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The Public School Monopoly is Immoral | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on February 7, 2021

Indeed, the existence of easily manipulated school boards, combined with support from a vocal minority of left-leaning voters, has led to the creation of course content so clearly at odds with the larger community’s values as to be almost unbelievable. In the red state of Ohio, for example, the Department of Education started off the 2020 academic year by providing local social studies teachers with a resource it called its “Anti-Racist Allyship Starter Pack”—links to 200 op-eds, essays, and blog posts on such academically relevant topics as “In Defense of Looting,” “Capitalism is the Real Robbery,” and “The Case for Delegitimizing the Police.”

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-public-school-monopoly-is-immoral/

The positive feedback loop between educators’ incompetence and school systems’ progressivism is as good a case as any for school choice.(By maroke/Shutterstock)

Lewis M. Andrews

The argument for school choice—letting parents decide how to spend the public money allocated for their child’s education—has until now rested on two well-documented findings. First, that creating a K-12 education marketplace tends to improve the academic performance of all schools within its region, public and private. And second, that this increase in quality typically comes in at a lower per pupil cost overall.

But when the polarization of American politics creates a divide where public school teachers have an overwhelming financial interest in one side of the debate, there is a third and decisive argument for school choice: namely, that public schools are increasingly inclined to slant what is taught with institutionally self-serving propaganda. So much so that school systems can no longer guarantee parents that their children are being educated in ways consistent with their family’s values and beliefs.

The enthusiasm of public school teachers and especially their unions for the liberal-progressive side of today’s ideological rift is not hard to understand. It was just over a half-century ago when President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed a new function for American public schools, insisting they should become the primary means for breaking the cycle of poverty and bettering poor children’s lives. “Education is the only valid passport from poverty,” he said, later signing what was to become the cornerstone of his War on Poverty, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), into law.

The good news for educators was a lot more money. In 31 states, according to Katharine B. Stevens, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, per-student spending more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars between 1972 and 2017, tripling in 14 others and the District of Columbia. Since President Johnson’s time, K-12 education has, in fact, become states’ single largest general-fund expenditure, with the nation’s total budget for elementary and secondary education now exceeding $700 billion annually.

The bad news about all this spending was that it was accompanied by an expectation for results, which has become a growing source of embarrassment for both teachers and administrators. With the exception of a relatively few affluent suburban school districts—which tens of thousands of American families have literally bankrupted themselves to buy into over the years—U.S. public schools have continued to rank at or near the bottom of academic comparisons with other countries. Indeed, results from the 2019 bi-annual National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of U.S. fourth and eighth graders show that low-performing students have made none of the gains Johnson originally promised.

To give public educators their due, there did seem to be a sincere (if somewhat bizarre) effort to improve K-12 curricula early on. Back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, teachers experimented with a technique called “discovery learning,” which had children try to teach themselves. They later tried “open classrooms,” which literally removed the walls that had traditionally separated students from teachers and different age groups from each other.

But the more obvious it became that real academic improvement meant opening K-12 education to outside competition—from charter schools, independent schools, private tutoring, home schools, and most recently online academies—the more teachers unions began to discover a cause even more important than higher reading and math scores: engineering social justice. It began perhaps innocently enough with a greater emphasis on bilingual instruction, softer disciplinary techniques, and multicultural awareness programs. But with time it became clear just how effectively a never-ending succession of progressive palliatives for racism and sexism—minimizing testing and grading, ending the grading of homework, making grade level advancement automatic, eliminating selective-admission public schools, and recognizing multiple valedictorians—could shield both teachers and administrators from any academic accountability.

As Williams College political science professor Darel E. Paul has suggested, antiracism and related woke policies even allowed failing professionals to pose as heroes, defying the “tyranny” of traditional academic standards to champion more equitable schooling outcomes. Progressivism not only gave public educators the appearance of shouldering “noble tasks,” but conveniently justified their ever-growing salaries and benefits to accomplish those tasks.

