Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Fair Wage

From blog:

by Jim Fedako

You hear it from them all the time; teachers just want a fair wage. Oh, well who doesn't? This line of thought begs two questions: How are wage rates established in a free market? And, are market wage rates fair?

How are wage rates established in a free market? The insights from the Austrian School of Economics show that workers earn their discounted marginal value product. In simple terms, workers earn now the current value of what they add to the production of future goods. That explanation easily fits those who produce consumer goods or factors of production, but what about those in the service sector? How, for example, is the wage rate of barbers established?

In order to understand the service sector we have to consider the alternate cost of employment. The marginal worker, one who can either work in the factory or cut hair, decides which employment to pursue based on relative wages. The cost for working in one field is the wage of the best alternate form of employment in another field. If the cost of working exceeds the benefit, it behooves the worker to seek the alternate field of employment.

If the factory offers better wages, the worker takes the factory job. If cutting hair offers better wages, the worker becomes a barber. If the relative wage rate of barbers begins exceeding the relative wage rate of factory workers, the marginal factory worker switches professions and enters the barber market. By doing this, the wages of barbers would fall as the wages of factory workers rise.

Had the worker stayed in the factory, he would have lost potential earnings. It is the alternate cost of employment, the foregone potential earnings, which guides acting man into the most remunerative employment. And it is this voluntary movement, the change of professions, which tends to guide the labor market toward equilibrium. [1]

This simplistic example shows that service sector employee wages are tied to the discounted marginal value product of labor in general.

Are market wage rates fair? As detailed above, workers earn either their discounted marginal value product or the equivalent wage of their best alternate employment. To say that one wage rate is unfair is to say that the worker earning that rate deserves a premium wage over a similarly productive worker in another sector of the economy. To say that a math teacher is underpaid in a free market is to say that the math teacher deserves to be paid more than the value product of teaching requires.

In a free market, wages cannot be unfair as they are set by the direction of the consumer. When the alternate cost of employment rises above the wage rate, workers shift sectors and set the labor market back toward equilibrium. [2]

In order to gain a wage premium, government interventions must occur. These interventions can take the form of field or general minimum wages, granting unions legal right to control sectors of the economy, government wage supports, or the creation of a government monopoly or quasi-monopoly in a sector of the economy – the school system for example.

In a free market teachers would also earn the equivalent of their discounted wage in the productive sector of the economy. A math teacher would earn the equivalent wage of a similarly productive worker in, say, the software industry – who earns the equivalent wage of a similarly productive worker in the engineering industry, and so on. If the math teacher was underpaid relative to his best alternate employment, this would be a signal there is an excess of math teachers, and that math teachers are being underutilized in their current employment.

The teacher market is not free; it is a quasi-monopoly where the vast majority of employees are unionized under a government-run system. Unlike the Soviet Union, which used the free markets of the world to establish some sort of price level, public schools do not look to private schools for wage guidance. Private schools pay their workers a much lower wage, but as above, they must pay a wage that exceeds the alternate costs of employment. [3]

Are public school teachers overpaid? Since there is no way to discern the true alternate cost of employment for all public school teachers in a free market – because no free market for teachers exists – we must rely on the available market data provided by private schools. This shows that teachers, in general, are absolutely overpaid.

In addition, and more importantly, we know a priori that governments are inefficient and over-pay and over-employ factors of production. Also, government teaching licensure rules create barriers to entry for those wishing to seek out a teaching career thus driving wage rates higher. Then, of course, there are the government-backed unions who rule the roost through strikes and threats of strikes. [4]

Are public teacher salaries unfair? Certainly. They are unfair to the taxpayer who is forced to pay the tax bill that supports the premium wage of public school teachers. In a free labor market a teacher's real salary can only increase with the marginal value product of employees in the next best alternate employment. In the quasi-monopoly that currently exists, teachers have realized salary increases that are not tied to the labor market; the salary increases are simply the result of political pressure.

The next time you hear teachers claim that they need a fair wage, tell them to drop the union banners and open education to the free market; the one market where everyone earns their fair wage.

[1] Of course the opposite holds if the factory worker made relatively more than the barber. Professions would switch and wages would tend toward equilibrium.

[2] Equilibrium is the direction of the movement, not reality. Equilibrium is the infinite endpoint on the continuum that is never reached though the actions of individuals tend to keep the economy moving in that direction. As consumer preferences change, the economy is rocked away from the direction of equilibrium, but the vast numbers of astute entrepreneurs act quickly to satisfy the new preferences and bring the economy back on course – well, in an unhampered market anyway since government likes to damage the rudder in such a manner that even the most astute entrepreneur cannot set a new course.

[3] Certainly there is an additional psychic income earned due to the rewards of teaching, but the psychic income exists in both the private and public school market. In fact, every job has its own form of psychic income that is based purely on the subjective valuation of the employee.

[4] Everyone has a study that shows teachers are either overpaid or underpaid based on salary and benefits per number of hours worked in a given year. Conflicting studies are the product of the current empiricist/positivist paradigm. The only way to read through the data and understand economics and the impact of policies is to use the a priori approach to understanding of the Austrian School.

Jim Fedako, a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An inconvenient utility bill

What can you say? Everyone one is contributing to global warming except Al Gore, though Gore has been averaging $30,000 in utility bills for his home alone. Amazing, yet true.

Gore continually earns his Academy Award as he plays the role of the wise sage. An Inconvenient Truth is a convenient lie. And even the so-called liberal press is catching on. From ABC NEWS


Al Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth'? -- $30,000 utility bill

2/27/07 - NASHVILLE, TN) - Back home in Tennessee, safely ensconced in his suburban Nashville home, Vice President Al Gore is no doubt basking in the Oscar awarded to "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary he inspired and in which he starred. But a local free-market think tank is trying to make that very home emblematic of what it deems Gore's environmental hypocrisy.

continue reading ...

If Gore believed what he said, he'd be downsizing his carbon footprint.

Global warming is not a threat, though the green/socialist solution to so-called gobal warming is a great, and real, danger to the concepts that founded this country; Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness.

Note: I really don't care how much Gore spends on utility bills, that's his business. In the same vein, the way I run my life is my business. Let's both leave it there. Yet, Gore wants me to lower my energy usage while he stays warm in the winter, cool in the summer, in this Tennessee dacha.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A delicious monopoly

My latest blog posting at

I was once again the victim of a monopoly; the Girl Scouts and their delicious cookies. Here exists the true monopoly; a restriction of supply (cookies available only once per year), and a higher-than-market price (based on equivalent cookies available at Wal-Mart).

Every year around this time, an addiction forces me to place cookie orders well in advance of delivery. Sitting by the door in the interim while waiting for my Do-Si-Dos to arrive, I am reduced to a Pavlovian dog; salivating every time the doorbell rings.

Due to my addiction, my demand is purely inelastic. I can only thank the Girl Scouts for selling their cookies at $3 a box. I would certainly pay more, much more. I am the consumer, helpless before the monopoly.

Shouldn't the feds do something about this? Shouldn't this pernicious monopoly be Shermanized? Or, at the very least, can't the Girl Scouts be forced to sell cookies all year long? You laugh, but the Thin Mints jones are real, and vicious.

Of course, a federalized solution would mean bland cookies sold by a scowling apparachik wearing a faded Babushka. So, I dare not look to the feds. I could purchase a year's supply, but then I wouldn't have cookie time to break the mid-winter blues.

Well, my cookie order finally arrived this weekend. And, after a half-gallon of milk and a box of Do-Si-Dos, all is forgotten. Until tomorrow, when the empty box is all that is left until next year. Anyone know where I can score some Trefoils?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A century can change a party

From the Email Update from the Future of Freedom Foundation ( Wednesday, February 121, 2007

The quote below shows the platform of the Democratic Party a little over a century ago. That party certainly has changed. Of course the Republicans have also changed, assuming the Fascist role while the Democrats have assumed the Socialist one.

And, both parties now stand opposite of Freedom and Liberty; fighting amongst themselves over the coercive powers of taxation, regulation, and control.
Jim Fedako

We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental Democratic doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best government.

