I’ve been meaning to comment on this
for a very long while:
Many people think life without the welfare state would be chaos. In their minds, nobody would help support the less fortunate, and there would be riots in the streets. Little do they know that people found innovative ways of supporting each other before the welfare state existed. One of the most important of these ways was the mutual-aid society.
Mutual aid, also known as fraternalism, refers to social organizations that gathered dues and paid benefits to members facing hardship. According to David Beito in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, there was a “great stigma” attached to accepting government aid or private charity during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mutual aid, on the other hand, did not carry the same stigma. It was based on reciprocity: today’s mutual-aid recipient could be tomorrow’s donor, and vice versa.
One critique of libertarianism is that it has no regard for poor people, as if only the government is capable of showing concern for poor people. Of course, governments have historically ignored the plight of the poor, and thus it is an historical anomaly in the first place that the government even offers any aid to poor people.
That aside, the historical norm, at least in America, is that poor people were generally helped by mutual aid societies. Or, stated another way, welfare was primarily a market function. In keeping with this, the market served admirably in this capacity, encouraging poor people to engage in thrift and to comply with certain social norms. In many ways, then, mutual aid societies are superior to their state-run alternatives because they encourage positive behaviors instead of subsidizing counterproductive behaviors.
The current system does indeed leave much to be desired. It does not go far enough in tying aid to productive behaviors. Even with the recent reforms, there are still some who successfully game the system. Welfare workers are understaffed, preventing them from policing recipients as they should. Recipients, then, are able to get money without having to work or in some way improve their life. The government is, in many ways, impotent to address this problem because there are many interest groups who would charge the government with targeting minorities by requiring that they change their culture. In essence, the government is hamstrung by multiculturalism.
As such, the current form of welfare is not only expensive, but it is considerably inferior to its free market alternative because it cannot offer near the same amount of accountability that market-based forms of welfare do. Thus, the libertarian doctrine that welfare should not be a state activity is actually quite reasonable for the free market has actually done a better job at charity than the government has.
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In India, NGOs are fashionable. It is almost never wrong, in the Indian discourse, to give more money and more functions to NGOs.
Many people have worried about the extent to which NGOs are being used to supplant failing State machinery. This may seem expedient, but no country every became a developed country on the back of NGOs. There is no alternative to fixing the core mechanisms of the State.
In recent days, two pro-NGO policy elements seem to be in the pipeline:
- A new Companies Bill seems to require that 2% of profit be spent on corporate social responsibility (CSR).
- SEBI decided to force listed companies, starting with the top 100 firms, to describe measures taken by them along the key principles enunciated in the ‘National voluntary guidelines on social, environmental and economic responsibilities of business,’ framed by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).
When the government grabs 2% of the profit of a company, and hands it out to any purpose (no matter how good or bad), that is called expropriation. The fact that it satisfies some bleeding hearts does not change the fact that it is expropriation. In a good country, property rights would be fundamental, and the Supreme Court would block such expropriation.
The job of a corporation is to efficiently organise production, and send dividends back to shareholders. It is the individual, the shareholder, who has to then make a call about whether he would like to give money to charitable causes or not. We do wrong by expropriating this money even before it reaches the individual.
We do wrong by placing the burden of charitable works upon the corporation. Corporations should not be organised to be do-gooders. They should be organised to obey laws, have high ethical standards and then power India’s way out of poverty by efficiently organising production. Anything that corporations do, other than focusing on efficient production, is a distraction from the main trajectory of India’s growth and development.
When a country is run by bleeding hearts, things start going wrong. If such a tax is enacted, it reduces the post-tax return on capital that Indian firms generate. Foreign investors and domestic investors have choices about where to invest. They will demand that firms only invest in a smaller set of high-return projects, which are competitive on the rate of return by global standards, even after being taxed. In other words, many projects will not be undertaken. This can’t be good for India.
To make progress in India, we need to be hard headed. We should not let the urge to do good crowd out intelligence and analysis. We are falling into this trap too often.
One key element that I blame is the Indian college education. We fail to teach political science (so we get things like the Anna Hazare phenomenon; too many people who have not read The Republic). We fail to teach economics, so we get the education cess. Given the absence of a positive strategy for what India should be doing, in the mainstream, we are willing to turn away from the hard work of fixing the State, and feel satisfied by funding some do-gooding NGOs.
