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Saturday, June 23, 2012

End of the Year 2012

I'm in the middle of the essay collection "A Mencken Chrestomathy", and because he writes about 'pedagogy' in a series of essays, I feel compelled to write a companion blog post.  It would be difficult to equal Mencken's disdain for Organized Education, but I feel I'm coming close.  Here's why.

The scuttlebutt in my district is that the History department (I refuse to use the term 'social studies') in our partner high school has been 'doctoring' grades.  A reliable source tells me that this has actually been going on for at least a decade.  This, however, is not news.  Teachers in my district are encouraged, even strong-armed to make the grades as high as possible, as often as possible.  As 90% of educrats are unable to provide any quality assessment, only passing percentage is used to gauge learning.  If the passing percentage is low, a teacher risks being called 'downstairs' for a tongue lashing.  All kinds of invective are hurled at the teacher in order to convince him to 'review' or 'scrub' or 're-assess' his grading policy or the grades themselves.  This farcical process usually ends with the teacher changing the grade(s). Naturally, Johnny or Suzy Administrator will now brag on his resume about how amazing he was, and how great his passing percentages were.  The hapless taxpayers are on the hook for this nonsense - now to the tune of $155,000.  That's just for my school.

Because of this History Department malfeasance, the English, Earth Science, and yes, History Departments had to grade while being 'watched' by an educrat from either the State or BOCES.  All of us are trusted to be in rooms with teenage males and females, often with the door closed, but when it comes to grading a State Exam - not so fast.  Our 'watcher' had us in a room at our sister school, grading at a table with two other teachers - but there was no crosstalk, no long breaks, no "cheating" allowed.  This made our lives easier.  Instead of doing all of the administrative tasks that go with a NYS Regents Exam, we were only to grade, and then give the folder of graded writing to the Over Lord.  Doing the grading bubble sheets was the purview of our Superior, so as he completed the (now pure) grade recording, all the usual crosstalk, grade comparing, chatter, was able to be done.  I'm happy to report, however, that none of the aforementioned horrors took place.  The unabashed joke that is the NY State English Regents was graded peacefully and without blemish.

At some point, this system will crash.  Left out of this narrative are other cases of incompetence, calumny, cloddishness and general name calling.  Twisting in the wind is the most persecuted species in American History - the American taxpayer, who craves to have his money removed from his bank account because "it's for the kids".

Recommended reading: A Mencken Chrestomathy - a collection of H. L. Mencken essays
Education: Free and Compulsory, by Murray Rothbard

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our Enemy The State - book review

Albert Jay Nock's book Our Enemy, The State, was published in 1935.  I've written before about Nock and his seminal essay "Isaiah's Job".  There are a few serious reasons to discuss the 77 year old work of a man who died in 1945.

Our Enemy, The State, continues Nock's thesis that there are two main ways that people pursue successful outcomes:  A) the productive, or economic means, or the B) parasitic - political means.  Nock analyzes the main philosophical  and political threads leading up to, and including the founding of these United States.  He uses historical examples to support his premise.  His book is an intellectual stemwinder - written in such a manner and referenced with names and events that spur the intellectually curious reader to further exploration and study.  I recommend it without reservation.  It can be read for free here.

An early example of State Power negating and shrinking the practice and philosophy of the much stronger Social Power occurs early on with regard to the Johnstown Flood.  "When the Johnstown flood occurred, social power was immediately mobilized and applied with intelligence and vigour.  Its abundance, measured by money alone was so great that when everything was finally put in order, something like a million dollars remained.  If such a catastrophe happened now, not only is social power perhaps too depleted for the like exercise, but the general instance would be to let the State see to it."(p. 6) Nock is right about this, and it has gone further today.  We've seen this in every natural disaster in the U.S.  People  wait for FEMA to fix their problems.  As they are paying absurd amounts of their earnings in tax, they are waiting for the less competent, less capable, more corrupt institution to 'solve' their problems.  The Katrina Disaster is Nock's premise writ large.  On a micro level, how we deal with the homeless reflects this aspect of our society.  Because there are ham fisted government 'programs' that deal with the poor, the social power that used to deal with the poor and indigent has atrophied severely.  I see precious little charity when it comes to the homeless in NYC - after all, aren't their shelters and welfare for them?

Early on in the book Nock calls forth the statist / fascist philosophies of Hegel and Fichte.  (As a side note, the fact that he refers to these to philosophers is indicative of our education system today.  There are few schooled Americans who know who these two people were.  The fact that Nock cavalierly refers to them shows how dumbed down our education system has become).  "Thus, for example, when Hitler says that 'the state dominates the nation because it alone represents it', he is only putting into loose popular language the formula of Hegel, that 'the State is the general substance, where of individuals are but accidents'.  Or, again, when Mussolini says, 'Everyting for the State; nothing outside the State; nothing against the State,' he is vulgarizing the doctrine of Fichte, that 'the state is the superior power, ultimate and beyond appeal, absolutely independent.'" (p. 22)  The State is the new Religion.  Nock saw, during the regime of Hitler and Mussolini, what these reigns of terror were about.  Note, how what we would call the 'mainstream media' of the day, as well as the subject of 'history' in school today is starkly silent about who were the early identifiers of the governmental horror shows that became the Statist and Socialist killing machines.  Nock shows particular skill going further back in history and explaining how land expropriation is the first thing that the State does, and all oppression, of whatever kind, follows this baseline act.

