Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Those Good Old Days – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 9, 2018


The libertarian humorist P. J. O’Rourke says, “When you think of the good old days, think ‘dentistry.’”

The greatest invention of the modern world is anesthetics. Prior to 1844, in preparation for an operation, you drank booze until you passed out — hopefully. Then the physician — “sawbones,” he was called — got started hacking away.

Although you may not go under anesthetics more than once a decade, what would you pay on a desert island for the last can of ether when it was time for your operation? People will not give up access to anesthetics.

As for a familiar indispensable item in daily use, toilet paper comes to mind. That was invented in 1857, according to some Websites. The perforated roll came in 1867.

In other words, some very big breakthroughs came late in the history of civilization.


One item stands out on the list as too good to be true.

Today, things are far worse. Which one is it?

Go back and look over the list again.

Go on. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

Stuck? Here is a hint:

“By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice that for all the disadvantages blacks labored under, four of five were nevertheless literate. Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much real money on schooling as we did sixty years ago, but sixty years ago virtually everyone, black or white, could read.”

Is it really this bad today? It really is. The good old days, educationally, really were good.

This was equally true in 1910. The good old days were better. Consider this:

“According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: ‘Last of the Mohicans’, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?”

Or this:

“In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them. In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, ‘I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?’ “

“In 1910, only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.” Today, millions have graduated, but is their education equal to sixth grade in 1910? In the best high schools, of course it is. I’m talking about the typical high school. I’m talking about the typical graduate.

My friend Bertel Sparks taught at Duke Law School for years. For his entering students, he passed out an essay on property written by Blackstone. It was from “Commentaries,” published in 1765. It was the law book for English lawyers. He had them discuss the essay in the following class. They always had great difficulty. The essay was over their heads.

Then he would hold up the source of the essay: the Sixth McGuffey Reader. He said this exercise stomped the arrogance out of them early.


The Federal Reserve System has a government-granted monopoly of control over the commercial banking system. The tax-funded schools have no comparable monopoly, but in terms of the amount of money spent on pre-college education, tax-funded schools receive most of it. If you don’t believe me, consider this. If cities allowed parents of today’s home-schoolers and private school students to skip paying that portion of property taxes going to pre-college education, the tax-funded school system would survive this year’s funding shortfall. (Next year, however, there would be a growing problem.)

There is a pattern of failure here. It relates to government…


Think dentistry. Things are better. Think taxes. Things are much worse. In 1910, there was no federal income tax. There was no FICA tax. Think government regulation. Think crime. Think divorce. Things are worse.

Where men have been left free to choose, things are generally better. Freedom to choose doesn’t make Las Vegas go away, but it does let people who lose at Las Vegas suffer the consequences. Medicare and Social Security have become hoped-for aces (or at least deuces) in the hole for gambling addicts. When it comes to house rules, Medicare and Social Security are stacked against late-comers.

The lesson is this: you must put your money where the record shows progress — in capital, not in slot machines. You must build a stream of income, not rely on the government’s house.

The closer an investment market is to government regulation and “free” government money, the more likely you will find your investment coming up snake eyes.

“A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.”

~ P. J. O’Rourke

Be seeing you


“I’m trying to think but nothing happens!”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: