Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inner Strength and Outward Respect

Since I wrote the Spherical Model materials some time ago, I pay attention to conversations that fit into the ideas. Particularly I’ve been interested in what makes civilization. So when I came across a passage this week in the next Ender’s Game book, Xenocide, I marked it (by end of summer maybe I’ll get through all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books).  

The quote is Valentine, Ender’s sister. They are both nearing 60 now and have raised families. They are on a planet that is at risk of annihilation, and unrest between species has been stirred up. Two other characters, Miro and Ouanda (pronounced approximately Wanda; it's Portuguese), are in an awkward situation. As young people, around 20-ish, they were planning to marry when they found out that they were brother and sister, because of their parents’ complicated choices. Then Miro leaves on a starship for what is for him a couple of months, but because of this nifty thing about relativity is 25 years on the planet. So when he returns, Ouanda is a middle-aged woman with family, and he is still young. Awkward. But as scientists they must work together and “now make the great effort to pretend that they were simply two people doing their jobs—that all was normal between them.” And that is where Valentine makes this comment about Civilization:

Inner strength and outward respect. These are the people who hold a community together, who lead. Unlike the sheep and the wolves, they perform a better role than the script given them by their inner fears and desires. They act out the script of decency, of self-sacrifice, of public honor—of civilization. And in the pretense, it becomes reality. There really is civilization in human history…but only because of people like these. The shepherds. (p. 354)

Science fiction tends to set up these impossible situations, but underneath is an observation about something closer to our world. Inner strength and outward respect indeed do help in bringing about civilization. Another day I’m sure I could find enough examples from history, from the people around me. But today I’m satisfied just to bring up the idea.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Memories

Blessed Memorial Day! It’s a day to remember our gratitude to our troops, a collection of citizens willing to serve our country as needed. And also to remember those who sacrificed with their lives.

I appreciate having a day set aside for this idea. I didn’t know, however, when I was growing up, that it was a military remembrance day. Where I grew up it was a day to honor our departed dead, whether veterans or not. We got up in the morning and gathered canning jars and mayonnaise jars and filled them with water. Then we snipped flowers from around the yard. The irises were blooming and often still some of the daffodils and tulips. Sometimes the lilacs were still in bloom, and they smelled the best. We added in some fronds from the bridal wreath bushes. This was northwest enough and high altitude enough that spring was very accommodating. We filled the jars with the flowers, placed them carefully in boxes in the trunk of the car (or back of the station wagon) and headed to the cemetery.

We met cousins and neighbors there, even though we hadn’t set a time for our visit. Everybody we knew just did this on Memorial Day. So I knew where my grandparents’ graves were located, well enough that I could find them again today if I were there. I don't think there was ever any slight meant to the military; there was just a love of those gone before us.

I’ve lived away for half my life now, so it has become a day to begin summer. And maybe I’m more aware now of the intention to honor the military.

The last time I went to that cemetery was last summer, when I visited with my mom, to look at the grave marker that had finally been placed on my dad’s grave. He had passed away the previous Christmas, at age 91. My dad was a veteran. It took a year after Pearl Harbor before the Army would accept him, for reasons I don’t know, because he was in good health. By then he said they would take anyone with a heartbeat.

After a year or so stationed in Texas and Louisiana, he was recruited into the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. He had a suitcase with a secret compartment, but beyond that I never saw any spy devices. His assignment was clerical, gathering intel and sending it out to the appropriate places. After OSS training he was stationed in London and also spent time in Paris and Copenhagen. Copenhagen was right at the end of the war, and he and his commanding officer were welcomed with a parade as war heroes—honoring those American soldiers who had fought for their freedom. A few times my dad had been near gunfire, but he hadn’t ever been in battle. He did interview a number of heroic inidividuals who had worked in underground resistance.

One of my favorite of his stories was from this brief time in Denmark. He attended church there, as he did everywhere. There was a man attending, a recovering injured German soldier. He talked with my dad and some other people there, giving his story. He was religious but not in the state Lutheran Church, so he was making preparations (had already bought a ticket) to immigrate to America when his father died, and he was needed to stay and help support his family. That meant he was still there when he got conscripted into the German Army. He asked how these fellow churchgoers felt about people like him. My dad put his arm around his shoulder and said, “You’re my brother, and I love you. Does that answer your question?” That was my dad, and I honor him especially today.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Online Spheres

In the textbook for the computer class I’m taking, I came across this quote yesterday: 

The Web was built by millions of people simply because they wanted it, without need, greed, fear, hierarchy, authority figures, ethnic identification, advertising, or any form of manipulation. Nothing like this ever happened before in history. We can be blasé about it now, but it is what we will be remembered for. We have been made aware of a new dimension of human potential.—Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer

And today I came across this: “Computers are power, and direct contact with power can bring out the best and worst in a person.”—former computer criminal turned corporate computer programmer

And this one: If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside.—Robert X. Cringely, PBS computer curmudgeon [yes, that is how he is labeled in the book]

That third one is mostly for amusement. But the other two got me thinking about how the Internet is a macrocosmic experiment in free and/or anarchical societies. There’s a lot of good and bad that happens. But the freedom allows for so much creativity that as problems arise some of the solutions are invented. It’s impossible to imagine this happening with some layer of central control deciding what can and cannot be done.

In a true civilization, the people choose to self-correct, or to find ways to stop a perpetrator from attacking their lives, liberty, and property. In anarchy the self-policing is limited to only the civilized, and they are prey to the savage. But because of the freedom, the civilized are able to continue to find ways to thwart the attacks. Thriving is indeed taking place for civilized people engaged in the most inventive exchange of creativity ever.

I’m still thinking about the parallels, the ideas we can glean for going upward in freedom, economics thriving, and civilization. Upward needs to be the direction. And thriving in all the spheres is the goal. And the way to get there is something other than imposing southern hemispheric (on the Spherical Model) central planning.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Some personal stuff today, a little about commitment. When I started this blog in early March, I committed to myself and my readers that I would regularly post on weekdays and occasional Saturdays. I take a rest on the Sabbath. Except when I was out of town and out of reach of the internet, I have faithfully posted every weekday, plus a few Saturdays, so I was pleased with myself.

A week and a half ago I started taking an online computer course through the local community college. I’ve needed this knowledge for quite a while (hence the rather unexciting look of this blog), and I’ve been trying to sign up since my daughter Social Sphere started taking community college classes three years ago. [There’s an irony here, because back in the early 80s I wrote computer documentation and was up on the cutting edge—when Wordperfect was version 2.0 and hardly anyone used Word yet. The computer world left me in the dust while I was raising my little spheres.] Things finally aligned for this spring term; it’s a sped-up course in just four weeks. I thought I’d be dedicating about two hours a day to it, but I could adjust to that for just a month. Turns out I’m spending ten hours on many days, and the least has been four. On top of this we have two sick people in this house, and an unexpected dog for a couple of months, plus the grandbaby who has learned to climb anywhere she wants and refuses to nap.

It feels heartbreaking to me that I’ve had two days, last Thursday and yesterday, that I simply couldn’t get to this blog. I couldn’t even get my mind set to think about what to write. After this week the class will only be two more weeks, so I think I need to be realistic and allow myself to miss an occasional post.

