Eternal Vigilance

Champions of individual liberty can never rest because there are simply too many people who would much rather conscript others for their own purposes than do what they believe needs to be done themselves'-or at least recruit volunteers to help them. No, instead the bulk of humanity is bent on coercing others to work for them, regardless what the goal happens to be, good or bad.

Nearly every time a new administration takes the helm in Washington, for example, one finds a bunch of letters to the editor in top newspapers across the country laying out the case why some task or another cannot be left to be done voluntarily, as a matter of the initiative of those who believe in doing it. Scientists, farmers, educators, athletes, artists and the rest rush in so as to hold their hands out for as large a portion of the stolen loot government alone is empowered to seize from us as the politicians and bureaucrats manage to redistribute among the population. Why? Because the tasks those folks are committed to are supposedly so important that their pursuit may not be left to free choice.

It is not only after the presidential elections, of course, that these demands are issued to Washington and other sources of other people's money. All the lobbyists marching up to county, state and federal capitols are doing the same thing. They are all being sent there by men and women who see nothing much wrong with this process of redistribution of wealth'-actually of people's life times spend on earning their living.

So, as I say, there is no rest for those who refuse to endorse this obsession of divvying up the loot, for those who believe in the liberty of all to earn and to keep their wealth. All one needs to realize how much there is to do for champions of liberty is to read The New York Times periodically, where from editorials, to letters to the editor and the Op-Ed columns there is no end of such pleading of one's case, held to be so special that the right to liberty and property of others must not impede the effort to take and take and take some more.

A recent letter to The Times gives us a nice case in point. The writer, one Paul Beattie of New York, makes the claim that 'President Bush and the Republican leadership will not be satisfied until all of education is in corporate hands.' Well, why would this be such a bad thing? After all, much of nourishment, clothing, transportation, pharmacy, housing and the like is also in corporate hands'-meaning it is businesses that earn their living from producing these goods and services, in what is at least supposed to be a free market place.

Ah, but Mr. Beattie knows better. As he puts it, 'Education is more than a business. It's about creativity and community . . . .' As if producing groceries, building homes and offices and the like had nothing to do with creativity and community! No, what this is about is the dogged continuation of public'-or as R. C. Hoiles liked to call it, government'-education, which should not be subjected to the principles of business, most notably the principle of free voluntary trade.

The problem with education is precisely that it isn't run like a business, with customers as kings and the freedom to choose from among competing approaches, suited to vastly different young people. Instead, what we have is a one-size-fits-all debacle that's dumbing down kids more and more every year, throughout the country.

Unfortunately too many parents believe that it isn't their business to obtain the education of their kids, that they may farm them all out to a tax funded government indoctrination center instead. So, they and their propagandists keep repeating the mantra about how education is something finer and more noble than business, something that justifies centralizing it by the government and administering it as one of the few socialist institution in our country (next to AMTRAK and the United States Postal Service).

Yes, there will always be a need to debunk this nonsense'-a need for eternal vigilance, which is now the price of not so much liberty itself but of just hearing a little about liberty.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.