A review of Thomas Woods’ “Meltdown”

One of the marks of great writing is that, no matter how abstract a subject might be, the author’s text remains lucid and understandable.  It is not crowded with irrelevant information, unduly antiquated language, or a dense texture.  H.L. Mencken, Joseph Ratzinger, and Murray Rothbard all have this gift.  So does Tom Woods, whose recent book Meltdown I finished earlier this week.

The grand larceny that the government commits is probably aided in no small part by the abstract and difficult nature of the subject of economics.  Add to this factor the reality that most schools of economics, such as Keynes’ and Friedman’s, in addition to being absurdly objectivist, are also about as exciting as the first four and a half hours of Dances with Wolves.  The information that does get to the public is usually watered-down lies:  the GDP, which only measures the consumption of final products and not of raw materials, and the unemployment numbers, which are, at present writing, grossly underestimated, are but two examples.  Little mystery is left as to why there is so much misunderstanding, confusion, and downright indifference in the general public.

Enter into this lamentable situation the work of Tom Woods, whose latest book has descended into the hellish American political debates like dew from heaven.   Woods strikes at the root of the philosophical errors which have our economy trapped in a kind of samsara cycle of booms and busts, and he does so in a way that people whose eyes rightfully gloss over during the business reports on TV can understand and appreciate the nature of the problems that the United States now faces.  I have read many books on economics, but this one cleared up so many issues for me, including certain details on which I was foggy with respect to fractional reserve banking and the operations of the Federal Reserve.  But as understandable as his writing is, Woods does not gloss over anything, drawing carefully-written lines in just the right places.  Qui distinguit, bene docet.

In the center of this book, Woods takes on the myths surrounding the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt.  The conventional wisdom, of course, is that the Great Depression was worse than it needed to be because Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire president and did nothing, and that FDR arrived on the scene, fully armed with public works projects and other chimeras which, along with a major war, allegedly saved us from further economic disasters.  Woods systematically dismantles this version of history, and in the process of showing that it was precisely the government intervention that made things worse, he brings to light the interventionist policies of the Hoover administration and a journal entry from Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau which admitted that none of the government programs were actually working, amongst a whole host of other fascinating information.  And yet again, he takes on the false notion that World War II ended the Great Depression.  As a matter of fact, the numbers did not improve until 1946, after the soldiers returned home and re-entered the work force.  In the midst of all this, Woods glances at something most wouldn’t think to consider:  the inexperience of the women and children who replaced the soldiers in their jobs while they were off at war.  What impact did their inexperience have on productivity?

Woods’ engagement of the Civic Religion surrounding New Deal politics is the great keystone of his book, for these myths are, for many people, the assumed truth that they bring to any conversation about economic issues, and if there is any progress to be made in re-establishing a market that is actually free, then these prejudices must be confronted.  In addition to his theoretical arguments, Woods examines a number of economic downturns in American history, many of which are cited by economists in an attempt to discredit the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle which Woods promotes.  Time and again, the author brings facts to light that only buttress the work of Mises and Hayek, who were pioneering members of the school of thought in which Woods works.   Two of the most important examples used are the crashes of 1819 and 1920, the latter of which was worse than the crash of 1929 but which lasted only a year because the government did precisely nothing.

Back to contemporary issues.  Woods discusses the government’s role in creating the housing bubble which burst in 2008.  First there is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose careless policies encouraged banks to give out risky loans.  (This is made all the easier when everyone knows that the Fed will act as a “lender of last resort” in the event that the risky loans end up in default.)  Then there is the Community Reinvestment Act and affirmative action lending, which the government promoted by practically harassing banks to make loans which they knew to be ill-advised.  And in addition to discussing the various kinds of wreckless speculation which were taking place, such as “house flipping,” Woods also takes on the dishonest debate between the Republicrats and Democans about how much regulation there should be in the market.  The status quo has made this discussion fundamentally pointless, since neither party really supports the idea of a free market, however much one of those parties likes to bandy that term about.