When I write, I’m not just satisfying my need to have my say; I’m trying to give something valuable, something that will benefit anyone who takes the time from their life to read this. I want to contribute to an increase in civilization in the world. It feels important to me, and I hope it is important to you readers as well.

So, I’m saying I am still dedicated to this little cause, but I need to be realistic about what’s physically possible for me right now. So, my apologies if I miss a day here and there. I’m hoping that once the class is over I will very rarely have a day you can’t depend on me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For Your Video Watching Enjoyment

Last night I enjoyed watching a bit of video on my computer while eating a late night snack. This one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbTgOzDvK4A starting at the 4:00 mark) is Andrew Klavan of PJTV answering this viewer question: “Liberals seem to have an underlying contempt for authority and traditional institutions, and yet their faith and trust in big government is at times fanatical. Conservatives, on the other hand, usually respect authority and traditional institutions, but have an inherent distrust of big government. Why?”—Black Templar, PJTV Member

The first thing Andrew says is, “The man who won’t bow down to God, you think he’d be free, but he’ll actually bow down to anything.” Then he points out that people who respect valid authority, authorized by the people, are actually more free. They behave themselves appropriately and work well with one another. I fairly frequently have the urge to type a transcript of Klavan’s commentaries on the culture “Klavan on the Culture.” I think this clip coincides with the Spherical Model description of how greater civilization, greater culture, happens when people choose to live according to God’s law, much more than when a powerful government coerces people into doing good.

Another bit of listening last night was the coinciding of two of my favorites: Uncommon Knowledge and Thomas Sowell: here. Peter Robinson interviews my favorite economist (one of my favorite famous people) on the new and revised edition of Economic Facts and Fallacies. Here’s a great quote from the book: “Some things are believed because they are demonstrably true, but many other things are believed simply because they are asserted repeatedly.” The book is about these over-asserted things we believe that simply aren’t true—with plenty of evidence to support his point of view.

One is that affordable housing requires government intervention. One comparison was that a house that would cost $155,000 in Houston, where there are no zoning laws, would cost over $1 million in San Francicso, where do-gooder big-government types insist on “affordable” housing.

Another myth Sowell dissolves is that slavery was because of race. He points out that slavery has been around for thousands of years, and during most of that the enslavers didn’t have the transportation to obtain their slaves from thousands of miles away; they had to enslave closer neighbors, with no regard to race. It became about race specifically in the United States because of the belief that all men are created equal. That being true, the only way to justify slavery was to claim certain people weren’t fully men but something lesser. This concept didn’t occur the same way in Brazil, which had more slavery but lacked the same freedom concept.

Some other race-related comments were that in the 1920s Blacks had a much higher percentage of two-parent intact families than today. And as late as the 1930s Blacks had a lower unemployment rate than whites. The point is that those who claim Blacks are downtrodden today and are suffering from the results of slavery and prejudice are ignoring historical conditions. Things got worse for Blacks, as far as poverty and social conditions, following the passage of Civil Rights laws in the 1960s—not that the Civil Rights laws shouldn’t have been passed, but that the passage shouldn’t have been followed with violent riots and welfare handouts.

I appreciate Thomas Sowell for saying these things—because he’s Black and grew up in poverty, so he’s allowed to say things without the race card being thrown at him. And he’s listened to because he’s wicked smart and always has the facts on his side. Brilliant good fun.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Local Nullification Efforts

Voluntaryist Student made several good points in comments last week, one about nullification, so I thought I’d do a response to that concept. I read Thomas Woods’ book Nullification some months ago and found it persuasive—enough that I don’t fully understand why the concept seems so far outside the mainstream. The word refers, essentially, to states or lower levels of government asserting their autonomy (see 10th Amendment to the Constitution) when the federal government usurps powers not granted to it.

States and individuals are working from various angles to nullify (make of no import) Obamacare, for example. I’ve been following a couple of attempts in my state legislature. One is a bill that disallows the mandate to purchase health insurance, saying essentially that Obamacare can’t be enforced in this state. And since we’re a big state, it’s unlikely the federal government would quell our resistance with force (at least we can hope). The other is to join in the multi-state compact, a work-around of sorts, to use market forces, cross state lines, and give states the responsibility to deal with their own health care issues as they see fit. I’m a little hesitant about the compact, mainly because when I read the legislation, or even the website, I can’t tell precisely what any unforeseen outcome might be. But in theory having states join together to resist a federal order against their interests, and which the federal government was never given the authority to impose, seems to be a good thing. You can read more about the compact at the official site: HealthcareCompact.org.

There’s another very local version of nullification that I’m observing with some interest. About ten miles from my lives a special forces marine, retired, who put up a good-sized flagpole in his backyard, where he displays the American flag with great respect. His homeowners association decided that this wasn’t to be tolerated. There wasn’t actually a decree in the HOA covenants saying such a flagpole was not allowed, but when the veteran refused to take it down, the HOA enacted such a covenant and refused to “grandfather in” the veteran. They are fining him $200 a day, suing him for payment, and including their legal costs in the suit—so far approaching $20,000. I hope your outrage is approaching mine. It’s his back yard! It’s the American flag! He’s a veteran and displays it respectfully! In what possible way can such a display lower the home value in the neighborhood—the purported reason for an HOA to have any say in how a person’s yard looks?

There is a bill currently in the state legislature attempting to make such a display legal, essentially nullifying the HOA rule and any like it across the state. But there are thousands of bills in a legislative session. Getting attention to this small issue is a challenge. We’re nearing the end of the session; I’m not certain whether we’ve already passed the date when it must already be placed on the calendar in order to receive a vote before the session closes. (I’ve been following a list of bills this session but only became aware of this one lately and don’t have a bill number, so I’m uncertain how it’s turning out.)

This could be another whole post, but I am curious about how HOAs got this tyrannical power. The rule of thumb is that whatever must be done by a government should be done at the most local level possible. It’s hard to get more local than an HOA. And yet these little tyrannies have been known to impose ridiculous rules about paint color and gardening rules, and have enforced them with the threat of taking your property. I can’t see any situation where an HOA should have the power to seize property. If you have failed to pay your dues for some time, I can see they might be able to put a lien on your property, so that the payment dues (maybe even with a standard interest added) could be recouped upon sale of the property. I can’t see why they should be able to usurp ownership, sell your property out from under you for the cost owed, leaving you without your property.

I’m told it has to do with contract law; it depends on what you agree to when you sign the covenants. But you have to sign the covenants in order to purchase the property. And while that is a choice you make, finding a home without an HOA might not be an option—and it certainly wouldn’t be an option for a specific house. Nor is an owner able to sell a property to someone who won’t sign the covenants.

While I appreciate that my HOA tends to keep home values up, I do resent it a little when they inform us that the north side of our house has mildew on the siding that must be removed, or we will be fined. This is a humid climate. I don’t mind the reminder. But it’s odd that they always find it before we do. It isn’t visible from the street. It isn’t really visible from the sidewalk. You have to get off the sidewalk, look up from under the neighbor’s tree, and hunt for the flaw in our home care. What would be better, if they have people dedicated to finding these little bits of mildew growth, would be to send us a notice along with recommendations for how to treat it or prevent it, rather than simply a threat along with the assumption that we are derelict homeowners.

