September 22, 2004

The Forced Socialization of Compassion Trap

I accused Russ Nelson of being too harsh in his (rightful) condemnation of the present US system of schooling. With his latest missive on the subject, I find I might have gotten him a bit wrong. He's not necessarily thinking too harshly. Instead, he's thinking too small. The results are the same, an angry economist who isn't getting his program adopted.

At the level he talks about, schooling is no longer properly considered a separate subject but merely a unit in a larger bit of socialism, the forced socialization of compassion. Once you have swallowed the (false) idea that government can do compassion by force better than private individuals can voluntarily, government takes the compassion business over and immediately begins to extend its tentacles into greater and greater areas of life in order to ensure that the objects of compassion are as few as possible. One of the ways that this manifests itself is in an inevitable slide into mandatory schooling so that children do not grow up to be low skilled wretches who forever beg for handouts.

If you do not fix the forced socialization of compassion, you will always fail in attempts to negate mandatory schooling. All that the enemies of better schools need to do to destroy any reasonable coalition to implement your program is to come up with higher social spending bills that will "inevitably" follow the "reckless" removal of mandatory school rules. If you make the figures high enough, you will fracture off the immoral green eyeshade types who fetishize fiscal efficiency over all other considerations. There are enough of these to make it practically impossible to implement any program of voluntary schooling as a replacement of mandatory schooling.

If one doesn't care about actually getting their ideas embedded into law this sort of objection doesn't really matter. For those of us who do care, we have to navigate the waters of the politically possible and create ladders of legislative and informational proposals where each step taken prepares society for the next step on the journey to the final destination.

School reform should be brought about in a way that it will make the ultimate end of compulsion schooling more and more feasible when society finally decides that the forced socialization of compassion was a fundamental mistake. What it should not do is to present the situation in such a way that we're trapped in a vicious, chicken and egg situation. The forced socialization of compassion is a huge meta-issue. It impacts government provision of all sorts of services, not just education. Children shouldn't have to wait in poor government schools until we've unravelled this big issue. Instead we should be creating interim reforms that can improve the lot of children for the likely decades of debate and pro-liberty work it will take to unwind the forced socialization of compassion idea.

Posted by TMLutas at September 22, 2004 12:18 PM