Intellectuals are the yeast that make a society rise, and we in India have been skimping on this yeast.
Britain’s international aid budget costs the equivalent of 22 days of national borrowing from international markets. By 2015, British Aid will have increased by 34.2% to £11.5 billion per annum. Including personal donations and state spending, Britain gives 0.8% of GDP in international aid. With state aid increasing, more people should ask: Why are average per capita incomes in Africa lower than 40 years ago after $1 trillion of aid being given over that period?
If there is one thing I simply do not understand in this scenario, it would have to be why Britain feels compelled to help Africa at all. The British government’s only concern should be with taking care of its citizens and acting directly in their best interest. (Of course, as a libertarian, I’m inclined to argue that this can be accomplished simply by ensuring that property rights are observed, and that the taxation necessary to ensure this result is as small and painless as possible.)
I simply do not see how giving aid to Africa is in the best interest of British citizens. Need cheap labor? Asia is a good place for that, and doesn’t generally require near the amount of aid that Africa does. Besides which, Asian labor is more reliable in terms of quality, and many Asian governments have made a point of developing their infrastructure. So why care about Africa?
This question becomes extremely poignant once on also considers that African countries have not simply stagnated in spite of aid, but have actually regressed. This being the case, it seems obvious that aid, if not hurtful, is at least irrelevant to African countries. And if they can’t manage the money transferred to them from the pockets of productive first-world citizens, then how and why would anyone think that they are worth investing in?
Quite simply, it is time to cut the purse-strings to Africa. They squander the generous gifts given to them time and again, and it appears that this trend isn’t going to change anytime soon. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, then the sane thing to do at this point might be to cut the aid and force Africa to stand on its own feet. And who knows? It just might be crazy enough to work.
The idea of charter cities, originally promoted by Stanford economist Paul Romer, sparked a lively academic debate in the field of economic development. The idea of charter city rests on the premise of creating special reform zones within countries. The reform zone would not be governed by the prevailing system of formal and informal rules within countries. The concept of charter city would serve as an intellectual laboratory of ideas in which governments would be let to quickly adopt innovative system of rules. The purpose of charter cities is the empowerment of incentives in world’s less developed countries to develop human capital skills, hence, to increase the level of productivity and real wages that could foster the increase in the standard of living. By and large, the core idea of building a charter city means building a city of about 1000 sq. kilometers in the unoccupied land of the host country and adopting an innovative system of formal and informal rules provided by the source country. The example of charter city include selling Guantanamo to Canada and turning the little piece of Cuban land into Caribbean Hong Kong by adopting a formal system of rules and governance based on limited government, strong rule of law and free market; and turning the new territory into manufacturing hub that could serve as a source of income for workers across Caribbean islands such as Haiti. The charter city would not only provide the opportunity for testing intellectual ideas and innovations but also migrational opportunities for individuals from world’s most impoverished countries such as Haiti. The coordination of the charter city is managed by a triangle. First, the host country would provide the piece of land. Second, the source country would provide the infrastructure, human capital and ideas. And third, the guarantor country would provide the assurance that the charter would be respected by both countries.
The concept of the charter city has gained significant attention by development experts in discussing developmental malaise in world’s least developed countries in Africa. The empirical evidence on Africa’s underdevelopment is striking. It suggests a blinking interplay of corruption, institutional fragility and state failure. According to African Development Indicators, about 75 percent of firms in Cote d’Ivoire identify corruption as the major constraint in doing business. In Ethiopia, less than 2 percent of females enroll tertiary education. Moreover, the average Ethiopian female can expect only 7 years of total schooling. In Liberia, about 11 percent of married women partake a contraceptive use by any method. Hence, one third of young Liberian women, aged 15-19. In addition, 60 percent of Liberians live below $2 per day. In Mozambique and Sierra Leone, only 45 percent of young women are literate. A female at birth in Sub-Saharan Africa can expect to experience no more than 8 years of total schooling throughout her life.
