Greed

We talked to some very nice people yesterday at the race track. It was a grandfather supporting his grandson’s racing. He was such a nice man and his grandson sure was fast and exciting to watch! We talked about how far we came to practice and race, what kind of training we do, diet, bikes, etc. It’s what you talk about while waiting for your race to come up. We learned a lot about each other and will probably see each other again at another track. Our kids aren’t in the same race class but they may be in the future! They inspired us and the boys to put more effort into practices. As a result, we’ve worked out a new training schedule and workout routine.

As we talked, I could tell we were coming from two different worlds. At the track, he had a really nice work van, stocked with tools and parts, as well as two very new and well-built race bikes. He talked about the 42′ RV Toy Hauler they were living in and their houses in two different states. We talked about getting to a big race in the southeast and I asked about how much it cost them to get there. It was a great eye opener. I would assume the boys would be discouraged. We can’t spend that kind of money! But they weren’t. They don’t believe you NEED to spend that much, it’s just that he can and is comfortable doing it. We can get there. We just need to be creative.

This morning I was thinking about that guy and all his stuff. It made me think about all the people I hear talking about rich people and their greed, all that money they have, buying whatever they want and here we are with one house, an old RV, and two very old bikes. But that isn’t what I felt at all. I am thankful that guy spends that money at the race track and buying new bikes. When he spends his money on four days a week practicing, the park is able to open that one day that we can afford to go. When he buys a brand new bike from the manufacturer, older bikes become available for us to buy. We can still put the same time and effort into racing and we benefit from what he is doing.

Think about the idea that rich people are greedy misers with all their money. Who is wrong here? The man with the money, spending it on what he wants? Or the one without it, wanting to take it away and spend it himself?

Last thoughts for “Excuse Me, Professor” edited by Lawrence W. Reed

I started to continue writing out my notes this morning but realized that I’m just finished. It just goes on and on like this and it’s very good reading but I really didn’t think too deeply about it. I enjoyed reading the essay’s and it’s good to read something of a rebuttal to many common ways of thinking, most of which my intuition says is wrong. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of books taken from a series of articles and blog posts. It seems like cheating, something I could do myself. When I read a whole book I want more information. I want to read an author’s thought out and detailed analysis of a topic, not the highlights. I realize that this book was not designed for that and I bought it knowing so. I’m just done with thinking about it and would like to move on now.

Notes on “Excuse me, Professor” Edited by Lawrence W. Reed – Part Two

#15 “We are destroying the Earth and government must do something” by Sandy Ikeda

What people usually mean when they say mankind I destroying the earth is that human action causes a change they don’t like. It sounds odd to say that my wife, by eating a piece of toast for breakfast, is “destroying” the toast. But if I wanted that toast for myself, I might well regard her actions as destructive.” I doubt anyone would agree with that but it is true. People believe there is a general good like the dark sky in our area is something we all should have, but really it’s not good for me because I’d rather have a well-lit parking lot at the store I shop at night. I’m “destroying” the dark sky!

#17 “All we need is the right people to run the government’ by Melvin D. Barger

Profit management and bureaucratic management are two very different things. The former seeks to generate more value than cost while the top priority of the latter is the promulgation and implementation of rules and regulations.”

#18 “Humanity can be best understood in a collective context” by Lawrence W. Reed

They create a great divide in the social sciences because the perspective from which you see the world will set your thinking down one intellectual path or another.” This makes discussion about issues almost impossible. We can argue forever if every topic can only be seen from one side or another. One will win and the other loses. No one likes that. But it’s not reality. It’s what we’ve been trained to see.

Abstractions are just that, while individuals are real.” This is something I’ve heard on on unschooling chat groups. Many people love to put up the “what if” question about their kids but we really need to focus on what is actually going on in our homes with our children. And now this Pokemon Go game has the same dissenters. People are jumping out there with abstractions about what might happen if you make mistakes out in the world and then posting about and making suggestions for rules as if is actually happening everywhere.