Central to Woods’ thesis is the aforementioned Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.  This system of thought, first developed by Ludwig von Mises, holds that business cycles are not intrinsic to free markets, but that they are rather a result of government tampering with the marketplace through the creation of central banks, manipulation of the currency, playing with interest rates, fractional reserve banking, and the like.  In support of the Austrian view, Woods offers up the dot-com bust and the crash in Japan in the 1990’s.  He explains how artificially low interest rates encourage mal-investment and send business leaders the wrong signals, encouraging them to embark on projects that are doomed, since an inflationary bubble does treacherous work on the factors of production involved in long term projects.

Woods devotes an entire chapter to money:  its origins (neither from government nor greed), its history, and the way it creates wealth by making trade more feasible.  He not only covers the hot topic of inflation but also ventures into the more obscure but no less important matter of deflation, the latter being considered by the voodoo economists as a bad thing.  This was the mistake that FDR made in the Great Depression, and his subsequent decision to enact price floors was disastrous for the American economy.  Woods’ discussion of commodity monies such as gold and silver is followed up by a reckoning with the usual bromides offered by the monetarists who are opposed to a hard money solution.  The author’s arguments are thorough, and though he seems not to deal with one issue—the contention that more gold could be mined to create more money and thereby destabilize the money system—he does address it obliquely in that he mentions the fact that gold takes a long time to produce and bring into the market, unlike paper, and especially unlike the electronic computer transactions which the Fed does in modern times.

Professor Woods is not content, however, only to tell us what’s wrong with our present situation, and he develops a final chapter on where we should go from here.  At the beginning of this argument he offers the useful distinction, first elucidated by Adam Smith, between productive consumption and non-productive consumption.  Woods uses the example of wearing out an air conditioner over a number of years to show what non-productive consumption is:  A good is exhausted without creating other materials to provide for its replacement.  A machine, on the other hand, is an example of productive consumption:  While it will eventually wear out, it will have performed sufficient work to provide more resources for the future.  Woods puts it pithily:  “Consumptive expenditure uses up, exhausts, and destroys; productive expenditure provides for its own replacement in the form of an increased supply of goods in the future.”  The diminishment of capital which takes place in the wake of the recent government stimulus packages is a form of non-productive consumption, Woods argues.  It is yet another aspect to the civic superstition that we can spend our way to a prosperous paradise.

From here (and I can only hope that I’ve explained the above distinction adequately) Woods goes on to suggest some concrete moves, including letting the companies who fail go bankrupt.  Their assets will be bought up by others, and certainly if they served a useful function in the market someone else will step in and fill the need.  Woods advocates the abolishment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as ending the Federal Reserve, which is really the sinister force behind most of our economic problems, not least because this bank is so difficult to understand.

It has been said that knowledge precedes love.  To love someone, you must know him first.  The same is perhaps true for ideas.  Libertarian economists—usually men of the Austrian School—have taken a beating over the years, having been accused of possessing an irrational hatred for the government and its programs.  Only one who is unfamiliar with the work of these men, however, would level such a charge, for the fruit of their elucidations is the insight that liberty and mutuality, not theft and coercion, are what create our prosperity.  Lying at the heart of the libertarian argument is a deep concern for the welfare of mankind.  Understanding the libertarian mindset is, of course, a prerequisite to seeing the truth in this, and I can think of no better way to start in this process than by reading this offering by Tom Woods.  Because of this, his greatest service is not that he has debunked the quacks, but that he has shown us the way to liberty and prosperity.  Will we have the courage to follow him?

Two LRC podcasts to drive the Anti-Saloon League batty

Seventy five years ago yesterday, Prohibition was repealed.  It would figure, of course, that this was not motivated by common sense, but rather by political greed.  Lew Rockwell talks to Mark Thornton about all this.

Be sure also to listen to the interview with Thornton about the drug war.

It’s interesting to me that, with respect both to alcohol and drugs, they became more dangerous after they were banned–so that whole bit about banning stuff for our own good is probably complete garbage.

Nonetheless, if you can find more than five people that you know who are capable of having a reasonable conversation about these substances, you are doing better than I am.  Americans love to find the faults of others and to correct them, even if it means ruining lives in the process.  Mencken said that most citizens love the law the most when it is established in order to protect them from themselves.

