Archives for December 2015

Learning Lessons Our Schools Can’t Teach (from the “Cliff Notes” version of “Healing Our World”)

In the early 1900s, our great-grandparents trudged off to their neighborhood school. For the better part of the day, the teacher stood in front of the class, chalk in hand, to expound on lessons contained in the schoolbooks. Today, our children take cars or buses to school, but once they are there, students listen as the teacher stands in front of the class to expound on the lessons contained in the schoolbooks. The facilities are newer, the chalk has become a white board marker, an occasional video clip is shown, and the curriculum includes some additional subjects, but otherwise our schools are stuck in the horse and buggy days.

The cost of doing things the same old way, however has skyrocketed. The United States, for example spent almost 3 times as much per pupil in 2009 as in 1970 after adjusting for inflation, yet SAT scores have declined. Somewhere between 20 to 30% of U.S. high school students don’t graduate. One out of three graduates don’t have basic reading, writing, and math skills.  Half of the students who go to college have to take remedial courses first.

Our schools are built on aggression. For the most part, children are forced to attend neighborhood schools certain months of the year, for a certain number of years, and take certain subjects with others of the same age group. Flexibility is limited, unless parents are willing to homeschool, or pay tuition for private schooling. Even if parents make these choices, they still are forced to pay taxes to support the failing public schools.

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Poor parents, of course, don’t have these options. Their children must attend neighborhood schools where teachers and administrators often can’t even keep the peace. Many of our schools have become places of violence, and even killing. Children forced into an educational system built on aggression naturally learn to practice it themselves.

When I first wrote Healing Our World in 1992, I described a fictional school called Quest, which took advantage of the many ways that new technologies are able to provide an inexpensive, thorough education when the restrictions of aggression are removed. A number of parents called me asking where this mythical school was so that they could enroll their children. I had to explain to them that the school was simply a prediction of what was possible, not what was.

By the time the 2015 edition of Healing Our World was published, most of the elements that Quest was built on had become reality. For example, while public schools in the United States cost over $10,000 per pupil, the price of a world-class education in the private sector can be virtually free.

Khan Academy, a broad Internet-based school, boasts “you can learn anything for free.” Khan is supported by donations and grants. Any child with an Internet connection and computer can get a self-paced education for virtually nothing.

Of course, even with the best technology, children will still have questions that may require a personal explanation. Internet learning programs can track a student’s progress, and alert a parent or teacher to areas in which a student might need a little extra help. Private Swedish schools utilize such a system today.

Worldwide, students are turning to after school tutoring as their public education fails them. In Japan, afterschool tutors who can communicate subject matter to students efficiently via the web are paid as much as professional athletes. In the United States, Sylvan Learning Centers guarantee a one-year leap with just 36 hours of instruction. At that rate of learning, students could have 12th grade proficiency by the time they turn 13.

Afterschool tutoring is expensive, especially when parents have to pay taxes for public schools on top of tutoring fees. However, if parents could apply their tax dollars to an Internet schooling program, such as Khan Academy, coupled with a tutoring program, children would likely learn faster than they do today at a much lower cost. In such a program, children could go at their own pace and get personalized attention where they needed it the most.

In a schooling system without aggression, advertisers would sponsor television shows like Sesame Street in order to educate children and have an opportunity to pitch their products. While some parents wouldn’t appreciate this trade-off, the poor might benefit greatly from an educational program that costs them nothing more than a cable TV subscription. This would allow them to afford some tutoring, perhaps by older children, for difficult subjects. However, the unfettered Internet appears to be outstripping the regulated television media in terms of offering educational value.

The poor would benefit the most in an educational system free from aggression. Most of the poor rent, rather than own, their residence. The price of their rent includes property taxes for supporting the school system. Without this added cost, the poor would be able to afford economical educational alternatives for their children. Today, such children are often stuck in inner-city schools where the most important lesson is physical survival. Because the classes seem boring compared to the multimedia world they live in today, students lose interest and disrupt the classroom. Learning becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Historically, teachers unions have opposed any deviation from the public school norm. However, good teachers would have nothing to worry about as the pay scale of the Japanese afterschool teachers illustrates. Indeed, even some public school teachers today are quite literally making millions selling their lesson plans on the Internet to other public school teachers. Being Good Neighbors is a win-win proposition!