The perennial question in the establishment of charter cities is whether the idea can serve as a source of good rules, promoting good governance through low-cost contract enforcement. Institutional fragility of states across world’s least developed countries is largely the economic outcome stemming from wrong development diagnostics, mismatched policy choices and a rigid structure of formal and informal institutional arrangements which resulted in a myriad of bad rules and corrupt political leadership across the specturm of world’s poorest countries. The general conclusion from the lessons of development policy is that in the last century, development policy failed to facilitate meaningful prescriptions for a permanent rise of GDP per capita. In particular, the misdiagnosis of essential development dilemma is not a consequence of technical failure in delivering concrete solutions to applied issues of economic development but a consequence of mismatched theoretical foundations which supplied wrong assumptions. Theoretical models of economic growth and development in late 1950s and early 1960s rested on the assumption on output per worker as an increasing and diminishing function of the capital per worker. Although the validity of the neoclassical growth theory remains undisputed, development policy and international aid donors failed to recognize that increasing the amount of aid does not lead to better development outcomes. In fact, the majority of Sub-Saharan countries experienced the relative decline of GDP per capita in the 20th century. In 1913, the GDP per capita of Ghana (in 1990 international dollars) represented 42 percent of the average GDP per capita of European periphery. In 2008, Ghana’s GDP per capita represented merely 8 percent of the average GDP per capita of European periphery. By the available statistics, Algeria was the second wealthiest country in Africa, only after South Africa. In 1913, Ghana was the fourth richest society in Africa, only after South Africa, Algeria and Egypt. In 2008, Ghana’s GDP per capita was ranked 20th in Africa, in the same range as Angola, Lesotho and Nigeria.
The question surrounding the emergence of the charter city is whether it can serve as a treatment to the contagious sclerosis of fragile institutional structure in failed states, marred by poor governance and the lack of law and order, causing the failure to enforce private contracts as to ensure the rule of law and provide the institutional impetus for sound governance and better formal and informal rules. A notable criticism of the institutional fragility in world’s less developed countries pertains to the capture of the state by the political elites. The political elites in world’s poorest regions have provided sufficient conditions for the capture of government and judicial system by incorporating a system of powerful informal arrangements through bloated corruption which consequently impaired investment and ultimately resulted in the expropriation of private property rights. The institutional chaos in the most failed states of the world culminated into behavioral adaption to bad rules. The sequence of harmful economic policies eventually seized upon poor development outcomes such as high rates of poverty, stagnating income per capita, low life expectancy and poor health and education indicators.
The foremost task of the charter city should facilitate the institutional decency to enforce private contracts without transaction cost barriers and ensure a robust system of the rule of law since better rules nonetheless depend on how informal institutions such as culture, habits and behavior embrace the virtues of free markets, limited government and the rule of law. Aside from the essential infrastructural arrangements, the provision of institutional conditions for living under a different set of rules does not necessarily imply sufficient prerequisites for the productivity growth that could, in the long run, transform the charter city from low-wage pool of unskilled labor into high-wage urban agglomeration. What is needed for a charter city to flourish is the acceptance of informal institutions of the liberal society such as the freedom of contract and the freedom from corruption. One should not hesitate that economic and personal liberties in world’s poorest countries are plagued by predatory rent-seeking political behavior as well as contended against the principles of adherence to formal rules. Without a sensory adherence to these principles, it would be impossible to envisage the charter city as a solution to world poverty and underdevelopment.
For a charter city to provide a clear and cohesive framework of rules, it is essential to provide the credibility and predictability of rules. In early 1950s, Hong Kong was a small island chartered by the British who established a system of credibility over centuries. Hong Kong was the only place where Chinese workers were allowed to migrate from the mainland China. The credibility of the rules, emphasizing limited government over extensive government intervention, free markets over regulated command-and-control economy and the rule of law over political discretion and interest-group politics, proved vital in Hong Kong’s steady economic growth in the 20th century. In 1950, Hong Kong’s income per capita was around GBP 2,500. By 1997, the average income per capita rose to GBP 20,000.