Everyone knows that the drug war has been an abysmal failure, but its status as a quasi-religion (a false one, to boot), with Nancy Reagan as its heavenly queen, pretty much prohibits reasoned discussion about the subject, let alone a sane recognition of the principles of non-aggression and personal responsibility.

Of plumbers, philosophers, and would-be “DeFamers”

There has been some discussion on the Mises Yahoo! Group regarding an attack that a Brad DeLong — a man who does not register on my radar — directed towards a book written by Ludwig von Mises, the dean of the Austrian school of economics. The target of the attack was The Theory of Money and Credit — a book I have not read.

What makes this particularly interesting was that the book was mentioned in the December edition of The American Spectator by unlicensed celebrity plumber Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber.”[1] When Lew Rockwell posted this on the Mises Blog, more than a couple of regular visitors reacted with a certain degree of disbelief. What would a plumber — an unlicensed one, at that matter? — be doing reading up on an unorthodox school of politico-economic thought?[2]

I myself thought the same thing; then I thought, why not? What would a freelance jack-of-all-trades like myself be doing reading Mises? As I’m a contract laborer for the institute named after the man, I’m “closer to the action.” But Joe is not, which upon further thought makes his disclosure all the more notable. It would be interesting to discover how he discovered the writings of Mises.

I link to DeLong’s post without reading it myself only to provide the resource to readers who care to examine the evidence. However, this comment on the Mises list gives me reason not to waste the time (of course, I spent the time writing this post):

The closest he comes to a critique is declaring The Theory of Money and Credit to be “totally bats.” Which, of course, is name-calling, not a critique. If I were to “respond”, it would be by saying that DeLong’s selection of quotations seems haphazard at best. Most of it is just fragments connected by ellipses, chosen in such a way as to prevent the reader of the quotation from having much clue what Mises was actually saying. The effect is exactly what DeLong wants: making Mises look like a mad man, as the method of quotation “sounds” like someone who has lost their mind and whose rambles turn into mumbling between the disconnected thoughts.

Which is very far from what Mises’s writing is actually like.

I can confirm this with absolute certainty. I am in the middle of reading Mises’ magnum opus, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics; he writes in an impressively logical, concise, but dense manner. To use ellipses when quoting this man comes pretty close to misrepresentation; one would do well to cite full paragraphs in many cases. This makes DeLong’s selective-prooftexting attack seem pathetic, based on secondhand information.[3]

DeLong will have to try harder to have this blogger pay attention to him; indeed, I have spent too much time with this post.

Notes

[1] Wait until next month for the current issue to appear online; others have tried to locate it online and failed.

[2] However, none other than Lew Rockwell asserts,

Had progress in economic thought not been interrupted by Keynesian theory and the rise of positivism in the social sciences, we would not even be speaking of the Austrian school. Misesian theory would be economics proper (emphasis added).

[3] To be sure, Mises has a treasure trove of relatively short quotations as well. But you will need to delve into his writings to appreciate the wisdom contained in the short snippets.

Illustrating Liberty: “The Apotheosis of Washington”

[Illustrating Liberty is a new, irregular feature on this blog featuring the occasional "Political Photoshoppery" of Aristotle A. Esguerra.]

Anonymous, iThe Apotheosis of Washington./i Watercolor on glass (reverse painting), 62.9 × 85.1 cm. Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey.

Anonymous, The Apotheosis of Washington. Watercolor on glass (reverse painting), 62.9 × 85.1 cm. Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey.

This post isn’t about an original work at all; in fact, I did very little to come up with the image that accompanied Lew Rockwell’s Monday article for Mises.org, “The Myth of Good Government.” It was the initial shock that such an image existed — and was quite popular for a while — that prompted me to write this post.

BK Marcus, editor extraordinaire and blogger at lowercase liberty, sent me an image similar to this one last weekend suggesting that it run as the image to the Rockwell piece. Stunned at the existence of such a work, and thinking it was just another Internet mashup, I performed a Google image search on “apotheosis washington” — what else could it be called? — and sure enough, a version of this picture popped up. (I chose the version pictured here because the frame added a certain regal absurdity to the entire piece.)

Poking around to find out more about this painting led me to the website of the New York Public Library’s C.W. McAlpin Collection. Apparently the original engraving and etching by John James Barallet spawned many knockoffs, of which this is one.

I thought that the Barallet engraving was absurd, but I wasn’t prepared for this one. However, I burst out laughing in response to viewing it. I would hope that George himself would too.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t be shocked that such an image was produced. Most every ‘great’ nation — self-proclaimed or otherwise — in every time and place have monuments and statues that seemingly attempt to raise mere mortals to the status of demigods; Lenin, Mao, Lincoln, and FDR to name a few. The only difference between Washington and the others I mention is that, given the choice between attempting to retain power and relinquishing it, Washington chose the latter, and in doing so set a presidential precedent that has mostly survived to this day — unitary executive or not.

Upon further thought, that’s worth celebrating. A bit, anyway.

Remembering broken promises on Veterans’ Day

Although I am quite aware that Veterans’ Day was originally called Armistice Day and was set aside for veterans of “The War to End All Wars”, I recall the sacrifices made by Filipino veterans less than a generation later on their home soil, in response to the call of a faraway imperial regime.

No, not Tokyo. Washington.

WGBH’s American Experience piece on General Douglas MacArthur gives a sufficient overview of the situation, posted below in its entirety with emphases in bold:

“I, __[Name]__, do solemnly swear…that I will bear true faith and allegiance…to the United States of America…that I will serve them honestly and faithfully…against all their enemies whomsoever…and I will obey the orders…of the President of the United States…And the orders of the officers appointed over me…according to the rules and Articles of War.”

With this pledge, approximately 250,000 Filipino men joined the U.S. Armed Forces in the months before and the days just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next several years, they would share the fate of their American counterparts on the battlefield, in prisoner of war camps, and throughout the countryside as part of the guerrilla resistance. Accordingly, Washington promised them the same health and pension benefits as their American brothers. Even after the war, in October of 1945, Gen. Omar Bradley, then Administrator of the Veterans Administration, reaffirmed that they were to be treated like any other American veterans.

But on February 18, 1946, the Congress passed and President Truman signed Public Law 70-301, known as the Rescission Act of 1946. It said that the service of Filipinos “shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits.”

Ever since, Filipino veterans and others appalled by this injustice have lobbied without success for a reversal of the Rescission Act. Mr. Ingles, whose sacrifices are vividly described above, gave voice to their frustration in his interview:

Interviewer: And do think most Filipinos were grateful that MacArthur returned?

Gustavo Ingles Gustavo Ingles: Well, in the case of people of my age, we were grateful to that certain extent that he came back, but the succeeding people who governed the States forgot about the promises made by Roosevelt when he encouraged Filipinos to fight for the Americans, and [about] this we feel very bitter. In fact, even myself, because of what happened to us, I never received any pension from the U.S. Government as a soldier. What I am receiving now is the pension from the Philippine government, and sometimes this is still forgotten because there is no money in the coffers. This promise was made, in fact even before I went to the States as a student in Fort Benning, [when] war was still going on in 1945, but [the] surrender of Japan was affected sometime in September.

So there was already peacetime …[plans] to reconstruct the Philippines, and this was true up to the end of 1945. But [in] 1946, some time in February, the American Congress, because of the expenses it is supposed to receive or give out to the Filipino veterans, put a rider in the veterans code, they noted what they call the Rescission Act, denying all benefits except for those who died or were wounded during the war. And up to now we, as veterans, have not received anything — well, maybe medical treatment from the Old Veterans Memorial Hospital, but that was also cut off already by the U.S. Government.

Today, fewer than 70,000 Filipino veterans are still alive, and that number is rapidly falling as even the youngest of them are approaching eighty. In recent years, their cause has been taken up by Rep. Bob Filner (D-California), who has introduced a bill in Congress which would grant them full benefits. But equally, perhaps even more important to these men is that their service be recognized and the government admit it made a terrible mistake. Hunger strikes, protests in front of the White House, and extensive lobbying have yet to prevail over bureaucratic inertia, fiscal restraint, and plain forgetfulness.

Their case was probably made most clearly back in 1946, before their sacrifice had been relegated to a distant memory. “There can be no question,” said a former World War I artillery captain named Harry Truman, “but that the Philippine veteran is entitled to benefits bearing a reasonable relation to those received by the American veteran, with whom he fought side by side.”