 

These posts are part of a “Cliff Notes” version of my award-winning international best-selling libertarian primer, Healing Our World. The next post in this series will be “Springing the Poverty Trap.” If you’d like to learn more about schools based on aggression teach aggression before the next post, which will come out after the New Year, check out Chapter 10 of the 1993 edition of Healing Our World, in my Free Library.  
If you want more up-to-date detail, you can purchase the 2015 edition of Healing, with a $5 Christmas discount, here.  Give the gift of liberty this season and show your family and friends how to create peace on earth with goodwill to all! 

Banking on Aggression (from the “Cliff Notes” version of “Healing Our World”)

The Federal Reserve is probably the most powerful cartel in the world. Most people think it is a government agency; in fact, it is an organization of private bankers. The US government has given it a monopoly on US currency, which it can inflate or deflate at will. Virtually overnight, the Fed, as it’s often called, can destroy the US economy, creating boom and bust cycles. As goes the United States, goes the world.

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The government has given the Fed its power in order to get a powerful trade-off. When politicians want to spend, but don’t want you to let you know by raising your taxes, they borrow money from the Fed. They give the Fed IOUs; the Fed “prints” (creates) the money. In essence, the US government passes go on the board game of Monopoly; you do not.

Indeed, your savings and/or your next paycheck have just declined in buying power to the exact extent that the government has borrowed. The government’s IOUs are held by individuals, corporations, and pension plans, including Social Security and other government-sponsored retirement programs. For our pensions to pay us, our children and grandchildren will have to be taxed to pay off these IOUs. Unless we are willing to cripple the next generations financially, we may have no pension at all! This is why many economists say that the babies who are born today are already over $50,000 in debt.

At one time, US currency was backed by gold. Since gold supplies were limited, banks limited inflation. If the Fed or the banks overinflated, there would be runs on the bank as customers tried to retrieve their gold. When the US stopped backing the currency held by its citizens with gold in the 1930s, inflation accelerated. Today’s dollar is only worth about five cents of what it was backed by gold. Another way of looking at this, is that 95% of our 1930s dollar has been inflated away by government borrowing. Because this borrowed money will one day have to be paid back to the Fed and its member banks, we don’t owe it to ourselves at all. We owe it to the bankers.

At one time, in some countries, when banks overinflated, the owners had to use their personal assets to pay back their depositors. If they couldn’t do that, other banks often did so to gain new customers and to reassure the public. However, this didn’t happen very often, because bankers were highly motivated to keep inflation under control.

In the US, banks did not have to pay back their depositors. Also, state laws demanded that some of their reserve be in government IOUs, instead of gold. Consequently the US had quite a few bank runs, even before the establishment of the Federal Reserve.

In countries with more aggressive regulation, bank crises were common, averaging about 8.4 per hundred years. However, in countries that allowed competing currencies and insisted that bankers pay depositors out of their personal funds if they over-inflated, crises averaged about one per century (for more detail, see Figure 9.1 from Healing Our World).

One of the banking crises experienced in the United States was called the Great Depression and happened shortly after the Fed was established. First, the Fed inflated the currency and then deflated it suddenly. Many people who had borrowed money for their businesses or for speculation found that they could no longer renew their loans and were forced into bankruptcy. While many US banks failed, costing American depositors an estimated $565 million, Canadians lost only 3% of that amount. No Canadian banks failed. Canadian banks had few regulations, no restrictions on branch banking, and no central bank with an exclusive monopoly on currency issue. Stockholders of Canadian banks had to pay depositors out of their own personal funds if they overinflated.

Many people have the impression that deregulation caused the banking crises that we saw at the end of the 20th century. However, what we actually had, especially in the US, was re-regulation that encouraged more inflation and high risk “investments.” In addition to having to pay the “inflation tax,” taxpayers had to bail out the bankers!

People without property, and those on fixed incomes, are hurt most by inflation. Inflation redistributes the wealth from those who have little to those who have much, increasing the gap between the rich and poor.

Thankfully, there is a better way that has been proven in the toughest testing ground of all: the real world. By allowing competing currencies, the one that inflates the slowest will be the one that most people choose. The good currency will drive out the bad.

Entrepreneurs have tried in various ways to establish competing currencies in the US, but have usually been thwarted by the federal government (e.g., the Liberty Dollar). Time Dollars are a way to bank hours of labor, and exchange them for someone else’s.  Bitcoin is a digital currency which is slowly gaining acceptance in the retail world.