In Our Enemy, The State, you get a preview of what one sees today with regard to the state.  Unthinking acceptance, drone like approval, all couched in a childlike 'debate' between Team Red and Team Blue.  When one mentions negative facts about the State, various members of the herd rise to the occasion to defend their deity - oftentimes with strong language.  Nock excels at pointing out this fact using a writing style and footnotes that send the reader into a web of history and social theory.  He summarily crushes socialist shibboleths (poverty in industrial England was caused by laissez faire), shows disdain for the intellect of the American electorate, and correctly pins the ills of society on the correct culprit - the State.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Great Depression

BOOK REVIEW - Murray Rothbard's The Great Depression

Here's the tale we're told: "Herbert Hoover was a free market enthusiast, and his capitalist, Republican Party principles were ineffective against the crash of 1929.  Only the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a good Democrat, saved the US economically.  FDR came in and he saved the country from the Great Depression via the New Deal, and, eventually, World War II".

The above myth is the classical story taught to students in the school systems today.  Hoover was a hands off, somewhat evil man, and FDR was a cuddly and wholesome 'traitor to his class' and helped the little guy and the country rise up out of the ashes of the Great Depression.  What Murray Rothbard does in his book The Great Depression is totally destroy this completely fabricated story.  If the old adage 'history is written by the victors' is true, then the Hoover / FDR era is certainly proof.  Rothbard leaves no stone unturned in his analysis of the run up to the Hoover presidency, and the Hoover term itself.  The Austrian economists correctly state that the economic errors of the business cycle are present during the boom - and Rothbard shows this to be true in his analysis of the years 1921 - 1932.  Not only was there government intervention in the economy during the 'Roaring 20's', but there was massive government intervention during Hoover's presidential term.  The idea that Hoover was a laissez - faire free market capitalist is absurd, and The Great Depression proves it conclusively.

Notes from The Great Depression

- "Since the government and its controlled banking system are wholly responsible for the boom and since government is largely responsible for aggravating the depression, we must necessarily concentrate on these acts of government intervention in the economy." (82) The first third of the book is devoted to competing economic theories and how they explain the business cycle.  Our economy, since the advent of Central Banking, has gone through ups and downs.  This 'business cycle' has been explained by various schools of economic thought.  Rothbard analyzes the cycle itself, and then the manner in which the theories explain it.  As the other theories are found wanting, Rothbard, with his analysis and evidence, uses the Austrian theory of the business cycle to walk the reader through the many government interventions (currency manipulation / bank credit meddling etc.) during the boom of the '20's.

- With regard to intervention in the agricultural sector of the economy: "With the Federal Farm Board (FFB) generally acknowledged as a failure, President Hoover began to pursue the inexorable logic of government intervention to the next step: recommending that productive land be withdrawn from cultivation, that crops be plowed under and that immature farm animals be slaughtered - all to reduce the very surpluses that government's prior intervention had brought into being." (209)  Rothbard explains the absurdities of the Hoover administration with regard to agriculture.  In his ham fisted attempts to control and 'manage' the supply and demand of commodities, Hoover, when faced with failure, suggests asinine policies such as these.  The level of irony goes even higher, and is the part of the story that you are NEVER told - the FFB was chaired by the president of International Harvester Co. - Alexander Legge.  Yes, big business was in the process of cartellization and attempted control of the American economy, through their friends in government.  Not only did Hoover interfere, it was the Big Corporation that handled the details.  This brings us to possibly the most shrouded and sinister story behind both the Hoover New Deal and FDR's New Deal.

- The Swope Plan: "In September 1932, Gerard Swope, head of General Electric, far surpassed the radicalism of his old public works proposal by presenting the Swope Plan to a convention of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.  The Plan, which garnered a great deal of publicity, amounted to a call for compulsory cartellization of American business - an industry was to be forcibly mobilized into trade associations, under Federal control, to regulate and stabilize prices and production, and to prescribe trade practices." This would "... coordinate production and consumption". (245)  This Big Business cartel, became what you and I know as the New Deal's National Recovery Administration.  While the NRA was struck down as unconstitutional by the Scheckter case, the principles were pushed continuously to the point that we, in 2012, have a cartel of 6 banks controlling 70% of the nation's banking.  It was Big Business' desire to stifle competition and limit new competition that was the impetus behind the New Deal.  The fairy tale you get in school is absurd to the point of being intellectually criminal.  Hoover, to his credit, was horrified by the Swope Plan, and refused to back it.  He was told that if he backed it, he'd be reelected, and if he rejected it, he'd lose.  For more information on this, see Hoover's memoirs.

This is just a minuscule representation of the amount of unsound meddling by government during the boom of the '20's, and the new departure from laissez faire by Hoover post 1929.  Prior to Hoover, governments had done nothing to interfere with the government, and the business cycle corrected itself, as it always does, and it did in 1921.  We've been taught, through the fallacy of authority, that we need a 'leader', a 'manager', to steer us through the hard times.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rothbard on recessions - he explains how the philosophy of government intervention changed:

Here is Tom Woods giving you the details of how government NON INTERVENTION works.  This is a story from American history hidden from you.  You're to think of government as the thing that will solve all problems: