Government-Sponsored Values

Helen Shibut

Libertarians are often criticized for our position on public education—we’re not fans of it!  This isn’t because we don’t support educating children.  We believe that public schools don’t give children the right kind of education.  I recently attended a talk by Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute called “Government Schooling for a Free Society?  It Sounds Wrong Because It Is Wrong.”  He stressed that while government-provided schooling is not in the best interests of the children at the schools, it is in the best interest of the government, and that’s why the government continues to fund even poorly performing schools that everyone can agree are not doing much educating.  By controlling how people are educated, the government can teach the values that it wants to and leave out the things it does not like.  Though I do not believe the average teacher is out to indoctrinate students with government propaganda, it is true that they are provided with most of their material by the state.  Some material is pretty uncontroversial—think algebra.  But we’ve also seen lists of banned books, other books taught that parents disapproved of, evolution banned and then required, creationism required and then banned… decisions like these should be made by parents, not politicians.  And through not everyone agrees about which contraceptive methods should be taught or if anyone should have to read Catcher In The Rye (but why wouldn’t they?), everyone who pays taxes continues to support the system, like it or not. In contrast, in a free society parents could choose for themselves which schools deserve their money. 

Any form of education, especially for children, is going to involve some instilling of values.  Choosing which values are “best” is not a job for the government, which has problems practicing even the values it professes to approve of (Honesty? Responsibility?).  Therefore, parents should have the right to support only the schools they want to, as long as they allow others to do the same.  In this kind of system, there would be a wide variety of schools for parents to choose from, and schools would have to produce good results or risk losing their students and financial support.  It’s true that parents don’t always make the right choices—but we can usually rely on the government making the wrong ones.  


Why is a free society the best kind of society?

Helen Shibut

            Seven members of Madison Liberty attended the International Students for Liberty conference in Washington DC this past weekend.  It was so inspiring to see such a huge group of liberty-minded college students gather to listen to speakers on a wide range of libertarian issues, from Austrian economics to civil liberties to non-interventionist foreign policy.
            Nigel Ashford, from the Institute for Humane Studies, gave a very interesting lecture on the different kinds of libertarianism.  While libertarians generally agree that the state should have minimal power over the individual, they have different opinions about why this is true.  For example, some libertarians believe that people are endowed with natural rights at birth (Rand, Nozick), while others argue that freedom, especially economic freedom, is important simply because the individual can make better decisions for himself than the state can (Hayek). 
            To convey libertarian ideas to other people, we have to know why we believe in a minimal state and free markets.  Though some libertarians feel that we should focus on only our common goals in order to work towards producing the kind of free society we want to live in, I think it is important to know both the practical and the philosophical reasoning behind libertarianism.  


Women's Issues Debate

Helen Shibut

Last week, the JMU Democrats hosted a debate between themselves, the College Republicans, Madison Liberty, and Shout Out (a group of JMU feminist bloggers).  The debate focused on women's issues. Here are the positions Luke and I advocated as the representatives for Madison Liberty.

On equal pay legislation:
This kind of legislation hurts the ability of women to compete for jobs.  Equal pay legislation makes it impossible for businesses to adjust pay rates solely on the basis of merit-- businesses must ensure that both genders are paid equally regardless of performance.  But without equal pay legislation, sexist employers must pay for their prejudices because the supply of potential male workers is much lower than the supply of potential workers overall.  If a female applicant is willing to accept a lower rate than a male applicant, a sexist employer must take a financial hit in order to hire the man. 

Though sexism continues to have an influence in the workplace, that effect is decreasing as women dominate college graduation rates.  The collapse of the pay gap will happen as a result of social change-- more government regulation is not the answer.

On sex education in public schools:
Given the differences in people's beliefs about what constitutes appropriate material to be taught in schools, no sex-ed program can satisfy even the majority of taxpayers (the people who ultimately fund the schools).  Therefore, the government ought to remove itself entirely from sex education, and stop functioning as a convenient way for parents to avoid their responsibilities to their children. 

On Roe v. Wade:
The practical issues that would brought up by criminalizing abortion cause us to oppose the government abolishing or regulation abortion.  Anti-abortion laws would be difficult to enact, and would certainly require gross invasions of personal privacy.  Though libertarians hold differing opinions on the ethics of abortion, Madison Liberty does not see government intervention as the answer.