Saturday, March 31, 2007

How to improve Amtrak?

How would you go about improving Amtrak? To believe some, the solution is as simple as paying the unionized employees of Amtrak more. Sure, you couch the salary increases in talk of additional resources to address deficiencies, but the end result is the same; higher wages for those who are currently not performing.

We all recognize that the government cannot run a railroad; never could, never will. Yet, many somehow believe that government can run a monopolized system of education. Hey, if government can't run a railroad, what makes you think it can run schools? Well, of course government can't; never could - as evident, and never will.

To believe the spin, the solution to public education is the same as the solution to Amtrak; pay the current employees more. Simple solution, yet it is as ineffective as it is expensive.

There is no market for teachers with 15+ years of experience. Why? Their salary exceeds their value product. If you think I'm not correct, then find some job postings for someone with 15 years of teaching experience. In fact, other school districts are not in the market for that very same skill set.

At contract negotiations time, a school district will generate salary comparisons between itself and other local districts. District A will note that District B is paying its teachers with 20 years of experience a higher wage. So, District A will state that it has to increase salaries to match the local market for teachers with such experience. The point of this exercise is to justify salary increases in a monopolized system. But, by its own actions, District A shows that it does not even respect its own salary structure.

You see, District A would never hire a teacher with 20 years of experience at the district's negotiated rate for 20 years of experience. District A may hire the teacher and credit him or her with only ten years of experience. The reason: The district recognizes that the teacher's value product - that which he or she will produce - in not worth the salary earned by current teachers with 20 years of experience. The district recognizes that there is no additional benefit for those ten years of experience; yet the district has a salary structure that says otherwise. And, the district negotiates otherwise.

Remember, the teacher with five years of experience teaches the same 19 or so students as the teacher with 15+ years of experience. The teacher with greater experience is not producing more, he or she is simply costing more. Certainly, some reader will cite studies that show experience equals greater academic outcomes. While that is true for the first five years of a teacher's career, it is not true beyond year five. The teacher with 30 years of experience is no more productive than the teacher with six years experience; same number of students, same academic outcomes.

Now, don't get me started on the bogus claims that additional post-graduate credits improves educational outcomes. Paying a teacher more for taking multiple online post-graduate courses that are only tangentially associated with the subject matter he or she teaches is an absolute waste of tax dollars.

And, let's not to forget, administrators negotiate with the unions and benefit from any increase since administrative salary increases are usually tied to the teachers' negotiated agreement. The more that the teachers get, the more that the taxpayers' representatives in the negotiations - the administrators - receive. Hmmm, conflict of interest?!?

Improve Amtrak by raising salaries is as nutty as raising teacher salaries - and requisite property taxes - in order to improve public education. Both are bad ideas. Expensive and bad.

Former US Secretary of Education Speaks

Interesting book by Rod Paige, former US Secretary of Education. While I don't agree with much coming out of the federal education bureaucracy, it's obvious that Paige correctly understands this key issue.

Of course, for those of us who no longer support public education, the teachers' unions may be our best ally. Can you image another entity that will finally undo itself so wondrously? Very Hegelian - the unions create the contradiction that negates the public education system. Quite appealing.


The review is from The Center for Education Reform:

The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education (Hardcover)
by Rod Paige (Author)

Everyone remembers - some with more fondness than others - writing those research reports that demonstrate what it is you learned from a project or activity. Well Rod Paige has just handed in his biggest research project from his tenure as Education Secretary. It deserves high marks for its candor, veracity and boldness on a subject that is prevalent in policy circles but almost non-existent in kitchen table conversations.

The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education thoroughly and eloquently lays out the history of the teachers' union and how it has evolved into a political juggernaut that upholds the status quo and stands in the way of vital education reform. The book outlines education reformers' plan for change, saying that "accountability, transparency, and choice are the keys to excellence in American education," and subsequently describes how the unions have stood in the way of all three goals. From shocking education statistics to anecdotes of union atrocities (not firing teachers accused of sexual harassment and ineptitude), this book is a clarion call for the public to recognize that the teachers' unions do not have children's best interest in mind. Look for more on the book on our website and post your own opinion.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Proud to pay taxes?

Here's the legal gift for those who like to puff their chests and declare, "I proudly pay my taxes." Simply ask your state legislators to sponsor a Tax Me More Fund bill in your statehouse. This will allow anyone who is so disposed to pay extra on their returns. Americans for Tax Reform has sample legislation available on their website.

See how many self-declared, tax-flagellating fools really opt to tax themselves at a higher rate. You know who I'm talking about: Those who claim that since it is all for the public good, they should be taxed more.

If they so wish, let them give to their heart's content. But leave me out of their deluded world of tax benefits. I am much happier in the reality of coerced taxes wasted on unconstitutional interventions and transfers. At least I can fight and argue against additional taxes, the deluded salivate like a Pavlovian dog at the sound of proposed additional tax legislation. Classical conditioning indeed!

But, hurry up! Six states already have similar legislation, and you don't want to have your state behind the curve on this issue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Can you trust the third-party any more than the first-party?

From the Olentangy School District news dispatch Board Approves Policy on Literature Selections:
Most of the information populating the document is from third-party external sources and reviews such as the School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly or the National Secondary Library Association. Other information, such as the relationship to the district’s curriculum maps, will be linked to district resources.
The School Library Journal is whacked out. Really whacked out.

I would expect to find the miscreants from that journal lurking in alleys dressed in trench coats. Yet, there they are, right out on the frontline of public policy, looking downright respectable under their seemingly professional masthead.

There was a time - not that long ago - when peddling perverse material to children was an offense; if not a legal offense, certainly a moral one. Yet, now it appears that the world has flipped and the defenders of morals are the evil ones.

The miscreants run free as they slowly chip away at the foundations of society - family, church, etc., and their misdeeds are supported by the public school system. Why? Your guess is as good as mine (though I do have a couple of pretty good guesses.)

The Olentangy School District uses the School Library Journal in place of common sense. Why? Laziness, maybe. Some other reason? Possibly. Regardless, the district allows the nuts at the Journal to set age appropriateness for school reading lists. Wow.

A while ago, someone sent me a compilation of bizarre books along with excerpts and associated School Library Journal reviews and grade levels. Amazing stuff; most of which would bring down this blog if I posted them here.

Here is a sample posted on Amazon.com. Please note that this is one of the least offensive reviews I could find. And remember, the district uses the crazies at the Journal as their authoritative source for reasonableness. Hey, Olentangy! Is there even one adult under your roof?

from Its Perfectly Normal at Amazon - because you want your fourth grader reading this stuff, well they do anyway:
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8-A wonderful guide for young adolescents setting sail on the stormy seas of puberty. Packed with the vital information they need to quell fears and make wise decisions, this "sex manual" uses of clever cartoons to enliven and expand the text. Frank yet playful, they portray a reassuring array of body types and ethnic groups and illuminate the richly informative, yet compact text, allowing readers to come away with a healthy respect for their bodies and a better understanding of the role that sexuality plays in the human experience. Birth control, abortion, and homosexuality are given an honest, evenhanded treatment, noting differing views and recommending further discussion with a trusted adult. The dangers of STDs, teen parenthood, and sexual abuse are examined. The inventive use of a bird and a bee that react to the topics throughout artfully contrasts the differing views of early and late bloomers. Like any book that depicts naked bodies and sexual activity, this one is sure to inspire a few giggles in the stacks and be likely to disappear. But what it offers in scope, currency, and a cheerfully engaging format is quite special. An ideal introduction to "coming of age."-Virginia E. Jeschelnig, Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willowick, OH
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

First you need a Constitution

The Future of Freedom Foundation publishes its daily Email Update, full of interesting articles and other tidbits. Subscribe today.

From today's Email Update:

I love when they say this is a constitutional crisis. Oh, please. We haven't used the Constitution in years.


— Jay Leno, The Tonight Show

Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy birthday Olentangy State Standards Analysis

I am revisiting the series of posts I did on the Olentangy State Standard Analysis report - now one year old and one month old.

If the proposed state funding formula passes both Ohio houses, the Olentangy School District gains more than $4 million in state aid over the projections contained in the district's October Five Year Forecast. That means the district needs to find only $10 million in expenses over the next 27 months - a 4% reduction - in order to go another year before asking for another operating levy. If the district holds the line on salary increases in the upcoming teachers contract negotiations, the $10 million deficit is almost zero.

The Olentangy State Standard Analysis report identified well over $10 million in yearly savings, savings that could have been applied starting last year. But, for some reason - there are many reasons I can think of - neither the board nor the administration want to discuss this report in public. I imagine that time flies when you're spending someone else's money.

This report should be serving as the basis for understanding rising costs and requisite soon-to-be-proposed property tax increases. But the report is obviously being kept from the sunshine of public debate. The reason? I guess you will have to ask your board members why the public should not be given the opportunity to hear debate on this important report; a report funded by local tax dollars.

You'd think that with possible levies on the horizon, the board would want to get a handle on costs ... you'd think anyway ...

note: click to read installments one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven

Central planning and higher education

Gov. Strickland has set the goal of increasing Ohioans with colleges degrees by 230,000 within the next decade. An ambitious goal, but you would expect nothing less from a public servant.

Is it really that easy? Simply raise taxes in order to make college universal and watch the economic ills of Ohio disappear overnight; over the next decade anyway. Well, it's not that straight forward, as life is much more complex than populist statists imagine; sorry Strickand.

In order to achieve his arbitrary goal, Strickland would have to raise taxes, enroll more students - praying that they will all graduate at some point in time, and close the state's borders. You see, there is no reason to assume that the new college students will remain in Ohio once they have degree in hand. A degree is worthless without a substantial job offer.

The Ohio tax structure is already anti-business. Any additional taxes would only further discourage companies from moving to, or expanding in, Ohio. We have no mountain, sun, or sand, so we must foster a tax environment that is positive to business; a tax environment where all taxes are lower than other states within the US.

Increase taxes for higher education and watch the graduates leave the rustbelt for areas of business expansion. Remember, it's graduates moving to business, not the other way around.

Ma Kettle and Bugs Bunny in China

Latest Mises.org blog post by Jim Fedako


Seems the Communist Chinese have a better grasp of the sanctity of property rights than many US municipalities. The International Herald Tribune is reporting that Ma Kettle of Chongqing, China, actually beat city hall. The photo accompanying the story is truly worth a thousand words - a scene reminiscent of the Bugs Bunny episode Homeless Hare.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Big Three of the Austrian School

The three most important books of the Austrian School of Economics are: Human Action by Ludwig von Mises; Man, Economy, and State by Murray Rothbard; and, The Economics and Ethic of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.


Human Action is the basis of the modern Austrian School. In 956 pages, Mises establishes the principals of praxeology; the science of human action. Thus established, Mises then logically creates a school of economic thought through one central axiom; man uses means to obtains ends. Simple, and clear.







In Man, Economy, and State, Rothbard rewrites Human Action as a very readable college-level textbook. In addition, Rothbard extends some of Mises' concepts, most notably the harm resulting from government interventions in the economy.











Hoppe, in Ethic of Private Property, wraps the previous two texts into an unassailable case for freedom.













These books are available at The Store on Mises.org. In addition, The Ludwig von Mises Institute offers Human Action and Man, Economy, and State as free PDF downloads. Enjoy all three, and understand the wonders of Liberty through private property.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Fairness of "Unequal" Exchange

A Mises.org article

The Fairness of "Unequal" Exchange
By Jim Fedako


Market exchange is not based on the requirement that both parties appraise the goods about to be exchanged at equal value. Instead, market exchange is based on both parties benefiting from a two-way, unequal valuation of the goods to be exchanged.

An example from my youth: During my high school years in the early 1980's, I had purchased a double-live album of the rock group Rush for $15. Teenagers can be a fickle lot and I was no different. My musical tastes changed during my junior year and I morphed from a Rush fan into someone who felt that Fly By Night was simply noise — vulgar noise at that. Not only did I no longer listen to the album, I wanted to get rid of it since I felt that the album reduced the quality of my record collection.

Along comes a fellow student who was fast becoming an ardent Rush fan. We agreed to an exchange: I would trade my album for his $5. Fair enough. Right after the exchange, as I held the $5 and he held the album, the new Rush fan said something along the lines of, "I just ripped you off. I would have paid $10 for that album." I replied, "No, I just ripped you off since I was about to toss the album into the garbage anyway."

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reacting to a challenge

It is always interesting to read about the reactions of different organizations to challenges. In the free market, a slight change in consumer preference is enough for companies, large or small, to reorganize in order to better address the future. In the public sector, the same response never seems to occur. Witness the Olentangy Local School Distict.

The educational outcomes of district middle schools have suffered over the years. In real terms, students are being shortchanged with regard to their education while the staff gets to implement whatever programs they choose.

While serving on the board, I fought for years to see improvements, being met each time by administrators operating as roadblocks. After badgering fellow board members long enough about the fact that living in the achievement cellar is no place for a district with strong demographics, I was finally able to get the board to instruct the administration to study the district's middle school program. Given the energy I expended over the years to have the administration review its lagging scores, I still have a very personal interest in the results of this study.

Well, the Middle School Study Update was delivered to the board in January. Where you would find reorganization in the private sector, you simply find re-entrenchment in the public schools. This should not be shocking, as re-entrenchment is the standard government response to any challenge.

Read the study and you will find no mention of any review of core curricular programs, such as math. In fact, you won’t see the word math anywhere in the report. Sure, math scores are well below similar districts, yet the Olentangy response is to embrace the mishmash that is public education in the US. Instead of concentrating on the areas of weakness and advocating for improvements, the study simply calls for more game clubs, service learning, etc., all in an environment that includes a “fully integrated, exploratory curriculum” – whatever that bit of edu-speak means.

Remember, it is the core subjects like math that are lagging, yet the district concentrates on providing “a variety of course offerings including accelerated content courses and exploratory courses in Physical Education and Health, World Languages, Technology, Music, Art, and Family/Consumer Sciences.”

Instead of facilitating maximum learning, the district seeks to “(e)ngage students in the ownership and decision-making of the curricular experiences” and to “(f)ocus on experiential, tangible activities that engage students.”

Can’t they simply teach math, and teach it right? Maybe they could, just maybe, if they got out of the business of indoctrinating and into the business of educating.

So, the district taxpayers are forced to pay for the programs that satisfy the staff, while students suffer and taxes rise. Not much of a solution. But, then, what else would you expect?

Monday, March 19, 2007

What educators read

Why, Educational Leadership from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development of course. ASCD is highly respected by public educators; in fact your local schools have most likely implemented a number of programs that ASCD promotes.

OK, but what are they reading? Note the quote below from an article written by Richard Hanzelka, ASCD president:

"Regardless of international differences, we should all take heed of China's concern for the development of a whole child who is capable of being part of a harmonious society."


In an article reminiscent of John Dewey's excited report written soon after seeing his educational concepts incorporated in the schools of Soviet Russia, ASCD trumpets China's embrace of the "whole child."

For those new to such terminology, the "whole child" is the Progressive utopian child that is self-actualized, yet devoid of knowledge. Educators appeal to the concept of the "whole child" since it frees public schools from having to teach the three R's.

Parents, when you hear "whole child" mentioned at your child's school, think of the article below - the goal of this type of education - and you will understand why Olentangy college remediation rates are so high.

And people wonder why the education profession gets branded a socialist cartel, especially when the educationists want us to pursue the harmonious society that is Communist China.

Note: Your tax dollars pay for this rot. You simply cannot make up stuff this bizarre.

from a recent ASCD daily email:


Harmonious Learning for the Whole Child: Education Perspectives from China

Message from the President


Richard Hanzelka


As educators in the United States struggle to expand their view of learning to embrace the whole child and not just achievement test scores, it is encouraging to know that other nations are engaged in similar processes. China, a country I have been fortunate enough to visit twice in the last two years, is also challenging itself to build a system that addresses the whole child.

This summer I traveled to China to participate in the first China-U.S. Education Leadership Conference. What I learned and experienced expanded and clarified the impressions I formed during the ASCD Board of Directors trip to China in November 2005.
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Who to Believe: Labor or the house spouse?

Latest post on the Mises.org blog by Jim Fedako


According to the Associated Press, "The Labor Department reported Friday that the Consumer Price Index rose by 0.4 percent last month, double the January increase, as energy prices shot up and adverse winter weather in Florida and California sent citrus prices soaring."



When the federal bureaucracy speaks, I am supposed to take notice. Yet in Human Action, Mises wrote:
A judicious housewife knows much more about price changes as far as they affect her own household than the statistical averages can tell.
Mises was right. Though, to be politically correct, and more in-line with the current concept of the helpmate, I would extend the judicious observer of price changes to include the house spouse.

My wife and I are amazed at the increases in food prices over the last few years. While the Labor Department is the supposed authorative source of the rate of price increases, our experience says prices are increasing at a rate much higher than the politically-influenced Labor value.

The CPI has no real meaning in our lives. Mises in Human Action:
In practical life nobody lets himself be fooled by index numbers. Nobody agrees with the fiction that they are to be considered as measurements.
Just looking at the price of our favorite bread and cookies - the few prices we track over the years, it's obvious that my family's CPI far exceeds the reported value. For those who claim our small sample is invalid, let's go back to Mises and Human Action once more. Mises, writing about my wife:
If she 'measures' the changes for her personal appreciation by taking the prices of only two or three commodities as a yardstick, she is no less "scientific" and no more arbitrary than the sophisticated mathematicians in choosing their methods for the manipulation of the data of the market.
The Austrian School sees price increases as a result of inflationary monetary policies, so I'm not truly shocked that our grocery bill has been rising over the years. Moreover, I don't need the Keynesian econometricians at the Labor Department to affirm our reality. Nor do I need them to obfuscate the extent. Prices are indeed rising fast, regardless of what the blob in DC is reporting.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Former punk rock guitarist smells a rat in Everyday Math

Wise words from a fellow LewRockwell.com writer.

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 LewRockwell.com in, Is Your Child a Math Moron?

Tom's words:

Is Your Child a Math Moron?

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, Olentangy parents, 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.

A comment worthy of reflection

Anonymous left the following comment that bridges the subjects of Bush in Venezuela and The Beacon articles from the Olentangy High School:

Bush is just trying to appeal to the socialistic (in)sensibilities of these Bolivarian dolts in a desperate attempt to keep CAFTA alive. Yes, what he was saying was jibberish; but it's jibberish Latino peasants react favorably to. If he'd spoken of "market forces" or "globalization" the crowds would have melted away on their donkeys or taken siesta.

More than 1 million Venezuelans have left their homeland in the last four years: more than half have emigrated to Spain or Miami--and the exodus is only increasing. The entrepreneurial capital that is draining from Venezuela is enormous, as it's largely the wealthy, business class that can afford to leave. What was the #1 reason why they're leaving? Because Chavez is changing state school curricula to a regime of socialist indoctrination, and parents are fearful for their children.

I ask you...how is it that Venezuelan parents have the fortitude to uproot and relocate their families 1,400 miles to Miami or 4,300 miles to Madrid to ensure their children are being educated properly, but Olentangy parents don't have the interest to travel a few miles twice a month to school board meetings to see just how badly their children are served by the administration?
!Viva la Administracion!
!Viva Desde Mi Cielo!

Is High School Football a Public Good?

Article published at Mises.org

Is High School Football a Public Good?
By Jim Fedako


Most of us would never think of asking our neighbors to foot a personal bill. We accept responsibility for car and roof repairs as ours alone. In addition, we don't bang on the door across the street in order to demand a contribution towards our children's figure skating lessons, taekwondo classes, etc. That which is consumed or used by our families is to be paid from our pockets — the definition of personal responsibility.


Now let's change the situation slightly. Instead of a figure skating lesson — the realm of the private good, consider the local public high school football team — the realm of the supposed public good.[1] The technical definition of a public good — a good that is nonexcludable, nonrivalrous, subject to free riders, and hence will only be provided by government through coerced tax dollars — has been corrupted in the modern lexicon to mean anything that is perceived to benefit society in general, no matter how specious the benefit argument.

Based on the technical definition, football is not a public good as teams are excludable and rivalrous since each team is limited to 11 players on the field without penalty. But no one really applies the technical definition to derive public goods. For if they did, the concept of public goods would disappear from economic textbooks and from debates over the need for government interventions in the market.

Instead, the collectivist definition — the vacuous, yet now standard, definition — applies the general welfare argument to elevate football from a private activity to that of a public good. The argument goes something along these lines: football is beneficial because it prepares boys for adulthood, keeps them off the streets after school, and provides them with a place where they can excel.

continue reading ...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another selection from Laissez Faire Books

An interesting book to consider -- Jim Fedako



LEVIATHAN ON THE RIGHT
How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution
by Michael D. Tanner
Cato Institute, 2007, hardcover





According to Laissez Faire Books:

March 2007 Lysander Spooner Award Winner!

What's happened to conservatism and what can true conservatives do to change it? Leviathan on the Right, the latest from Cato Institute's Michael Tanner, seeks to answer those questions.

Tanner looks at how some modern conservatives have given the term a bad name by backing the welfare state, moving towards national health care, allowing the president to seize more and more power, and "spending like drunken Democrats." He also details the roots of the Neo-Conservative movement (which just might surprise you) and proposes ideas on how to return conservatism to its small government ways.

Though this isn't the first book to condemn the modern perversion of conservatism, Tanner's thorough research and excellent writing might just make it the best.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Has Bush become Che?

"In the slums of Brazil, in the impoverished villages of Guatemala and finally here in Mexico, President Bush promised this week to deliver 'social justice' to poor and struggling Latin Americans left behind by the global economy. Mr. Bush's striking use of the revolutionary language of the left reflected an urgent attempt to stave off the growing regional influence of populist leaders like President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who have used the discontent of the poor to push an anti-American agenda." (New York Times, Wednesday)


"Social justice"?!? Frank Chodorov (see below) would have been flabbergasted by a supposed conservative speaking such drivel. Conservativism has come a long way from its noble beginnings. Today's conservative is just as likely to be a socialist sympathizers as an adherent to the ideals of the Old Right.

Bush, though, is obviously suffering from a Che Guevara complex. Bush the Younger is simply Bush the Social Democrat.

Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Bush said it was time to deliver "social justice." Where have we gone wrong?

Out of Step by Frank Chodorov

Journalist, Frank Chodorov, wrote this excellent autobiography in 1962 at a time when the Old Right still spoke for the conservatives. In a very readable text, he summons the essence of America to smash the ideas and ideals of the statists and the New Deal.

As the power and the pull of statism and the New Deal live on, this book is as timely today as when it was written.

I found this book to be a fascinating read. It is available in PFD format at Mises.org, or you can get a hardcopy through the Ludwig von Mises Institute's on-demand publisher.

The Freedom to Reject the Best

Ludwig von Mises Institute article by Jim Fedako

A new study suggests that private schools are not inherently better than public schools. Surprised? Enough people were such that the study, funded by the US Department of Education, has created a stir in the education arena, as well as in the national news. But I want to argue that the results are meaningless, and for reasons not having to do with the methodology employed in the study.

The authors of Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling analyzed math and reading scores of nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 500 private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress at the fourth and eighth grades. NAEP was the chosen assessment tool since it is considered to be the national achievement test and is used to assess student academic performance against national standards.

Though the title sounds impressive, the findings simply suggest a conclusion. Nothing has really been proven and no new truths exposed. I could begin by questioning the whole concept of empirical studies that suggest this or suggest that. I could ask, "What truths have been brought to light by any study that is couched in such a vague qualifier?" I could attack all the assumptions that went into the model and then list those that did not. Had I gone that route, I hopefully would have raised enough doubt in the reader that the study would be discarded as worthless.

But the real error here is more philosophical than empirical. Studies such as these simply show that a deeper ill exists, a malaise caused by government interventionism.

Consider Consumer Reports

The popular magazine reviews consumer goods based on a proprietary set of standards. They test, analyze, test, analyze, etc., until they are satisfied as to the quality of the products under review. CR then assigns individual product ratings and notes one product as a best buy. Though most Americans accept CR's results as being of excellent quality, the noted best buy is not usually the market best-seller. Yes, I will occasionally look at CR prior to purchasing a good, but I almost never buy the best buy. I agree that the CR results are scientifically valid based on their standards, but that doesn't mean I am in the market for the scientifically valid, CR best-buy product.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Government Laws Are Not Contracts

Latest Ludwig von Mises Institute article by Jim Fedako

Despite what you were taught in school, governance is ugly; in all forms, and at all times. Don't believe me? Attend a meeting of a local governing entity. You will find the council — omnipotent by vote, omniscient by delusion — seated before you at the table. All night long, they'll bicker and battle all the while proposing and dissecting plans and schemes with shouts and pounding shoes; Khrushchev moments indeed.

This is the reality of man lording over man, and it's been that way for eons. Ugly, just plain ugly. And it doesn't matter the span or purpose of the governing entity. This ugly reality holds equally true for the fist-fighting Taiwanese legislator as for the insult-hurling band booster. Power corrupts at all levels.

One other aspect of governance appears to be consistent at every level: the broader the scope of the proposed plan or idea, the further they reach beyond the stated bounds of the entity, the more receptive a hearing that the entity's council will give to the idea. Everyone dreams grandiose dreams, whether during solitary reflective moments or while monopolizing the public microphone. But it's the bully at the public mic, entertaining the media and sparse audience, whose dreams we must fear.

Given that these aspects are inherent in the essence of power, the issue is not how to improve systems of governance, but how to control their scope.

continue reading ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Is that the end?

The Mardy Hanlon-Stolte apology appeared in the Delaware Gazette today, but is that the end? Does anyone really believe that a directional change has occurred; a realization that it's time to return to traditional education? And that it's time to quit using schools as the testing ground for deconstructionism, post-structuralism, and all the other -isms that are harming future generations?

Based on comments left on my blog - though not fit for print - the district is only reacting to public scrutiny.[1] The district has circled the wagons and put on its public face, but don't begin to think that anything has really changed. Even the board has never publicly addressed the issue, other than for one board member to say that she was not "bothered" by the articles.

Keep in mind the amount of pressure that was required for the singular admission of wrong; though actually only an admission that some in the district had concerns over the articles, not that the subject matter of the articles were horribly inappropriate.

I don't believe the issue of inappropriate subject matter has been put to rest. The Beacon articles are just the latest in a constant string of such incidents that never quite seem to go away. Why? The inherent root cause remains after the public face comes out to say that all is OK. Well, it's not.

As it is time to move from this topic, I will leave the readers of this blog with one last observation:

I have posted articles here for almost a year, and the issues that have created the most heat, incited the most district employees, were the issues of inappropriate books and articles in the student newspaper.

I have posted articles showing the district's lagging scores, and got a yawn. I sent a letter to the local papers a while back regarding district spending, and got next to nothing. Yet, when I question what teachers are putting into the heads of students, the board, administration, and staff go into fits.

I have to ask my self, "Why such a strong defense regarding inappropriate subject matter?" The only answer I can come up with is that such subject matter is the true curriculum of some administrators and teachers.

These district employees do not see themselves as subject matter educators, such as English teachers, etc. In fact, based on district college remediation rates, it's obvious that they simply do not teach their subjects at all.

Instead, these employees inculcate students with the ideas of relativism; ideas that say no rules apply. The result is a forty or fifty year-old teacher leading children - that's right, children - down the path of The Beacon articles, while the rest of the staff simply goes along for the ride. Creepy, to say the least. Something to think about.

Keep your eyes out for the next eruption of inappropriateness coming out of the district schools; I call them eruptions since we only get the occasional glimpse of what lies beneath the surface. And, even the little glimpses are scary.

Something to think about, indeed...

notes:

[1] Sitemeter provides the ISP address of visitors to my blog. So, I can tell if a district computer was used to post a comment.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What's going on here

Talk about spin.

In today's Delaware Gazette, Mardy Hanlon-Stolte states that neither she nor Mindy Farry received any complaints about The Beacon articles, yet they both recently issued a waffling apology about those very same articles in an email newsletter sent to high school parents.

In her email, Farry states, "The Valentine’s Day issue of our school newspaper, The Beacon, has created some concern with our students and parents."

OK, was there no concern - Gazette - or was there concern - her email? This spin is getting to me.

The Gazette further reports that “(Scott) Davis said the district does not engage in a 'prior review' when it comes to school newspapers and the district has no plans to institute any such policy in coming weeks spurred by Fedako's concerns."

Yet Farry states in her letter, "Soon, we will begin the process of reviewing our student journalism ethics and criteria for reporting. As a part of that, we will ask a group of community, staff, students, and board members to share ideas and develop a framework for decision-making on these issues. We look forward to initiating this group within the next few weeks and look forward to your input."

What's up here? Can’t they at least get their stories straight?

So, is it no review - Davis - or review - Farry? You never can tell.

Funny, these same people wonder why I questioned, and continue to question, what goes on inside the district. As this incident proves, you have to continually question the district as you rarely get a straight answer.

One final point, in the Gazette, Hanlon-Stolte also states, "As a staff, we then select the topics for the issue based on value of information, opinion and entertainment." It would appear that she selected the topic. As I have been saying, this is not an issue of the students, it's an issue of the staff and administration.

Oh, yeah, still no teacher willing to state that this whole mess is simply wrong. No teacher willing to step across the union line and defend children and decency. Sad ... but, true.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Teachers and compassion

Here's an interesting comment:

Mr. Fedako, Gee, why do you despise teachers and what they do? You seem to have it in for teachers. I have never read anything you have written that praises teachers for their sacrifice and hard work. Instead, you look for things to criticize.You profess to be a Christian. I do not sense a compassion that the Christians I know, including myself, have for others. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with having an opinion and stating it, but from the things you write, I see no compassion in your words. It is mostly hateful and sarcastic.My tone is not meant to be sarcastic..... I am merely curious to understand the motivation behind your strong dislike for teachers and their commitment.So many kids look up to their teachers and are positively influenced by them. Do you not see this aspect at all?


The writer brings up a valid point; some children do look up to their teachers.

I agree with that, which is why I am so shocked that not one - not one - teacher has publicly stated that the articles published in The Beacon were wrong.[1] In fact, the only public statements from teachers - including the one letter submitted by the spouse of a teacher - were those in strong support of The Beacon.

If students look up to their teachers - which some do - and teachers take that role seriously, why no defense of children from the greater mass of teachers? Why no defense from even one?

How could I possibly have compassion when the only voice emanating from the schools is that the perverse articles in The Beacon are more than appropriate; they are good, they were the right thing to have done? How could I say anything wonderful when no teacher makes a stand in protection of children – the comment writer included? Until individual teachers make a stand for the next generation, I can have no compassion.[2]

One question to the writer: If you are a Christian, why no disgust on your part? Is it your belief that the Bible and words of Jesus encourage such subject matter to be taught to young minds?

Some read only half the Bible, they see only the compassion. They choose to ignore the words of Jesus, such as:

Mt 18:6 But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.


The Bible is about compassion, certainly. Yet the Bible is not compassionate to those who harm children or lead them astray.

Note:
[1] Read the platforms of the national teachers unions to see what the greater mass of teachers are supporting; changes that advocate the social engineering of future generations. These platforms are not aberrations, they are the voted voice of the majority of teachers.
[2] I'll make the comment writer a deal: When at least one dozen Olentangy teachers - representing only 2.5% of the total teaching staff - co-sign a letter stating that The Beacon articles were wrong and that they do not support such nonsense in the schools, I will write in-support of the efforts of individual teachers. Deal?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gramsci in the schools

I have heard a few state that the content of The Beacon articles in question are not a reflection of the district schools. I find that interesting, as all of the public comments on The Beacon coming from the staff have been supportive; including the response to my Gazette letter that came from the husband of an OHS English teacher.

I have never heard, nor read, any administrator - other than the superintendent - publicly question the content of very public issues such as the OLMS assembly, the booklist, and now The Beacon. Never. Strong, vocal support has always centered on the side of the inappropriate.

If the teachers are upset at The Beacon articles, then Dave Maloney should say as much; he is their representative and voice. Additionally, teachers should write letters to the editor to add their voices to the debate. That has not happened yet. Nevertheless, let them shock me for once.

On other matters: Ohio State Operating Standards mandate stakeholder participation in curricular decisions, yet the book review committee going before the board has no parent members. "The school district’s curriculum shall be developed with input from and dialogue with parents, community members and other stakeholders. - 2006 Ohio Operating Standards"

In addition, I fought for years to have the middle school failures addressed. The result? More of the same nonsense. Math and the other essential subjects are struggling so the staff chooses to concentrate on teaming, collaboration, service learning, game clubs, and one of my all-time edu-speak favorites: authentic learning. The Middle School Study Update is the same recycled muddle that has ruined education. If the schools at least tried to address the root problems, I would turn my attention elsewhere.

Many of the actions we observe are guided by an underlying philosophy. Understanding the philosophic source helps in understanding problems with resulting actions. To this, I suggest that taxpayers read the absolute nuttiness coming from the prominent schools of education. Subscribe to the TCRecord This Week, a weekly update from the Teachers College Record published by the Teachers College of Columbia University. You will find the headwaters that form the brackish curriculum of most - if not all - public schools.

Funny, I have had people comment that some of my blog articles are idiosyncratic hokum. Yet the latest TCRecord This Week includes a featured article where the writer attacks “capitalist logics,” as if more than one logic can exist (the economist Ludwig von Mises called this Marxian belief polylogism). Who would believe such dribble? Yet, there it is, guiding the direction of a prestigious university. The same article celebrates the writer’s Gramscian views – Gramsci being the Italian socialist who believed that the way to bring about socialism was to slowly destroy the institutions of family and church.

Another fount of mishmash is Education Leadership from ASCD. I always said that if I read about a program in that magazine, I would soon find it in the schools. I cannot remember even one instance where that statement did not hold.

