education philosopher

On NOT Throwing Away My Vote

Posted in political philosophy by KevinCK on March 22, 2010

I am going to take a little excursion from the world of education to discuss a political issue I feel strongly about: why I vote libertarian and do not see this as “throwing away my vote.”

If you didn’t donate all you could, if you didn’t volunteer for the Republican party or its candidates, if you didn’t get your friends out to vote – the blood for this is on your hands.

This was on an acquaintance’s blog and is typical of arguments that we third party voters hear quite often. The argument can be generalized thus:

If x and y are political candidates and you voted for z, you (in effect) are helping the front-running candidate win and are, indirectly, responsible for that candidate winning.

To make matters worse, the libertarian party (who often “takes” votes from the republican party more than the democratic party, for its Reagan-esque  belief in small government) is often accused of tacitly helping democrats win office. This is similar to those who vote with the green or socialist party being accused of tacitly helping republicans win seats (because green and socialist candidates often ‘take’ votes from disaffected democrats more than disaffected republicans).

So, am I throwing my vote away by voting for the libertarian party (who, as much as I would like otherwise, is almost always the losing horse)? Am I to blame for handing the democrats victories by ‘taking’ my vote away from the republican candidate?

I confess that, try as I might, I don’t see the logic in this charge. The above argument assumes that the republican candidate is somehow a better representative of my small-government beliefs than the democratic candidate is. In my early days, I must admit to having this idea: I always looked on republicans more favorably than democrats and even though they were the “lesser of two evils” they were always the lesser evil.
Then George W. Bush happened. (more…)

Murray Rothbard, Libertarianism, and Why Children Are Not Simply Houseguests

Posted in Education, Philosophy of, political philosophy by KevinCK on February 1, 2010

As a libertarian, it pains me to admit flaws with libertarianism as a philosophy. But one problem in libertarian theory I’ve become increasingly sensitive to is the problem of how children are handled in a libertarian society. I believe I know where the problem stems from, and also why certain existing arguments are flawed, but don’t have much idea on how to rectify these flaws without violating a certain amount of libertarian theory. Oh well. Here is my attempt, at least, to look at one of the more interesting arguments for how libertarian theory should treat kids: Murray Rothbard analogies parent/child relations to house-owner/houseguest relations.

Before getting into that, I want to briefly outline why I think libertarians have such a hard time with the “child problem.” Libertarians, I think, are good at dealing with two different ideas: people (in the sense of autonomous adults) and property. To put it bluntly, children are neither of these and are probably best seen as somewhere in between the two in resemblance. Children resemble, but are not, autonomous adults in certain ways: they are physically autonomous and their brains/minds are not linked to other brains/minds in that they can decide certain things for themselves.  But in other ways, children resemble, but are not, property: parents are legally responsible for taking care of children and children are in some sense ‘acquired’ by choice, children do not have a real choice in who their ‘owners’ are, etc.

But children are neither persons nor property. They are not quite autonomous persons because we – except some libertarians – recognize that children lack the mental ability to make certain decisions on their own or have the type of absolute freedom we grant to adults. Nor are they property because, morally, it strikes us as horrendous to think about parents being able to do anything they would like to their children. Unlike property, children have at least SOME freedoms.

Now, onto the Rothbardian argument, taken from an essay called “Kid Lib” (chapter 7 in the book Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature). (more…)

The Dragon’s Den and the Reciprosity of Capitalism

Posted in political philosophy by KevinCK on October 29, 2009

dragon's denLast night, my wife and I watched the BBC program The Dragon’s Den, where five venture capitalists listen to various pitches from struggling entrepreneurs, deciding whether to give them money in return for a stake in the business. Today, I read Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. Coincidence? Yes. Is there a connection? Yes! The former helps to prove the latter wrong by showing that, contra Marx’s assertions, capitalism functions reciprocally for mutual benefit rather than in a master/slave relationship.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx writes of the proletariat (the working class) as if they were slaves to the bourgeoisie (capitalists):

Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

…and again…

And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

Marxism sees employer/employee relations – and all other capitalist dealings – as a one way master/slave relationship; “I will pay you what I want and you will work for me regardless of whether you want to.”

The irony is that supporters of capitalism recognize that this is not at all the truth. In fact, defenders of capitalism (rightly) note that capitalism is the one and only economic system where employers may not enslave employees; in fact this is so by definition. A slave, to be a slave, is enslaved involuntarily. Her wishes are not taken into account, she is treated only as a means, and has no say in her fate. Capitalism, though, puts emphasis on contract; an employer cannot force unwilling participants into its employ, and employees are free to leave a job if they can find something better. The entire relationship is quite voluntary on both sides.

The further irony is that the same cannot be said about communism. Marx has it backwards: communism is the type of social structure that takes away choice from members by telling them that they will make what the government says they will make, will work where the government says they will work, etc.

How does this come back to BBC’s Dragon’s Den? (more…)

Should We Have Mandatory Tax-Funded Media?: An argument by analogy

Posted in Politics of Education by KevinCK on October 19, 2009

Recently, I have been engaged in discussion with some folks over whether tax-funded public schools with mandatory attendance laws are justifiable. While I can see some arguments in favor of public schooling, I think public schooling also has much to be said against it (for reasons beside the fact that it seems not to be educating very well.) Most importantly, there is a moral argument against public schooling that I think can best be seen by analogizing the public school climate in the US with a theoretical case of public media and compulsory viewischoolng laws.

Imagine the situation:

In 2050, the United States, in an effort to ensure that everyone has access to quality news and information, mandates that a certain percentage of all local taxes will be spent on a tax-supported, governmentally run, media. Because it is in the interest of all to be informed by good information, the government has decided that it will (a) make media listening mandatory for at least one hour a day by all citizens under penalty of arrest; (b) ensure that, while private media are allowed to run, they will be required to be approved/accredited by the Department of Media (c) allow citizens to either listen to the “free” government-run media outlet or pay separately for private media (meaning that they have to pay for the government media they have opted out of and the private media they’ve opted into). If they opt out of the government media, they can only do so by filling out paperwork with their local Department of Media to ensure that they are in compliance with the mandatory listening law by getting their media through a government-accredited alternate media source.

It is easy to spot the problems with this above scenario. (more…)