This particular issue touches me a bit more than peripherally; five of my Filipino ancestors served in World War II. Of these five, my maternal grandfather and my father’s two eldest brothers survived the Bataan Death March. None of them ever spoke about it with me; how could they initiate such a topic of discussion? How could I? (My mother tells of my grandfather’s occasional fits of rage, which I can only retroactively diagnose as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

Now, the question that I have is this: How many Filipinos would have served anyway, without the “phantom carrot” of quasi-mercenary compensation?[1] One could certainly argue a smaller number; after all, the mercenary attitude is race-neutral. But would not love of country — not love for the United States, to be sure, but for the land of their birth — have prompted some of these same men to rise up to drive the Japanese from their soil? If one were to answer “yes” to this question, then why offer a promise in the first place, only to break it later at the precise moment the stated beneficiaries were expecting its fulfillment? Were the Fed’s printing presses broken that year, and every year thereafter — to this day? Certainly not for Big Auto and Wall Street. But for these veterans, they may as well have been — and might as well be.[2]

Back in the mid-’90s, I was one of many Americans of Filipino ancestry who marched on Washington, D.C. to call attention to the injustice done to these veterans. More than a decade later, a quick Google search reveals little if any progress on restitution.

Like many, I used to think that racism played a principal role in the denial of benefits. I still do, to an extent.[3] But nowadays, while remembering the courage of all these Filipino veterans, and while acknowledging the fine efforts of many who advocate for the less than 20,000 of them that survive, I look at this shameful episode — one of many in American history, to be sure — as a cruel illustration of a lesson that we would all do well to heed:

When the government or its agents promises you good things, do the right thing: call BS on them every time, without exception. Otherwise, you guarantee disappointment for yourself and those around you. And even if they “make good” on their promises, chances are that it will be too little, too late.[4]

(Postscript: Filipino Veterans Left Out in the Cold. For a 62nd consecutive year. What further need have we of witnesses?)

Notes:

[1] In an earlier age, kings’ soldiers were essentially private contractors; failure to pay them would have been a serious matter. Therefore, the United States essentially treated the Filipinos as slaves.

[2] I do not in any way advocate that the Fed print money for these veterans; rather, I aim to point out the selective benevolence that our current monetary system enables.

[3] A reader relates the fact that the French government did something similar to Algerian WWII veterans under their command. Though I have no knowledge of this, or time to verify, what I’ve been told does contribute to my perception that racism did play some part in the decisions made by the United States, and the so-called First World in general.

[4] Note that I do not single out the United States Government. The Philippine-American episode as related in this piece, the Algerian-French episode in the previous note, and the trails of broken promises left by all governments — especially modern ones — prompt me to place them all under the same ignominious umbrella.

The New Mass: Bringing Socialism to the Catholic Church Since 1969

The following insights are indebted almost entirely to Friederich August von Hayek’s book The Counter-Revolution of Science, which I highly recommend and which is certainly a hell of a lot better than The Road to Serfdom.

For those readers who may not be aware of it, the Roman Catholic Church completely redesigned her liturgy in the late 1960’s, very suddenly and in such a way that the Mass and Divine Office of 1955 seemed like a completely different animal than the services of 1965 or 1970. After a little more than a decade of haphazard experimentation, the reforms of the Church were cemented in the form of the Roman Missal of 1969. The history here is actually more complex than I have intimated, but for purposes of this post, the above summary should suffice.

It should be noted that, contrary to popular history, the reformed Mass which is now in vogue in the Catholic Church was not the direct product of the Second Vatican Council. The Council stated, for instance, that the native tongue may be used instead of Latin in varying degrees, not that it must completely replace Latin–or even that it must be introduced at all. It said nothing about the priest facing the people, or using folk songs (“tra-la-la music,” as one of my professors called it) instead of the timeless art music which the Church has cultivated for centuries. On this last point, as a matter of fact, the Church said the opposite (See Article 116 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). The truth is that most of the reforms which most have embraced over the past several decades–and which are considered de rigeur by many–are extra-Conciliar: They were not voted on by the Council, and minutes of the Council suggest that dumbing-down the liturgy was the last thing most of the bishops had in mind. Rather, the worst of these atrocities were foisted on the Church by a small committee which was formed to carry out the dictates of the Council (commissio ad exsequendam), headed by Father (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini. They took the reforms far beyond the mandate established by the Council.

Back to Hayek. While working my way through the last few pages of Part I of The Counter-Revolution of Science last evening, something struck me like a bolt of lightning: The Mass of 1970 (the Novus Ordo Missae, as it is called) is a direct descendant of socialism. Consider the following:

1. While the free market operates with many individuals freely interacting with each other as needs dictate, the socialist Weltanschauung desires that economies, and even entire societies, be subject to Central Planning, self-conscious control. Hayek points out that this requires a mastermind, a single individual, to direct. (The irony here is delicious that egalitarian socialists must ultimately submit to a single authority.) In the development of the New Mass that mastermind was none other than Annibale Bugnini, who directed the entire process of post-Conciliar liturgical reform.

In contrast, the Traditional Mass, which was in widespread use until 1965, was the result of un-self-conscious development over many centuries. It was influenced by many people and many circumstances and spontaneously adapted to needs as they arose. This far more closely resembles the free market.

2. Hayek points out that, for socialists such as H.G. Wells and Max Weber, efficiency was the god of all the gods. The goal was to make every man a mere part of the perfectly well-oiled machine of society, so that the economy could become the perfect piece of equipment, which you might say could effectively translate all its resources into a needed product–with the needs being determined by the mastermind, of course.

This maniacal estimation of efficiency is reminiscent of the determination of the liturgical reformers to remove all “useless repetitions” from the liturgy. It should be noted that this particular measure was indeed included in the diktats of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The idea that one would repeat himself in prayer is very offensive to utilitarians (I have a friend with a thick Philadelphia accent who accidentally says “utalitarians,” but truly it is fitting and I just might try to get it in the dictionary some day), but what they seem to be unaware of is the fact that in ancient times such repetition was a method of emphasis. “With weeping I have wept” is one of my favorite examples of this.

It was not only words that were struck down with the “useless repetitions” doctrine, but also many gestures. The ceremonial of the Roman Rite was castrated on the altar of efficiency.

3. Hayek recounts the utter impatience of social planners with any factor that they could not understand. He uses the example of engineers resenting the price system. This also recalls the attitude of the liturgical reformers, who demanded that the meaning of everything in the liturgy be immediately comprehensible to every observer. This involves not only the simplifying of symbolic gestures, but also the actual order of the liturgy itself. If the order of a particular service didn’t “make sense” to the figures in charge of the liturgical revolt, they changed it so that it “made sense.”

The arrogance here is astounding. Instead of asking, “Why has the liturgy been ordered this way for centuries?” the reformers instead employed their historicist hubris (thank you, Whig theory) and changed by fiat what had been enshrined by tradition.

4. The New Mass is anthropocentric. Although it wasn’t made mandatory in the rubrics of the Missal of 1969, the de facto law was that the high altars should be replaced by tables so that the priest could face the people, and create, as Joseph Ratzinger has observed, a community that is closed in on itself. Often the line between the nave and the sanctuary was blurred as well, with the table being brought out into the midst of the people. These egalitarian frenzies were the proletariat’s dream come true. (For more on the anthropocentrism of the Mass, see J. Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy as well as Jonathan Robinson’s The Mass and Modernity.

The Church mandated that the New Mass be implemented on the first Sunday of Advent in December of 1969. Pope Paul VI, in his last two general audiences before this deadline, gave two strikingly different speeches. In the first audience, he explained why the Mass needed to change. In the second, he claimed, in astounding contradiction to the first allocution, why the Mass really isn’t changing. George Orwell himself couldn’t have come up with this. It seems as though Paul was falling for a kind of empiricist emancipation of tangible symbol from invisible reality and relying on the intellect alone to appreciate the true nature of the liturgy.