#19 “Big government is a check on big business” by Julian Adorney

A myth runs through most of America today, and it goes like this: big business hates government and yearns for an unregulated market. But the reality is the opposite: big government can be highly profitable for big business.” Because the big businesses are the only ones that can afford the regulations the government creates. Many times, the big businesses are the ones lobbying for the regulations. These rules keeps smaller more competitive entities from entering the market. Look at a simple thing like soap!

#20 “Government can be a compassionate alternative to the harshness of the marketplace” by Lawrence W. Reed

A person’s willingness to spend government funds on aid programs is not evidence that the person himself is compassionate.” Compassionate government is an oxymoron, or really an evil idea in the world that does not mesh with reality.

#23 “The balance of trade deficit requires government action” by Lawrence W. Reed

My problem is this: I have a trade deficit with J.C. Penney. That’s right. Year after year, I buy more from J.C. Penney than J.C. Penney buys from me…It’s been a one-way street right from the day I got my credit card in the mail.” This is exactly the silliness that is happening between countries now and government is trying to complain and change it.

…even if goods come here and dollars go there to simply stuff foreign mattresses – Americans with their supposedly harmful trade deficit would have the better end of the deal. We would get goods like electronics and automobiles, and foreigners would be stuck with slips of paper decorated with pictures of dead American politicians.” What is the negative they are trying to warn us about? I can only see a problem if we are buying these things with credit maybe. But then it’s even worse. They took credit. What will they do when we don’t pay?

#24 “Americans squander their incomes on themselves while public needs are neglected” by Edmund A. Opitz

Freedom means spending your own money the way you choose, even if you sometimes choose foolishly. And there’s nothing about government that ensures that people in it who spend other people’s money will spend it more wisely than would those who earned it in the first place.” All you need to do to see this is look at your own family. The money earner is more tight-fisted and thoughtful about spending than the rest of the family (generally). Kids that have money to spend on a regular basis, instead of having what they want bought for them, make some better decisions about spending it. But they do become resentful that they don’t have more until they get jobs and start earning on their own and do an even better job of spending. Government is like the child with an allowance, taken by force. People that rely on government funds to live are like the children that have things bought for them.

Notes on “Excuse Me, Professor” Edited by Lawrence W. Reed – Part 1

I heard about this book on the Tom Woods Show. It’s geared toward high school/college age kids, so it should be right about my level when it comes to government and economics. It’s a series of short articles by different authors, so each one stands on its own. It gives overviews and a different perspective on topics related to the progressive movement, typically from a libertarian point of view. None of the articles are meant to be a complete discussion about an idea. They only lead you to contemplate a different idea about it and into more books to read about the subject.

#1 “Income inequality arises from market forces and requires government intervention” by Max Borders

…it’s important for us to make a distinction between economic entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs: the former create value for society; the latter have figured out how to transfer resources from others into their own coffers, usually by lobbying for subsidies, special favors or anti-competitive laws.” It wrote a post about this in relation to education, the difference between political and economic means.

Except for those who made lots of money hiring lawyers and lobbyists instead of researchers and developers, wealthy people got rich by creating a whole lot of value for a whole lot of people.” Why does our current culture vilify those that create something people want and then sell it? I think a lot of people believe that business people are taking advantage of others but how? By creating something that you want? Do you not have the power to NOT buy it if you don’t want it? The only time it gets ugly is when businesses use political means to force you to buy their product or to cut competition out.

#2 “Because we’re running out of resources, government must manage them” by Max Borders

Healthy markets only exist under certain rules. The main rules are what we might call the Three P’s: Private property, price signals, and profit.”

He’s talking about forests and I wonder how much of forest land is owned by the government in the US verses how much it is privately owned. And what is that ratio in other countries where deforestation is a problem.

#3 “Equality serves the common good” by Lawrence W. Reed

Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.” I’d rather be poor and free than controlled by others and rich. I realize that many people do not share that sentiment but I really think they do but don’t think they do. Why do people get so upset when they find out they can only spend their charter school funds on “approved” expenses? Or they can only buys certain kinds of foods with their welfare money?

