Posts tagged ‘Thomas Jefferson’

Born to Rule

I thought this a good commentary on the whole Tiger mom thing.  Via Insty [Note I added some paragraph breaks -  sorry Mr. Smith, but I simply cannot abide by paragraphs as long as yours]

But here's the thing.  And here the point has been made easier to make by the curious fact that Tiger Mom is a Yale Law School professor and as Professor Bainbridge has pointed out, it seems almost an epidemic among faculty parents in New Haven.

My fear is that little tiger kittens are not being groomed to make things that you and I can buy if we feel like it.  I'm afraid, call me paranoid if you like, that those little achievers will want to grow up to, well, rule.  Not in the imperial Chinese way, though I take it that is the ultimate inspiration for this model of child rearing.  If my high school understanding of Chinese history is correct, that Empire used to be ruled by a giant bureaucracy into which one got by passing extraordinarily difficult exams, competing against other fanatically hopeful parents who saw it as one of the few ways to get the young persons out of a life of horrible drudgery.  But rather in something more like the imperial Chinese way than my ideal, which is more like Thomas Jefferson's, without the antique and misguided dislike of commerce.

So, if I'm sitting in the middle of my Jeffersonian space, able to order whatever I want, within my budget of course, from Amazon, working at something I like, not taxed to death or harassed by officious officials;  if I can provide for my family and hope to provide a similarly independent life for my offspring, then what's it to me if some mom somewhere wants to drive her children so that someday they will produce a recording or a pill I might want to buy?  Only good.

But if we are sliding toward a world like the one that is, to exaggerate only a little, like that I was taught we should be sliding toward when I restlessly roamed the hallowed halls the The Yale Law School many years ago, then I am not so sanguine.  Then I worry that all this fierce intelligence, all this ambition, all this work are going toward the building of world in which my children will be mere, well, what do you call the people who support those who so intelligently manage things from on top.  Not to mention the unbelievably well educated 35 year old who will tell me someday I didn't score well enough in some algorithm I can't even understand to get my arteries bypassed or my prostate cancer treated.

I want to live in a world, and I want my children to as well, where we are free individuals, and geniuses can sell us stuff if we want to buy it.  When I suspect the little elites of tomorrow are just being made more formidable still, it excites not my admiration as much as my anxiety.

Exhibit A For School Choice

For years I have argued that the killer app that may someday actually lead to school choice will not be individual liberty (because no one in government gives a rip about that any more) and not education quality (because again, its clear no one really cares) but speech and religion.  If the right messes up schools enough, the left might finally be willing to shed their alliance with the teachers unions and consider school choice.  From a live-blog of a Texas Board of Education meeting (via Radley Balko)

9:27 - The board is taking up remaining amendments on the high school world history course.9:30 - Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with "the writings of") and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson's ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don't buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar's problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

9:40 - We're just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board's far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America's exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America's Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.

Correction on Life Expectancy

Bird Dog writes me with a correction to my statement that even the poorest today enjoy much longer life spans than folks 100 years ago.  He writes:

In the past, average life span was short, due to infant and childhood
mortality, and young adult mortality, due to infectious disease. It's a
statistical error, really.
There was a bi-modal mortality, peaking in the early teens, and again
in old age. Infant mortality was high.  That youth mortality has been
eliminated by antibiotics, so we no longer have a bimodal mortality graph. But
that youth mortality falsifies the historical averages, giving the
appearance of a lower life span than today..

That is a valid point.  Of course, the much longer average life span has meaning, just not in the exact way I implied.  In a previous article, I formulated this difference more carefully, and in a way I think is consistent with Bird Dog's observation:

1)  A hundred years ago, you would have been more likely, by an order of magnitude, to see at least one of your kids die.  Even in my father's generation (born in 1922) it is unusual to find anyone who did not lose a brother or sister young, as both my mom and my dad did.

2)  Many people from centuries past lived as long as we today might expect.  Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Adams all lived to ages we would even today call "old".  However, I would venture that most of these folks' lives in their last ten or twenty years was of much lower quality than our lives at these ages today.  We may not live much longer, but our last 10-20 years are much more enjoyable.  My father-in-law was biking and white-water kayaking in his seventies right up to his untimely death in a car accident.  Among other things, teeth, eyes, and joints are all body parts that tend to fail in a non-terminal manner.  We can fix many of the age-induced problems with these parts, and while it may not extend life, it sure as hell extends living.