In the end, a government-run system of anything cannot be efficient. Nor can it satisfy the invalidated concept of public goods. Regardless of the economics involved, The Beacon incident shows that public education, as with all government programs, ends up being political in nature. The result is we all end up paying for that which we find reprehensible. I pay for the trash in The Beacon, while The Beacon supporters pay for the "capitalist logics" that I call traditional math.

And, most importantly, those who run the government system get to control future generations. The public voice of the district says the adherents of Gramsci have control.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Some comments speak for themselves

I can only assume this comment came from a district staff member. According to the writer, I am freed from supporting future levies since the supporters of The Beacon articles "prefer to have the open-minded on (their) side anyway."

I must admit, readers of this blog, that I am not "open-minded" to the morals of this writer, who I suspect speaks for many in the district schools. I believe that the implicit - if not open message - being conveyed in district schools from staff to student is that sex is simply "a part of growing and learning. It’s another experience."

The reality is outside the school walls, this same message from adult to child would be called into question for lack of appropriateness. Yet, if it occurs in the classroom, the message is convoluted to be part of the mission of facilitating learning.

The comment below is the product of much reflection and thought; it is not an off-the-cuff remark. The writer truly believes the ideas expressed. I simply offer it as evidence that there is a culture war, a war that appears to have already captured district schools.

Read and weep for our future, because this all has to be going somewhere, or in some direction, with no end it sight.



Comment:

Mr. Fedako,
I completely respect your opinion on the February issue of the Beacon, as you have the right to form your own opinions. However, I cannot agree with you.

As you stated to Esra Ozturk, there is a generation gap between the Beacon staff , its target audience and yourself. Although, I refuse to believe that is the problem here. I believe the problem is what values you believe everyone should hold, which are your own values. And because not everyone agrees with you, you feel a need to attack an entire school district.

The fact that you believe a high school student is not mature enough to read articles on the subject of sex makes you come off as quite naïve. Whether you choose to believe it or not, high school students do engage in sexual activity. It is a part of life. It is a part of growing and learning. It’s another experience. A good portion of the Beacon staff and its intended audience are 18 years of age: the age where they are old enough to vote for the leadership in this country, fight and die in a war and even marry the person they love. So to think they are handed all of that responsibility and yet are not mature enough to read a newsmagazine on sex is completely absurd.

And I do realize that a good portion of readers are under 18, but I can guarantee the subject is nothing new to students as they have been learning about it since the informational video they saw in middle school. I understand that the material in the Beacon was not introduced to students in the fashion it would be in a health class, but it tackles a different side of the matter: the emotional side.

No part of the Beacon held graphic detail. Although, it did hold facts that had legitimate sources and opinions that no one should be able to mute. Two of the articles that you referenced as articles written in poor taste were satirical pieces, with the only intention being to make high school students laugh. They weren’t written with the intention of pleasing a grown man, let alone an ex-school board member. Once again, the Beacon is aimed at students in grades 9-12, which is why the Beacon staff doesn’t sell at office buildings.

The lowest blow of your rant came when you put down every educator at Olentangy High School, Mardy Hanlon-Stolte in particular. You stated that, “Given the subject matter of the school newspaper, it’s a wonder that there is any time left for reading, writing and math.” I don’t understand how that thought is even relevant seeing as how Olentangy was ranked 398 out of the top 1000 public high schools in the nation in May of 2006. Clearly the teachers make time to follow the curriculum.

Mardy Hanlon-Stolte is one of the greatest educators I have ever come to know. You’re personally attacking an outstanding teacher for doing her job. She inspires creativity in her students and provides for them an outlet. Hanlon-Stolte allows the Beacon staff to brainstorm ideas before beginning each issue, encouraging them to dig deep for topics other students can relate to. Hanlon-Stolte has motivated many students to pursue degrees in Journalism and also in education (Journalism specific). And I don’t see how anyone can attack her for motivating and inspiring her students to pursue something they love. You may think that her actions are irresponsible, but the irresponsible thing would be for her to forbid students to write about things they know are happening around them.

I find it fascinating that you can incite such controversy over this issue of the Beacon due to its sexual content, yet no one will ever hear your praise over their articles on volunteer projects or any other “appropriate” content.

No need for you to support our levies, we prefer to have the open-minded on our side anyway.
-Beacon Supporter

Response to Brown

Note: This letter was submitted, but never published.



Dear Editor:

In his March 5 Gazette response to my letter, David Brown says he's angered by the fact that I challenged the product of the school system that his is closely associated with. Well, I am also angered. Angered by the fact that my tax dollars went to pay for the raw content that Brown finds so excellent; angered by the fact that the district has moved from educating students to fostering a very questionable environment.

Brown certainly took me to task for my disgust with the subject matter printed in the Olentangy High School student newspaper, The Beacon. However, as I noted in my original letter, I expected responses. I simply asked those who support this "stuff" to find another way to fund their nonsense. Brown, showing his obvious lack of knowledge regarding the coercive nature of taxation, states that I can keep my money in my wallet. That's not the way taxes work. Unless, of course, Brown is going to proudly pay my school-related taxes along with his tax bill.

Brown goes astray with his application of simple English. I never stated that the articles appeared in the first few pages of The Beacon, only that it takes but a few page to realize that something is terribly wrong. His strong defense of the subject matters convinces me that I am indeed correct.

Additionally, Brown conveniently forgets to mention the other articles that appeared throughout the edition - one of which I detailed in my letter - implying instead that the one article he cited was the only article of concern. His failure to mention the other articles must be due to their subject matter; subject matter that the likes of even Brown cannot defend.

I suggest that the readers of this paper obtain a copy of The Beacon and see for themselves. There is no reason to expect that a letter-to-the-editor debate should be the final word. See the articles that Brown feels are appropriate for the young minds of this district, and wonder what has gone wrong.

Jim Fedako

Thursday, March 08, 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.


note:

[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.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Beacon: Four points to ponder

Point One: Yes, Esra Ozturk, there is a generation gap: it is the knowledge and experiences that separate the adult from the child. Sadly, the adult appears to be absent from district public schools. You and the rest of the student body are actually missing essential learning due to the absence of adults as teachers. For that, I apologize. I should have done a better job vetting administrators during my time on the board. You will better understand this when you begin to raise a family of your own.


Point Two:
Julie Feasel proves that some people are not up to the task of being a board member. If she were fit to serve, she would have known about court decisions that define First Amendment Rights relative to student publications; decisions that leave the final judgment of appropriateness to the board of education. Had Feasel done a little research, she would have learned that reviewing the content of the student newspaper for appropriateness is not an issue of constitutional censorship; it's simply a function of her job as a board member. If Feasel feels that the articles are appropriate, have the newspaper posted on the district website for the community to read. Other districts publish their student newspapers on the web, why not do the same here. Let the community read that which does not bother her.


Point Three: Mardy Hanlon-Stolte shows that she alone defines the line of subject matter appropriateness. Those who claim the content of the student newspaper cannot be censored have never talked to Hanlon-Stolte. One can only wonder what level the Hanlon-Stolte's of the Olentangy staff feel is appropriate for someone else's children. She certainly failed in her self-described mission of teaching students how to make “decisions on journalistic content.” It appears the decisions were non-decisions; everything is fair game for the students to publish.


Point Four: Superintendent Davis is sorry “the articles came across as being in poor taste” to some in the community. That comment certainly implies Davis believes the articles are appropriate, but those, such as this writer, took them the wrong way. So, Davis, where is your line? You have certainly come a long way from the booklist incident of last summer. And you've taken quite a turn from the mission of facilitating learning. Unless, of course, this is the type of learning you intend to facilitate in the future.


Summary: There are your tax dollars at work. And, there is the professional stance of the Olentangy School District. A public good? Hardly.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Separating school and state

Regarding the separation of school and state, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe makes a very cogent argument in his editorial, A call for separation of school and state.

A free market in education would allow those who seek knowledge the ability to find it; just as a free market would allow those who seek something else the ability to find that. And, most importantly, I would not have to pay for the nonsense that some call public school education; just as they would not have to pay for the basic education I seek for my children. What a wonderful way to live the ideals of the Declaration and Constitution.

Now we all live in a system where the most persistent pressure group owns the system and controls the direction without fear of competition. Currently, the system has been captured by the professional educatists.

Public education worked so well in Prussia that Marx considered it as one of the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto; right alongside a confiscatory progressive income tax. We have adopted both of those planks as our own. Isn't it about time to reread history in order to see how we started as the land of the free and brave, and ended up the land the public education and progressive income tax. We have certainly come a long way from "DON'T TREAD ON ME!"

Restoring dignity

Latest blog posting at Mises.org by Jim Fedako

How do you restore the dignity supposedly missing from our capitalist society? According to the socialists at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), you restore dignity by having one group of Americans thieve from another, and you have government arrange the transaction. Where is William Graham Sumner when you need him most?

According to EPI's latest briefing paper A New Social Contract: Restoring Dignity and Balance to the Economy:
The very role of government is to ensure that the prosperity of our economy is broadly shared among all hard working Americans and their families. Yet, in the past two decades, government has not only retrenched in its obligation to set rules in the economy that value all working Americans, but it has set rules that undermine everyday Americans. It is time for government to be on the side of working Americans.


The paper was presented at a recent EPI public forum where Paul Krugman, keynote speaker, provided the following words of wisdom:
So, if you say what would I really like if I went into a Rip Van Winkle sleep and woke up ten years from now, I’d like to wake up and discover that we have a national health care in some version with the necessary funding supplied in part by higher taxes on me, or actually, the top two percent of the income distribution. But people a lot richer than me, of course. But it’s not the whole story that the only thing you can do is taxes and social insurance. And the arc of history for the United States suggests that there’s actually a lot more that can happen.


And if you’re looking for a progressive agenda, certainly from my point of view, a large part of that ought to be straightforward orthodox stuff, which is still very hard to do politically. It would be essentially restoring progressivity of the tax system, and using the revenue to improve social insurance and, above all, health care.

But the amount of inequality in the United States is substantially less than it would be if we did not have still at least somewhat progressive taxation, and still a pretty extensive, though not nearly extensive enough, system of social insurance. And that makes a big difference. Certainly if you’re looking at say the United States versus Canada, a lot of the difference between the two countries is just that Canada has more of a better safety net financed by somewhat higher taxation.


Where is Bertrand de Jouvenel when you need his insights? Well, the ideas of Sumner and de Jouvenel are still with us; their reasoning simply remains lost to the Krugmans of the world. The Progressives and their government allies have had over a century to work out the kinks of their socialist utopia, yet it remains beyond their grasp.

Even Krugman notes that we don't want the level of redistribution found in Cuba, but a level just to the north would begin solve the nation's economic ills. How? By restoring dignity through repealing the tattered remnants of the concepts of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Sometimes it is as if the Soviet Union never imploded. I await the coming day when the New York Times finally changes its masthead to: Workers of the world, unite! That day won't be soon enough for Krugman and his minions at EPI.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Too many laws?

Many non-Christians look at the Bible as a book replete with laws, rules, and regulations. Yet, according to Rousas John Rushdoony - Christian writer and father-in-law of Gary North (see links) - rabbinical traditions have counted 613 separate laws in the Torah, our Old Testament. Six hundred thirteen. And, many of these laws were subsequently repealed by Jesus's blood.

According to Rushdoony, current local, state, and federal laws number in the millions. Millions! And, what have we gotten for all those laws, rules, regulations, etc? Certainly not Heaven on Earth.

Is Christianity heavy-handed with its number of laws? Not at all. Is government heavy-handed? Absolutely!

note: Thanks to Steve Scott at From the Pew for the Rushdoony count.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The gnawing rats

The reality is this: Socialism won the Cold War. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian socialist from early 20th century, realized that there was no way to fight a pitched battle against the industrialized societies of the west. The socialist instigators would not be able to sway the workers nor gain popular support for revolution. Yet, Gramsci believed that socialism could win the day if it supported a lengthy insurgency that slowly destroyed the bedrock institutions of our free societies: family, church, etc.

So while we stared-down the Evil Empire, the rats slowly gnawed holes in the concepts of liberty that founded the US and made England great. Gramsci never lived to see the dawn of the forthcoming new age (he died soon after Benito Mussolini released him from jail), but his like-minded minions proved that nuclear power is no match for an uncoordinated subversive attack against the mind.

A good source to understand our current mess is the classic treatise Theory and History, Ludwig von Mises. Mises exposed the flaws in the concepts of socialism and other strains of such thought.

A good source to view the current mess is your local public schools. Progressive socialist administrators and their minions - the unionized labor force - have gained control of the minds of our next generation - public school students. From my experience, many school employees are not people to be trusted with children.

Certainly all school employees are not evil, but, with the exception of a very small few, the good ones never seem to question the direction in which the schools are headed. The silence of good ones becomes tacit support for the evil ones. Sad, but true.

Jim Fedako

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Voting with Our Feet? Local Government "Services" and the Supposed Tiebout Effect

"It's not you choosing the mix of service and tax rate, it's the school system, or other governmental entity, making the choice for you."
Jim Fedako



Since Paul Samuelson defined the term some fifty odd years ago, public goods has entered the popular lexicon and become an established belief. From the simple technical definition as a good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous, thus subject to free riders, and therefore can only be produced by government or through governmental action, public goods now encompass almost any good that a statist desires, whether neo-con or liberal. To question the concept of public goods is to attack mom and apple pie.

In 1956 Charles Tiebout extended the concept of public goods to the local level and created a model of a pseudo market for local government services (police, fire, schools, parks, etc.) whereby individuals sort themselves in such a manner that their preferences for government services match the services provided by the local government where they chose to reside. And just like Samuelson's public goods, Tiebout's local public goods plays a major role in how taxpayers view government expenditures.

The Tiebout Effect, the sorting of services and taxpayers, is supposed to provide a market solution that leads to a Pareto-Optimal equilibrium, guiding local governments toward providing only those services and quality of services that their respective residents want at a price they are willing to pay. Residents who don't like the mix of service, quality, and tax rate, "vote with their feet" and move to areas that better provide a mix that meets their preference rank. As residents either plant "for sale" signs and purchase homes elsewhere, or as prospective residents build new homes or buy existing homes, local governments recognize these activities as signals to either increase or reduce their service levels, depending on the perceived desires of the voting majority of community.

On the surface, the Tiebout model makes for a great justification for devolving a centralized government that can't provide for preference differentiation into many smaller local ones that can market themselves to individuals. Local governments are able to be as lean and mean as any private sector firm, at least according to Tiebout's model. But models are not reality.

Decentralized governments do compete with regard to tax incentives and public financing when trying to entice businesses to move into their area. But governments do not compete with each other by offering services in the same manner as entrepreneurs in the market place.

The easiest way to dispense with Tiebout is to recognize that the Austrian School has demolished the concept of public goods. Public goods simply do not exist. Sorry mom and apple pie. I am not going to address this here since there are many excellent articles and papers on the fallacy of public goods in general available at Mises.org .

The Rothbardian argument that a majority of voters does not speak for everyone also dispels the belief that the mix of so-called public goods, and local public goods, is a reflection of anyone's preference rank. No market in any sense exists where the majority plus one of those who chose to vote dictate the expenditures - through taxation - of all other. This is not a market, it as a coerced redistribution of wealth. Those in the voting majority simply become the net tax consumers while all others become the net taxpayers.

Despite the Austrian refutation, mainstream economists still cling to the public goods fallacy. In particular, many papers are written that cite the Tiebout Effect, especially in reference to local public schools and property values. Economist use Tiebout models in attempt to show that individuals voting with their feet drive improved school performance and increase property values.

While it may be true that individuals on initial draw seek communities that best match their preference mix of services and tax rate, individual preferences change as does the local government's mix of services and tax rate. Since the taxpayer is unable to simply move without incurring expense and the local government is a area-wide monopoly, local governments are under no pressure to satisfy changing preferences [1]. Entrepreneurs in the market, on the other hand, must quickly respond to any change in preference or suffer financial loss or ruin. Governments as monopolies are immune to such market pressures.

For sake of argument, let's agree that there is such a beast as public goods and that government is the entity most capable of supplying such services. The question I want to address is: Does the concept of local public goods provide a market that is driven to efficiency through the movements and sorting of individuals?

Like the often used example of the frog that blissfully allows itself to be boiled if the water temperature is slowing increased from lukewarm to boiling, taxpayers can also be boiled under rising tax rates simply because the marginal cost of moving exceeds the marginal cost of almost any new property tax. This has a piecemeal effect as taxes are increased every so often but each new step in tax rate does not warrant a move. Slowly the tax rate brings the homeowner to the boiling point, boiling under the collar anyway.

People tend to fall on the sword of collectivism and believe that a community is based on homogenous preferences. Nothing could be farther from the truth. School districts like to create the ideal-type resident and then assign attributes. Districts say that, "Our residents want program x." Does their community -- an aggregation of individual acting residents -- really want program x offered at the local schools? No, some parents want program x offered because they would rather not pay the full cost themselves but favor having their neighbors forced to split the bill. Districts like having program x simply because they now have a dependent constituency that will support additional tax increases.

Assume that you are offended by this machination of democracy or recognize yourself to be a net taxpayer for someone else's wants, what do you do? Is moving to another school district that has a better mix of service and tax rate the efficient and rational response. Not usually since the likely closing costs, moving expenses, and other real estate fees, drain about 10% off of the paper value of a house. The cost, real and assumed, to the owner of a $250,000 house is close to $25,000 with each move. It becomes obvious that it make sense to let the tax temperature rise just a few more degrees, even though the boiling point is rapidly approaching.

What about improved efficiency and performance of the local public school system due to the Tiebout Effect? From a market standpoint, the consumer must be able to operate in an free, unhampered market in order to guide the economy. The public school market is neither. Given that my singular vote has no impact on a tax levy and that I can't simply cross district lines without incurring a large cost, I am captured by the school market. If I am a regular at Burger King and the service or price changes in a manner I do not like, I can easily cross the street to McDonald's, Wendy's, etc., without having to bear any additional cost. In fact, the managers of the other restaurants will welcome me with open arms. There is no system of local public goods ready to serve me in the manner of the fast food market since I can't really "vote with my feet." The school system recognizes this and therefore sees no need for improvements in services relative to costs.

Oh, sure there are studies that show the occasional Tiebout Effect in the housing market, but here are also many studies showing no effect whatsoever. Certainly acting individuals sort themselves on any matter in question, but we can never know what the true reason for the sorting is. When econometricians use models that are based on the idea-type community member and then make assumptions about preference rankings, they are operating without a solid epistemology.

The above analysis shows that no free market for supposed public goods exists, local and otherwise. But if you require empirical data, just look around. Have you ever seen school districts, or any other local political entity, embrace improvements in order to capture a better market share? What you will see is school districts spin any change in outcome, whether positive or negative, as improved academic performance, and any additional cost as improved service. You will also see school districts claim that the school market is such that any reduction in funding or salaries will hurt student outcomes even though government expenditures and quality outcomes are inversely related.

School districts do not fear rising costs the same as the local businessman. Districts show no concern when their tax rates begin to exceed neighboring districts, in fact they will sell their need for operating levies on the basis that they spend less then neighboring districts -- cost equal service.

Imagine if McDonalds refused to acknowledge the hamburger price at Wendy's across the street. Imagine if consumers of computers could be led to believe that quality cannot go up even as prices go down. That would make for a strange market, but it is the market for supposed local public goods.

In addition, as Rothbard showed, taxation reduces the value of the item taxed. There you have it, schools don't improve, but taxes rise and potential property values fall.

A Tiebout Effect? Local public goods? No, you have been convinced by the fallacies and captured like the soon-to-be-boiled frog. It's not you choosing the mix of service and tax rate, it's the school system, or other governmental entity, making the choice for you.

Note:

[1] Due to government being an area-wide monopoly, school districts, and individual schools for that matter, typically cannot be switched without a move. This creates an issue that is not a concern where area-wide monopolies do not exist, namely the issue of switching suppliers requiring the selling of one's home. I can switch between McDonalds and Burger King as often as I like and not incur moving expenses. If McDonalds was granted an area-wide monopoly which forced me to buy Big Macs based on my current address, I would end up in the same situation as that with public schools. Unlike the standard neoclassical transaction cost, the cost of moving is the result of a government-imposed monopoly. End the area-wide monopoly and the moving cost issue disappears.

Jim Fedako