Minus Right = ZeroAs Mr. Bryant points out in his article,
both the liberals and conservatives of today "claim to be libertarians, but their concepts of freedom differ greatly."
What he did not point out is that there is much hypocrisy and inconsistency on both sides.
Many liberals say they are for freedom of association--but only if that association does not
involve monetary transactions for goods and services. Many conservatives say they are for free enterprise, but they only mean
free from regulation and taxation and foreign competition--they certainly do not wish to be free from special privileges
bestowed by government, such as subsidies or tariffs (provided by taxing everyone else!) or import quotas (provided by regulating
their foreign competitors!). And neither the liberals nor the conservatives are willing to extend either freedom of association
or freedom of enterprise to such areas as prostitution, gambling, or drugs.
Mr. Bryant suggests that liberals are for "human rights," while conservatives are for "property rights."
This is only superficially true.
Nowhere is thus superficiality
more obvious than in the issue of the military draft, which is currently raising its ugly head again. The most immoral contradiction
is that of "conservatives," who claim to be defenders of property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft.
By what twisted logic can they hope to justify the notion that someone who has no right to life, still has the right to a
Almost as bad are those "liberals"
who claim that people have the "human right" to economic security, public housing, medical care, education, or recreation,
but still approve of the draft. Whether you hold that people have a right to property or the right to a livelihood, if you
deny them the right to life--which the draft does--you are cutting the logical ground out from under your position.
Another issue, seldom discussed, is that of voting--of participation in
the decision-making process of government. Liberals want everyone to be able to vote on candidates and propositions, even
those which would forcibly deprive some people of their property for the unearned benefit of others (to provide food, education,
This simply means, however, that liberals believe that
some human beings have the right to make property (slaves) out of others--that property owners exist not for their own sake,
but are born in bondage to live as indentured servants who must keep buying their lives by serving the tribe, but can never
acquire it free and clear. This is neither human nor right.
Understandably, conservatives are leery of allowing everyone access to the vote, if property owners are going to
have the fruits of their labors subject to being voted away by the envious, unpropertied masses. However, conservatives are
still willing to allow some property owners to dispose of the property of others by a majority vote at the ballot box--not
to mention disposing of the civil liberties of those they would like to exclude from the franchise.
Thus, conservatives are not really for property rights, any more than liberals are for human
rights. Conservatives merely want a more select, elite group deciding what to do with (and to) everyone's property and
Neither the mainstream liberals nor conservatives
of today accept the original American concept of government as a "policeman" and "arbiter," confined to
the task of protecting the individual citizen's rights and property. Instead, they have both accepted the Marxist view
of the nature of government--the view that a government is necessarily the agent of the economic interests of some class or
another, and that the sole political issue is: which class will seize control of the government to force its interests
on all other groups or classes?
Neither the mainstream liberals
nor conservatives question whether it is right or just to use government coercion for the special interest of some individual
or group. Instead, they merely squabble over whether that coercion is to be used for the benefit of the businessmen, the employers,
or the rich in general--or for the benefit of the consumers, the employees, or the poor in general.
Neither the mainstream liberals nor conservatives question whether it is right or just to forcibly
take money or property away from some people in order to give it to others who have not earned it--nor whether it is right
or just to forcibly interfere with peaceable actions between consenting individuals. Instead, they merely quibble over whether
government force should be used to provide welfare for the poor and to harass businessmen--or to provide welfare for the rich
and to harass people with alternative lifestyles.
author of The Devil's Dictionary, hit the nail on the head when he said that a conservative is "a statesman
enamored of old evils, as contrasted with the liberal, who would replace them with others."
Thus, we see that, in principle, there is no basic difference between today's liberals
and conservatives. Both hold contradictory notions about individual rights and both uphold the use of government force to
carry out their social policies. The main difference between them is the superficial matter of which groups fits one's
own personal style, taste, sensibilities, etc. Allowing for inflation, and paraphrasing George Wallace, we might say that
there's not a quarter's worth of difference between liberals and conservatives!