Only time will tell how viable these alternative currencies are. Clearly, the private sector is trying to find a way to make Federal Reserve notes as obsolete as first-class mail. When that happens, the stranglehold that the Fed has on the US money supply will be broken – as long as our government doesn’t outlaw these alternatives. Traditional banks may become obsolete as well.

 

These posts are part of a “Cliff Notes” version of my award-winning international best-selling libertarian primer, Healing Our World. The next post in this series will be “Learning Lessons Our Schools Can’t Teach.” If you’d like to learn more about how government aggression allows banks to manipulate our economy before the next post, check out Chapter 9 of the 1993 edition of Healing Our World, in my Free Library.  
If you want more up-to-date detail, you can purchase the 2015 edition of Healing, with a $5 Christmas discount, here.  Give the gift of liberty this season and show your family and friends how to create peace on earth with goodwill to all! 

Destroying the Environment (from the “Cliff Notes” version of “Healing Our World”)

Most people think that government protects the environment, but it actually does just the opposite. For example, Yellowstone Park, the jewel of the US national park system, has been incredibly mismanaged. In 1915, the Park service decided to eradicate the Yellowstone wolves which were deemed to be a menace to the elk, deer, antelope, and mountain sheep that visitors like to see. Eventually the Park subsidized the killing of fox, lynx, martin and fisher too.

Without predators, the hoofed mammals flourished and begin to compete with each other for food. The larger elk eventually drove out the white tailed deer, the mule deer, the bighorn sheep, and the pronghorn.  The elk ate the willow and aspen around the river banks, trampling the area so that seedlings could not regenerate.

Without the willow and aspen, the beaver population dwindled. Without the beavers and the ponds they created, waterfowl, mink, and otter were threatened. The clear water needed by the trout disappeared, as did the shrubs and berries that fed the bear population. When the garbage dumps were closed in the 1960s to encourage the bears feed naturally, little trout, shrubs, or berries remained. Bears began seeking out park visitors who brought food with them. Yellowstone management began a program to remove the problem bears as well. In the early 1970s more than 100 bears were removed. Almost twice as many grizzlies were killed.

By 1987, environmentalists encouraged the reintroduction of wolves, in an attempt to undo the environmental destruction caused by the government Park service. Only when a private group, the Defenders of Wildlife, agreed to compensate ranchers when wolf predation brought one of their animals down, was the Park able to reintroduce the wolves without creating a range war. By 2009, the wolf population had rebounded to more than 1600 individuals.

No matter how well-intentioned, the Park service cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes. Hikers, for example, want hiking trails built in the national forests. Logging companies want to harvest the national forests and want logging roads built. Commercial interests will always win out in such battles, because the profit to be made can be converted into campaign donations to reward politicians who make access possible. Consequently, the Forest Service typically receives 20 cents for every dollar spent on roads, logging, and timber management. Meanwhile, the number of hiking trails has diminished.

While government depletes our national forests, the largest private US landowner, International Paper, carefully balances public recreation with logging. In the southeast, 25% of its profit is from recreation. Industry grows 13% more timber than it cuts in order to prepare for future needs.

Generally speaking private owners take much better care of the land than bureaucratic government does. Private owners are rewarded with profit when they improve the value of the land. Bureaucrats, however, can only personally profit by selling out to special interests. Even when politicians attempt to act with integrity, the special interests will subsidize the campaigns of those who see things their way. Almost always, the special interests will win. The only way to protect the environment is to require special interests to own the property they wish to exploit. Their own selfishness will prevent them from destroying assets that they hope to profit from.

For example, some ranchers in the western United States graze cattle both on their own land and that controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). On private lands, they limit the number of cattle, so that the land will stay productive; on BLM’s land, they overgraze. Improving the property doesn’t make sense, since they can’t be sure they will be allowed to rent the same pasture in the following year. Consequently, cattle are twice as likely to die and have half as many calves on BLM land.

When ranchers are offered 10 year leases on public grazing land, they take much better care of it, as they know they will be using it in the following years. In essence, the lease gives them partial ownership. As a result, when this program was put in place in 1934, almost half of the rangeland that had been classified as poor was upgraded by the ranchers at their own expense.

However in 1966, leases were reduced to only one year once again. As a result, private investment in wells and fences in the early 70s dropped to less than a third of their 1960s level.