#5 “Income Inequality is the great economic and moral crisis of our time.” by Ron Robinson

As the late economist Milton Friedman famously noted, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

…our films, television shows, academia, and the media produce more ad hominem attacks against successful business people than all the propaganda machines of the National Socialist, Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, and Red Guards of yesteryear.” Why do we love to hate those that succeed? It seems like envy and coveting to be angry that a company wants to sell you something that you want to buy voluntarily.

Every student knows their fellow classmates get different grades because of differing individual intelligence, attentive ability, hard work, and the level of other distractions in students’ lives. So, you don not have a classroom ideological perspective that insists all grades must be equal and that “inequality” in grades must be eliminated.” Maybe that’s just it. People don’t get better grades because they are smarter or better, they get them because they are capable of working the imposed system and we all know it instinctively. Are we transferring that to business? We have created a “crony” capitalism kind of system, where you can only participate if you know how to work the system, if you have enough money to pay the fees to play or have your “man in Washington” to smooth the way. We’re being used. That is not real education and this is not real business/capitalism.

#6 “Capitalism fosters greed and government policy must temper it.” by Lawrence W. Reed

I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.” It’s because they don’t see it as taking someone else’s money. If we all vote to have a third party (government) to take your money by force and give it to someone else, then it’s not greed, it’s democracy.

#7 “The free market ignores the poor” by Leonard E. Read

How, for instance, can one compare a socialized post office with private postal delivery when the latter has been outlawed? It’s something like trying to explain to a people accustomed only to darkness how things would appear were there light.” And those same people believe they are seeing light!

Admittedly, human nature is defective, and its imperfections will be reflected in the market (though arguably, no more so than in government).” We generally behave better when we are not forced to participate. And why do people not see government as also human? Why would someone you vote for behave any better than anyone else?

#8 “The economy needs more planning – central planning, that is” by Lawrence W. Reed

G.K. Chesterton once said, ‘I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.’”

The central planner would undoubtedly note that like a perfectly shaped bonsai tree or rose bush, some humans need a good pruning…” Humans do not need to be shaped by other humans. We are perfect just the way we are and know exactly how to grow and change to be good people. We need loving support and acceptance for who we are to become all we are meant to be. It’s an internal drive determined by our own souls, not by what another group of humans believe is best for their version of the world.

#10 “I have a right!” by Charles W. Baird

…it is the right of all individuals to offer to buy or sell labor services at any terms they choose. I have the right to offer to sell my labor services at terms I like, and so do you.” I don’t have the right to force you to give me what I want for my product or service.

We each can exercise free choice of religion without denying that right to others. Note, however, we have no right to join a religious organization that doesn’t want to accept us.” Because that tramples on the rights of others. Your right ends at mine. Why can’t people understand that? And why in the world would you want to force someone to associate with you? I swear this comes from school. You have to play with everyone regardless of their attitude and crappy behavior. Forced association.

You have a right to read a book but no right to compel someone else to give you one.” That pretty much sums up what “rights” are.

#11 “Rich people have an obligation to give back.” by Lawrence W. Reed

When you give, you should do so because of the personal satisfaction you derive from supporting worthy causes, not because you need to salve a guilty conscience.”

#13 “Cooperation, not competition!” by Lawrence W. Reed

…the government may not ban competition outright but simply bestow privileges, immunities, or subsidies on one or more firms while imposing costly requirements on all others.” This is what public school systems are doing.

Cooperation is fine when it is naturally occurring between voluntary participants. Natural competition is healthy and not a bad thing to avoid at all costs. Competition can get ugly when it is unnaturally provoked by an artificial authority.

#14 “Healthcare is a right” by Max Borders

…when it comes to certain other purported rights involving things that must be produced by others, like education or healthcare, that means others have a duty to produce that good or service.” You can’t force someone to produce something and give it to others. That automatically tells us that it is not a “right”, like free speech or religion.