In a way, the usual principle applies: let the lowest level of government handle the problem. If an HOA is controlling what the homeowner should be handling—even when the control is not relevant to the larger neighborhood—then that opens up the possibility of tyranny that we experience in our very homes.

But you can see that nullification (ignoring the HOA), as the marine veteran has done, can be dangerous and costly when you do it all alone. So the way for nullification to be effective is for the idea to spread, so that the force of the people cannot be overcome by the dictating government. That takes persuasion and connecting, skills I believe we need to acquire.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


There’s a nephew’s wedding happening, and family is in town. I wrote about weddings just a couple of weeks ago, so lets just say this family that is starting out as just two people is really already a mass of loud, laughing relatives—and the bride has been warned. I think, though, they are going to be contented together, and his sisters (the groom has four sisters and no brothers) are happy with this one extra sister they’re getting. Since there’s only going to be the one sister-in-law, I think they’re relieved to find that their brother chose well.

Another thing I get to do tomorrow is talk about dating with a room full of teenagers. Good kids. Teaching teens, particularly good teens who are doing a whole lot of the right things and want to learn more, is a fun time. I’m thinking, since these kids are leaders, if they can set goals and meet standards, they’re likely to pull a lot of others along with them.

My aim (my nearly impossible goal) is to change the paradigm about dating. I’m not just talking about waiting till marriage for sex—the kids I’m talking to have made that commitment already. I’m talking about changing how they think so more and more of them are able to keep that commitment, maybe with more ease and less heartache.

Some of my concern stems from ubiquitous media messages to the contrary. At our house we spent a few years with Social Sphere watching a list of shows aimed at the teen demographic, about teens, in school, facing confusing and funny challenges she could relate to. Almost every show aimed at teens is about pairing off as boyfriend/girlfriend. These are Disney and Nickelodeon shows. Clean. Sex free. Almost entirely kissing free. But it is expected that young people can and should be finding “the one” to go steady with. (In less controlled media, not only are young people expected to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, they’re expected to be having sex as early as middle teens. So the shows I’m talking about are as good as TV gets.)

It is understood that a person feels incomplete without the boyfriend/girlfriend. Added to this, a young person without “a mate” feels unwanted, and possibly unwantable. Getting the boyfriend/girlfriend proves to themselves that they are valuable. They measure their self worth by this ability to get and keep a boyfriend/girlfriend. If they don’t have one, they will go to great lengths to change themselves until they fit whatever criteria it takes to get “the one.” It’s kind of sad, really.

And then, of course, they break up, because people that age aren’t capable of being fully sensitive and thoughtful about another person while trying to grow themselves. And then  they feel lonely and depressed and rejected, and must find the next “the one.” It’s a mess.

Sometimes they talk about how “mature” they are, and by that they mean they are better at finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. But real maturity would mean knowing that you don’t make a commitment you can’t keep just because your teenage hormones are making you crush on everyone in sight. These TV teens also tend to talk about being committed as though these teenage pairings are practice, so they’ll be good at committing when the right one comes. So what they’re really doing is pretending to commit until they don’t want to be committed anymore, which means that, at an age when drama is high and social skill is low, they break up, often painfully. And then they do it again with the next “the one.” So what they’re really practicing is not commitment but breaking their commitment.

I’d like to see teens take these years as friendship years. Enjoy each other’s company, and do a lot of things together as groups. In the later teen years, going out on dates, to dinner or dances or movies, with several pairs, or with some pairs and some singles in the group, can be fun. But how about if everyone under the age of 18 just stops with the pretend commitment stuff and stops going steady? The casual dating gives a lot of opportunity for learning about the qualities that are appealing, but puts off the selection until a commitment can be meaningful, when it can lead to the actual commitment of marriage.

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll change anyone’s paradigm, but I might make a few young people think. And I am of the opinion that more thinking and somewhat less following the heart could be useful for teens.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Throwing Off Shackles

I’ve been thinking about the Declaration of Independence and its principles in light of interpersonal, even family, relationships. (Don’t worry about us; this has to do with someone we’re helping, not our own Spherical Model family.)

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation….” 

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

I’ll try to tell this story without too much personal detail, but I know I am learning a lot, and maybe sharing it will be valuable.

My daughter Social Sphere has a friend she met in a community college class a year or so ago. The young woman has slowly come to trust us, not an easy task for her. She was abandoned, separately by both parents, went through many mostly disastrous foster care situations, and ended up for most of the last decade with grandparents who, to be kind, didn’t have a good track record as parents in the first place. She’s now mid-20s, heading toward a field that can make her independent, but she is not treated like I would expect such a person to be treated. While her grandmother is possibly only misguided but also short-tempered and controlling, her grandfather is continually drunk and verbally abusive. And an uncle steps in with repeated physical abuse. 

These miscreant adults were out of town together this past weekend, leaving her home alone but confined by edict to house arrest. So we showed her the choices: stay to face more abuse, or leave. It had to be her choice, which is why this turning point has taken so long in coming. Anyway, we ended up serving as women’s crisis center, without special training or qualifications. And we are directing her toward help. I hope she will improve once she is away from the tyranny.  

I am in wonderment at the differences in how she thinks because of what she has been through. Physically she is very strong. That is how she has survived the ongoing abuse for so long. But emotionally, saying no to intolerable abuse is beyond her strength. The idea that, if she does something wrong her so-called family will disown her has been the most terrorizing fear—more fearsome much of the time than the beatings and beratings. When they blame her for things she has no control over, and no reason to foresee, she meekly submits to their “grounding” her (after the beatings). And she believes them when they tell her what a terrible person she is, and that she deserves the abuse for being so bad.  

As the Declaration tells us, after a long train of abuses, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off the tyranny. 

Some time back, after she submitted to a particularly bitter six solid hours of haranguing for, trust me, no good reason, I asked her why she didn’t just leave the room. When someone behaves unacceptably, you let them know it’s unacceptable by not accepting it. She was in tears; she didn’t understand, and couldn’t imagine acting in a way that they would call disrespectful—even though she was requiring no respect from them toward her.  

There is something enslaving, binding, about suffering abuse; it can only be shucked off by refusing to submit. Knowing when those times are, and how to refuse, are among the skills required of a free person—or a free people. 

Looking at the founders, their sense of themselves as free people, with rights given from God, is astounding considering the world’s historical assumptions to the contrary. It is miraculous that they identified the abuses, that they refused to consider suffering them any longer. And it’s also amazing that once removed from the oppressor they worked to remain free rather than to simply submit to a different tyranny. 

I wouldn’t say we are under tyranny now—yet. But there are tyrannical elements within what was intended to be a liberty protecting government. Many federal, some state and local. So I continue to question when and how—not to rebel, but to resist. It’s not a matter of “can I tolerate this any longer?” but “should I tolerate this?” And then there’s the question of how do we respectfully show that we will not tolerate what should not be tolerated among civilized people? As a free people, to remain a free people, we must to find the answers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why I'm Not Quite a Libertarian

If I were going to consider living in a government-free society, being who I am and still craving civilization, I would have to choose as cohabitants people who can govern themselves, people who choose to be good and honest, to work hard and be productive, to be kind and forgiving and respectful.