Unfortunately, we have not reached the end--the bottom--of the hypocrisy and inconsistency involved in the terms
"liberal" and "conservative." I'm referring, of course, to Mr. Bryant's smear of his "New
Right" opponents as "reactionary."
Who Are the "Reactionaries"?
The "New Right," and conservatives in general, are referred to
by Mr. Bryant and his liberal colleagues as reactionary. This they define as: wanting to "go back" to a
social system run by an elite or an aristocracy, which sets the terms by which the common people must live and relate to each
other--reacting against the progress toward a more democratic society.
Also, anyone who wants to "return" to a system of totally free enterprise, which we never had in the first
place, is also labeled "reactionary." Such a person, it is said, wants to return to the 19th century, and is blindly
reacting against the fact that time, and "social progress," march on.
Liberals such as Mr. Bryant, on the other hand, often refer to themselves as progressive. This they take
to mean: wanting to "move forward" to a more open, democratically-run society, where everyone has a chance to express
themselves, determine their goals and values, and not have their lives dictated to and controlled by any privileged elite.
(This, they say, is what conservatives are "reacting" against, after all.)
Applying this to the issue of government schools, the liberals argue that if you are truly a progressive, you must
join the liberals in favoring government schools as a vital factor in implementing your progressive social philosophy. On
the other hand, if you join the conservatives in opposing the "progressive" way the liberals have run the government
schools over the past 50 or more years, then you are a "reactionary." (And if you want to totally abolish the government
schools, then you are an extreme reactionary!)
however, these labels applied in exactly the opposite way. When you look at America in the early 1800s, you see that the privileged
elite who were setting the terms and trying to squash out diversity among their fellow Americans were the very people in charge
of the government schools systems!
During the early and middle
1800s, there was a broad, growing movement away from the government schools toward private alternative education. The response
of the government bureaucrats and teachers was to push for and win legislation which crippled or wiped out most of these unwanted
competitors. The last thing they wanted was for Catholics, immigrants, taxpayers, etc., to be free to choose how to educate
their children. Thus, in order to protect their jobs and power and sensibilities, they took very drastic, reactionary
steps to stifle this progressive movement into the educational free market.
The government education pushers reached their peak of power and accomplishment when, in 1922, they got the State
of Oregon to pass a law (later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court) outlawing all private schools. And guess who were the
most fanatical supporters of this law, and of the government schools in general? The Ku Klux Klan! The KKK was strong in the
northern states at that time, and they were eager to crush the Catholic parochial school system, and to force all Catholic
and immigrant children into the government schools, in order to Protestantize and Americanize them.
Yet, how much more bigoted is the KKK's desire to stamp out diversity and variety in America,
than that of those advocates of government schools, who seek to standardize education for everyone? More blatant, perhaps,
but not more bigoted.
Today, the government education establishment
is more of an entrenched elite than ever, and is facing another challenge to its power and authority. This time, however,
the challenge comes from two very different directions, which Mr. Bryant wishes to pigeonhole together as the "New Right."
One group represents the same movement that was aborted in the 1800s: the
free-market-in-education movement. Today, it consists of disillusioned liberals and blacks, individualist conservatives, and
libertarians, none of whom are "reactionary" any more than their counterparts in the 1800s were. Some of them advocate
tax relief in the form of vouchers or tax credits for those who pay for non-government education or schooling. Others simply
want to "throw the switch," abolishing government schools immediately and let the market take over. In either case,
these people--including their compatriots from a faction of the "New Right"--are the only true progressives on the
The other group which makes up the "New Right"
is actually the old government education elite, whose views on religious values, economic education, teaching methods,
etc., were gradually displaced from the government schools by the present, more liberal, government education elite.
These people grant the basic premise that tax-supported government schools are desirable. They merely argue that those schools
should be run differently: that God should be put back in the schools, with required prayer and religiously-oriented
history, science, sociology (and other) texts--that a free-market economics course be a requirement of graduation--that the
"3 Rs" be taught in the time-honored ways, rather than by "look-say" or "New Math."
This latter group, the Reformists, merely want to seize power over the government
schools and impose their standards and values on everyone else. They are no more interested in protecting or fostering
individual freedom and diversity than the present government school establishment. (Recall the example of the Ku Klux Klan
support for the Oregon law banning private schools mentioned above.)
