Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ohio's TEL Amendment

Isn't it ironic that at a time when government officials are looking to investigate rising gas prices, some of these very same officials claim that they can't live within budgets capped at the rate of inflation?

While gas prices soar, computer software and hardware prices are falling - despite inflationary monetary policies. Both of these price changes are due to market forces. The economist Ludwig von Mises noted that it is the consumer who captains the economy. Petroleum companies can no more sustain high profit margins than computer companies.

In an unhampered economy, one that exists without government interventions, high profits signal new entrepreneurs to enter that specific market. These new entrants increase supply and cause profit margins to fall.

In the hampered economy, such as exists today with regard to petroleum, government regulations hinder entry into markets. The bottom line; government interventions in the oil and gas sector are a major cause in the rise of US gas prices – other causes being the continued demand for gas despite rising price, increasing demand overseas, and the US-lead mess in the Middle East. Conversely, the ease of entry into the computer sector keeps driving computing costs ever lower.

Enough economics, now irony. Ohio government officials at all levels are crying that they cannot live within budgets capped at the rate of inflation. Why? Simple, instead of minimal budgetary increases, Ohio governments have continued to spend at a rate of expenditure growth that far exceeds the rate of inflation. Instead of investigating petroleum companies, governments should be investigating themselves.

The TEL amendment would force Ohio governments of all sizes and shapes to limit their spending increases. That government officials cannot fathom such a loose rein of growth – loose since government should be reduced from its current size and expenditure-level – shows the inefficiency of government at all levels.

Jim Fedako

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Free Christian Books

Go to Gary North's web site to read excellent books on the Bible and Christian thought. Not only are the books interesting, challenging and timely, they really are free.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Let's agree to disagree."

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
-- CS Lewis

I just had a brief encounter with Len Fisher of the Delaware County Tobacco-Free Tomorrow Coalition. We argued private property rights, including the right to smoke. We, of course, disagreed. Fisher ended the discussion with the standard, "Let's agree to disagree." Sound good, except that Fisher plans to continue using the arm, and arms, of government to get his way. And he just might get his way since the Coalition is operated by the Delaware General Health District -- a product of our tax dollars.

CS Lewis missed the real tormenter, the busybody drawing a tax-supported salary; they never sleep and their salaries are paid by the tormented.

What the Fisher's of the world really mean is that we can agree to disagree as long as the social apparatus of coercion and compulsion is on their side.

Don't give up without a fight!

Jim Fedako

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Wonderful Book on Austrian Economics and Liberty

Speaking of Liberty, Lew Rockwell, is a wonderful book on both the Austrian School of Economics and liberty. Rockwell's book is a great introduction to the topic for beginners and a concise reference for those already versed in the Austrian school. I had already read the masterpieces by Mises and Rothbard, but found this book, available on, an informative read. I highly recommend it.

Jim Fedako

Public School Students and Computers

Ludwig von Mises, the heart and soul of the Austrian School of Economics, wrote about Trotsky's belief that under the right form of socialism "the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And, beyond this ridge new peaks would rise." (from Human Action, Ludwig von Mises). Mises noted that Charles Fourier (not the famed mathematician of the same last name) dreamed of the day when the oceans would be filled with lemonade.

I bring this up in the context of the belief that with the right application of technology children will spontaneously evolve into a new human type, learning will become a joy, as will teaching and all other forms of labor. Let's keep in mind that learning is work, and as with any form of work, learning requires a certain level of disutility. In other words, it just ain't easy. Never was, never will be.

The technology question is best answered by reading the first six pages of The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom. Seems we have been here before with the PC being the latest siren of the technology promise.

According to Oppenheimer, it was first assumed that motion pictures would release the mind from the mundane efforts of learning and send the classroom into obsolescence. Minds no less than Thomas Edison predicted the new age of learning. Books and research followed but achievement remained lost in the enthusiasm.

Next up was radio and BF Skinner claiming, "students could learn twice as much" from the classroom radio. This failure was followed closely by the introduction of TV and its assumed new learning revolution.

So here we are with some stating that computers will save the day. I suggest that those who believe this spend 10 minutes or so reading the first few pages of Oppenheimer's book. Though he leans toward the Progressive/constructivist approach, he holds out little hope for the success of computers.

Where does this take us? What is the point of these discussions? We can't lose sight of the need for education reform, not just some new technology or pedagogy, but true market-based reform that provides the solutions to the problem of across-the-board low achievement.

If we ride the horse of technology we will find ourselves galloping along with the Progressives and constructivist. Technology will certainly make for strnge riding partners.

What's the solution? Add choice to education, or better yet, close failed government schools and return education back to parents and the free market.

Jim Fedako

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wal-Mart, the root of all evil? No, the evil lives and breaths at The Teacher's College

Response to Professor David Berliner's Presidential Invited Speech to the American Educational Research Association in May of 2005 (read some of his remarks below).

Berliner is a professor of education at Arizona State University who obviously believes that the free market is the cause of the current malaise. I contend that the problems are due to all forms of government interventionism.

Berliner, on the other hand, believes that government bureaucrats should act upon the good professor's commands and structure the future according to his goals and plans. See, the Berliner's of this world believe that they know better than the consumer when it comes to establishing and acting upon personal preferences. These statist do-gooders truly believe that they are omniscient and infallible. In addition, they hate success and financial rewards; accept when those two terms are relative to their own activities.

So, if anyone knows Berliner's email address, please forward it so that I may share in his spoils to my heart's content. By the way, I'm stopping at Wal-Mart on the way home, does anyone want me to pick up a gallon of milk or dozen eggs?

Jim Fedako

So when we push for higher qualifications for the teachers of the poor, as we should, we also may need to push ourselves and others to stop shopping at companies like Wal-Mart. The logic of this is simple: if we want to primarily hold our teachers responsible for increasing their students? educational attainment, then we need at a minimum to provide those teachers with children who enter their classrooms healthy and ready to learn. Twenty years ago this was one of our national goals, to be reached by the year 2000. But one of the impediments to reaching that goal was Wal-Mart, now the largest employer in the USA. Wal-Mart and companies like them do not provide the great majority of their employees the income, medical insurance or retirement plans needed to promote healthy families or raise healthy children. Wal-Mart and companies like it have a terrible record in its treatment of woman with children, a group who make up a big share of the poor households in this country (Shulman, 2003). Thus Wal-Mart is an impediment to school reform and although it is not usually noted, Wal-Mart is one reason we did not reach our national goal.

There are so many other problems we need to address, as well. When we push for more rigorous standards in our schools we should also push for a raise in the minimum wage, or better yet, for livable wages. If we do not do this then we will ensure that the vast majority of those meeting the increasingly rigorous requirements for high school graduation will be those students fortunate enough to be born into the right families. If we really want a more egalitarian set of educational outcomes requires, our nation needs a more equalitarian wage structure.

For these same reasons when we push for more professional development for teachers and mentoring programs for new teachers, we need also to demand that woman?s wages be set equal to those of men doing comparable work, since it is working woman and their children who make up a large percentage of America?s poor.

When we push for advanced placement courses, or college preparatory curricula for all our nation?s students, we must simultaneously demand universal medical coverage for all our children. Only then will all our children have the health that allows them to attend school regularly and learn effectively, instead of missing opportunities to learn due to a lack of medical treatment.

When we push for all day kindergarten, or quality early childhood care, or de-tracked schools we need also to argue for affordable housing throughout our communities, so neighborhoods have the possibility of exerting more positive influences on children and people can move from lead and mercury polluted areas to those that are less toxic, and thus less likely to cause birth defects. This goal requires educators, parents and other concerned citizens to be in the forefront of the environmental fight. To fight for clean air and water, and for less untested chemicals in all our food products, is a fight to have more healthy children for our schools to educate. The psychological and financial costs on families and the broader society because of students needing special education can be markedly reduced by our demands for a healthier environment.

In my estimation we will get better public schools by requiring of each other participation in building a more economically equitable society. This is of equal or greater value to our nation?s future well-being then a fight over whether phonics is scientifically based, whether standards are rigorous enough, or whether teachers have enough content knowledge.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kristof Saves Us from the Evil Corn Syrup

Thank goodness for Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times for showing the evils caused by the market serving corn sweeteners to the doltish public in his column: Hazardous to Your Health. And here I thought it was the consumer satisfying a sweet tooth when the real problem is food producers forcing the stuff down our throats. Thank goodness for Kristof's vigilance. I just hope that he is around the next time I use my own free will and try something like crossing the street. "Good night, pleasant dreams, and don't forget to inhale your vaporized soma," whispered the good Nanny Nicholas ...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Whitewaters of History

In response to Thomas Bender's No Borders: Beyond the Nation-State

A river's water seeks the path of least resistance as it flows along its sandy bed. In a raging river, there are streams of water that appear to flow in the same direction though their courses are ever-so-slightly divergent. To the passive observer safe on the banks, the divergent paths create the river's beauty; the rapids, whitewater, pools and eddies. To those running the rapids in collapsible rafts, the courses of water lead to either an exhilarating ride down the river or headlong collision with rocks and boulders.

Bender's flow of history is a certainly one path through time. A cursory review of his thesis, read safely on the banks, provides an interesting view of the passage of time and ideas. But be careful, Bender is not simply providing the thrills of history, he is heading the reader toward the wreckage smashed against the rocks of totalitarian ideals.

Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School of Economics pointed out that societies such as the US and England obtained their good fortune not by chance or happenstance, but because they recognized and implemented certain ideas and ideals that other societies either did not understand or would not adopt. Some excellent Mises books on this subject are: Human Action, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, and Omnipotent Government.

The US and England achieved greatness because they were grounded in the ideals of liberty and property. That other societies did not organize themselves based on these ideals is their own failures. That the two nations at hand so organized themselves is a subject that needs to be taught again and again.

We fail our posterity when we forget those ideals and instead teach a course that we are not significantly different from the societies that took the path that lead to the rocks and boulders.

Jim Fedako

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Quality is a Market Notion

Latest article:
Quality is a Market Notion
by Jim Fedako
[Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006]

For generations, products have advertised themselves as "new and improved." We are too quick to dismiss this phrase as a promotional boilerplate. The market really does generate unrelenting improvements in our living standards. Meanwhile, the public sector is forever promising to improve its services and products but every attempt creates only conflict and eventual stalemate.

For example: the proposed solution to the ills of public education is for government to raise the quality of teachers by increasing salaries and certification requirements. The belief is that a better workforce will lead to better educational outcomes and an improved economy.

Of course the adjective better has no agreed upon definition. Every pressure group and political faction has its own definition of better. Mostly these disparate definitions contradict each other. Regardless, the call for better continues to grow louder each election cycle.

Read more.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Charter Schools

Some letters the papers just don't publish:

Dear Letters Editor:

I am responding to the March 24 Dispatch front page article, "Charter patron realizing big profit." Someone needs to gently remind Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, that his salary is paid through tax dollars. In fact, he represents a union that benefits exclusively from tax dollars. Tom should also be reminded that a growing number of public school teachers make more than some fulltime professors at Ohio's colleges and universities. In addition, public school teachers make more from tax dollars than their private school peers make from tuition dollars. Seems like Mooney and gang are earning a nice tax-generated profit.

Jim Fedako