I wouldn’t choose people who claim to be seeking liberty by claiming a right to self-indulgence. So, while I have some libertarian leanings, especially in economics, I’m very much anti-libertine. Every time the libertarians insist on freedom to freely trade and use mind-altering drugs, mostly liberty-taking addictive drugs, I separate myself from them. Similarly when they announce their support of prostitution, which is about as close to slavery as we see in today’s society. You can’t get civilization going that route.

If I’m going to live in a neighborhood with no police and no judiciary, I want to know I’m with people who would never give me need for the police or judges. I want to know my neighbors keep their word and keep their contracts, or I’m not willing to give up some kind of enforcement mechanism for when they break faith with me.

Until I can somehow choose the perfect citizenry for such an experiment, I’m for limited government, but I’m not for no government.

Looking at it on the Spherical Model, it’s like this: Civilization, up in the northern hemisphere and especially above the 45th parallel, requires certain behaviors that come from a spiritual perspective. The more the society voluntarily lives the requirements for civilization, the less government enforcement is needed. So, if we start by persuading people toward civilization, there is less chaos, so it’s easier to raise the political and economic spheres into their respective northern hemispheres. Government is limited to essential protections for life, liberty, and property. Markets are free from unnecessary imposed controls (anything beyond basic protection of property rights is arguably unnecessary).

If you work on political and economic spheres first (and there’s plenty to do—or rather undo—with those right now), you struggle against those who are worried about safety and/or economic chaos. So, work on the Civilization Sphere first, and the others are then more likely to follow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Law and The Nine

In Chief Justice John Roberts’ confirmation hearings, during his introductory speech, he made this analogy:
Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. 

The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. 

But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.
I’m about finished with The Nine, Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin. The above quote was in a recent chapter, and I perked up and thought, “Yes, that’s what I think.” But the author is less positive. He says, basically, Roberts is naïve and wrong, because justices clearly do make law.

A book like this is quick to become a bit dated and become merely a historical viewpoint; it was published in 2007, so Sotomayor and Kagen are missing. Still, it has some good inside information. One interesting thing about this book is the fairly obvious self-view of the author as just a historian, just a reporter, without bias. Yet to a conservative, while much of what he says in The Nine is historically accurate, his bias is evident.

Of all the justices he talks about, he spends the most time on Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, covering her thought processes pretty thoroughly, and clearly admiring her special skill of finding the middle ground, her "brilliant" ability to avoid coming down on either one side or the other. He is disdainful (and quotes O’Connor as disdainful) of Scalia for being such a doctrinaire originalist. There is clearly a roll of the eyes at anyone who would consider the law to be, not a living whatever-we-say-it-is amorphous mass, but rather a written, solid, steady, unchanging expectation. As if that were so outré, so neanderthal--even though it's the basis of lawful order in the formula for civilization.

The very purpose of writing a law is to make it solid and unchanging (unless one goes through an actual process to change it). I have a friend who taught Constitutional Law and we were once discussing some chain of thought followed by the court, and I said, “But it doesn’t mean that; anybody who reads the Constitution knows it means…” (whatever the particular topic was). And he agreed and added, “It takes years of study and education to make it possible to come up with an idea that wrong.”

He also told me that, in order to be accredited, a Constitutional Law class is expected to teach case law, stare decisis (respecting precedents established by prior decisions). A law school can lose its accreditation for teaching that the Roe v. Wade decision is not the settled law of the land, even though there is a widespread view (even among pro-abortion justices) that the decision was seriously flawed in its reasoning. It is typical, even standard, for a Constitutional Law class to not even require reading of the actual Constitution, nor to look at the intended meaning of the founders known through their contemporaneous writings.

It seems to me, if the law is simply what a majority of unelected black-robed individuals say it is, that is oligarchy, a tyranny, even when a benevolent one. And I reject that, since it is not what I pledge allegiance to, nor what my flag represents.

So the question I have is, what do we do to reject erroneous court decisions? Lincoln suggested simply considering the bad decision to apply to the single case only, and have all future judgments relate to the written law. Great idea! But how do we, as a people, go about ignoring bad court decisions? Unless enough of us stand together. How do we do that? I’m still thinking about it. I’m open to nonviolent suggestions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Freedom and Resistance

[Note: Blogger was down yesterday and earlier today.  Sorry to miss posting.]

At book club this past Tuesday we were discussing the currently popular book The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, about a post-apocalyptic tyranny in what’s left of North America. Science fiction and fantasy—any literature that creates its own world and milieu—has at least as an underlying purpose a way of letting us look more objectively at our own world by contrasting and comparing with something unlike it. So we were talking about the likelihood of tyrannies happening in our world, which led to talking about Bonhoeffer, our book club choice a couple of months ago.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, recently received an award as best Christian book of the year. I devoured it last summer and was very glad I persuaded my book club friends to take it on. It’s a challenging but very rich read. We have been bringing it up again and again, because there was so much in it. Unlike the fictional tyranny in The Hunger Games, Bonhoeffer’s WWII Germany was real and historical, and so we hope reading about it is enlightening.

I continue to ask, how could a people who were so cultured and technologically advanced devolve so quickly into savagery? One reason for studying and remembering the holocaust is to keep us mindful never to let it happen again. Bonhoeffer’s descriptions of Hitler’s savagery, of his cultivation of violence for its own sake among subordinates, were details new to me, and still shocking. In our book club discussion this week, I was hoping that the very love of freedom that is ingrained in American culture might be an inoculating preventative from allowing a tyranny to be imposed on us. But I don’t know if I am just being hopeful.

Yesterday Ludwig von Mises linked a review of a book called Defying Hitler, a memoir by Sebastian Haffner—yet another to add to my long list of books to plow through. But the review, by Wendy McElroy, repeated my question from book club, with a little more articulation: “Haffner,” she says, “explores a question similar to one that has haunted me since 9/11. He examines how a highly cultured and civilized nation could slip so quickly into the barbaric totalitarianism of Nazi rule. My version of this question is, how could America, a nation with deep roots in individual freedom, so quickly slide into a police state?”

That is my question in part as well. For instance, TSA rules at airports are very troubling. We tolerate a lot that we know has nothing to do with making us safer. No liquids in containers larger than three ounces. Take off your shoes. Submit to random searches. I’ve been irritated by it, particularly because there was no special effort to identify likely perpetrators, or even to better screen airport employees. Something that looks at country of origin and a few other factors, while no guarantee of safety, makes a lot more sense than randomly targeting even small American-born children traveling with their own parents. (Note: the Iraqis in Mr. Spherical Model’s training program, that I wrote about April 18th, were in customs at our airport for three hours when they arrived; while that was very inconvenient for them, I was somewhat comforted that special care was taken to make sure they were who they represented themselves to be. And they understood that as well.)

When additional TSA indignities were added last year, that was a tipping point for me. While the smaller things were also “unreasonable searches,” the invasions were not invasive to this level. Now we have a choice of being photographed naked, with those images out of our control, or we submit to an invasive groping patdown including our private parts. The claim was that this is in response to attempts to smuggle in explosive materials possibly in body cavities (because of the underwear bomber). But the naked imagery, it is admitted, would not have revealed that criminal, which is why the random patdowns.