Let me hasten to add that the Reformists do have many legitimate complaints. The deck has been stacked against
any religion which does not agree with scientific orthodoxy about the origin of the earth, of life, or of man--against the
free enterprise system of economics--and against our children's minds, which work best when taught using the phonetics
method, the "Old Math" system, etc.
Far from justifying
the transfer of power (back) to the Reformists, however, it instead points out the basic flaw in government education--and
in all government services and institutions in general. Basically, the problem is this: no matter how "democratically"
or "neutrally" a given government institution or service is run, there will always be a sizable group of
people who are forced to pay to support methods and policies of which they disapprove, and who are not free to withdraw that
support to place it with those whose methods and policies they find more compatible with their religion, philosophy, or whatever.
The simplest way of seeing this flaw is to consider the example of the fluoride
controversy. Everybody pays taxes or fees for government water, but while many want fluoridation (or don't care one way
or the other), many others do not want it. Yet, these latter people are forced to pay for it anyway, even if they buy and
use bottled water instead.
On a more complicated scale, this
is also the case with the government schools, in regard to a multitude of issues. Should schooling be traditional or progressive?
Free enterprise or socialistic? Competitive or egalitarian? Liberal arts or vocational? Segregated or integrated? Religious
or secular? Sex education or not? Or various shades between these extremes?
No matter what a government school administrator decides, even if the majority of parents go along with the decision,
there will always be a substantial number of parents and children who will be totally deprived of the kind of education
There are only two basic options for handling
this problem. One is to continue with the status quo. This will guarantee that there will always be periodic power
struggles between various groups, who will be at each other's throats in a desperate race to see to it that the one-and-only
decision in each vital area goes its own way.
The only other
alternative--and the only real solution to our worsening crisis in education--is to abolish the compulsory attendance and
tax support laws, destroying the reins of authority and power over how parents educate their children. This would allow the
free market to take over the job, which it was doing very well in the 1800s (before the reactionary backlash of government
school legislation), and which it is doing better and better today (despite the considerable competitive disadvantage caused
by the impact of taxes on the patrons of non-government schools, who must pay twice to educate their children).
Conclusion: the Smear Comes Home to Roost
It can now be seen even more clearly that the current "liberal-progressive" elite and the "New Right"
conservative Reformist movement are but two sides of the same coin. They are both groups of reactionaries, struggling
to put their elite back into power or to keep it in power. (They both also exhibit traits which Mr. Bryant
says are characteristic of conservatism: limited tolerance for nonconformity, desire to impose dominant values on all society,
If the Abolitionist movement ever begins to make real
headway in offering true alternatives for those whose diverse values, lifestyles, religious beliefs, etc., are not being served
by the government schools, it is safe to predict that the Reformist "New Right" and the current "liberal-progressive"
establishment will quickly set aside their superficial differences and unite to ward off their common enemy: the freedom of
parents to choose how and when they will educate their children, and the freedom of all of us to choose how and whether
we will spend any of our money to educate anyone's children.
This indicates another answer--perhaps more relevant to Mr. Bryant and his colleagues--to the question, "What
is the New Right?" The "New Right" is a great reservoir of potential recruits for the coming fight to save
the government school monopoly from the growing number of people from all walks of life, who want to tear it down and go with
the free market in education.
An alliance between the Tennessee
Educators Association and Tennessee Association of Teacher Educators, on the one hand, and the Reformist New Right, on the
other, may be distasteful to many liberal-progressives. Yet, such an alliance is certainly no more unthinkable than the fact
that their hero, Horace Mann--the father of American educational statism--is a kindred spirit of the Ku Klux Klan!