(In the wake of President Trump’s January 6 D.C. rally speech, one suburban Connecticut superintendent was apparently so taken with his progressive mission as to publicly attack every local parent who had ever re-tweeted a Trump remark, shouted “lock her up,” agreed that Biden was not up to the job, or countered BLM with “all lives matter.” Each one of them, he posted to his Facebook page, was “a co-conspirator who has sided with domestic terrorism.”)

Unfortunately, few human institutions are capable of simultaneously upholding two competing worldviews. The result is that what began as a progressive set of policies related to how children are educated has increasingly changed what children are taught. In other words, the progressive outlook once associated with adjuncts to learning—school assembly programs, extracurricular activities, teacher development seminars, and the kinds of grading policies already mentioned—has more and more become embedded in the subject matter itself.

And not just in the most obvious places, such as history and the social sciences, but in math and English as well. In Seattle, for example, the public schools have adopted an “anti-western” or “re-humanized” mathematics curriculum, which advances failing students on the grounds that they should not have to learn a subject intrinsically unfair to people of color.

When it comes to English, Wall Street Journal columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon has chronicled growing efforts around the country to ban everything from Homer to Shakespeare to F. Scott Fitzgerald. With what is left, she says, “The subtle complexities of literature are being reduced to the crude clanking of ‘intersectional’ power struggles.”

In January of last year, even the New York Times expressed concern at how widely different editions of the same public-school textbook could vary, depending on how liberal the state. “Classroom materials are not only shaded by politics,” wrote national correspondent Dana Goldstein, “but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.”

Because public education is technically a state responsibility, some might argue for letting school boards deal with the growing problem of a progressively biased curriculum. But the fact that most people serving on local school boards typically do so because they have at least one child in the system means, as a practical matter, that educators have far more leverage over boards of education than boards have over teachers and administrators. Even those parents willing to challenge subject matter are usually no match for administrators “with advanced degrees [who] flash their credentials and have glib answers for every question,” laments Dr. Armand Fusco, a retired public school superintendent who has written extensively on the need for school board reform.

Indeed, the existence of easily manipulated school boards, combined with support from a vocal minority of left-leaning voters, has led to the creation of course content so clearly at odds with the larger community’s values as to be almost unbelievable. In the red state of Ohio, for example, the Department of Education started off the 2020 academic year by providing local social studies teachers with a resource it called its “Anti-Racist Allyship Starter Pack”—links to 200 op-eds, essays, and blog posts on such academically relevant topics as “In Defense of Looting,” “Capitalism is the Real Robbery,” and “The Case for Delegitimizing the Police.”

If by some miracle local boards did assert greater control over what is taught in their schools, they would still be in the morally dubious position of imposing a single perspective on a population more politically and culturally divided now than it has been since the Civil War. Having a greater say over the curriculum might be good news for those households comprising the majority view in each community, but what about the minority—left or right—who will continue being taxed to support a political and cultural agenda they abhor?

Are those families which remain at odds with the prevailing ideology to be dismissed as simply “out of luck?” As Michael McShane, director of national research for EdChoice, has observed, today’s public school district may still be a local organization, but the disagreements are now too deep for it ever to be a pluralistic one.

The traditional argument for giving public schools an exclusive call on government funding has been the desirability of instructing all of America’s children in the larger community’s shared civic values. But the strategic decision of professional educators to ideologically camouflage their academic shortcomings—combined with an unprecedented cultural divide—effectively means that in our time, fewer and fewer values are held in common.

For decades, the National Education Association (NEA) and other teachers unions fought school choice on the grounds that taxpayers’ dollars would inevitably end up funding religious schools; and public money, they said, should never support an ideology not universally shared. Ironically, that is an excellent argument for why today’s public schools should no longer keep their monopoly on government funding: every American parent has the right to protect his or her child from being propagandized by an alien ideology.

Dr. Lewis Andrews was executive director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy at Trinity College from 1999 to 2009. He is author of the new book Living Spiritually in the Material World (Fidelis Books).

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Progressives, the President, Privatization, and the Post Office – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on September 1, 2020

But just because post offices are authorized doesn’t mean that they are mandated. And nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Post Office should have a monopoly on first-class mail like it currently has.