— Democratic National Platform [1892]

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Essential Writings of the Founding Fathers

Consider the writings of the Founding Fathers -- Jim Fedako

The Essential Writings of
the Founding Fathers
edited by Susan Dunn
Basic Books, 2006, hardcover

According to Laissez Faire Books:

So many books have been published on the Founding Fathers, and these historical figures wrote so much themselves, that it can be daunting to the casual reader. Thankfully, Susan Dunn has compiled a collection of essential letters and documents written by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, each one granted his own section. Dunn ties them together with an informative introduction.

Franklin is mysteriously missing, but this volume is still an excellent and varied collection.

If you've been looking to read the works of these great men without having to buy a half dozen different volumes, then look no further. Susan Dunn has done all the work for you.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

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 the paddler running the rapids in a collapsible raft, 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 accordingly is their own failure. 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 the ideals of liberty and property and instead teach a history that we are not significantly different from the societies that took the paths leading to the rocks and boulders.

Jim Fedako

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Latest article

Security and Lies
by Jim Fedako

Social security is the without a doubt the state's biggest lie. While the state has a history of lies, big whoppers that have cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of lives, it's the lie of government-guaranteed social security that makes all the other lies possible.

Before the advent of the Prussian socialist state in the 1800's, children cared for their elderly parents. And, when that failed, the church stepped in to provide for the community’s old and infirm. That was the compact – between parents and children, backed by the church – and it worked well.

Along came the state saying that it would care for the elderly. Children would be emancipated from their parents, and parents would no longer have to rely on their children. The original compact was broken and forgotten in lieu of the efficient state solution. The dawn of the utopian guardian state began.

Prussia was looking to break the bond between parent and child in order to foster a new bond; a bond between citizen and state. In this upside-down world, the state would become the ever-living parent in care of the never-maturing citizen.

As the parent, the state would guide the lives, the thoughts, the religion, and the morals, of its citizens. That is the Faustian bargain; citizens blindly worshiping the all-providing state for the price of freedom and souls.

Now, here comes the bait-and-switch. Remember, under the socialist system of the Prussian state of the 1800’s and the current, near socialist, US system, parents no longer have to rely on their own children for care and security.

OK, that's the bait, now the switch. You see, someone has to work to continue funding the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security, and that someone is the next generation – the children and grandchildren of those retired.

The state cannot create Utopia. Despite the nonsense coming out of the mouths of babes – those left in a perpetual juvenile condition due to the interventions of a state-run education system – the state cannot remove scarcity and uneasiness. It simply cannot.

So, the state steals money from the workforce in order to secure those in retirement. Through the state’s directions, the care of the elderly is provided by their offspring. But, isn’t this similar to what the family and the church did before this whole mess started? Of course it is. OK, but what was gained from state intervention in this important aspect of the family? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What was lost? Freedom and the family itself, along with the souls of all citizens.

Parents no longer look to children as later-in-life caregivers; the state has filled that role. Children are now seen as a burden; an expense to some, ravenous resource-consuming beasts to others. It’s the state that will provide; it’s the state that will solve the ills of the world.

Yet, since the state cannot remove the yoke of scarcity, it must rely on its citizens. Parents still need their children’s care because the state needs their children’s labor. Social Security solved nothing, nothing. It did, though, cause many ills. The family is now undervalued, with the war on poverty ending up being a war on the family; a war which the state has all but won.

The lie of security makes all other lies possible. If the state is the caregiver, provider, educator, and pastor, it can do anything. And, more importantly, the state must be protected at all costs. The state as the pension fund and old-age nursemaid must remain; it must not be allowed to perish as nothing else can replace it. The family has been weakened by two centuries of interventions and taxes, while the church has been emasculated by laws and court decisions, and both have been removed from their roles in society.

Many say with a straight face that they do not want to burden their children with the worries and strains of providing old-age care. These people believe that the state will watch over them free of charge. Why? Well, they have bought into the idea the Social Security is an insurance policy purchased by years of labor and taxation, secured by the backing of the state. That this lie persists despite the facts shows that public education has produced its one true product; a citizenry in awe of, and obedient to, the state.

Sure you will hear some folks say that they do not expect Social Security to see them through retirement, yet these same folks act as if the checks will come regardless. "The government cannot default as there would be an uproar; a revolution." True. And, your elected officials know it. That’s exactly why a number of European states are now paying couples to have children. These states have all but admitted that they cannot care for the elderly alone; the states need help from the children and grandchildren. But, even here, the elderly will still be cared for by the family of the state, not the traditional family.

If the state is your family, your source of security, then it must be supported at all costs. Our citizenry has enabled the state to lie at will since the state has become the last hope. But surely it does not have to end here.

Our nation must face the lie of social security and understand that children take care of parents under any system. Only then can the socialized citizens begin to mature and take on the role of the adult, with adult responsibilities and concerns; recognizing that the family is central and the state superfluous.

While the state will always lie, its lies will have little effect, as its role will be greatly diminished. With no more families to destroy and no more empires to build, there are no more big lies to tell.

February 20, 2007
Copyright © 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

God's team or government's team?

The website The Presidential Prayer Team claims to be a nonpartisan organization that prays for the president, the cabinet, and other elected officials. Yet, it has an obvious pro-government stance where the prayers ask God to intervene in matters that have a strong basis in socialism and interventionism; matters such as social justice (whatever that is), environmentalism, free trade, etc.

The website is not about God, it's about the state - or the god-state worshipped by quite a number of people today.

According to the listed prayers, I'm to pray that this or that elected official will solve hunger, poverty, healthcare, etc. I am supposed to "(p)ray for guidance (for Lamar Alexander) in seeking environmental protection of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park and parks like it all over the U.S." As well as to "(p)ray for (Lamar Alexander's) leadership in building a stable economy in Tennessee, as industries such as automobile manufacturing are seeking relocation."

In addition,I'm supposed to "(p)ray that the many demands of the growing communities in (Steve Buyer's) district will be met." What are those demands other than the desire of some in the communities to have what is not theirs? The sin of coveting thy neighbor's _______ (fill in the blank).

My wife and I subscribe to World Magazine as it provides a Christian view of current events. The latest issue includes a letter with a quote from CS Lewis:

C.S. Lewis has Screwtape explain that "the thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which [God] demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For [God] will not be used as a convenience."

The gist of the quote is that we are to serve God, not use God to serve our interests. And, more importantly, we are not to be lead astray by those who value something other than God; whether it is social justice, universal healthcare, environmentalism, etc.

Some of the mainline churches sided with the Progressive socialist in the 1800's because of the belief that man has to be perfected prior to the Second Coming. Since the only earthly entity with the supposed power to perfect man is government, the churches decided government was the solution.

What happened next was not detailed in the C.S. Lewis quote: The churches dropped God since government could create heaven on earth without Him. Note the current lukewarm - if not blasphemous - mush coming out of some of the mainline churches today.

Government said it would wage a war on poverty, and it said that it would win. Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you." Government, with voter support, fought its war anyway, and ended up destroying the family. The conceit of omnipotence is the sin of pride, regardless the office or position held.

The Israelites begged for a king and got more than they bargained for. We have continually voted for a savior state and got exactly what we desired; a humanist beast.

The Presidential Prayer Team website is pure pro-government interventionist manipulation. Be aware. And, read it to be aware.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wise words from a Founding Father

From the Email Update from the Future of Freedom Foundation (
Monday, February 19, 2007

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

— James Madison, Constitutional Convention [June 29, 1787]

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Correlating nonsense

Play the Correlation Game
By: Jim Fedako
Ludwig von Mises: As a method of economic analysis econometrics is a childish play with figures that does not contribute anything to the elucidation of the problems of economic reality.[1]

Think that you might be capable of a crime? Worried that you're the next face to appear on the local most-wanted list? Wonder no more. Just take a gander at your high school senior photo and make an honest assessment of your appearance. If you were cute or handsome, no prison yard for you. If you were ugly, better call an attorney and bondsman right away ‘cause the slammer is less than eight years away.