Appendix: "Social Engineering" in the Government Schools
In his column, "What Happened to Schooling" (May 31, 1980), Jenkin
Lloyd Jones criticizes the idea (held by many professional educators and federal judges) that public education is chiefly
for the purpose of "social engineering" rather than "imparting information." Most of what Jones says in
his column about forced busing and school assignment for racial balance (and "homogenization") is true, but his
claim that social engineering of this sort is a recent development (i.e., once that arose within the past 30 years)
is way off base.In his column, "What Happened to Schooling" (May
31, 1980), Jenkin Lloyd Jones criticizes the idea (held by many professional educators and federal judges) that public education
is chiefly for the purpose of "social engineering" rather than "imparting information." Most of what Jones
says in his column about forced busing and school assignment for racial balance (and "homogenization") is true,
but his claim that social engineering of this sort is a recent development (i.e., once that arose within the past
30 years) is way off base.
Like most conservatives, and most people
in general, Jones has not done his history homework. Had he done so, he would know that turning out educated students was
never the primary purpose of government schools per se.
you examine the various debates during the mid-1800s over whether to have statewide government school systems, you will find
clear statements by Horace Mann and his cohorts of the reasons why they felt such school systems were a "must."
The reasons given were almost never in terms of literacy and cognitive skills.
Why not? Because in the "bad old days" of the 1800s, schooling was nearly universal in the U. S. before
attendance was required by law--and in Great Britain before either compulsory attendance or government financing existed.
Literacy reached well over 90% in Britain before compulsory education had any effect.
There's a very simple economic explanation for this. As the Industrial Revolution spread, it raised people's
standards of living (and disposable income) to the point where they could not only spare their children the necessity of laboring
to help support the family, but they could even spare some money to send them to school. Thus, private schools proliferated
and flourished in the 1800s.
The South appears to be an exception
to this pattern, but that is mainly because of the residual effects of the feudal slave system and the economic depression
period following the Civil War, both of which severely crippled the South's participation in the Industrial Revolution.
Despite these setbacks, the South, too, was gradually expanding and improving its private elementary and secondary schools
and would have eventually drawn even with the more industrial North, had it not been for one thing: the massive tax subsidy
of the government schools, starting in the 1880s. In just 20 years, the number of private schools in Tennessee, for example,
dropped from over 1400 to under 400! (The power to tax for the purpose of subsidy is the power to destroy competitors.)
So, literacy was much higher in the 1800s than is commonly believed, and
it was taken for granted. The subject hardly ever arose as an urgent social issue. Instead, the concerns of Mann et al were
with social values, such as "civic virtue," "social goals," and having a "homogeneous population."
In the view of Mann and others, the large influx of immigrants (especially
the Catholics and Eastern Europeans) presented a threat to America's "social order." We were faced with "dilution
of our national stock" and with "racial indigestion." The concern was with a perceived lack of national
unity. Government schools were thus said to be necessary to teach these unruly newcomers to be good little citizens--which
meant teaching them to practice "proper" Protestant virtues and to give up their Old World customs and languages.
Another major concern, especially after the Civil War, was national
loyalty. It is no coincidence that the majority of states passed compulsory education laws almost overnight, during the
period from 1870 to 1890. Sentiment was strong to eliminate disloyalty, to eradicate rebels and traitors--and where better
to teach children not to question the state and its demands for self-sacrifice and unquestioning service to the Motherland
than in government schools run from the top down?
"social engineering" Mr. Jones objects to is not a startling new precedent, but instead is one of the original cornerstones
of the various state government school systems. (The other one is the desire of teachers to insulate themselves from the demands
and pressures of the public and from private competition, and the desire of the administrators and bureaucrats to preserve
their power and vested interests. Again, advocates of government schools were very explicit and consistent about this. They
were much more candid than their present-day counterparts.)
recorded history, the proponents of government education have argued that government schools are necessary for the best interest
not of the child--nor even of society--but of the state. They have all assumed that children and adults alike are
the property of the state, and that for the "self-preservation" of the state, children must be forced to attend
government-approved schools, and adults must be forced to pay taxes to support them.
With a premise like this ruling our lives, it should be no mystery "What Happened to Schooling"! If, on
the other hand, we were free to choose how (and whether) to spend our money for education, people could freely support schools
which engaged in social engineering or imparting information--or whatever--and no conflict would ever arise. We could resume
the peaceful, yet exhilarating, era of educational progress, which we aborted when we abandoned the free market in education.