So, it is assumed that the choice to buy an airline ticket and fly to a destination is “reasonable suspicion” for revoking our Constitutional protection to be safe in our persons, property, and papers? Or—we are all treated as criminals so that actual criminals aren’t identified by ethnicity? This is not a sane response. In Israel, where they know about taking it upon themselves to stay safe against continual terrorist attacks, they do not do what we do to innocent people.

We flew our daughter Social Sphere home at Christmas, the first time she’d had to fly since the new TSA invasion of privacy. She had a fair amount of radiation last year from some diagnostic testing, so we wanted to avoid further radiation. Despite government assurances, reports are that the scans do indeed cause rather high levels of radiation at the dermal level, so the scans are in some ways more dangerous than a concentrated x-ray of a single organ. There is also the fact that, like the new British princess who is described as 5’10” and a size 2, Social Sphere is attractive in a way that would be noticeable to any viewer of those scans, and there have already been reports of them showing up where we were assured they would not. Do I sound like I do not trust a particular government bureaucracy?

And then there’s the added difficulty that those embarrassing, invasive patdowns can spread disease. The TSA officials use gloves, yes. But that is for their safety. They are not required to change gloves between people, so it is conceivable that the very gloves that invade someone else’s groin area can then be placed in yours. I admit to being a bit germ-phobic, but that possibility is nauseating to me.

Here’s what happened with Social Sphere. Getting home turned out not to be a problem. The relatively smaller airport she flew from wasn’t widely using those new scanning machines, so she walked easily through the old metal detector. But going back to college, at our large international airport, she explained to them that she couldn’t afford the radiation and refused the machine. They pressed, and insisted there was no danger, and pleaded with her to just comply. After several minutes of holding up the line, she finally submitted to the scanner against her will. And they found they couldn’t see something they wanted to see, so they then forced her to additionally submit to the invasive patdown, which she admits was very discomforting. (She did make sure the gloves were clean—or at least they told her so.)

So, a lovely young American female, on her way back to college after Christmas, to a large, private, Church-run university, who displayed no signs of rebellion or lack of civilization, was deprived of her Constitutional protections because we fear terrorist attacks from males, aged 18-35, from particular watch-list countries, involved in radical Islamist fatwahs. There is no connection between the deprivation of rights to Social Sphere—to all of us—and increased safety from particular attackers. And yet the vast majority of airline patrons submit to the loss of freedom without even a hint of refusal.

I don’t know what I will do. So far I have been able to choose not to fly. But there are times when I might really really want to get somewhere faster than driving. I can refuse the scanner (plan to) and let them know that I consider the invasive patdown without probable cause to be an illegal search in violation of my Constitutional rights, and have someone nearby take video of any patdown to make sure that it is not unduly invasive, with the implied threat of a lawsuit. That is, if I, at that point, feel brave enough to buck the status quo. It is hard to be the only one who sees that something is very wrong, or to be the only one who will speak up and say so.

The fact that I (along with you) am subject to such a dilemma in the most free country in the world, where we thought we had freedom genes born in, is worrisome to me, in the same way loss of a sense of humanity and love of life must have been worrisome to 1930s Germans who were paying attention.


While I was waiting for the server to come back online (which is why I missed posting Thursday), I came across this news article. Hurray that Texas is a free country! I think it has only passed the Texas House and still faces the state Senate. Hope it happens.

You can read the Dallas CBS story in full here.

Texas House Bans Offensive Security Pat-Downs

May 13, 2011 6:44 AM

A TSA agent waits for passengers to pass through a magnetometer at Los Angeles International Airport on November 22, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beware Government with Good Intentions

I have a theory that I’m collecting evidence to verify. The theory is that, whenever government oversteps its proper role and takes on some “good deed,” the result will be a variety of unintended negative consequences.

Minimum wage is a clear example. In a free market an employer and employee agree to a wage that satisfies both. The employer is willing to pay an amount that will increase his business income, typically the lowest amount he can pay to get that outcome. The employee exchanges his time and effort in exchange for a wage—typically the highest wage he can persuade an employer to pay for the work.

Walter Williams’ most recent piece "Minimum Wage's Discriminatory Effects" is a good explanation. In summary, what happens when government steps in and insists on a minimum wage is that the employer is forced to either take a profit loss or hire only better qualified workers that are worth the set wage (plus social security, possibly insurance or other benefits as well). So lower skilled workers are left unemployed, failing to accrue experience.

It seems to me Detroit is the poster child for the disastrous results of such interference—with labor unions doing much of the interfering to require higher wages. So the employed workers get that wage, but the vast unemployed get nothing. The only option left is to go elsewhere for employment.

I grew up in a somewhat freer day. At age 12 I was able to make a little spending money (and gain work experience) doing occasional babysitting at $.50 an hour (except for one rather cheap neighbor who paid only $.35 an hour for 3-4 kids and expected the dishes done—so, except when I felt generous, I found myself too busy). At age 16 I got a rather miserable job at a fast food place that paid the minimum wage of $1.10 an hour. It gave me experience to get incrementally better jobs the following summers.

My brothers used to do landscaping work, for a successful landscape designer that lived on our street. They got that job after doing watering and lawnmowing on their own for people on vacation or at work all day. Jobs with tiny pay gave experience that led to better pay. Today many of our neighbors hire landscaping services to come weekly and mow the lawn and weed—at $40 a week, well beyond our means. These tend to be small family businesses, usually Hispanic (I would hope they are legal, but don’t really know how to find out); my children were excluded, even though we taught them Spanish and at least one of them has looks that could pass as something non-white. Rumor is that individual workers make below minimum wage, so an American teenager couldn't be hired lawfully.

My brothers also had opportunities to work in home construction, as a hod carrier for a brick mason—hard work and low pay that led to experience to get the higher paid construction jobs later. (Both of my brothers gained skills that led to careers in construction, which provided well until the recent housing crash.) But my kids didn’t get that kind of experience, because around here there are two options: be part of a Hispanic low-paid team, or be skilled enough to get union pay. [ I could talk about illegal immigration and the claim that they do work Americans just won’t do, but I’ll save for another day.] So, for regular kids whose parents don’t own a business or have great connections, kids are lucky to get fast food jobs—which ours have. We’ve had kids working at Chick-fil-A almost continuously for a decade, with no Sunday work, which we appreciate. (The employers have moved beyond government-imposed minimum wage fairly quickly by hiring productive workers and training them well. Plus, I'm also a fan of their cow ad campaigns; they make me laugh.)

What would happen if we eliminated government interference (and also union interference) and allowed the free market to set wages for those agreements between employers and employees? It’s possible, even likely, that many unskilled laborers would be offered wages well below what can support a family, which, I could point out, is true of minimum wage jobs now despite the government interference. But with employment comes experience, usually leading to higher wages later. So that could be an improvement over being unemployed and perpetually unexperienced. It might be that some people get stuck in low paid dead end jobs that don’t pay enough for rent and food. But in more cases any employment and any wage would replace hopelessness with hope for something better in the future. It’s easier to tolerate boring low-pay work now if you can believe it’s a step toward something better later.

So the moral is, beware of government with good intentions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Paradigm for Education

My thanks to Voluntaryist Student for bringing this to my attention yesterday. This is 12 minutes of lecture from creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson to RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts), accompanied with animated drawings on a white board. The examples nevertheless are quite American: RSA Animate: Changing Education Paradigms

I couldn’t have said it better, but I can say a bit in support of his conclusions.

Back when my kids were in public schools, in a part of the country where we had quite good ones, I wrote a piece about the unusually effective multi-age classrooms they were in at the local elementary school (this was first and second grades, before they started attending a gifted magnet school, and long before I considered homeschooling). The multi-age classrooms contained abilities ranging from Down’s Syndrome first graders to gifted second graders, in a classroom of about 22, with one teacher and usually also one aide specifically to help the special ed students. It was understood that everyone was at different levels in different subjects, and those who understood something could help those who didn’t understand it yet.

The two main teachers who did this were marvelous in their own right. They were trying to teach other classroom teachers to do what they did, but I think results of that were not as promising as originally hoped. Nevertheless, what these teachers did worked well. They had clipboards they carried around with them, and they marked various things they observed about each child. They answered questions and guided and directed. Much of the day looked chaotic, with children placing themselves around the room at scattered desks or, more likely, on colorful floor mats.

Sometimes the class did things together, like going through daily routines related to calendars and weather, and counting by fives or sevens, or whatever the number was that day. And they read stories aloud together as well. Usually the whole class was on the same subject at a given time of the day (math, or writing). I used to help with writing lab, a segment of the morning twice a week when parent volunteers went student to student to answer questions about spelling and punctuation and help kids say what they wanted in their project of the day. Some would need almost no help, but did enjoy having someone read what they wrote. Some would need to tell an adult what they wanted to say, and then trace over it. When they completed writing a “book,” they would “publish” it by binding it and reading it with any other students that recently finished. (My son Economic Sphere’s first such project was a wordless picture book, so, yes, I did know he thought out of the box from very early on.)

At parent/teacher meetings, these teachers would show a portfolio of the student’s work. What was important was not how they measured against some national mean, but how they measured against where they had been the last time parent and teacher met. Was there progress? Was there a pattern in the types of errors in math or spelling? Were there things the parent could do at home? And how was the student doing socially, etc.?

Discipline was rarely a problem. One of the most effective “severe” methods of discipline was separation from the class. The student acting up could sit at his desk while the class had story time or something else together. Once the problem student let the aide know he was ready to control himself so he wouldn’t bother the other students, he was allowed to rejoin them. (I can’t tell you how different this was from the school we got after our move, just before homeschooling. At least I can’t tell you today. Maybe sometime.)

So, as I was writing about this experimental classroom, the conclusion was that, as much as possible, these multi-age classrooms were designed to resemble learning in a family. [Doesn’t everything civilization-building grow from roots in the family?] Ages and abilities differ. There’s a lot of independent learning, as well as fun together time. There’s appropriate discipline, but not a lot needed once there’s an understanding of expectations and plenty of interesting things happening.

Having this experience was an advantage to me once we started homeschooling. I didn’t try to reproduce a factory classroom in my home; I tried to make home a place where we enjoyed learning things together. It was often a messy and chaotic business, but it was a fun ride.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Coveting Creates Nothing

I’m involved in a number of local organizations with the intention of connecting, sharing information about conservative ideas, and what we can do to preserve our freedoms. I’m a regular person. I don’t have lots of money. I almost never donate any of my money to these organizations (any I have given has been to defray costs of a venue for a specific event), but I do donate time and effort when I can. I think I’m typical. Not many other people donate significant money to these organizations either. And I am certain, because I am in a position to know, that no big money is coming in from behind-the-scenes donors.

So I’m puzzled by accusations from the left. OK, not that puzzled; they assume that we must be doing what they do. The list of socialist organizations supported by nefarious means, and often funded by behind-the-scenes controllers such as George Soros, is truly staggering. They don’t deny it effectively, because evidence is plentiful. But they ignore it and instead complain about the control of everything by some rich persons like the Koch brothers, who have the audacity to donate to such “nefarious” organizations as—wait for it—The Heritage Foundation or The Cato Institute. Really? I personally get information from these organizations, fairly frequently. They provide data that I can’t get from the news. Lots of data. And often some very good commentary that coincides with our US Constitution, which I can tell is accurate, because I have this uncanny ability to read and understand the Constitution. (OK, it’s not an uncanny ability; it’s just what happens when a basic thinking person reads without using a socialist filter.)

I didn’t (still don’t) know very much about the Koch brothers. But, because of a link I got from a relative (yes, apparently liberal relatives are inevitable, although we continue to hope for enlightenment), I decided to find out. The link was to Michael Moore’s site, a clue right there, because I have yet to see anything by Michael Moore with a hint of intellectual honesty. The video clip shown there was by someone named Robert Greenwald. It juxtaposes a senior couple and a senior single woman, getting by on social security checks and food stamps (living, ironically, in homes that look at least as nice as mine, and cutting up fresh vegetables that don’t look like starving) with the Koch brothers and their $42 billion and multiple homes—sort of like John Kerry, but they don’t mention that.

I looked up the Koch brothers on Wikipedia. Their father started Koch industries in 1940, which has grown to what Forbes calls the second largest US company (and is privately owned). Core industries include “manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, as well as other ventures and investments.” They have 50,000 US employees, with another 20,000 in 59 other countries.

As far as I can tell, there is no complaint about them getting their fortune by any way other than earning it. Unless you hate the oil industry because of global warming hype, then the assumption must be that what they have produced has benefitted consumers—free market exchanges. So what is the complaint?

It is apparently unfair to these complainants on the video that the Koch brothers should benefit from their wealth creation practices while these people have so much less. Granted, these complainants did not build up an industry in exchange for profit, but they feel nevertheless entitled. They don’t see why anyone should be allowed to spend their money on large houses—even though spending that money employed multiple people in the housing industry, putting money into the economy. If the Koch brothers had saved the money in a mattress instead of spending it, would that have been less sinful? The video doesn’t say.

The complaint is that these rich guys “hate” the lesser beings, and that is why they want to “destroy” social security and workers unions (note: these people on the video weren’t union workers, and were already on social security, so there is no threat to what they receive in their lifetimes). And they opine that the reason is simply that the rich guys want to save tax money for themselves.

The complainants fail to note that every dollar they have personally put into social security could have been invested to benefit them multiple fold, so social security has actually been an attempt to enslave them in their poverty in their older years. And social security tax only affects up to a little more than $100,000 of income—because it was sold by FDR to the people as only an insurance safety net, in case of poverty, so it isn’t necessary for higher incomes. So the personal cost to the very rich is so insignificant that one can hardly even talk about it affecting them. Taxes are higher for the very rich—a much higher percentage taken out of each dollar earned. That higher percentage is taken out of the economy by government, so it can’t be used for job creation or charitable giving, which Koch money has been consistently used for. So, maybe we need to look at another motive.

Either these super rich guys really do “hate” the lesser beings (unlikely, because almost everyone is economically lesser), or they believe that lower taxes and Constitutional prohibition of forced income distribution will actually benefit the greater society. Yes, it will benefit them and their business—so they can hire even more people and create more wealth that is capital that can be used for even more growth and employment. But what I like is lower taxes, freedom to work without unions—and a straight-up huge tax cut for social security, a benefit I will never receive back. I have plenty of reasons to believe that would make my life, as a lesser being, considerably better.