Confused? Well, I'm only reciting research– or that which is called research – from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The abstract from Ugly Criminals, NBER Working Paper No. 12019, Issued in February 2006, includes the suggestive finding that, “the level of beauty in high school has an effect on criminal propensity 7-8 years later.” There you have it. Enough said. Crime is the result of looks, plain and simple. It gets worse; the labor market “provides an incentive” for ugly people to live lives of criminal activity. What an evil world we live in?

Compare this with what has to offer: The Epistemological Problems of Economics; and, The Ultimate Foundation of Economics Science. Talk about a dismal science. Come on now, who really needs an Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought? I mean, what’s the point? As my Dad likes to say, “What does it have to do with the price of tea in China?” Or, more importantly, what does all that have to do with one’s propensity to commit a crime?

Why read Mises, Rothbard, and others, when you can understand the world simply by downloading a couple of sets of specious federal data from the web, importing them into any statistical software package – go ahead and use MS Excel if you like -- and correlating these unrelated data points? If two thoughts cross your mind, correlate them. You can even call yourself a researcher and maybe convince the NBER to publish your findings. If your findings are provocative, or even if your title is provocative, you may find yourself sitting with national talking-heads on a cable news channel, not to mention having your name, photo and findings on the front page of the New York Times. In a moment, you are a star. Set the countdown clock at fifteen minutes and enjoy.

Of course there will always be that fear which occasionally enters your conscious mind; what if someone actually reads my study? The study’s title is certainly catchy but the underlying statistical findings are spurious at best. The abstract will suggest a lot about the research, but it’s really easy to suggest; learning and understanding are different matters since they take actual effort and knowledge. It appears that the more provocative the title, or suggestive the findings, the less initial review given to the actual study. (No correlative proof here, just an observation.) Later, after your clock has expired, another researcher will review your findings and publish his refutation and begin his fifteen minutes in the limelight.

Now if you want, you can get more sophisticated by first creating a model and then testing the model against your shallow pool of data. Of course models are best in the end since they add complexity and allow you to include intricate equations in your research paper; form over substance. Just for kicks, link the models and equations together in lines of esoteric jargon that is muddled at best. Muddled writing implies intellect, right? Not so says Rothbard. Muddled writing is usually the sign of muddled thinking. Muddled begets muddled.

Positivism, empiricism, et al, are predicated on the belief that only testable knowledge is valid. They like to claim that aprioristic knowledge is simply a game of semantics and word play; it’s all just tautologies. Really? Mises built his economics on a solid foundation; humans use means to obtain ends; they act. From this he created the science of economics that truly explains the processes of the market, whether free, hampered or socialistic.

From this foundation, Mises can state as a truth such concepts as inflation is the increasing on the supply of fiat money. Inflation is not a push/pull between consumers and suppliers. It’s not some monster that arises when you don't want it only to be settled down by the latest reading from Oracle of the Fed. Inflation is the printing of money or the loosening of credit. Simple. Doesn't matter what the latest researcher has shown using the latest statistical equations and programs. Inflation is what it is.

Reading Mises and Rothbard are sufficient to disprove an NBER study espousing how “investing” in some social program will reap societal benefits in future years. Whereas General Electric sends me my dividends on a regular basis, in all the years that politicians and governmental bureaucrats have invested my confiscated earnings on social programs, I have not received one dividend check. Not one penny. This despite the advertised billions and trillions of dividends due to me by now. Where’s my return on investment from the all pork used to fund NBER research? I don’t need a ten percent return, just three or four percent will suffice. Heck, I’ll even settle for one percent. Check’s in the mail I suppose.

See, as long as we are led to believe that the world can only be understood through empirical and statistical studies, we will never be able to question the true causes of our current malaise. Studies can only suggest. The truth can never be found in statistics, the noise level always drowns out any knowledge that could possibly be garnered.

So, why the continued funding for these studies? Ask yourself, “If ugly people are forced into lives of criminal activity due to the conditions of the current labor market, who or what could correct that market flaw?” If you were a good student in public schools, raise your hand and be prepared to respond, “My dear Uncle Sam is your man.” There you have it, the implicit and sometimes explicit solution to all the social ills noted by NBER research is always interventionism. Government needs to regulate the labor market and correct “the possibility that beauty may have an impact on human capital formation.” One or two more interventions and we can all cross the river to the Land of Cockaigne. At least that’s the picture they paint on the minds of children throughout the nation’s public school system. It’s even tough for adults – myself included -- to keep fighting the party slogans we heard for twelve years over the scratchy PA.

Read Mises, Rothbard, and others who sought liberty and prosperity for all of us. Spend some time digesting the insights found in The Epistemological Problems of Economics, The Ultimate Foundation of Economics Science, not to mention Human Action and Man, Economy, and State. And, disregard the drivel that is portrayed as science but is nothing less than a game of MS Excel.

By the way, the study that I am truly awaiting is the one that correlates PT Barnum’s fool with those willing to forego $5 in order to read the latest drivel from NBER. That’s a study I'll purchase. No, wait. Wouldn't that make me the fool and PT correct once more?

1. The full quote from, Ludwig von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, 1978. "Deluded by the idea that the sciences of human action must ape the technique of the natural sciences, hosts of authors are intent upon a quantification of economics. They think that economics ought to imitate chemistry, which progressed from a qualitative to a quantitative state.[1] Their motto is the positivistic maxim: Science is measurement. Supported by rich funds, they are busy reprinting and rearranging statistical data provided by governments, by trade associations, and by corporations and other enterprises. They try to compute the arithmetical relations among various of these data and thus to determine what they call, by analogy with the natural sciences, correlations and functions. They fail to realize that in the field of human action statistics is always history and that the alleged "correlations" and "functions" do not describe anything else than what happened at a definite instant of time in a definite geographical area as the outcome of the actions of a definite number of people.[2] As a method of economic analysis econometrics is a childish play with figures that does not contribute anything to the elucidation of the problems of economic reality."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Is man ruining the environment?

That's always an interesting question. The answer depends on how one views the purpose of the environment. Does the environment exist for man? Or, does man simply trespass on the living earth? Important questions, indeed.

I subscribe to the Biblical version which places the environment under the dominion of man. Changes to the earth show man's use of resources provided by God.

The humanist version, the one exposed by environmentalists, views the earth as a pristine entity that is continually violated by the activities man. Changes are scars that defile the earth.

Is man ruining the planet? Well, I couldn't imagine living in an environment similar to Ohio and Michigan of two hundred years ago. From Oberlin College Online:

Wolves and rattlesnakes were a constant threat, but the fever, commonly referred to as malaria, ague, or bilious or autumnal fever, was feared most. One pioneer confessed "a wholesome fear of two things: fever and ague and rattlesnakes" (3). Because the fever was often contracted around the wetlands, settlers thought it was caused by inhaling the "bad air," "miasma," or "malaria" that they associated with the rotting vegetation of swamps.

However, the fever was often debilitating and accommodating the shakes wasn’t always an option. Malaria disabled entire families as described in this account of Michigan frontier life: "The malarial gases set free, that country became very sickly…crops went back into the ground, animals suffered for food, and if the people had not been too sick to need much to eat, they too must have gone hungry. The pale, sallow, bloated faces of that period were the rule; there were no healthy faces except of persons just arrived"

Personally, I'm much too soft for such a life.

Man has ruined the environment of Ohio and Michigan? Hardly.

Before you accept the environmentalist tale that our current structure of society and levels of consumption are wrecking the environment, consider the above passage and think how wonderful life would be watching our children and loved ones suffer and die as the result of untamed nature. It's not a pretty sight.

God gave man dominion over the earth. Thank goodness. Without dominion, life would be a daily struggle; a struggle that the earth would assuredly win.

Kindergarten Economics

A cute saying is, “Everything I know, I learned in Kindergarten.” That may indeed be the case for some, but learning doesn't always imply useful knowledge. Sometimes the item learned becomes an axiom of errant logic and false conclusions. These conclusions then drive economic policy toward the -isms of socialism, egalitarianism, utilitarianism, environmentalism, etc., the often-prized third way. But in actuality, Ludwig von Mises showed that the direction provide by these conclusions leads down the one-way street to the socialist cul-de-sac.

The classroom poster reads, “There are no wrong ideas here.” Is this apodictically true? If it is not, where does this false statement lead? What conclusions and actions result from a saying so apparently innocuous? You might be surprised.

Future educators are being indoctrinated by college professors adhering to progressive and socialist educational utopian ideals – just as current educators were indoctrinated during their college years. Mises in Human Action noted that Charles Fourier, the French utopian socialist, believed that man could create a world where the seas are made from lemonade. Mises also quotes Trotsky’s belief that the world in the 1920’s was about to witness the birth of the ideal super human as “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”

These Utopian ideals are certainly powerful statements, but they are a too outrageous for the typical education major. Keep the utopian ideal, but spin the rhetoric into the less offensive Kindergarten concept that no ideas can be wrong and you've hooked the teachers, parents and school board. And, more importantly, you've inculcated a new generation. Gramsci was right, why fight in the streets when patience and time will bring about socialism through lectures and textbooks as each subsequent generation is taught party-line thoughts and ideas at state-run schools.

There are many in my generation who believe that all ideas are good. Failure is not the product of a bad idea; failure is instead the product of market flaws and the sign that government intervention is required.

In reality most ideas are not worthy of consideration; they're inefficient, wasteful and just plain wrong. In Kindergarten and throughout the public K-12 system that statement is politically incorrect.

A little history is in order. Otto von Bismarck’s dream of state socialism was given birth decades before his rise to power when the calls for compulsory public education were heard soon after Napoleon defeated the Prussian army at Jena. The Prussian system supposedly began producing the best and the brightest, at least that’s what Horace Mann, the father of public education in the US, believed. Later, John Dewey, the father of the current pedagogy, was enthralled by what he saw during a 1928 visit to the Soviet Union. Trotsky’s Utopian man was envisioned by the Progressives as the product of public education.

This has left us with a free and compulsory school system that is convinced that five 7th graders sitting around a table can construct the concepts that required the brightest intellects hundreds of years to conceive. It took the likes of Carl Menger and the passage of a century to overthrow Adam Smith’s Classical School and institute the Marginalist Revolution. The discovery of marginal utility, considered the mark of a genius, is now supposed to be replicated by less-than-eager adolescents within a 40-minute class period. The utopian man has arrived.

“No wrong ideas here.” Every thought uttered by any child or adult has to be given equal standing. Consensus, an ideal adhered to by the education monopoly, is the blending of these ideas into an Hegelian synthesis [1] that becomes truth. Synthesis can then be tested using the latest tools of the econometrician. That this new truth stands outside a priori logic is of no consequence. Without a system built on a priori logic to test ideas, anything can be deemed possible. Polylogism is certainly alive and well.

The empiricist’s test of the statement, “No wrong ideas here,” is a view of two snapshots of a local strip mall taken one year apart. Most of the stores open in year one are gone in year two; bad ideas.

Weren't these ideas entrepreneurial dreams? Certainly, but not all dreams lead to viable concerns. Mises considered the consumer a heartless taskmaster. The statement in the Kindergarten classroom fails the empirical test and thus must be concluded as false.

Not so fast. Wasn't the test the result of a flawed system? Didn't the statistical noise from the market cause a false reading of the results? Aren’t we confounding correlation with causation since the market caused the failures? Such ideas are hard to refute since they spin faster than anyone can apply logic to them.

Unlike the Kindergarten teachers who may truly believe that all ideas – dreams – should be allowed to germinate and bloom, the consumer does not see the dream, only the product. We see Wal Mart but we don't see the thousand other stores that opened in the 1950’s that, while being the dreams of entrepreneurs, did not provide for the most urgent wants of the customers. These businesses failed. Their business model was incorrect and inefficient.

But, wait. Failure means that an idea was wrong. We have been taught that ideas are correct; it is the market that fails. Your snapshots from above shows different store fronts because the free market suffers the inherent flaw that the passing fancies of consumers trump the dreams of the child, now entrepreneur. This conclusion is what we were taught in Kindergarten as impressionable and malleable children. It’s the evils of the market that steal the dreams of the Utopian man.

The market didn't steal the dreams, the dreams still exist. But consumers – you and I – shouldn't have to pay for another man’s dream. The dream must simply remain one man’s dream. Under a system of interventionism, the dreams of the entrepreneur are exchanged for the dreams of the elected official or bureaucrat. The entrepreneur that dreamed of building a store on the premise of “always high prices” is now sitting behind an agency desk commanding the economy. Instead of fully stocked Wal Marts carrying fresh foods from all around the globe, the consumer is stuck with the drab, dirty Soviet-quality stores stocked with Vodka, cookies and little else.

Saying an idea is wrong does not mean that ideas shouldn't be tested. IBM thought Gates was off the mark trying to peddle computers for home use. Other examples abound where ideas considered crazy brought innovation to the market and eased the urgent wants of the consumers.

Unlike a lab where all conditions must be controlled for an experiment to work, the market allows someone with an idea, enthusiasm and some financial backing to test that idea at the local strip mall. Should the concept align with the needs of the consumer, the next Subway-style success will begin opening franchises in strip malls throughout the US.

Better the foot-long turkey on wheat served with a smile than the slice of salami on stale bread coming from the scowling apparachik wearing a faded Babushka. The more productive an idea, the more efficient the economy will run. We all benefit when ideas that are wrong are allowed to be discarded in the waste pile.

I will contend that all truths I know about the market I learned through studying Human Action and Murray Rothbard’s classic, Man, Economy and State. Since these books reconstruct economics around solid a priori logic, they are irrefutable. These books deliver conclusions will challenge all that was learned in Kindergarten and beyond, but those very conclusions must be understood as the guiding lights to a brighter future for all.

Jim Fedako

[1] The common usage is Hegelian while this usage is more along the lines of Fichte's system, the predecessor of Hegel.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

$5,000,000 over five years, or 0.7% reduction

The Olentangy District is now recording cost reductions as if the district is a teenage federal government.

No longer do we hear the district report a one-year reduction of x dollars, now we hear reductions multiplied over five years as the district reports 5x dollars worth of reductions. It certainly makes the reductions look bigger.

Of course, the district could go the adult federal route and multiply by 10 for an even greater effect. But neither multiples - reductions over five years or ten - show the true net effect. For that you have to also sum the expenditures over the same period, and divide.

In the case at hand, the district's reported reductions are only 0.7% of the five years worth of expenditures. When viewed in those terms, the reductions are just a drop in the big tax bucket.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Interventions are always losers

One truism has never been successfully challenged: Government interventions lead to a less efficient, less well-ordered society.

In his important book, Basic Principles of Economic Value, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk develops, among other important concepts, his basic law of prices and includes a footnote that is both intriguing and worthy of exploration.

In the narrative associated with the footnote (p. 119), Böhm-Bawerk develops his law of prices (pp.107-129) by using the now-standard chart showing the subjective values of a group of horse buyers and sellers. Chart 1 (reproduced below), shows that five horses will be bought and sold at a market price somewhere between $210 and $215.

Notice that in the market range of $210 to $215, not all horses are sold since some sellers value their horse more than the established market price (sellers 6, 7, and 8). In the footnote, Böhm-Bawerk reorders the values so that the sellers’ valuations are in descending order similar to the buyers’ set of values (chart 2 below). He then notes that if the buyers and sellers sought out each other in this manner, all available horses would have been sold. This intriguing situation is worthy of further exploration since it is always important to investigate the possibilities of a government helping-hand with regard to the market.

A question arises: If government intervened to coercively pair buyers with sellers in the manner that the chart in the footnote details (chart 2 below) and forced exchanges based solely on the pair at hand’s valuations (e.g. Buyer 1 and Seller 8, Buyer 2 and Seller 7, etc.), ignoring an aggregate market price, would the society of horse buyers and sellers be better off?

First, we have to look at how value is increased through voluntary exchange and then apply that knowledge to the intervention.

Value has a subjective magnitude. Individuals participate in voluntary exchanges if and only if they expect ex ante an increase in subjective value ex post due to the exchange.

Based on the market established in chart 1, Buyer 1 will exchange with Seller 1 at some price between $100 and $300. Regardless of the price, an increase of $200 is recorded to subjective valuations of this two-person society since the buyer values the horse $200 more than the seller; while the buyer and seller simply split the cash based on the agreed upon price.

The pre-exchange valuations show the buyer holding $300 in cash with the seller holding a $100 horse. Should the price have been $200 for the exchange, the buyer now has a $300 horse and $100 in cash while the seller has $200 in cash. This shows a $200 increase in subjective valuation.

Any other price for the horse simply moves cash from one holder’s account to the other; buyer's to seller's, or visa versa. The money price has no effect on the increase in the subjective valuation to the buyer over the seller of the exchanged horse. The money price only affects the decision to exchange or hold, money prices do not change valuations subjective to the individual actors.

The aggregate valuation increase for the larger society as detailed in chart 1 is calculated by summing the valuations of the more-capable buyers – those able to purchase a horse on the market – and subtracting from that total the summed valuations of the associated sellers. In the example, the aggregate increase due to the exchanges is $570.

What would be the aggregate increase to society due to a government intervention that coercively paired buyers with sellers?

Using chart 2, sum the valuations of capable buyers and subtract the sum of the valuations of the associated sellers. In this instance, there are eight buyers and sellers. The result, an increase of $435, shows that the coerced exchange reduced the aggregate subjective valuation gain.

More horses were sold but less value was created. This intervention, like all government interventions, is a net loser.

Moreover, and more importantly, the losses due to the coerced exchanges are not found only in the hypothetical market created by Böhm-Bawerk, the loss of subjective valuation occurs regardless of the make-up of the market. In addition, this can be extended to show that government cannot tax valuation "left on the table" [1] and increase the aggregate subjective valuation since all government would be doing is reducing cash-holdings through taxation. The subjective valuations remain what they are regardless of the exchange price.

Additionally, if government would then use the cash generated through taxation to subsidize exchanges that would not have occurred naturally in the market, the aggregate net valuation would suffer a loss – just as it did under a coerced exchange – and the cash-holdings would be reduced by the inefficiencies of government.

Based on a superficial analysis, coerced exchanges appear to lead to greater satisfaction. Aren’t more horses traded? Isn’t more cash passed between buyer and seller? The answer is yes to both. However, the unseen is as important as the seen. On the surface, government appears to be a market catalyst for good, while the hidden results proves that interventions lead to a loss of value and cash-holdings.

Governments opt for the seen as their continued power is based on trumpeting their interventions of the obvious; governments then blame the final results, lost values and cash-holdings, on someone or something else altogether.

Yet, this is exactly what government does when it alters the normal actions of individuals through taxation or other coercive forces, such as subsidies, etc. Nothing good results simply because nothing good can result from coerced changes to the free market.


[1] Valuation “left on the table” is value external to the exchange, viz. the subjective value Buyer 1 assigns to the horse, $300, that is that is greater that the market price, between $210 and $215 in this instance. Some suggest that government should levy a tax of either $90 or $85 respectively so that the value the buyer attributed to the horse is paid in a combination of market price and taxation. The belief is that this combination would capture all value generated by the exchange. As noted above, government simply decreases the aggregate valuation and cash-holdings of society through such interventions.

Jim Fedako [send him mail], a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.


Chart 1

Chart 2

note: refer to blog posting for chart 2.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

$3.5 million and counting: all for the public good

The Olentangy School District has now closed for it's fifth day out of the past eight days. While it's probably best that the students are home safe from the antics of Progressive educators, can't the administrators and teaching staff do something useful for the $3.5 million spent on the school system during the five closed days. Does it make sense that I am out $150 - my piece of the $3.5 million pie - while district employees are at home spending their days watching Price is Right, etc?

The rest of the professionals in the area have to brave the elements and perform productive services for their salary. Why can't the district staff do the same? Ah, yes, contracts, unions, and a government monopoly.

It's all for the public good. Or, that's what they tell us at tax levy time

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quote from a fellow former school board member

“ ... sometime during my second term on the school board [when] I had served long enough by then to finally realize the truth…that the system can’t be rehabilitated, only replaced” Howard Good, Inside the Board Room: Reflections of a Former School Board Member, Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, ISBN: 1578864534, Pages: 88, Year: 2006

Oh, and he's a professor journalist. And, he's right. Sounds like a good book to read!

Note: The baffoons over at The Teachers College of Columbia University reviewed the book and said it was worth only "a cuckle or two."

Well, here's the nonsense coming out of that esteemed socialist teachers mill:

Here's the lead article from TCRecord, the online magazine out of the famed Teachers College of Columbia University:

The Tacit Media Pedagogy as Praxial Critique: A Critique of Postmodern Theory for Higher Education Curriculum

by Andrew M. Tatusko — 2005

Employing Calvin O. Schrag's response to postmodernism-transversal rationality engaged through praxial critique-the constructive side of postmodern theories can be highlighted in higher education while at the same time answering the pundits who see little to no constructive side to postmodern theories. Using praxial critique through media literacy is a proposed way to construct a curriculum that is centered around transversal rationality as a way to answer the challenges of postmodernism in a constructive way that neither dimisses nor blindly accepts its conclusions. In this way the limits of postmodern theory are critiqued. Some shortcomings of key postmodern theories are drawn out in relation to educational theory while aspects of some of these theories for a constructive employment in higher education are affirmed.

Huh?!? What ever happened to the Three R's? I assume they got lost in a postmodern-transversal. That muddle isn't worth a chuckle as it shows the level of malpractice that goes by the name "education research." You pay for it twice; when you pay your tax bills, and when your child suffers through the system that is nothing less than "postmodernism-transversal" rational. Whatever that means.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A new national ranking

My latest blog post.

Living near the home of a major state university, national collegiate rankings are a real source of pride. There are the typical sports rankings that make the headlines; those for football and basketball in particular. But lately, The Columbus Dispatch has reported and editorialized on a new ranking; research and development expenditures at U.S. universities and colleges (in reports such as this). Bursting with pride, the paper hails the increasing research expenditures made by The Ohio State University.

The university also stands proud. Like any government entity, OSU confounds expenditures with value. The greater the amount expended, the more value generated locally. Or, so the party line goes.

The university even applies the U.S. Department of Commerce's Keynesian equation of 32 new jobs created for every $1 million spent on research. Based on this figure, the paper states that 21,000 jobs have been created in central Ohio given the $652 million spent by OSU on research in 2006.

Current figures (from 2005) show OSU ranked 12th on the amount spent by universities and colleges on research - Johns Hopkins University tops the list at $1.444 billion spent in 2005. With OSU moving up the rankings, the university and paper have been puffing their collective chests. Forgotten are the lessons of Bastiat and Hazlitt: It's not simply the visible results of action that matter; just as important are the more remote consequences.

For sake of argument, let's assume that the 32 new jobs figure is correct. Unseen are the 33 jobs or more lost due to the level of taxation required to fund the research. Jobs lost in central Ohio and throughout the U.S.

According to the Dispatch, one simply has to spend $1 million on research in order to create 32 new jobs. It's that simple, and the Commerce Department has the equations, models, and graphs to provide the proof. It's as if the rules of scarcity do not apply when one speaks of government expenditures. Bastiat caught the foolishness in such statements over 100 years ago, yet such New Deal nonsense lives on at universities and in the press.

OSU has spent $2.3 billion over the last 5 years on research. What value have we (the collective we since federal tax dollars funded most of the research) gotten for this investment? Well, we know a little more about heartworms, positioning devises on Mars, and Ohio-grown tofu soybeans.

There are indeed two classes: the taxpayer, and the tax consumer. It appears that at some level, I may be living in a tax consuming area. Yet, I'm not happy. I'm simply watching others spend dollars picked from my wallet on goods and services -- research, in this case -- that will not satisfy my urgent wants. Unless, of course, I suffer from heartworms, get lost on Mars, or am in desperate need of Ohio-grown tofu soybeans.

F.A. Harper was correct when, in his book Why Wages Rise, he noted that whenever someone else spends your dollar for you, you get something less than a dollar of value in return. On the other hand, when you spend your dollar on your most pressing want, you get at least a dollar of value in return. Coerced funding of research cannot return value to the taxpayer. It's a much different story for the tax consumer.

Anyway, thank you Florida! You may have won the national championship in football, but your taxes have raised our knowledge of locally grown tofu soybeans. And, your universities are not even ranked in the race to spend more on nothing.

Well, actually, you should be proud of your stature here also, you aren't thieving my money, in net anyway. Congratulations. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Laissez Faire Books

Here's another view of the failing school system. While I don't agree with Mr. Greene's conclusions - I think that a government system of education is bound to fail, regardless of the intervention or plan - I do agree with Greene's observations and therefore recommend this book to those who want clear answers to the education myths. Jim Fedako

What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe about Our Schools—And Why It Isn't So
by Jay P. Greene
Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, paperback

According to Laissez Faire Books:

Why are public schools in the U.S. performing so poorly? The popular answer is that they need more money, but Jay P. Greene reveals this and 17 other bits of "common wisdom" for what they truly are: myths. In the spirit of John Stossel, Greene covers a variety of myths, including:

* Reducing class sizes would produce big improvements

* Certified teachers are much more effective than non-certified teachers

* Nearly all students graduate from high school

* Private schools are more racially segregated than public schools

* The evidence on the effectiveness of vouchers is inconclusive

Greene uses rational arguments and thorough research to bust these myths wide open—and reveals just how little evidence there is to support the popular beliefs. Greene's a fine writer and keeps things interesting throughout, making Education Myths an entertaining and (pardon the pun) educational read.

288 pages

Friday, February 09, 2007

Who are you gonna believe? The adminstrator or the mathematician

Sure public school administrators have masters degrees or PHD's, yet an advanced degree in school management does not give someone the ability to judge math programs. Here is another video that compares the fluff recommended by public school adminstrators with traditional math recommended by university math professors. Go with mathematician every time.

Watch this short video and then ask your school administrators why they continue to push the Progressive ideal. Don't let their spin throw you, these kings have no clothes.

Math Education: A University View

Vaccinations by the state

My latest blog post.

Reichsführer Perry is mad with power. How else can you explain his executive order mandating that Texas girls ages 11 and 12 receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine before entering the sixth grade starting in September 2008?

The principled Libertarian view is that Perry's order is an aggression on the bodies of these young girls. But, of course, all forms of compulsory vaccination are an aggression on the body of those vaccinated against their will.

The really odd piece of the Texas Gov. Perry mandate is that HPV is not spread by casual contact, nor is it associated with pandemic or epidemic outbreaks of cervical cancer, or even localized outbreaks of such cancer. It is a disease that requires intimate contact in order to spread.

All vaccinations simply protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. If you chose to protect yourself and your children, get your family vaccinated. Otherwise, accept whatever fate awaits you.

Your choice of whether or not to be vaccinated does not affect the previously vaccinated in any way. And, in some cases, the choice to remain unvaccinated is the rational, healthy choice. Healthcare, like all other issues, is within the private realm, and state officials have no moral business in such affairs.

So, what's behind the mandate? From some reports, it appears that Merck is pushing for its vaccine, Gardasil, to be mandated by states for all public school girls.

Yet, that is only half of the story. It's the political ilk such as Perry who see their role as saviors of the masses. Property rights are meaningless when these maniacal lot take on their next crusade.

One saving grace, the vaccine is only required for public school students. So, boycott that wretched school system and you also boycott the mandatory vaccination of your children. For now, anyway.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Former punk rock guitarist smells a rat in Everyday Math

Tom Chartier, lead guitarist in the legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until the band's final appearance in 2004, writes about the rot that is Everyday Mathematics for in, Is Your Child a Math Moron? In Tom's words:

One such program is Everyday Mathematics created and published by the University of Chicago Mathematics Project. Due to its confusing nature, within the teaching world E.M. is also known as "fuzzy math." And fuzzy it is, but not the warm, snuggly kind.

Everyday Mathematics boasts a "spiraling system" (hey if they don’t get it the first time, maybe they won’t get it the second either… or the third, fourth, fifth, etc.). E.M. also uses bizarre terminology unfamiliar to most parents. That means that busy parents must master Everyday Mathematics in order translate that which they already know how to do into E.M.’s new-fangled lingo for the purpose of explaining it to their children… if they can. Confused? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! It’s kind of like learning how to "speak" a foreign language… without having a clue what you’re saying.

E.M. even has geography lessons (I don’t get that either… unless they are to help find Middle Eastern oil deposits)! I suppose counting states is math. Unfortunately for the students, there are more than twenty.

It gets better. Everyday Mathematics is chock full of alternative algorithms. What, you ask, are those? For those of you out there who suffer from "mathematics deprivation syndrome" (MDS, the new plague replacing bird flu), an algorithm is a "method to solve problems." Your basic method of adding two-digit numbers through "carrying" is an example of an algorithm. E.M.’s program is brimming over with "alternative methods" giving children a miasma of choices from which to be baffled further.

Well, if it ain’t broke… better fix it. Traditional methods are passé. Unfortunately, the old-fashioned methods only offered one way to solve a problem and another way to check it. Everyday Mathematics makes attaining a lucrative career as the Village Idiot all that more challenging. Too much competition.

Everyday Mathematics ensures that it will be nearly impossible for parents to help their perplexed offspring. Will there be federal funding for No Parent Left Behind? I sure hope so! Additionally, continued use of Everyday Mathematics is a sure fire method to hardwire children with indelible hostility towards math.

It makes me long for the good old days of Tom Lehrer and New Math.

Not convinced? Here’s an explanatory video.

For education officials who have to buy a program, there are alternatives such as Saxon Math, Progress in Mathematics and Singapore Math, all of them highly effective in actually teaching… math.

I suggest concerned parents raise a full-blown, bovine stink to get Everyday Mathematics tossed out of their children’s classrooms and into the dumpster where it belongs. Or… we can look forward to longer lines at the Chum Bucket Sea Food Buffet waiting for our change.

And remember this. Your children will be the ones to pick out your rest home and pay for it! It might help if they can add up the bill correctly.

I absolutely agree. Sadly, your administrators are sold on the hogwash that is fuzzy math. Why? Programs such as Everyday Math meet the goals of Progressive education and the worldview of most educators. It has become less about learning and more about indoctrination.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Continued dialog with Anonymous

Refer to prior post to see the starting point for this exchange:

Anonymous said...

LOL...I guess you sort of answered my question, but not really.

Are the snow days negotiated or not with the local BOE?

I really doubt a teacher union would go on strike over having to be in the building on snow days...but maybe.

5:47 PM

My response:

Snow days are negotiable; almost everything is negotiable.

Keep in mind that the board does not exist to serve the wishes of the taxpayers or community in general. The board exists to support the direction of the administration. And, the administration exists to continue its chosen path, not to serve the public.

Don't believe that statement, then run for a board seat and see how school boards function. You will quickly understand why the superintendent sits at the head of the board table during meetings. Not off to the side, but right alongside the board president.

To validate my statement that the administration does not exist to serve the public, ask for data or information from the district, such as administrator contracts, total W-2 income, list of out-of-town expenses, etc. All public info. See if you are able to get any of it with the smile due a resident who the school system supposedly serves.

Here's a test: Ask McDonalds or Krispy Kreme for a copy of their nutritional facts and compare that experience with a public records request from your school district. The fastfood managers will go out of their way to satisfy your request, with a smile and "thank you." See how the school request goes. Compare the private sector with the government monopoly. A stark contrast.

Another thought: Ask the district for a copy of the State Standards Analysis report completed last March; a report that has never seen the light of public discussion. Yet, a report that provides a hard look at costs and efficiencies. See if you can get a copy.

By law, the district must provide it to you without asking for ID or your intent and reason. All you need to do is pay the small copying costs.

Bet you don't try. Why don't I think that you will try? Because most residents intuitively know that the district schools are not really the public's schools. Residents know that the board and administration will not receive an information request with the same smile worn by the Wal-Mart greeter.

The interaction will be unpleasant, I should know. As a board member I had to fight to get data that was regularly reported to the state. "What do you need that for?" was a typical response to a simple ask. My response was, "To serve the residents!"

I would guess that I only received about half of the data that I requested. It is easier to pull teeth from a rhino that obtain data from the schools, your schools - supposedly, anyway. A sad state of affairs.

Your board members will not back you up in your request for info. Indeed, I will also bet that your current board will not provide a copy of the Standards report, if they even have one. The administration was not keen on distributing the report outside the family, and I really don't think other board members cared to read it.

That said, I have been posting it bit-by-bit over the last two months - look for prior postings. The real savings are coming in later posts -- millions of potential saved tax dollars. Your money!

Nurse Ratched wins the state lotto

Today, The Columbus Dispatch reported its annual winners of the state tax dollar lottery. Once again, a surprise winner appears. This year's report shows a nurse at the state Correctional Medical Center pulling down a cool $175,959 in 2006 -- of which $92,356 is in overtime. That means that this nurse had to be working 10 hour days for each and every day in 2006 - all 365 of them. Never a day off and never a sick day, not even a weekend. Some commitment to work!

Or, is it simply a means to win the even bigger payoff? Since state retirement is based on the average of his highest three years of earnings, this enterprising nurse just added an additional $600,000 in lifetime retirement payments (conservative figure) due to his overtime in 2006. What a deal for the nurse, what a loss for the taxpayer.

What a shame! Or, should I say, "Sham!"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How does $2.1 million end up down-the-hopper?

Day three of the Olentangy staff extended weekend. The loss now stands at $2.1 million.

A running back-and-forth between Anonymous and myself regarding this issue (the actual comments were left on a prior posting):

Anonymous said...
...and why are they contractually allowed to stay home? Who agreed to permit this? Weak-willed BOE's allow this stuff to occur or the ODE...which is it? The unions will take whatever you give them. Somebody gave them the right to stay home. Who set the precedent?

8:16 PM

Jim Fedako said...
Ohio's collective bargaining laws. Ask your state representative and senator why they continue to support such laws. You'll quickly get your day's worth of political spin.

5:04 AM

Anonymous said...
So, what you are saying is the "collective bargaining laws" wrote those calamity days into law that applied to all public schools that have unionized teachers?

Or did those laws enable teacher associations to to "bargain" those days into their contracts with their local BOE's?

6:31 AM

My latest response:

Since teachers can strike, they hold a powerful hand during contract negotiations.

This is one reason why teachers in my district were averaging 6% and 7% annual raises during the same period that state employees were getting no raises at all.

Once a strike begins, parents quickly coalesce around the teachers, mainly due to the disruptions caused by the strike. Working parents have to take off or find other childcare arrangements. And, since the tax bill and the contract are not settled together, parents see no savings resulting from closed schools due to a tough bargaining stance. Their political pressure forces the board to cave and accept unfavorable terms - unfavorable to the general taxpayer anyway.

Then, at a later date, the district has to go back for additional operating funds. If the two activities -- contract and levy request -- lined up, political pressure would force people to realize that salary and benefit increases, along with the hiring of additional administrators and staff relative to the number of students, drive the whole school funding issue. So, voters would see that they are actually paying for the teacher salary increase. The voters are getting salary increase of 3% to 5% per year while the teachers are getting 6% to 7%. Yet the teachers claim to be underpaid.

This description is really a good example of the Public Choice theory of economics. The cost of the teacher salary increases are an incremental cost borne by all taxpayers, yet the parents see a settlement as a benefit since the costs of disruption exceed whatever marginal tax increase is associated with the salary/benefits increase.

The other reason is that the lead contract negotiator is the superintendent, the man or woman who has to face the staff after the contract is signed. Superintendents are typically people who truly believe that the teaching profession is underpaid.[1]

Without laws creating closed union shops which hold the ability to strike, and a negotiation team that is not superintendent/administrator-based, teacher would be making closer to their true market value -- a lesser, but more in-line with their value-product, wage.

Of course, absent a free market in education, we will never know the true worth of a teacher. Though, we can see from private schools that all staff at public schools are well overpaid.

Harsh terms, but we all desire a fair wage. And, the market is the only mechanism to establish the fair wage.


[1] Most board members have been duped into believing that school employees are underpaid also.

Monday, February 05, 2007

$700,000 a day; can't they collaborate

Another weather-related closing will shutter district schools tomorrow. Each day the doors remain closed equals $700,000 in lost ... well, lost, whatever it is that they do? Where can the taxpayer get a rebate on his $30 per day piece of this waste?

The staff and administration claim that collaboration is the key to success, so why not collaborate on the days the schools are closed due to bad weather. Oh, wait, that's right, the staff remains at home and only the most intrepid administrator is bound to do a day's work for a day's pay. The rest can simply wait out the cold by claiming that conditions are not safe for them to venture out with the rest of the morning commuters.

So, district employees get a free day, and we, the taxpayers, have to pay additional salary days for teacher collaboration - whether it's additional days for curriculum development or partial day release periods where students go home so that teachers can collaborate - which has always begged the question: Collaborate on what?.

Obviously, collaboration can't be that important. At least it doesn't appear that district staff consider it more important than the day off watching "Price is Right."

I'm lost ... I thought they wanted to be treated as professionals. Oh, well ...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Another day to play ...

From the Olentangy School Districts' recent email communication:

Olentangy's Top News:

All Olentangy schools will be closed Monday, February 5, 2007 due to winter weather conditions.

School building offices will not be open. District offices will open and district administrators, school principals and central office staff will report to work when conditions are safe for them to do so.

As you venture out in the elements tomorrow morning, remember that your tax-supported teaching staff is soundly asleep safe while district administrators drink coffee and watch the Weather Channel wondering when "conditions are safe for them" to report for work. Keeping students home safe is a reasonable decision, but should the professionals get a free day at taxpayer expense?

So long parental rights ... goodbye Declaration and Constitution

regarding the EdWatch email copied below:

Where to begin? Without a doubt, some government officials have gone mad with power. And, it's not a left/right issue. Both major parties have accelerated their pace toward full socialism. Scary.

One can only imagine how Texas Governor Rick Perry views himself. I'm certain his Nero-complex is hidden to him, yet widely visible to the rest of us.

Think that this won't happen in your neck of the woods. Think again. Nero's minions are everywhere, waiting for the appropriate time to strike.

As a Christian, I am saddened by this political action in Texas. Shocked, but not surprised.

It wasn't that long ago that we had a constitution to protect us from government intrusions, it appears as if that document, like our dollars, isn't worth the paper it was written on.

But, it's not too late. The political class fears rumblings from the masses. Rumble, and they shall fear. Shout, and they shall bend. Scream, and they shall wither.

The ilk such as Governor Perry are most concerned about keeping their power and status. These are not men and women of principles. They are simply powerseekers. They will wither and do as told once this great nation says, "Stop! Respect the Constitution." They would rather flip and flop than risk the next election.

"Issues and Action in Education"
February 3, 2007

"Issues and Action in Education" is an e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization.

[Also see, "Vaccine Center Issues Warning," Washington Times, Feb 3, 2007: " The National Vaccine Information Center yesterday warned state officials to investigate the safety of a breakthrough cancer vaccine as Texas became the first state to make the vaccine mandatory for school-age girls. Negative side effects of Gardasil, a new Merck vaccine to prevent the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, are being reported in the District of Columbia and 20 states, including Virginia. The reactions range from loss of consciousness to seizures."]