The idea of building charter cities to boost income per capita by innovative framework of governance is a valuable alternative to the mainstream development policy. First, setting a charter city in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America would encourage seasonal and permanent migration flows from areas with low population density both on domestic and international scale. David McKenzie and John Gibson examined the impact of New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer program (link), aimed at encouraging seasonal migration from Pacific islands Tonga and Vanuatu to New Zealand, benefitting employers at home. The empirical evidence and policy conclusions suggest that seasonal migration is offering a triple win since a migrant, the sending country and the receiving country benefit from participating in seasonal migration program:
“Nevertheless, there are several caveats to these conclusions. The first is that development is a long-term process, and some of the effects of the RSE may only materialize over many years of community involvement. These could include positive effects such as greater asset-building, investments and skill development if workers return for many seasons, as well as potential longer-term negative effects of continual absence of family members on family and community relations. Secondly, while the gains to households from this seasonal migration are large, they still pale in comparison to the gains from permanent international migration (McKenzie et al, 2010). A key policy issue is therefore the extent to which seasonal migration can or cannot eventually open up avenues for permanent migration. Finally, as with all evaluations, there is the question of how far the policy details and findings can be extrapolated to other settings and that it was developed drawing on lessons from experiences around the world should provide some external validity. As temporary migration programs are increasingly emphasized in policy discussions, there is likely to be plenty of scope for governments and researchers to work together in the future in assessing how well these lessons translate.”
Second, charter cities would nevertheless spur the diffusion of knowledge into the countries of poor regions in the world. In its most distinctive form, charter cities would be similar to the role of small states in the global economy. For instance, consider Mauritius. Back in 1968, when the island gained the political independence from the United Kingdom, the economic prospects of the country were undermined by rapid population growth, rachitic productivity and overdependence on sugar as the only export industry. In addition, trade policy imposed high tariffs and import quotas to protect sugar manufacturers. Since it was impossible to dismantle the barriers to trade, the government of Mauritius responded by creating a virtual special export zone. Any foreign and domestic company could enter and exit the export zone by retaining the profits earned. Companies within the export zone operated under different rules with no trade restrictions such as tariffs, import quotas, voluntary export restraints etc. Hence, the only entry requirement for locating in the special zone was that companies manufacture only for exports as not to compete with domestic markets. The special export zone proved to be a success story. Productivity and employment rates increased sharply, boosting income per capita and standard of living. In 2010, Mauritius’s GDP per capita ($15,500) is the second highest in the region, only behind Gabon ($14,600). The experience of Mauritius with the special export zone and its consequent impact on the economic prosperity of the island, suggests that institutional competition ultimately rewards the institutional structure with better economic outcomes. The entire concept of the charter city is based on encouraging the institutional competition between charter cities and politico-economic systems in poorer countries where charter cities would be most likely to settle. Low initial level of income per capita in charter cities would encourage low-wage employment with unskilled labor. The experience of countries such as Mauritius, Singapore and Hong Kong suggests that favorable institutional features at the beginning stage of development result in better economic policies, ultimately leading to stable economic growth, higher standard of living and better education and health indicators. In Mauritius, the judicial independence from political influence has been enhanced by delegating the highest court of appeal to the British Privy Council, a royal judicial committee (link), full powers of judicial authority.
Many smaller countries in the 20th century, known for good development outcomes, have adopted roughly similar institutional impetus for economic growth and development. In Africa, countries with the highest level of economic freedom and the lowest perception of corruption, such as Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia, enjoy the highest level of GDP per capita in the African continent. In spite of the abundance of natural resources, Botswana adopted market-friendly economic policies in the second half of the 20th century, conducive to private enterprise and investment. According to World Bank, it takes 152 hours to pay taxes in Botswana compared to Sub-Saharan average of 315 days. In addition, a claimant in Botswana can expect to recover 63.7 cents per $1 from an insolvent firm compared to 8.4 cents per 1$ in Angola, 16 cents per 1$ in Niger and 0 cents per 1$ in Madagascar.
And third, charter cities would vastly improve the infrastructure of the residents, choosing freely to enter and exit the city. Households in countries such as Guinea still lack the access to electricity, forcing students to do the homework under streetlights and use the car park lights to review school notes (link). Despite being one of the largest receivers of aid per capita, Guinea still suffers from the lack of widespread access to electricity. One could hardly believe that the efforts pledged by international aid donors to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living across the African continent, were not sufficient. What created the black hole, such as the above in Guinea, is the institutional structure plagued by persistent corruption, political cronyism and bad governance, creating bad rules and wrong incentives. Charter cities would ingeniously cure the widespread persistence of misrule and political misconduct since the system of rules would be defined by the founding charter of the city. Good prospects of charter cities would require free entry and exit from the city as well as transparent and honest oversight of the respect for rules by independent judicial authority, managed by a guarantor country such as the United Kingdom, U.S. or Canada. In the proposed form, a typical charter city would become a manufacturing hub. In particular, it would enable access to low labor costs and significant economies of scale to technology entrepreneurs from rich countries as well as transparent contract enforcement, law and order and the security of private property rights. On the other hand, cities would enable millions of people from poor countries to migrate to chartered cities and seek employment opportunities in an environment, safe from corruption, political restraint, violence and bad governance. Hence, charter cities would provide a necessary input to the intellectual competition of ideas in economics, law and political philosophy and elsewhere to be implemented in chartered cities.
The concept enables social scientists and development experts a real-world experiment of ideas. Hence, charter cities could provide a safe haven for prosecuted individuals in poor countries, suffering from judicial errors, physical and military violence or illicit property expropriation. The UN estimates that, over the next few decades, 3 billion people will move to cities. The inflow exerts a growing pressure on urban agglomerations. The lack of basic infrastructure and the continuity of predatory misrule could cause a rapid growth of slums in larger cities which, by and large, are the main source of infectious diseases, HIV prevalence and youth crime since the absence of access to clean water, electricity and education are the major impediment to the improvement of development outcomes in poor countries. A charter city could flourish to become an impulsive alternative to the current state of overdependence on foreign aid. However, it should be unambiguously clear that adherence to good rules and governance requires a bold and decisive change in the set of informal behavior; in which corruption, crime and nepotism are doomed to the fullest possible extent by the full enforcement of private contracts and the rule of law.
Over the past few days I have received insane Facebook status updates from a close friend. The stream that followed has left me with profound respect and caused me to reflect on some lessons that can be learned.
14 January 2009 9:54 a.m. I am packing for Haiti… so many things bring to help. How am i going to carry all this?
15 January 2009 12:26 p.m. I am STUCK in Dominican Republic trying to arrange a chartered flight to get us and the 36 rescue workers 4 dogs and 7,300 pounds of rescue gear to get them on the ground in Haiti. it is FAR too dangerous to cross on land WE NEED A FLIGHT. can you help in ANY way?
17 January 2009 7:33 p.m. I was put in that situation NO ONE EVER wants to be put in tonight… I got to ground zero to a hospital in the capital of Haiti, we were told needed us. The doctor pulled us aside and to a woman that had a gash in her calf big enough to put a football in, he siad, what do you do? I quickly replied, a tourniquet 1.5 inches above the knee… he said perfect DO IT.
There are two options: coercion and force or freedom of choice. My friend exercised his freedom of choice to spend his own money, which he has very successfully and morally earned through many entrepreneurial ventures, to board a plane and fly straight into a third world hell hole where it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have died in the recent earthquakes. Despite the economic conditions an estimated $10M of donations has been raised for Haiti relief efforts.
Fortunately my friend, like so many other good people, still has enough resources to perform this service while Obama struts around like a hero for using extorted tax revenue for aid.
THE DRIVE TO SURVIVE
Life has an unquenchable drive to survive even at the expense of other life. It is the ability to reason that largely separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. But that is not to say that humans, both in rags and pinstripe Wall Street suits, do not act like animalistic barbarians trampling other’s freedom of choice.
When times get tough it is the rare human that showcases the supernal spark by willingly sharing the last breadcrumb or boarding a plane and descending into chaos with the intent to relieve suffering.
THIN VENEER OF ORDER
Sure, there is the bad man who may steal or even rob a piece of bread. But we can have at least some sympathy for this behavior when considering the totality of the circumstances. And the bad man also realizes his badness.
But the truly evil man is the one that struts around thinking he is doing good by robbing the piece of bread from another to then allocate how he sees fit.
America, like Haiti and the rest of the world, has a tiny fraction of the population which produces the food. When there are disruptions, whether it is a hurricane in New Orleans or an earthquake in Haiti, the thin veneer of order tends to evaporate for many reasons.