Why Libertarians are Paranoid, Example #12,403

Those on the left and the right often try to laugh off libertarians, ascribing to "paranoia" our fear of the power of government. 

Well, I could argue that if this is paranoia, I share a similar phobia with men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, whose fear of government power permeate all their writings, as well as the Constitution they helped to produce.  They believed that even good men could be corrupted by the government, and they were proven correct in an incredibly short time by John Adams.  Adams is by all accounts a good man, dedicated to freedom and democracy, and one of the chief intellectual architects both of the Revolution and the Constitution.  But it was Adams that signed into law the Alien and Sedition Act, perhaps the worst piece of illiberal and unconstitutional legislation in the history of this country.

Or, if I didn't want to make the founding father's / original intent argument, I could just point to this (hat tip Marginal Revolution):

A federal judge in Texas, calling the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. a "corrupt
agency with corrupt influences on it," awarded a Houston financier $72 million
to cover his legal fees in a decade-long suit involving a failed savings and
loan and the government's efforts to take control of a stand of endangered
California redwood trees in the 1990s.

The FDIC, a regulatory agency that insures deposits at banks and
savings and loans, filed suit against Charles E. Hurwitz in 1995, seeking to
collect more than $800 million because Hurwitz indirectly controlled a Texas
S&L that failed in 1988. The FDIC, after a series of legal setbacks, dropped
its suit against Hurwitz in 2002....

On Tuesday evening, Hughes issued a scathing, 131-page ruling. In it, he cited
evidence that the FDIC brought the case largely because of pressure from
environmental groups, members of Congress and the Clinton administration. The
reason: Hurwitz's Pacific Lumber Co. owned 3,500 acres of endangered redwoods in
Northern California. Hughes found that the FDIC, in close concert with
environmental groups, sued Hurwitz to pressure him into a "debt-for-nature"
swap, in effect giving the government his trees in exchange for his supposed
liability in the failure of the United Savings Association of Texas....

Hughes said FDIC officials and lawyers, in depositions, "ranged from
manipulative evasiveness to plain perjury." He cited records of two years of
communications, including extensive discussions of legal strategy and political
matters, between the FDIC and environmentalists over the proposal to use a
banking-practices lawsuit as pressure on Hurwitz to give up the

Hughes said FDIC officials "discarded the mantle of the American
Republic for the cloak of a secret society of extortionists. If the vice
president called, they responded. If a congressman called, they responded. If a
lobbyist called, they responded. They heeded every call but that of duty and

Wow.  I know many people are paranoid about the lack of accountability of major corporations, and felt vindicated by the Enron case, over which the press spilled acres of ink.  However, Enron is nothing compared to this.  While fraud is bad, Enron at least was never able to use the coercive regulatory and police power that the government has to seek its ends.

Where Our Founding Fathers Extremist?

Certainly King George III would have considered our founding fathers extremist.  But apparently, they may be considered extremist even today, at least by the left.

In my earlier post on Janice Rogers Brown, I quoted JRB saying:

"Where government moves in, community
retreats, civil society disintegrates. . . . When government advances . . .
freedom is imperiled, civilization itself [is] jeopardized."

I noted that both the NY Times and the People for the American Way use this quote to say that JRB is "extremist".  I said, in response, "I bet I could find about 20 similar quotes in the Federalist Papers or from other contributors to the US Constitution."  Of course, I was too lazy to go looking for quotes, but Gary Galles of the Mises Blog was not.  He has hunted down many examples, but I will quote his work on the JRB quote above:

Janice Rogers Brown: "Where government advances"”and it advances
relentlessly"”freedom is imperiled...When did government cease to be a necessary
evil and become a goody bag to solve our private problems?"
: "Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in
its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable
George Mason: "Every society, all government, and
every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the
general good and safety of the community. Every power, every authority vested in
particular men is, or ought to be, ultimately directed at this sole end; and
whenever any power or authority whatever extends further...than is in its nature
necessary for these purposes, it may be called government, but it is in fact
Thomas Jefferson: "˜What more is necessary to
make us a happy and a prosperous people?...a wise and frugal Government, which
shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to
regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from
the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good

Go read them all.  And remember, he is taking all the JRB quotes right off the People for the American Way site, who have posted the quotes to scare us about what an extremist she is.