“I am afraid I have to admit it,” said Martin Mosebach in his tour-de-force, The Heresy of Formlessness, “I am a Stone Age Man.” Why? Mosebach says that he expects outward symbols to reflect the inner reality of what they represent. A Stone Age Man has no concern over the future. But a socialist is imprisoned by dreams of the future and empiricist claptrap. Is there more, though? Have not the Central Planners of the liturgy actually created a religious service which very much is an outward symbol of the inner workings of the parricidal socialist mind?

Everything you learned in public school (except for Math) is wrong.

I hated school from the moment I entered kindergarten. The whole routine of going to this maze of cinder block cells for five days a week always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not sure I ever figured out why until many years after I graduated, and this is probably good: If I knew then what I know now, I would probably have flunked out intentionally, just to make a point.

There were times in the past when I had hunches of what the problem was. You know, the teachers were all liberal because they all belonged to the union. (One teacher did confess conservatism to me once; he was the football coach, and, incidentally, more artistically astute than his colleague the band director.) But one day it dawned on me all at once: the problem with public schools is that they’re run by the State.

I know what you might be thinking: States are inefficient, slow to respond to needs, terrible with money, and many of the employees, in the absence of real accountability, are hardly of the….What shall we say?…..hard-working variety. This is all true. The crucial matter, however, is the one which most people completely miss and never think about: The schools promote the agenda of the State.

“Oh, oh! But there’s nothing wrong with that,” you might say. “It’s all fine, because we live in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Spare me.

The simple fact is that the rights of citizens and of the individual states have been eroding ever since the Constitution was foisted onto the republic in the absence of any popular demand to abandon the Articles of Confederation (see Albert Jay Nock’s book, Our Enemy, the State). The “rights” of the Federal government have been increasing.

I have not digressed, for this is public school lie number one: that we live in a free country. The usurpations of the Federal government are always painted as heroic moves to save the world, or to save the poor, or to end the great depression, or even….the biggest lightning rod of all (at least if you’re not a neoconservative, for whom World War II is the most important issue)….slavery.

No, Abraham Lincoln didn’t give two scoops of ice cream about slavery. He wanted a war, and he wanted it for the income from tariffs.

One could go on forever about this issue, but let’s approach just two more subjects:

1. Culture. Cultural education in the public schools is a joke. Most of the time it’s based on the notion that it gives the students busy work so that they don’t do drugs, or it teaches them teamwork, or, in the case of the marching band, how to obey orders without questioning–an indispensable disposition for State power.  (A good antidote to all this is William Byrd’s short treatise on why everyone should learn to sing.)  The actual ability to appreciate art, music, theater, etc., is nowhere near the core of the curriculum. Literature might be, given that everyone has to take English class. But the collapse of language into modern-day semantics would render this a subject all unto itself, so I shall pass it by for now. (For more on the collapse of language, see Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences.)

2. The worst, most crucial lie. Let’s cut to the chase: Much of the political dreck that comes out of public schools is based on the ridiculous notion that Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire president in the august mold of Calvin Coolidge and that it is this which led to the depression and nearly destroyed America. This sets up the gullible to become hero worshipers of FDR, whose War- and New Deal-mongering is hailed almost universally as the elixir of the economic troubles of the late 20’s and early 30’s.

Nonsense.

In truth, Herbert Hoover began the process of increasing government regulation over the economy. This needlessly prolonged the depression. As a matter of fact, FDR ran against him on a more conservative platform, but then, of course, changed his mind after being elected. (Obama supporters take heed.) It was not until the Roosevelt administration finally exhausted every bureaucratic option and simply let the economy go on its own that it began to recover. Be it noted, too, that it wasn’t the war that saved us. Wars don’t improve economies, as Friederic Bastiat pointed out ages ago–though no one in the Oligarchy seems to have taken notice.  (For more on the myths of the Great Depression, see Thomas Woods’ book 33 Questions about American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask.)

Nevertheless, people go on believing that the depression worsened under a laissez-faire administration and improved under a socialist one. This misconception makes it nearly impossible to have a serious conversation with most people about the virtues of the free market.

All of this is brought to you by our public schools, who’ve done a fantastic job of making the State look good.

Finally, a question: Generally people will not hesitate to partake of a quality item that is offered for free, so why is it written in law that children must attend school, under penalty of law?

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