood the scientific method just fine from the Free side.

    You see, how it works is that we have a national, federal, 12-13 year syllabus. You have national-type schools, missionary schools, private schools, ethnic schools – but they all operate off that syllabus. Obviously, private schools have to be paid for.

    Now, you can imagine that teachers get paid crap. Which is a shame, since the syllabus is, on the whole, fine. Crap in some areas, no doubt – English for Form 5 (end of senior high) is at what I would consider elementary level. But that’s fine – the free market economy has a solution (and so does the society).

    Those solutions, ladies and gentlemen, are called PARENTAL SUPERVISION and TUITION CLASSES. Essentially, both private as well as market-driven solutions work to ameliorate (or at least mitigate) the failures of the government monopoly on education.

    Interestingly enough, state-paid teachers are not as involved during their day job as they are during their ‘outside’ job as private tuition teachers. Well, duh! They get paid more outside, after all.

    Also, parents who are interested enough will sit down and make sure their kid(s) learn what the syllabus says they have to learn. And do their homework.

    It works out reasonably well. The kids who don’t take well to learning spend half-a-day in the classroom acrewing around the teachers and the rest of the day at the local videogame arcade jerking off (well, cybercafes now, I guess, but in my day…) while those who were more interested (or whose parents were) got the additional attention they needed to really complete their education.

    Most Samizdatists, it seems to me, want the government to bugger off completely. This is not necessarily the best way to go about it. What should happen is that the government is the ‘last resort’. Employer of last resort. Lender of last resort. Educator or last resort. Healthcare provider of last resort. Whatever. How this can be made possible given people’s proclivities (or the human condition of depravity), I don’t know.

    And on the tangent, I am a Young Earth Creationist. Was a Theistic Evolutionist for a long time (years and years) but was finally persuaded otherwise BASED ON THE EVIDENCE. I am willing to continually evaluate the scientific evidence one way or the other, of course. Even if I am informed by my religious beliefs.

    But let’s be honest here. I held both my current and my past view on ‘origins science’ because of my religious beliefs. I believe God created the universe, largely in the way described by Gen 1-11, and hence my stand is dictated by that. Can anybody say otherwise? Can you be a Creationist and *not* be theistic? Can you say that you are a Christian and *still* maintain that the mechanism for evolution is undirected natural processes subject to random chance and probability? Rabid evolutionists are far, far more likely to be atheists and agnostics, I think – precisely because your metaphysical belief-structure (or ‘faith’, as I like to call it) almost requires them to think that way.

    And btw, the Sun does *not* rise in the East and set in the West. Geocentrically, it /appears/ to do so. It does not.

  • Most Samizdatists, it seems to me, want the government to bugger off completely.

    Correct.

    This is not necessarily the best way to go about it.

    Obviously we think so but it is certainly the only moral way to go about it.

    What should happen is that the government is the ‘last resort’. Employer of last resort. Lender of last resort. Educator or last resort. Healthcare provider of last resort. Whatever.

    In other words, the way it initially always starts out. It never stops there.

    How this can be made possible given people’s proclivities (or the human condition of depravity), I don’t know.

    Easy. It can’t be done given people’s proclivities.

    Can you say that you are a Christian and *still* maintain that the mechanism for evolution is undirected natural processes subject to random chance and probability?

    Clearly you can as most people in the Western World are Christians of some ilk, at least nominally, and most subscribe to the Theory of Evolution.

    In fact I would argue that as to be rationally coherent in any way at all, Christianity requires the concept of free will, and so the notion of a ‘directed universe’ is utterly incompatible with Christianity. Of course if you subscribe to the strain of Christianity which believes in pre-destination and a ‘puppet master God’, it is all a non-issue as you are either elect or not and nothing else matters.

  • Greg

    Dear Mr de Havilland;

    Indeed, there you have me. Government starts small and inevitably ends up big. Although, it is not necessarily the *structure* of government that is big, merely its authority. Case in point, monarchies. If you ruled by decree, your idea of government is probably a large debt collection agency (with the thugs that beat you up iof you don’t pay), a big freaking military, and not much else.

    Which is sub-optimal. The major problem is that most people *want* to be governed. They *need* rules, and enforcers. This is a war that has to be fought every generation, nay, every day. The ideal is a government that acts as a last resort – I think you will allow me that much, at least? The reality is that government inevitably creeps and takes over – I think we agree on that too. What you need are proactive, unceasingly vigilant, educated people to forestall that – and most people couldn’t give a flying F. Case in point – the USA. Not everyone is an unthinking pawn there – but ye gods, the numbers of them can be quite overwhelming.

    And I would like to say that evolution (and ID/YEC/OEC, for that matter) is at best a model, and not a theory. Pedantic, maybe, but because origin science is not subject to falsifiability, nor to repeated experimentation from which the results (and hence the model) can be refined until it accurately predicts. That’s what science usually boils down to; functions and equations (and the plaintext explanations of those, of course).

    I would argue that people in the Western World are NOT Christian (w/o falling into the ‘true Scotsman fallacy’ so I hope), but this and the preceding paragrah are tangential in nature. Nevertheless, I subscribe to God’s omnipotence and His unchanging nature. And of course, I subscribe to the infallibility of the Biblical writings, insofar as the original autographas go. Having it on reasonably good grounds that the term ‘yom'(=day) meant a plain day as is commonly understood, then God plainly states that He created the universe and everything in it in 6 days, having rested on the 7th, from which we derive our Day of Rest=holy day=holiday. From there, the YEC model fits my metaphysical viewpoint best, and so far, it seems to be holding up. Yes, there are holes – but there are holes in all the other models as well, some of them seemingly insurmountable. The discussion of free will has nothing to play in this – God gave US free will, not the entire bloody universe. And ask Saul of Tarsus how much free will he got – not a whole of a lot, I can tell you. In fact, if you think of the notion of free will as in the context of the military, or being a minor under the authority of your parents, that is probably the context I can live with.

    Nevertheless, while I think that evolution is a lot of hogwash and that people who believe it not only have an ulterior motive (well, duh, everyone does) but are also wilfully blind and sometimes downright dishonest, I do not therefore insist that only ID/creationism should be taught in the classrooms. As many, many evolutionists insist the opposite (usually, the status quo) should be. Who’s more libertarian here?

    Before anyone quotes the ‘flat earth’ argument at me, let me make it very clear that I believe in teaching history in science classes. The world is NOT round. Heck, it ain’t even spherical. Nor a spheroid oblate. Close, though. But locally, if you considered the overall curvature of the earth to be 0, you’d be nearly right. So, by all means, teach the various and historical viewpoints. Teach the reasoning behind the various viewpoints. Then give the evidence and data collected over the years and centuries and let students to come to their own conclusions. Tell them also the prevailing viewpoints, how they became that way, and what is likely to happen to them if they are ‘heretical’ to those viewpoints. Let me tell you, I’d pay to attend THOSE classes.

    And let’s be honest about the actual issue, Mr de Havilland. You CANNOT de-politicise education – it’s almost like a ‘third rail’, if you get my reference. Education=indoctrination to many, many people, and many governments – cases in point, communist and Islamic nations. No way on God’s green earth will they give up that power. About the only way I can see it happening is if we went back to the days of the trade and craft guilds, where it was the ‘associations’ (and their representatives) that determined whether a person was a qualified apprentice, journeyman or master. And even then, I would argue that everyone had a right to be given the opportunity to learn basic literacy and numeracy at least (the 3Rs, you understand). And that makes it a public good, in economic terms, and that means government will be involved in it somehow. Minimally, one can hope. But, you know – someone has to set standards, and enforce standards.

    I’ll stop here. Not wanting to waste bandwidth.

  • Which is sub-optimal. The major problem is that most people *want* to be governed. They *need* rules, and enforcers.

    And there is your core misunderstanding of the libertarian position. No one is arguing in favour of chaos. Chaos is in fact unsupportable for long, it is an un-natural state because people do indeed want order. However that does not mean they want states as states are only one way to get order. Market represent order too. Society, which is the opposite of state as Tom Paine pointed out in 1776, is order. There are many ways of attain order and states are not even one of the better ways.

    This is a war that has to be fought every generation, nay, every day.

    The strength of civil society and its institutions in counter-weight to the state is the very measure of a society’s value, in my view. In a society where you have to fight the state at every turn, every day, that is actually no society at all, it is just a state, somewhere Rousseau has triumphed. Where civil society is strong, such battles are more intermittent.

    The ideal is a government that acts as a last resort – I think you will allow me that much, at least?

    Yes, I would regard that as axiomatic.

    Nevertheless, while I think that evolution is a lot of hogwash and that people who believe it not only have an ulterior motive (well, duh, everyone does) but are also wilfully blind and sometimes downright dishonest,

    Irrelevant and also untrue. Some people have an ulterior motive. Some people support evolution because they think it is true. But either way, it is not germane.

    I do not therefore insist that only ID/creationism should be taught in the classrooms. As many, many evolutionists insist the opposite (usually, the status quo) should be. Who’s more libertarian here?

    My whole point (the title of my article is the give away if you cannot be bothered to read the whole thing, is that you are just repeating the wrong issue. I do not really give a damn about evolution or creationism. Obviously creationism is absurd to me because the whole notion of God is absurd to me (no creator = no creationism), but so what? That is not the point. The point is no side should have the force backed power of the state behind it deciding what is the One Truth or even what gets on the menu of acceptable selectable theories. That is the ONLY meaningful issue here.

    And let’s be honest about the actual issue, Mr de Havilland. You CANNOT de-politicise education

    Of course you can. You simply leave it to the market. It is really that simple. In the end it does not actually matter what the political class wants because in this globalised age of cheap and increasingly omnipresent internet, the notion any political system less repressive than North Korea can actually control what people can learn grows more preposterous by the day. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle even though it will take decades for the institutions to catch up with reality and dissolve into the mist of irrelevance. Arriving at that point… that is the real issue that needs discussing, not evolution and creationism.

    Minimally, one can hope. But, you know – someone has to set standards, and enforce standards.

    Sure and markets do that better than anything. Different competing standards usually.

  • Sunfish

    M@T,

    I’m sorry, but I had to ask this before the thread fell off the front page.

    Therein lies the problem for individuals in same-sex relationships. Legitimizing their union by receiving state recognition is of great benefit to them: the 2 receive the same rights, protection, and privileges accorded a family. However, there is no benefit to the government to recognize same-sex relationships because there is no possibility of producing citizens.

    Thus, same sex relationships fall into a similar category as entities that attempt to overthrow the government: they promote a lifestyle that denies assets (citizens) to the government. While not an overt threat, the long term result is the same.

    It looks as though you are suggesting that the reason that there is a legal construct called ‘marriage’ with legal consequences is because straight couples produce children who will pay taxes. It also appears that you’re asserting that it would be unjustified to provide that legal construct to couples which do not produce children who will pay taxes.

    Finally, it appears that you are referring to the children as ‘assets of the state.’ And it appears that you are condemning couples who ‘deny’ such ‘assets’ to the state. This suggests that you perceive that the state is somehow entitled to these ‘assets.’

    Am I reading you correctly?

  • Sunfish, yes I think you are correct. I never read his comment before because the formatting was too off-putting.

    M@T seems to be taking a, well, paleo-fascist approach that we are Subjects owned by the state and who exists for the benefit of the state.