Saturday, December 29, 2007

Truth lurking behind the curtain

Truth lurking behind the curtain
Jim Fedako

You’ve experienced it before: You’re on the edge of your seat, popcorn in hand, watching the main character of the latest thriller enter a darkened room. You know that Truth is hiding behind the curtain, yet the hero walks through the room, glancing out the window, never suspecting Truth's presence, though just inches away. Inside you scream, "Look behind the curtain!" But the hero, ignoring your silent and increasingly frustrated pleas, turns and walks out of the scene. You will have to wait until later in the movie for resolution and the revealing of Truth. But, thankfully, it will come.

In the world of politics and economics, we know Truth, and we believe that it’s obvious to all. Yet, sadly, Truth has not been revealed to the greater majority, even though Truth stands, not behind a curtain, but in plain sight.

Lately, I have come to divide the socialists into two categories: the utopians dreaming of a world divorced from scarcity; and, the immature economists qua socialists who get oh so close to Truth that I want to scream, "Look behind the curtain, you idiot!"

In this paradigm, I differentiate socialists – as previously described – from the collectivists and statists; those who worship the collective or state above all. These folks have no ends other than the consolidation of power around themselves and their cronies. Their ideology is not even worth investigation. Revulsion? Yes. Investigation? No.

Now, of course, there is no hard divide between these two classes of socialists. In fact, these classes may simply be my best attempt at understanding the thoughts and ideas of those prone to praxeological errors. Regardless, there certainly appears to be differences between the socialist stories; difference revealed through the republishing of an education journal, long since out of print.

But before we reach our final destination, let’s look at another rescued and republished journal. The Mises Institute recently resurrected
American Affairs, the journal founded by Garet Garrett. American Affairs is a wonderful resource, delivering insight into the political world of the 1940's, especially insight into the minds of the valiant supporters of the free market. The articles found there are joys to read, providing, for the most part, clear concise defenses of freedom.

Besides building ramparts of praxeological reasoning, it is sometimes wise to enter the camp of the enemy, if only to observe their tendencies and activities.

The Teachers College of Columbia University publishes
TCRecord, the school’s online journal. It is here that you can still read new articles from the Gramscian socialists; articles that champion the genius of John Dewey and the rest of the Progressive utopians. In addition, you will find other articles that get oh so close to the essence of Truth that you just want to scream at the computer screen, “Aw, come on! You missed it again.”

TCRecord recently republished Social Frontiers, from the 1930's, and Frontiers of Democracy, from the 1940's. This journal exposes the philosophical foundations of the intellectual opponents of Garrett and his fellow freedom fighters. And, more importantly, this journal details the ideas and ideals of those who taught those who taught the typical public school teacher of today.

I enjoy the writings of the utopians since their logical gymnastics and non sequiturs are interesting and humorous -- akin to finding the culprit in any
Encyclopedia Brown children’s detective story. But I get frustrated when the immature economists builds a case for Liberty and the free market, only to get caught by one or two minor points, and then falls back on need for collectivism and state control. Sometimes, they are oh so close to Truth.

The Utopians

Who else but the utopians could believe the following?

Even now … the best work is done with little or no thought of money, a fact that has, of course, always been true and so far as we can see must always remain true. Also as regards the employer profits system, with speculative gains, dividends, and all that, modern men can work without it. Russia has in very fact abolished the employer profits system; and almost nowhere else do the young people, at any rate, work so hard or so enthusiastically. (emphasis added) [1]
Or, the materialistic view of the inevitability of collectivism?

The first point to be driven home is that THE SOCIAL FRONTIER is not engaged in any battle for collectivism as such. That issue has been decided by the forces of history. As Professor Walton Hamilton says in the last paragraph of a brilliant article in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, the “commitment to collectivism is beyond recall”. [2]
And conclude with this pronouncement?

THE SOCIAL FRONTIER also will fight for a collectivism, which will cherish, preserve, and fulfill the American ideals of freedom of speech, cultural diversity, and personal liberty, security, and dignity. It abhors regimentation of public opinion; it swears with Jefferson "eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It regards economic goods not as the chief end of life, but rather as a basis and a means for the development of the human spirit. It views the resent concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, with its implications of class rule and domination, as an oppressive obstacle to the personal growth of American boys and girls and as a perpetual threat to the liberties of the masses of the people. [3]
There really is little common ground between these views and Truth because for the utopians, fantasy is not an extension of reality. No. Fantasy is totally divorced from reality.

The Immature Economists

In addition to the articles of utopian fantasy, this very same journal is correctly able to describe the ills caused by government interventions.

Public policy supports monopoly in scores of ways. We protect monopoly by tariff policy. We frequently lay the foundation of a monopolist structure with a patent. We have built forty-eight state systems of restriction that are virtual state tariffs restricting interstate commerce. We have given legal protection to price maintenance schemes, and we penalize genuinely competitive chain stores to protect geographical "small time" monopolists. We have created monopolist conditions in agriculture and labor to "offset" employers' monopolies, with the result that we have multiplied rather than diminished the total number of restrictions. [4]
Minimum wages will therefore be defended as an aid to the underprivileged but they will in fact serve the purpose of protecting the higher wage rates of those who might otherwise be displaced by a competitive labor group. Agricultural subsidies will strengthen the position of the more privileged farmers and complete the process of reducing sharecroppers to a rural proletariat. [5]
Here we can agree. Yet, right when the socialist is about to discover Truth, he casually walks past the curtain, peers outside, and quickly exists the scene. You see, the immature economist qua socialist does not make that final step; the step which reveals that it is government interventions which create the reviled monopoly and associated ills. The fact that only government can create a monopoly is missed; it is an unrevealed truth. The socialist blames the free market and turns once again to government; and I scream.

They conclude:

If we wish to avoid patterns of centralization and ultimately totalitarian government, among other things a vigorous and imaginative effort to implement the original objective of the Sherman Act—which was the preservation of equality of opportunity—is in order. This will probably mean a complete reconsideration of the legislation now on the books. [6]
Yes, I scream. I scream for these socialists to open their eyes to Truth; the truth that was revealed when Mises and others pulled back the curtain decades ago. However, for whatever reason, they refuse to open their eyes.

So, there are the utopians who want to create a reality out of crazed dreams, and there are the immature economists qua socialist who refuse to let go of government, acting like the child desperately grasping the ladder out of fear of the water below. The utopians are lost causes. Read them and chuckle. But, what about the others? Reassure them that they can let go. Help them realize that they can indeed float upon the sea of individual action; a sea that is bound to rise for all.

Final notes

According to TCRecord, the journal was republished “
because of its historical importance and because of its continued relevance to educators today.” This is important knowledge, and should become part of your Kirznerian action-knowledge. The nonsense emanating from the Teachers College and its publications greatly influences public educators. While we discuss the follies of the journal and its articles, public educators are indoctrinating students with those very same ideas, day in and day out. Scary, isn’t it?

I am not about to wager that my children will shed state education and its fallacies by age 38, just like their old man. I am instead making certain that they learn the truths of economics from me. [7] Consider private school or home schooling when possible. Rothbard and Mises were right; the government has no business in education.

Either it is the state directing the movie and instructing the hero – the child – to ignore Truth, or it is the parents revealing Truth at every turn. You decide.

Jim Fedako, a homeschooling father of five, is a former member of the Olentangy Board of Education.


[1] Social Frontier Volume 1 Number 2, 1934, p 9-13
[2] Social Frontier Volume 1 Number 2, 1934, p 3-4
[3] Ibid.
[4] Frontiers of Democracy Volume 6 Number 47, 1939, p. 20-22
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] OK, my children actually learn from my wife. But, as she will gladly note, I like to take credit whenever I can.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More truth in 2008. Happy New Year!!!