An article published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute (Mises.org).
The Public Goods of Tatum O'Neal
By Jim Fedako
Originally posted on 11/24/2007
[Subscribe or Tell Others]
I recently finished reading A Paper Life, the autobiography of the movie star Tatum O’Neal. I know, in a time of the ever-growing Leviathan, such a diversion is pure Hollywood puffery. However, tidbits of insight can be found in such a book, as seemingly inconsequential stories shed light on the fallacies of government.
As is well known, Tatum was born into a Hollywood family, destined to be a star. Though she received an Academy Award, money, and fame, she faced many personal hardships. While these hardships make her life interesting and worth retelling, they are not the reason for this article. Instead, I want to focus on one minor aspect of her life: Tatum is a high school dropout.
A high school dropout?!? Indeed, although that revelation is only significant in its insignificance. Let’s see why.
Education is defined as a public good. There is the technical definition of a public good – a good that is nonexcludable, nonrivalrous, subject to free riders, and, hence, only produced through government action – as well as the popular definition – any good where the benefits accrue to the arbitrary aggregation called society. Since the Austrian school has shown that no good can satisfy the former definition, we will set it aside. For the rest of this article, we will focus on the latter definition, as this is the one continually hammered into the minds of public school students and repeated ad nauseam by government agents, the mainstream media, and most economists.
The collectivists love to produce studies that purport to show that government programs are an investment. State-sponsored studies always show that coerced tax dollars invested in public education produce a positive return for society, as well as for the collectivists’ partner-in-crime: government. Raise your taxes today in order to fund failing public schools and the net result will be an improved economy and reduced government expenditures over the long haul. Or, at least that is the storyline.
The inverse is also assumed true. Reductions in taxation, while leading to reduced current government expenditures, greatly increases long-term societal costs, viz., reduced productivity, more crime, etc. In addition, whenever a child drops out of school before the state-mandated years of schooling, he or she becomes a drag on both the economy and society. So, based on this logical syllogism, Tatum O’Neal is now a cost that society must bear.
But, I’ve checked my accounts and have found nothing wanting. And, as evidenced by my willingness to exchange my scarce time for her story, Tatum has added to my life. In my world, she is a benefit and not a cost.
However, that is not the way the collectivists think. They assume that anyone who lives outside their ideals is a burden, and they have the equations, models, and studies to prove it. Though, based on my actions, they are wrong. And, based on my beliefs, they are evil.
My children are educated at home, learning that creationism is truth. Uh, oh, I can almost hear hairs bristling as many collectivists read that statement. They will claim that my children’s understanding of the world will lead to the fall of science and civilization. My instruction is a loss to society, so government must step in. However, I’m not denying gravity or molecular structures; I am only teaching a strongly held belief of mine in an area of science that will always be subject to debate.
However, I am instructing my children on the a priori truths of praxeology. They are learning that government cannot arrange society and direct its path in any manner that does not lead to socialism and slavery. They are learning that praxeology is nonrefutable; it is truth. This, I assume, is even more offensive to the collectivists than creationism. So be it.
The natural sciences are never to be taken as truth since future knowledge can quickly overturn current paradigms. That is understood but never accepted by many collectivists. It’s not enough to mandate years of education, the collectivists also want to mandate the outcome – they desire to indoctrinate. And, they do not care about the institution of family, as family gets in the way of the new order and the new socialist man.
Sure, at some level, most education is indoctrination. Even the a priori truths can be manipulated by those pursuing an agenda of state control – manipulated but never refuted. Because of education as indoctrination, it is the role of the parent to choose the education they desire for their children, regardless of whether it is my children’s homeschooling or Tatum’s no-schooling.
A centralized system of education always leads to an homogenized understanding of the world. With no one able to challenge the status quo, no advancement in science or understanding can occur. That is a true statement – always. If the market place of ideas is substituted for the approved ideas of the governing class, only the ideas of the statists will become education. All other ideas will be declared, by governmental decree, subversive to the collective ends. Those ideas will be banned as treasonous.
The movement of public education is always in the direction of greater centralized control over ideas and outcomes. Since public education is government education, it has to follow the same trajectory as government itself. That has to be so. Therefore, based on the majority’s desire for more interventions, beneficial debate and exchanges of ideas will be banned and the state will assume authority over the mind. This state of affairs is certainly not good for the public, nor is it a public good.
So, believing that society is worse off due to the paths chosen by Tatum and me is to believe that society has a right to intervene, with government its agent of action.
The next time someone places a government program on the balance, claiming that today’s expenditures will yield returns in the future, rebuke them. Rebuke them for robbing you at both ends of the candle. The collectivists desire to steal your tax dollars today in order to make certain that no more autobiographies such as A Paper Life are written tomorrow.
That Tatum is a dropout, only earning a GED later in life, is no debit to my account. That my children are learning creationism at home is no debit to anyone else’s account – excluding, of course, the collectivists who desire full compliance with their ends. Tatum and I are simply two individuals acting in our own best interests. As long as we agree that Liberty and Property are to be protected, with neither of us pursuing government control as our ends, our means are of little consequence. And, in fact, based on the division of labor, our means will support each other’s ends.
What a wonderful way to organize society.
 Of course, not all collectivists are evolutionist, nor are all libertarians creationists. And, many evolutionists and creationist have looked to government as the means to squash the other side’s views. However, since the current government curriculum includes evolution, I am simply singling out the collectivists who stand with government on the forced instruction of this topic.
 Not that teaching gravity and molecules as fiction would change the logic and require government intervention.
 Other than the a priori sciences
 See  above.
Jim Fedako, a homeschooling father of five who lives in Lewis Center, OH, maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist. Send him mail. See his archive.