The fact is, if the government flat-out confiscated all of the Koch fortune, and liquidated all of their assets—and all of the fortunes and assets of all of the super rich, and all of the fortunes and assets of the very rich, and all of the fortunes and assets of all the not very rich at all—it wouldn’t cover more than a few months of this year’s federal budget and would leave no capital with which to pay next year’s budget. Try this video. And this one.

Coveting—i.e., class envy—doesn’t create jobs, doesn’t produce goods, doesn’t spiritually benefit civilization. But working for and learning from successful people just might.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Public School Economics Lesson

I wasn't planning on posting today, but my son Political Sphere just showed me an article, linked from economist Greg Mankiw's blog, which is definitely worth sharing. The piece is called "If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools," by Donald J. Boudreaux, an op ed in the Wall Street Journal. You can find it here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Motherhood Study

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only…and that is to support this ultimate career.”—C. S. Lewis

With Mother’s Day coming up Sunday, I thought I’d touch on this essential factor in getting any of us up into the Civilization Zone.

Several years ago there was a study called The Motherhood Study, collecting data and insights from some 2000 mothers, to learn about their satisfaction levels, their concerns, and other things we’ve often assumed we know but that hadn’t previously been laid out in academic research. If you want to read the whole thing, it’s available American Values Institute, with free download here. Here’s some of what mothers say about their lives.

Mothers agree that mothering is important. And there’s not any significant “mommy war” going on between stay-at-home moms and working moms. More than 93% say they love their children passionately, with a love that is unlike any other love they have experienced. And 93% agree that a mother’s care of her children is both unique and irreplaceable.

Despite descriptions of stress and strain, mothers express a high satisfaction with their lives: 81% report being very satisfied, and another 16% report being somewhat satisfied.

While mothers appreciate the importance of their role, only 48% report feeling appreciated most of the time, and 19% reported feeling less valued by society since becoming mothers. They would like society to support their efforts in family relationships better than they do. While most would like to have some employment, mothers would prefer more flexible arrangements that would allow more time spent with their children than they currently have.

Some of the quotes from the interviewed mothers are rather poetic:

  • “It’s almost as if your children are your heart beating outside of your body, and walking around.”—Mother whose 19-year-old son recently left for college.
  • “I want to say this without tearing up—my kids are my life. They are my angels. I wouldn’t change whatever I have to go through with them (oh, I can’t do it without crying) for nothing in this world.”—Married mother of three
  • “I don’t think there is any way to really anticipate how much joy you’re going to gain from the experience. I really entered it, to be honest, a little ambivalent…. But now I just wonder how I even managed before. It’s just such a wonderful experience.”—Mother who had first child at 38 after building a successful career.
The report shows mothers holding to a value system rather at odds with the larger culture. As one researcher, Hays, puts it, mothers recognize that what they do “holds a fragile but nonetheless powerful cultural position as the last best defense against what many people see as the impoverishment of social ties, communal obligations, and unremunerated commitments” (p. 42 of the report, footnoted as Hays, p. xiii).

If you were the grand designer, and you wanted to place certain people in charge of protecting, preserving, and passing along the ideas of civilization, for the happiness and well-being of all, you would design individuals with passion, who would pass along those ideas out of love to their young charges, believing that happiness in the present and future for those young charges was more important than any personal concerns. You couldn’t hire such caregivers. You couldn’t assign an institution to do it. You would have to create—mothers. Indeed, that is what the Grand Designer did.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leadership Education--Do You Have the Right Stuff?

I’m thinking about one of the details toward the end of Agenda, the documentary I talked about in Tuesday’s blog, in the “What can we do?” section. It was to homeschool.

If you’ve read my First Blog and/or the introduction to the website Spherical Model, you know I homeschooled. Our family did it for the last ten years we had school-age kids (graduated Social Sphere in spring 2010). There were times it did indeed feel heroic. For us it also seemed necessary, so it was just life as we knew it.

I hesitate to recruit others into homeschooling. It is something of a calling. The 2-5% of families that do it are set apart, in a way, from other parents and children out there. But the suggestion in the movie made me think it would be worth asking a few questions, to let you evaluate whether you have the right stuff to homeschool.

First, do you believe that you as a parent have an inalienable right to the bringing up of your children as you see fit (assuming that you do not infringe on their God-given rights with behavior that is clearly abusive)? If you believe you have that right, do you also recognize the responsibility to bring them up in ways that will give them knowledge, wisdom, and an ability to support a home and family in a civilized society?

If you believe these things, then educating your children is something you are committed to do. There are several possible ways to accomplish it:
  • Nod approval as your children seek their own resources and learning.
  • Educate them yourself.
  • Hire private tutors to educate them under your supervision.
  • Hire a school that you have chosen to offer a full range of subjects.
  • Turn over the choices of subjects and schools to a public institution.
  • Some combination of the above.

According to A Thomas Jefferson Education, a subversive book you ought to read when considering your child’s education, there are three types, or levels, of education:

  1. Public education, which tries to prepare everyone for a job, any job, by teaching them what to think. This includes rudimentary skills designed to fit them to function in society.
  2. Professional education—from apprenticeship and trade schools to law, medical and MBA programs—which creates specialists by teaching them when to think.
  3. Leadership education, which I call “Jefferson Education,” which teaches students how to think and prepares them to be leaders in their homes and communities, entrepreneurs in business, and statesmen in government.—TJE p. 31
The point is that leaders have traditionally (and almost exclusively) been taught by private tutors. Learning tends to start in the home, with basic reading and math through a range of elementary subjects. Then private tutors are hired for more depth in chosen areas, and as the student grows and learning depth increases, a mentor often directs the individual study. That’s how Thomas Jefferson was educated, as well as a great many of the founding fathers. It’s the method used for royalty pretty much throughout history.

We think of the term “public education” as meaning public schools, government funded institutions, which is accurate. But the purpose is to “educate” the vast public with a standardized level of rudimentary skills. The purpose isn’t to educate for leadership, since the vast public are seen as those to be led, not those who lead. If public education is used for a future leader, it must be supplemented beyond typical public school levels. Leadership education methods, on the other hand, do not preclude a child from going into any field; they open up the possibilities for more.

So, then the question is, if you want your child to learn how to think, how will you go about it? A certain level of wealth and resources are required for private tutoring—including homeschooling. I have known people who must work while homeschooling, but it’s difficult and not ideal. So, in a world where households economically almost require two incomes, homeschooling requires a dedicated parent whose job is educating the children (or combination of two parents to add up to full-time teacher). Most homeschoolers are not wealthy—certainly including us. But they make sacrifices that allow for living off a single income. That’s not possible for everyone, but it is more doable than many realize. Expenditures per year, aside from that lost income, are relatively small. You can of course spend much more, but $300 a year per child is easily adequate (and maybe well beyond what you need) if you have a local library and the internet.

The most common reason people give me for not homeschooling is that they could never teach their own kids. I think they picture standing up in front of their children and spewing out knowledge and assignments, with the children resisting the way they resist doing chores. That isn’t reality in a homeschool. A homeschool teacher is more a learning facilitator and collaborative learner, rather than a lecturer. But there are family dynamics and personality quirks that could make it difficult to teach at home.