Privatizing the Post Office would merely shift the postal monopoly from the government to a government-privileged firm. Mail service should be freed, not privatized. As long as we have a Post Service, it should adjust its prices so that they have some relation to a valid business model that seeks to turn a profit. But regardless, the postal monopoly should be ended.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/09/laurence-m-vance/progressives-the-president-privatization-and-the-post-office/

By

The latest spat between progressives and President Trump is over the Post Office.

The New York Times is all but accusing the president of withholding funds from the Post Office so as to undercut voting by mail, which he sees as being riddled with fraud. A spokesman for the Biden campaign put it this way:

The president of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was even more adamant: “I am not exaggerating when I say this is a life-and-death situation. The Post Office is delivering medicine to millions of Americans during a pandemic. It delivers Social Security checks to seniors who rely on those benefits to survive.” This, of course is nonsense, as is most of what Sanders says. Over 99 percent of Social Security payments are sent via direct deposit. And mail prescriptions only make up only 5.8 percent of the prescription drug market.

The Post Office has a problem, but the problem has existed since long before Trump was elected. The United States Postal Service (USPS) lost almost $9 billion last year. It has lost $83.1 billion since 2006. Its unfunded pension and health-care liabilities exceed $120 billion.

The Post Office has a pricing problem. Revenue from first-class mail—the biggest source of the USPS’s revenue—continues to decline even as labor costs continue to increase. Of the 142.6 billion pieces of mail that the Post Office handled in 2019, “53 percent was advertising material, a.k.a. junk mail, up from 48 percent in 2010.” And “companies pay a special rate, 19 cents apiece, to send these items (in bulk), as opposed to the 55 cents for a first-class stamp.”

But even if the Post Office raised its prices on all of its services other than first-class mail, it would still have a problem.

The Post Office is one of the federal government’s few departments that is clearly authorized by the Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 7, Congress is given the power “to establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

But just because post offices are authorized doesn’t mean that they are mandated. And nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Post Office should have a monopoly on first-class mail like it currently has. As James Bovard has well said:

The Postal Service has gotten away with scorning its customers because it is effectively a federal crime to provide better mail service than the government. The Postal Service has a monopoly over letter delivery (with a limited exemption for urgent, courier-delivered letters costing more than $3).

According to U.S. Code, Title 39, Chapter I, Subchapter E, Part 310, Section 310.2, “Unlawful carriage of letters,”

(a) It is generally unlawful under the Private Express Statutes for any person other than the Postal Service in any manner to send or carry a letter on a post route or in any manner to cause or assist such activity. Violation may result in injunction, fine or imprisonment or both and payment of postage lost as a result of the illegal activity.

In the nineteenth century, private mail carriers in the United States were shut down by the federal government.

Monopolies are contrary to principles of economic freedom, competition, free markets, and free enterprise. But don’t take my word for it. The federal government has an Antitrust division in the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged with promoting “economic competition through enforcing and providing guidance on antitrust laws and principles.” According to the DOJ:

The goal of the antitrust laws is to protect economic freedom and opportunity by promoting free and fair competition in the marketplace.

Competition in a free market benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anticompetitive restraints. Competition also tests and hardens American companies at home, the better to succeed abroad.

Federal antitrust laws apply to virtually all industries and to every level of business, including manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and marketing. They prohibit a variety of practices that restrain trade, such as price-fixing conspiracies, corporate mergers likely to reduce the competitive vigor of particular markets, and predatory acts designed to achieve or maintain monopoly power.

So where is the DOJ? The postal monopoly is now almost two centuries old.

Privatizing the Post Office would merely shift the postal monopoly from the government to a government-privileged firm. Mail service should be freed, not privatized. As long as we have a Post Service, it should adjust its prices so that they have some relation to a valid business model that seeks to turn a profit. But regardless, the postal monopoly should be ended.

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No, We Don’t Need a Government Post Office | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on August 24, 2020

Any time any activity is preempted, all thought as to how it would be conducted by free and self-responsible people is deadened.

An example…mail delivery. Our postal system is a socialistic institution….Its record? As all users know, a dramatic increase in rates, enormous deficits mounting annually, and service deteriorating rather than improving.

Observe the effect of this pre-emption: no intelligent thought of what this type of communication would be like among a free and self-responsible people.

There are many among us…without the slightest idea of what the freedom alternative would be. Why this blindness as to the results of freedom? The answer is: the actions of free men are quite impossible to foresee!

https://mises.org/wire/no-we-dont-need-government-post-office

The US Postal Service has recently made a comeback in the headlines. Not only has the red ink it has long bathed in gotten deeper, but now it has become embroiled in mudslinging over vote-by-mail issues, such as people failing to get the ballots mailed to them and possible delays in processing election results, using that to make “new and improved” monetary bailout requests, with politicians and letter carrier unions attacking any cutbacks in service, even down to dropping underutilizing drop boxes.

With the Postal Service’s massive and unsustainable losses, what is striking is that even with a new reformer in charge, there is virtually no consideration of abandoning the USPS’s monopoly on first-class mail, allowing rivalry from private providers to reveal the services and prices market competition could offer. Not only does competition have a long record of success in countless products and services, but history shows it is not impossible in postal services. As Adam Summers has written,

Several private mail entrepreneurs sprouted up from about 1839–1851. While they were eventually shut down by the government, they proved that private mail delivery was possible. And the competition they provided forced the government to drastically reduce its prices in the process.

Summers brings up an important question: What so blinds us to even the possibility of allowing postal competition? He is not the first to ask that question. Leonard Read, wellspring of the Foundation of Economic Education and tireless advocate of “freedom philosophy,” wrote about the postal monopoly several times, starting more than half a century ago. The current mail meltdown makes it worth revisiting his understanding. Consider his insights from “Pre-Emptors: Agents of Destruction” in Comes the Dawn (1976) and “Causes of Authoritarianism” in Why Not Try Freedom? (1958):

Any time any activity is preempted, all thought as to how it would be conducted by free and self-responsible people is deadened.

An example…mail delivery. Our postal system is a socialistic institution….Its record? As all users know, a dramatic increase in rates, enormous deficits mounting annually, and service deteriorating rather than improving.

Observe the effect of this pre-emption: no intelligent thought of what this type of communication would be like among a free and self-responsible people.

There are many among us…without the slightest idea of what the freedom alternative would be. Why this blindness as to the results of freedom? The answer is: the actions of free men are quite impossible to foresee!

It is one thing to believe that competition affords more efficient service than does a monopoly. Indeed, this very belief is implicit in the arguments of government officials who refuse to permit private delivery of mail: the U.S. Postal Service couldn’t stand the competition; someone else would do it more efficiently and at less cost to the customer.

But as long as the monopoly is coercively maintained, there is no legal way to prove that the cost of performing an identical service would be lower under competition—or how much lower. Nor can it be proved beyond doubt that competitive private enterprise would indeed perform precisely the same services now available through the Postal monopoly.

But this is the whole point of anyone who believes in the blessings of competition as the most efficient way to provide the goods and services customers are willing and able to pay for. Such faith must concede that no one knows or can know in advance just the form in which the postal service would emerge and develop were everyone free to devote his own ingenuity and time and scarce resources toward serving the ever-changing demands of willing customers in a free market.

If all those changing conditions could be foreseen by any one individual, there is no logical reason why he could not make socialism work. But that is the whole case against socialism and for competitive private enterprise: the unknown is not foreseeable or predictable with certainty; conditions change, and freedom affords us the best possible chance to cope with those changes.

If one believes the Postal monopoly should be abolished, it is in part because he has witnessed miraculous market developments in the delivery of items other than mail.

Take voice delivery. How far could the human voice be delivered prior to the beginning of the Bell system…[now] the miracle of the market—around the earth…at the speed of light….Those who find this not particularly amazing are nonetheless reluctant to entrust the delivery of mail to the unhampered and unpredictable ingenuity of a free and self-responsible people!