Most people think that government prevents the extinction of wildlife. They are unaware that state governments once paid hunters tax-subsidized bounties to kill hawks and sea lions, for example. Private individuals bought the breeding grounds frequented by these majestic animals and protected them from the bounty hunters. Hawk Mountain, in the Pennsylvania Appalachians, has been protecting hawks since 1934. The owners of Sea Lion Caves have been protecting the only known mainland breeding and wintering area of the Steller sea lion since 1927.

We are more likely to protect the environment when we own a piece of it and profit by nurturing it. Instead of hoping that someday government might not be susceptible to special interests manipulation, we can protect the environment now by privatizing lands owned and operated by the government.

Privatizing state-owned land could be used to retire the national debt. The taxes now used to service it would no longer be necessary. The decrease in wealth creation caused by taxation would be reversed and tremendous economic growth would result.

Some people don’t worry much about the national debt because they believe we simply “owe it to ourselves.” In a way, that is true. The government’s IOUs are held by individuals, corporations, and pension plans, including Social Security and other government-sponsored retirement programs. For our pensions to pay us, our children and grandchildren will have to be taxed to pay off these IOUs. Instead of investing our money, the politicians have spent it. Unless we are willing to cripple the next generations financially, we may have no pension at all!

To understand how we came to such an impasse, we will look at the money monopoly in our next post.

These posts are part of a “Cliff Notes” version of my award-winning international best-selling libertarian primer, Healing Our World. The next post in this series will be “Banking on Aggression.” If you’d like to learn more about how government aggression destroys the environment before the next post, check out Chapter 8 of the 1993 edition of Healing Our World, in my Free Library.  
If you want more up-to-date detail, you can purchase the 2015 edition of Healing, with a $5 Christmas discount, here.  Give the gift of liberty this season and show your family and friends how to create peace on earth with goodwill to all! 

Help Put “Healing Our World” into University Classrooms!

Professor Tom Clark, at the University of Houston, wants to use 80 copies of Healing Our World in his two classes starting in January.  The books would be used in his International Marketing classes.

Because the college will not make the book a primary text, we need your help to raise the money to get the books in the hands of knowledge hungry students.

If you’ve read Healing Our World, you know what a powerful book it is.  The book makes a humanitarian case for free society, and many people have said the book changed their lives.  Dr. Ron Paul wrote the foreword for this new edition, so that will mean a lot to the students as well!

Professor Clark has been involved with the Texas Liberty Club for years, and is passionate about teaching his students about a free society.

If you can help purchase a book for his class, it will go much further than one person, as the books may be used many times.

If you help purchase 10 books at $130, we will give you a personally autographed copy of Healing Our World or Short Answers to the Tough Questions: How to Answer The Questions Libertarians Are Often Asked.  All donations are tax-deductible, since the co-publisher of Healing, the International Society for Individual Liberty, is sponsoring this fund-raising drive. Click here to donate! 

We hope you can help us purchase the books for Professor Clark’s classroom — it’s a powerful way to begin healing our world!

SAVE $5 on Your Christmas Order!

Sometimes those around us don’t understand our zeal for liberty—-and that can be pretty uncomfortable.  But what if you could change that with a simple $19.95 gift this Christmas.  Would it be worth it to you?

I wrote Healing Our World to share the good news of liberty with Christians, environmentalists, pragmatists, liberals, and those in the personal empowerment movement. In easy-to-read prose, Healing shows how liberty enriches the poor, protects the environment, deters crime, and defuses terrorism.

I’ve lost count of how many people come up to me at conventions and tell me that they just didn’t “get” liberty until a family member or friend gave them a copy of Healing. “If someone explained libertarianism to me this way in the beginning, I’d have joined the movement a long time ago!” they usually confide.

But Healing isn’t just for family and friends. If you’ve ever been at a loss when someone asks, “How would this work in a libertarian society?”, you’ll probably want a copy for yourself too.  The 2015 edition of Healing has over 1300 citations of how liberty works in the toughest testing ground of all—the real world.

Healing retails for $29.95, but I sell it on my website for $24.95.  Now, until Christmas, you can get an additional $5 off on your order, so you only pay $19.95 per copy. Volume discounts are also available, making it easy to show friends and family how liberty gives them just what the season is for:  peace on earth and goodwill to all. Click here to order now.

However you celebrate Christmas this year, I’ll be thinking of you and your dedication to making our world a better place! Have a merry one!