Merck Payola Pays Off:
Texas Governor Orders STD Vaccine for ALL girls

From: Alliance for Human Research Protection

This morning's news from America provides a vivid example of government corruption involving pharmaceutical lobbying, bribing and manipulating health care policy decisions.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has issued an order to vaccinate ALL Texas girls with Merck's STD vaccine without a thought about the possible adverse side effects that may pose serious risks to these girls--especially their reproductive function.

Not so long ago, hormone replacement therapy was widely prescribed on the basis of CLAIMS that turned out to be false. HRT was supposed to reduce breast cancer, stroke, and heart attacks--not only did it fail to deliver on these promises, HRT increased ovarian cancer.

A science teacher who learned about the order wrote to us this morning: "I am so bothered by the speed by which adults are ready to put chemicals into little girls bodies without a full understanding of what harm those chemicals could cause in the short and long term. Is there any kind of campaign against this being waged?" The Governor of Texas clearly has given no consideration for the potential harm that his order might cause the girls.

Noteworthy are the ties that bind the Governor to Merck and to Women in Government, the group that Merck paid to lobby for this mind-boggling order. The Associated Press reports that one of Merck's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.
The governor also received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign.

Also noteworthy is that under then governor George W. Bush, TMAP, the pharmaceutical manufacturers' cash cow to mega-billion dollar cash transference from the public purse to Big Pharma, was launched. TMAP (Texas medication algorithm project) is the vehicle that catapulted psychotropic drugs--in particular patent protected antidepressants and antipsychotics--to blockbuster status despite lack of scientific evidence that the drugs work to improve mental health, and despite evidence that these drugs wreak havoc on both the mental and physical health of consumers.

Health care policy under the influence of Big Pharma is illustrated by 13 year old Aliah Gleason of Texas who was prescribed 12 psychotropic drugs --many simultaneously--without her parents' consent. See: Waters, R. Medicating Aliah, Mother Jones, May/June 2005. [See here for complete story.]

Governor Perry, does your order to vaccinate all 11 year old girls mean that you are eliminating parental rights? What if parents refuse to give consent to vaccinate their daughter?

Vera Hassner Sharav

105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318 - 952-361-4931 – -

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A response and counter

Mr. Walter Jeffries left a response to my latest post. While I respect the lifestyle adopted by those who chose a rural existence, respect cannot overrule economics.

Jefferies' response:

Realize that the vast majority of farmers do not get subsidies. The subsidies go to the big guys who have the hired guns that jump their paperwork through the hoops that were specifically designed for them.

We also don't need farm subsidies. We need a reasonable environment and economy that encourages farming and individual self-sufficiency. I'm not talking about "survivalism", I'm talking about people having gardens, chickens, a summer pig, etc. What has happened with urbanization is that people have become too disconnected from their sources of food.

One problem with the subsidies is the hurt the unsubsidized farmers like myself. Big-ag can devote the dollars and hired guns to get their “share” of the subsidies racking up big profits from them. Small and Micro-farmers, who are your local producers selling at farmers market and direct to consumers, are then faced with fighting against a subsidized product in the market place. I say eliminate all of the subsidies.

However, there is another issue that hurts small farmers even more and that is the real estate valuation and over taxation. That’s turning cropland into condos at an ever increasing rate. Pretty soon you’ll have plentiful places to live but nothing to eat.

Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs & Sheep
in Vermont

My response:

I want cheap food, you want your micro farm. You claim that urbanization and suburbanization are reducing farm land and leading to the supposed inevitable development famine.

In reality, more property is being converted from agriculture to residential development simply because the highest, best use of the land is for homes, not crops. When a land crunch occurs, food prices will rise and pull up the value of land devoted to farming relative to its use in residential development. This will naturally slow the growth of residential developments.

Why should I be concerned about big ag? My concerns are cheap food prices relative to the value of the factors of production utilized in the production of food. Just as I no longer support the local cobbler, and instead buy shoes made in factories, I should only support the process that delivers my food in the quality I desire in the cheapest manner possible. I'm certain you understand this position as I would bet that your consumer goods and farm equipment were produced by factories located all over the world.

Where we agree is the high cost of taxation and subsidies. Lowering both would be beneficial but still might not guarantee the need for your individual farm. That can only be decided by the market and your ability to satisfy consumer wants relative to the alternative use for your land and expertise.

In the book, Capitalism and the Historians, edited by FA Hayek, and reviewed by me in an earlier post, Professor T.S. Ashton notes a student's lament, in response to an exam question, that "in the early centuries agriculture was widespread in England. Today it is confined to the rural areas."

The world is in constant flux. We should not hold onto the past at the expense of our future. If small and micro farms produces crops that are desired, they will flourish. If they can not produce those goods, there is no point in lamenting their end anymore than lamenting the end of the cobbler shop. Only socialistic dreams of utopia would want us to be stuck in the conditions of the past - very harsh times indeed.

Of course, you can convince the consumer that supporting your farm provides a psychic benefit. That's fine. By doing so, you will be satisfying consumers at a price above the market price for the produce alone. In this, I wish you well, as you will be providing benefits with your land and labor. I just ask that you do not try to influence government that your efforts deserve special privileges. Certainly convince government to reduce taxes and subsidies, as such reductions benefit all.

Good Luck in your free market endeavors.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Farm subsidies: thank a farmer for consuming your taxes

Burton Folsom, Jr., details the origin of farm subsidies in America in his article, The Origin of American Farm Subsidies.[1] Like a lot of government programs, it is easy to assume that farm subsidies have been with us from the day of the signing in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776. In actuality, farm subsidies have a relatively short history.

Folsom notes that President Coolidge fought one of the first subsidy programs with the words, "Such action would establish bureaucracy on such a scale as to dominate not only the economic life but the moral, social, and political future of our people."

This wise warning was ignored by the nation's next two presidents, Hoover and Roosevelt. And, exactly as Coolidge pronounced, farm aid subsidies were the beginning of our long, wretched history of redistributing wealth to those who can grab hold of the politician's elbow.

Some of us are taxpayers while others are tax-recipients. Ludwig von Mises long ago describe the real class structure of modern society: Two classes exist, those who pay the taxes, and those who receive them. This link takes you to some of the biggest tax-recipients of my county, Delaware County, Ohio. With a few clicks you can find the same for your county or state. And I'm not talking about the unemployed hucksters we normally read about.

Some of the farmers receiving federal subsidies have such a tough life. Imagine getting close to $100,000 per year from the federal government, almost $1 million over the last ten years. Not a bad way to make a living. We keep paying and they keep cashing.

Go to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Farm Subsidy Database to learn more.[2]

And, when given the opportunity, thank those who farm tax dollars for a living.


[1]This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in their monthly magazine, The Freeman.

[2] While I do not subscribe to the politics of EWG, they certainly do have a wealth of data to mine.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Liberty reading list

Henry Hazlitt assembled a list of 550 titles addressing the concept of Liberty in his book, THE FREE MAN'S LIBRARY: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography, published in 1956.[1] One can only imagine the number of more-recent books deserving a spot among the 500. The sad fact is that there is no chance that I will make much of a dent in this list during my lifetime. But, there it is anyway.

The point: The next time your local school district creates a summer reading list, see how many Oprah recommendations and NY Times Best Sellers make the cut. I'd wager that none of the Hazlitt books will be listed. Why? Your local school districts are about feeding rot. Keep in mind, a unionized government workforce has no place for the concept of Liberty; just fluff and collectivist muddle.

[1] This book is available at as a downloadable PDF.

Categorizing common sense

AOLNews is reporting an AP story about government unveiling its new ranking system. The "pandemic severity index" will categorize potential flu outbreaks according to possible loss of life. If more than 900,000 deaths are predicted -- a Category 5 outbreak, the new government guidelines recommend that community members avoid crowded gatherings and work from home if possible.

All right, we are talking about common sense actions here. Question: Why do we need a government bureaucracy to pronounce such recommendations to its citizens? The bureaucrats must really believe that we are simple naives in need of a big nanny to watch out over us. The sad part is that we pay for this.

My, oh, my ... We've come a long way from "Don't Tread on Me!"