Here’s one way I knew I could do it. I used to feel heartsick when summer was coming to an end, because it meant we didn’t have time to go do fun things together as a family. I was never counting the days until I could have alone time in the house. Lack of chaos, better cleanliness, etc., I craved like the next person. But those were secondary to enjoying being with my kids.

I never sent them to preschool. That was in part because we never had the money. But it turns out our going to the library, reading together, going to museums and other family field trips, and doing art projects and science experiments for the fun of it pretty much superseded any need for institutionally imposed structured learning during those early years. And our more or less accidental results were superior. (Or, possibly, I just happened to luck into having three gifted level children.)

Homeschooling was a lifestyle change, and pretty intense for that decade. But it was a life I loved. Maybe the best years of my life, at least before grandchildren. Our family benefitted not only educationally, but spiritually and socially as well. Socialization was far superior with homeschooling than it had been with public schooling. I wish I had considered starting sooner. We had good neighbors who homeschooled and set the example. But at the time we also had good public schools, including an excellent magnet school for gifted kids that we used from 3rd grade on. So I didn’t see the need until two years after a move to an area where schools didn’t meet our needs. (I could detail the schools’ failures, but you don’t need that.)

Another day we can cover what public schools are doing to the education levels of our nation’s next generation. Today is just to consider that possibility that homeschooling, or some other method of private tutoring, could be in your future.
  • Do you have the desire and drive to give your children the best possible education you can?
  • Do you have the minimal level of money and resources needed to make homeschooling a possibility?
  • Do you have the patience—or the willingness to gain it—that it takes to spend long hours raising and educating your own children?
If the answers for you are yes, we should talk.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”~ Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quote Day with Ludwig von Mises

We’re having another quote day today. The theme is the relationship between morality/civilization and economics. You might notice it’s also a little collection from Ludwig von Mises and followers. If you haven’t discovered this source of free-market thought, check it out at mises.org/.

“If our community does not beget men who have the power to make sound social principles generally acceptable, civilization is lost, whatever the system of government may be.”—Ludwig von Mises

“No foreign aggressor can destroy capitalist civilization if it does not destroy itself.”—Ludwig von Mises

“Socialists have generally tried to do two things: dethrone and kill God so that The People or The State might be exalted, and repeal the laws of economic.”—Art Cardon, “Looking Hard at Pictures of the Socialistic Future, 5-2-2011, for Ludwig von Mises Institute

We are in fact surrounded every day by nonscarce goods exactly like the loaves and fishes. All ideas are of this nature. I can come up with an idea and share it with you. You can possess it, but in so doing, you do not take that idea away from me. Instead, you hold a replica of it—just as real and intact as the original version. Words are this way: I do not need to parse them out in order to save some for myself./ Tunes in music are this way, too. I can sing a tune to you, and you can repeat it, but this action does not remove the tune from me. A perfect copy is made, and can be made and made again unto infinity.

This is completely different from the way things work in the realm of scarce goods. Let’s say that you like my shoes and want them. If you take them from me, I do not have them anymore. If I want them again, I have to take them back from you. There is a zero-sum rivalry over our use of the goods. That means there must be some kind of system for deciding who can own them. It means absolutely nothing to declare that there should be something called socialism for my shoes so that the whole of society can somehow own them. It is factually impossible for this to happen, because shoes are a scarce good. This is why socialism is sheer fantasy, a meaningless dreamland as regards scarce goods.—Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Why Religious People Struggle with Economics,” available here, Mises Daily, 3-30-2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Last night I attended a preview showing of a documentary called Agenda: Grinding America Down, by Curtis Bowers. There’s a 6-minute trailer here.

It wasn’t light viewing. The point is, it’s not a conspiracy when it’s not hidden; it’s an agenda. The movie detailed the movement from Marx’s death, with only nine attendees at the funeral, to the Fabian Socialists, who formed a year later with the symbol of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, on through Antonio Gramsci, who inspired Saul Alinsky, who inspired Cloward and Piven, who inspired Bill Ayers, who continues to inspire and direct Barack Obama as he has done since the early ‘80s.

The words, writings, and works of these socialists (would-be dictators) are ubiquitous. We’re wrong to think of socialists as the radical communists of the Lenin and Stalin type. We know enough in this still somewhat free country to outright reject any such takeover of our way of life. So the way has been to use several more subtle methods to transform the culture. If they can create chaos within society, then they can step in and offer safety from the chaos, thus giving themselves perpetual control over the people. The methods include these:
  • Undermine the family.
    • Encourage cohabitation over marriage.
    • Encourage feminism to convince women they are victimized in marriage.
    • Encourage acceptance of homosexuality and sexual deviance as normal and healthy.
    • Control education/indoctrination of the children.
  • Control the economy.
    • Use ecology and climate fears as a means of limiting economic growth.
    • Infiltrate churches with false concepts, replacing God as the giver with Government as the giver—social justice.
  • Control Media
    • Train journalists to interpret the news rather than report it.
    • Indoctrinate using news, books, music, movies, TV
There was a fairly exhaustive list he referred to: Cleon Skousen’s 1958 book The Naked Communist. I’ve known about it all my life; it was on my parents’ bookshelf [have I mentioned my Dad was a friend of the author?], and parts of it were excerpted in the homeschooling history curriculum we used.

Curtis Bowers, the movie producer, reported that in the early 80s (I think was the time), he was a graduate student and attended a Communist meeting in Berkeley, at the suggestion of a teacher who wanted to find out what they were meeting about. He had expected to find a lot of radical college students, but what he found was a roomful of older, middle-aged suit-wearing adults, who openly discussed their agenda, which told him this was more serious than he had anticipated. He looked again at that listed agenda a few years ago and discovered that nearly everything on the list had been accomplished, which caused enough alarm bells to go off that he produced this movie to get the word out.

While the movie was well done and informative (and full of far more quotes than I could jot down in the dark), there wasn’t a lot new to me, since I’ve been preoccupied with this kind of information for a while. Clearly I need to learn more; I hadn’t heard of Antonio Gramsci, for example. But fortunately the movie ended with the questions “Is it too late?” and “What can we do?”  Experts resoundingly agreed that it is not too late, although the hour is late. And they made some good suggestions:

  • Pray.
  • Get educated—understand the goals of the enemy.
  • Speak up.
  • Be willing to be criticized for speaking the truth.
  • Make contact with people at church and your circle of influence.
  • Use more media: blog, YouTube, etc., with creative and frequent messages.
  • Influence our own families—teach our own children and grandchildren the difference between truth and error.
  • Homeschool your children—teach them a Biblical worldview.
  • Protect and defend this great land.
  • Be a hero—someone who doesn’t go with the status quo, and don’t underestimate the power of one individual American wielding the truth.
I have to hope that, if enough of us learn the truth and speak up, and do our part, it will be enough. But the time to learn the truth and speak up is now, while we still can.

I know this scary tone sounds like a conspiracy theory; I can’t help how it sounds. But it’s not some secret conspiracy when it’s out there in the open to anyone who looks: it’s an Agenda.