Why this fear to try—this lack of faith in the potential wonders that might be ours? There are at least two reasons: (1) we cannot foresee the unknown and, thus, we are not attracted to the unimaginable, and (2) the moment a miracle is wrought, we take it as much for granted as the air we breathe….We no longer give it a second thought.

Years ago, I observed that no person knows how to make such a “simple” thing as an ordinary wooden lead pencil. Yet, that year, we made 1,600,000,000 pencils in the U.S.A. Were we to grasp this single miracle of the free market, we would know that there is not a person who knows how to operate a postal service.

Why, then, does the Free Society work its wonders? Why, when no one knows how to make a pencil, do we have such a proliferation of goods and services?…ideas by everyone are free to flow!…Ideas configurate and show forth in everything from billions of pencils to jet planes.

But most people fail to generate ideas on activities that have been pre-empted.

As the belief grows that coercion is the only practical way to get things done…belief in the competence of man acting privately, freely, voluntarily, competitively, cooperatively declines. As the former increases, the latter decreases.

In the U.S.A., for example, government has a monopoly of mail delivery. Ask citizens if government should do this and most…will reply in the affirmative. Why? Simply because government has pre-empted this activity for so many decades that all enterprisers have ceased to think how mail could be delivered were it a private enterprise opportunity. Indeed, most of them have come to believe that private enterprise would be wholly incapable of effective mail service.

Yet, I note that each day we deliver more pounds of milk than mail. Further, milk is more perishable than a love letter, a catalogue, or an appeal for funds…the delivery of milk is more prompt and less costly to us than is the delivery of mail.

I ask myself, then, why shouldn’t private enterprise deliver mail? Private enterprise delivers freight.

But, no; my countrymen have lost faith in man’s ability, acting freely, to deliver letters…men who do such fantastic things have lost faith in themselves to do the simple chore of letter delivery.

Today, even the massive, ongoing failures of the US Postal Service and the new political attention being drawn to it seem unable to overcome a pervasive blindness to the potential of competition to benefit Americans. That vindicates Leonard Read’s insight that not only are the ideas and the benefits that freedom can create often preempted by government, but that people can, as a result, lose the belief that a free society can do those things that have been coercively crowded out. And, in his ominous words, “A decline in faith in free men and what they can accomplish results in a rising faith in disastrous authoritarianism.”

The current postal situation offers a chance to rethink what many have been lulled into taking for granted. Not only is real competition a valid alternative, despite our inability to know in advance precisely what it would look like, but if the history of freedom is any guide, it would be far superior.

Author:

Gary Galles

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read.

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Quotes From Dead Guys

Posted by M. C. on October 17, 2019

…For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match…President John F. Kennedy
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
April 27, 1961

“The most urgent necessity is, not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” – Frederic Bastiat

“Armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” – James Madison

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Where some see a monopoly, others see an opportunity | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. on April 5, 2019

And it’s a big world… if you’re not finding the right choices (or customers) where you are, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.

https://www.thedailybell.com/all-articles/news-analysis/where-some-see-a-monopoly-others-see-an-opportunity/

By Joe Jarvis

The 1970s was the heyday for rural America according to a third generation hog farmer.

But as farms became more and more consolidated by Big Agriculture, profits dropped. The margins on food got smaller so it became harder to compete.

And by 2001, he went bankrupt.

Now he’s back on his feet because he is a raising a different kind of hog–a specialty kind that fetches twice the price.

And it’s actually comparatively easy for people to afford specialty food products these days. In 1960 Americans spent about 17% of their income on food. Now it is only 6.4%.

If consumers care to, they can spend twice as much as typical on better quality food, and still save money compared to 50 years ago.

Meanwhile, big brands like Nestle are spending less on innovation for new products. And start-up brands are taking larger shares of the market, especially for healthier foods with higher quality ingredients.

It’s anyone’s guess what factors came into play to create a stronger demand for healthy foods. But the point is that when the market showed a weak spot, entrepreneurs pounced.

Food is just one example… Read the rest of this entry »

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