Public School Funding

When I started homeschooling ten years ago there were few “school at home” public charter schools. The one I was most of aware of was CAVA. You enrolled and they sent you a computer and boxes of the curriculum. And I mean BOXES! I received seven big boxes on my doorstep when I enrolled my son in the first grade. When I started pulling stuff out, I was instantly overwhelmed. There was one box of very fun stuff that the boys gravitated to immediately and were very excited about. It was filled with cheap toys, art supplies, and science experiments. When I began to pull out the books, teacher guides, and workbooks I began to think maybe this wasn’t a good idea. The stack of books would have been almost as tall as I was! Couldn’t I just buy the “toys” and not have to go through all these books? My husband and I talked about it and decided the answer was YES! I boxed it all up the next day and sent it back after calling the school and telling them we had changed our minds and were going to enroll him in a private school. That private school was very exclusive, only boys with the same last name! It was liberating and exciting. We’ve never looked back at public school at home.

But now charters are a lot different. CAVA is still around but there are several more with varying degrees of involvement. Some are very much school at home, much like a school district’s independent study program. And some of them are very hands off. They offer an account that parents can use to purchase curriculum and classes through approved vendors with a certified teacher to check in with each month for guidance. It all sounds so great and I’d love to fall in love with this new style of public education. It has a multitude of advantages over the old style, that’s for sure. So why do I feel so uneasy about it? What is bothering me? I think I found my problem.

To me, the old style of public education, i.e. taxes are taken by force from everyone to fund schools run by the state and all the area’s children are forced by law to attend, seems a bit communistic. The system is slow to adapt and change to the people that attend it. If I find that the school in my neighborhood isn’t doing what I think is best for my kids, I’m generally not allowed to choose another one. And even if I could, the schools are all very much the same anyway. You are allowed to choose a private option, but you must pay extra for that and because of the “free” school in the market, those other options have become pretty expensive. Mind you, they aren’t more expensive than the public schools. The public schools are paid for through taxes on everyone, so it seems they are free. Free to use, but not free to the state.

A private company providing an education for a child usually charges around $6K a year. The state schools get an average of $9K a year. I can’t find a chart that tells me how much California spends on schools exactly. The information isn’t readily available in a form anyone but a trained bureaucrat can understand. I’d like to know how much money each school really gets per child and how much money do these charter schools get but I can’t find the information online and my emails asking about it go unanswered. There are charts for how much they spend on several different aspects and charts about who gets what, but none of it is definite or a complete picture. If I had months to spend on figuring it out, I might try. And I’ll certainly keep looking but right now I just don’t know. Most people would agree that private schools typically do a better job of providing an education and it seems it costs less. Where does that extra money for the public schools go?

This new way of doing public school is very interesting. A company forms and makes a contract (a charter) with the state to offer education to students for free. The company gets a certain amount of money from the state and spends that on its program. Whatever it doesn’t spend is its profit. That just doesn’t sound right. It sounds like “crony capitalism”.

Think of this example for another product everyone “needs”. What if the government decided how much the average family should spend on household goods, then took that money by force in the form of taxes and decided to grant Walmart and Target the privilege of providing those items to each family. Each store would receive those taxes each month according to how many people were coming into their store and receiving goods at no cost to them. Walmart and Target would not charge the patrons, they would give each patron a certain amount of money in the form of vouchers that they were allowed to spend in the store. Whatever the store didn’t spend on products or business expenses they were allowed to keep as profit. There would be some things this store isn’t willing or able to provide, so they would contract with “vendors” in the area that you are allowed to use the stores vouchers at. For instance, maybe Walmart doesn’t want to carry furniture anymore because it costs them too much in overhead, so they go out to a couple local furniture stores and contract with them to provide the items. You would be allowed to buy the products elsewhere if you want to spend your own money. But how many companies would be able to compete with the “free stores” and how many companies would be able to get those government charters? If this happened with this market people would lose their minds, why is ok for it to happen in education?

The biggest red flag I’ve seen is that there is no readily available data about who these companies are. How much exactly are they getting from the state? How much profit are they making? How much do regular school’s get? All of this I wouldn’t care about if it were a regular private school but since I, and the rest of the state, are being charged for it every year, I believe we have a right to know how our money is being spent. I feel like I’m supposed to be an investor in a company reaping the profits of their mission, but I feel like I’m being robbed and then told to relax about it because “it’s for the children”. I’m still searching the internet for information about these schools and our old ones as well. I realize I’m not making groundbreaking progress. I’m hoping someone out there has already researched this and has made some kind of report I can read and trust!

Notes on “Anatomy of the State” by Murray Rothbard

I love books about economics and government! It’s probably a sign of mental illness and sometimes creates a lot of stress, obviously. I’ve read a lot of Murray Rothbard essays and I’ve always liked how much sense he makes. This short book was recommended on the Tom Woods show a while back. I highly recommend it. The language was a little complicated but I was able to follow it easily when it was quiet and I was not distracted.

Page 10 The notion that “we” are the government. “Under this reasoning, any Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered; instead, they must have “committed suicide,” since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and, therefore, anything the government did to them was voluntary on their part.”

My question in the margin was “Did the Jews in Nazi Germany have a vote?” After looking into this for about five minutes (really, I’d love to know more and not it’s on my topic list, but I have to stay focused at the moment), it seems there is a debate about this. Pre-war Germany history can be a bit sketchy due to they were the losers in the end, but it looks as though most Jews by the time Hitler was elected did not have the expectation to vote, except for some. This will have to wait for another time. I’m fascinated with it though. The notion still holds, even if the example doesn’t. If the majority of our nation votes to take half the income of a minority of people (and I’m one of them), does that mean that I’m really just giving my money to myself and that’s ok?

Page 15 If I say, “I need to have more food.” and take it from my neighbor, I’ll go to jail. But if I tell the government that I need to have more food and THEY take it from my neighbor and give it to me, that’s ok. I just don’t see the logic here.

There are two ways to acquire wealth, by “economic means” voluntarily by exchange, or by “political means”, through force and violence.

Page 16 “The State has never been created by a “social contract”; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation.”

Page 18 “…any government (not simply a “democratic” government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects.” I wish more people could understand this. If you say nothing and do nothing, you are supporting it, regardless of how you feel about it. When things get bad enough that people will risk their current situation to change things and refuse to comply, that’s when we stop supporting it. That goes for a tyrant king or an elected Republican President.

Page 23 “Another successful device was to instill fear of any alternative systems of rule or nonrule. The present rulers, it was maintained, supply to the citizens an essential service for which they should be most grateful: protection against sporadic criminals and marauders.” Well, except from their own sporadic criminals and marauders. Once again, it’s ok in most people’s minds if we vote to take property from one group and give it to another.

Page 24 “If ‘Ruritania’ was being attacked by ‘Walldavia,’ the first task of the State and its intellectuals was to convince the people of ‘Ruritania’ that the attack was really upon them and not simply upon the ruling caste.” Or government. Our government is causing the strife that other governments get angry and fight back about. It’s not an attack on “our way of life”. We are just pawns when we let them play this game.

Page 25 “The new idea, much less the new critical idea, must needs begin as a small minority opinion; therefore, the State must nip the view in the bud by ridiculing any view that defies the opinions of the mass. ‘Listen only to your brothers’ or ‘adjust to society’ thus become ideological weapons for crushing individual dissent.” I’ll relate this to school (not education) since that’s what I do! I’ve heard this from numerous well-meaning and intelligent people, ‘Yes, school may be tough and debilitating to many children, but they need to adjust to the society that we are all part of.’ They believe the alternative is to let children run wild and have radical, independent ideas that won’t mesh with our current system. I’m ok with that, honestly. I’d rather have a world filled with independent and self-sufficient humans that the one filled with of wards of the state, adult children that cannot think for themselves and clamor to have their elected masters care for them.

Page 26 “Any increase in private well-being can be attacked as ‘unconscionable greed,’ ‘materialism,’ or ‘excessive affluence,’ profit-making can be attacked as ‘exploitation’ and ‘usury,’ mutually beneficial exchanges denounced as ‘selfishness,’ somehow with the conclusion always being drawn that more resources should be siphoned from the private to the ‘public sector.’” This gets me, mostly because I now feel like this guilt is engrained in us. We actually feel guilty that we have created something people want of their own free will and are willing to part with their hard earned money to get it. It is disgusting.

Page 27 “In the present more secular age, the divine right of the State has been supplemented by the invocation of a new god, Science. State rule is now proclaimed as being ultra-scientific, as constituting planning by experts.” Because you economic and behavior science is so precise it can predict what every human will want or choose at any moment in time. It’s hubris.

Page 34 Speaking of the Supreme Court and judicial review, “Black admits that this means that the State has set itself up as judge in its own cause, thus violating a basic juridical principle for aiming at just decisions.” The Anti-Federalist Papers predicted this problem with the Supreme Court.

Page 36 talks about the New Deal and the fact that the Supreme Court was used to legitimize the idea to the people even though it was obviously against the principles of the constitution. It was a fundamental flaw in our constitution that many of the “anti-federalist” papers pointed out. The so-called “check” on the other two branches of government was to be appointed by those two branches.

Page 38 “If the Federal Government was created to check invasions of individual liberty by the separate states, who was to check the Federal power?”

“Applied to state governments, this theory implied the right of “nullification” of a Federal law or ruling within a state’s jurisdiction.” That was fine when the Supreme Court had no physical power to back up its ruling. Now everyone believes that the Federal Government has the right to bring its law enforcement into a state to enforce its laws and rulings.

We used to have different laws in different states. Each state was run very differently. That was good for the people because if we did not like the taxes and control of one state we could move to one with more of what we wanted and vice versa. Now the Federal Government has so much control over the states that they are all essentially the same besides the weather. Moving from one state to another is easy compared to moving to another country.

Page 45 “Which category of crimes does the State pursue and punish most intensely – those against private citizens or those against itself?”

Page 54 “While social power is over nature, State power is over man. Through history, man’s productive and creative forces have, time and again, carved out new ways of transforming nature for man’s benefit. These have been the times when social power has spurted again of State power, and when the degree of State encroachment over society has considerably lessened.” This is where we need to be headed. We need to focus on making each others lives better through personal work and creativity, not through using government to force others to make life better for us.

Economic & Political Means

I’m reading a book called “Excuse Me, Professor – Challenging the Myths of Progressivism” edited by Lawrence W. Reed. It’s a collection of essays from FEE. There was one I read yesterday about the differences between “economic” and “political” means of getting things that really clarified some things in my mind. I’ll try to elaborate on it with an example from my personal experience. Yes, I’m going to education!

Using “economic” means to fill a need in society is like me seeing through my experience in my social groups that my friends would like to have a weekly meet up, something more than a park day, maybe with some kind of organized craft or experience. I wracked my brain to come up with an idea that would work for us. It had to be something that parents would want to afford and attend along with their kids. It would be nice if this project would support me in a way that would enable me to continue to do it. That’s what profit is for. I offer something to the people in an effort to satisfy a need and support me while I do it. It’s a win/win for everyone.

The “political” means of filling this same need would be to rally people together to petition our government to offer this service. The government doesn’t have an income, they tax people for money to pay for these services. Taxes are not voluntary. Even if only three people use the service, everyone else has to pay for it even if they find the service against their ideals or morals. Using political means to get things done means to vote for someone else to give you want you find useful. It’s a win/lose situation. I win because I have my service. You lose because you pay more money for things you aren’t using.

I like the economic way of doing things way better. I might fail. There may be just too few people wanting what I’m offering to make it viable for me and that’s ok. Maybe I can find something else to support me while I offer this thing for these people as a volunteer thing, or hobby on the side because it makes my heart happy. All interaction is voluntary and everyone wins something. I’m tired of people looking to government and a vote to fill all their needs. I’m tired of the words “support this” in reference to going to some event put on by the community or local restaurant. I’d rather just patronize things that I find useful and profitable in this area. I will buy my plants at Home Depot because they are cheaper and better taken care of than the local nursery that looks like someone’s backyard garden. I feel more comfortable there. Other people can make their choice as well. Sometimes the local thing is better for you to buy because the owner is awesome to talk to and loves his job so much that he’s willing to help with all kinds of extra information and friendliness that the big national store doesn’t have. But that big store does hire more people and has cheaper products. Because I paid less for my new plants, I have enough money to take my kids out to lunch as well, “sharing the wealth.” They are both serving a portion of the community and there is room for both as long as government isn’t propping up one or the other with “political means.”