SURVIVALISM IN THE SUBURBS
The Telegraph reports that Royal Caribbean International, who has pledged $1m to relief efforts, maintained the schedule to send its cruise ship to dock at a private beach a mere 60 miles from the devastated Port-au-Prince. Of course, some keyboard rescue workers think providing revenue for the locals in that city is insensitive and the trip to Labadee should have been canceled. But that is about the worst thing that could be done. But how far away from a disaster zone should activities be canceled? 60 miles? 600 miles?
Sure, dialing an 800 number or texting a $5 donation is commendable. But to make a real lasting impact the issue is the need to be prepared locally with medical supplies, food, power, etc.
I compiled a collection of suggestions in Survivalism In The Suburbs for how an individual can be better prepared for possible disruptions and the dissolving of social order. Being prepared bestows a position of power and the ability to act with a higher standard rather than resort to baser animalistic impulses.
Additionally, I recommend people have a ‘last plane account’ which answers the questions: if you have to take the last plane out of your city then (1) where do you go and (2) how do you maintain your standard of living? I have used my own preparations several times over the years.
THE REAL CAUSE
Since the earthquake is just the most immediate action in the causation chain it is credited with killing the tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. But how many deaths could have been prevented but for do-gooder politicians voting to send foreign aid and market restrictions that destroy wealth and thus prevent the ability of the Haitian population to make adequate preparations? But for these giant wealth destroying machines how many more resources would be available to respond to and relieve suffering?
Like the socialized roads in America that result in about 40,000 deaths per year; in this instance the blame is not being squarely placed on the criminal gangs costumed in government regalia who have made serious decisions months or years before that are both actual and proximate causes in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
It is so much easier to lay the blame on an unaccountable ‘act of God’ in an attempt to absolve the truly culpable parties. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences which are resulting in hundreds of thousands of dead Haitians.
I am grateful for those who have donated to help relieve the suffering in Haiti. I admire my friend who has traveled into chaos to look his benefactors in the eye. Hopefully he returns safely.
The Haiti earthquake of 2010 can be a teaching experience for us all. When considering physical preparation I think the best insurance is a three month supply of food and a 72 hour kit. We can inventory and bring current our supplies.
But to strike at the root we need to help others understand the source of humans rights and the proper role of government.
Since individuals are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and because individuals form governments to protect property, life, and liberty, it follows that individuals are superior to their creation of government. Individuals can grant to their creation at most only those rights they possess.
No individual possesses the right to unjustifiably infringe on another individual’s autonomy, and because individuals create governments, no government can possibly be justified in the possession of such a right. Neither does an individual possess the moral authority to use coercion and force to compel another to perform charity against their will. Therefore, legitimate government must act within the constraints of the Non-Aggression Axiom. Otherwise those actors are merely criminal gangs costumed in government regalia.
Government represents one of the most powerful forces on earth. Therefore, an individual’s political beliefs reveal with perfect clarity his or her moral character.
Over just the past five years I have been in hurricanes and earthquakes in America, a massive civil disturbance in Argentina and several other life threatening situations. It can happen here and there. Once we understand the philosophy then we can live in harmony with it and attempt to persuade others to do likewise.
You can not feed someone else when your own stomach is empty so why not at least get a 72 hour kit. You can also persuade others through your example. What better way than your local food bank or getting on a plane like my good friend?
A 48-hour New Year’s eve free-will offering netted a Southern California mega-church $2.4M to close their books on 2009.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church posted his URGENT LETTER on the church website on Wednesday and by close of business Thursday church members had stepped up to close their critical budget deficit of $900,000.
Warren’s Wednesday morning letter stated, “With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated.”
But by Friday morning, the pastor was humbled and amazed: “In spite of a media culture that thrives on bad news and is typically clueless about how churches actually work, and in spite of hatefulness and insults by some who immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion – the church of God marches on, and once again God surprises all of us.”
The letter outlines the church’s accomplishments in 2009 and details how the donations would be used, including the church’s food pantry, homeless ministry, counseling and support groups.
“This is pretty amazing,” Warren told his congregation during a Saturday service. “I don’t think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter.”
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The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation announced this week that it will grant one of the largest privately sponsored school improvement programs in recent memory — several teacher performance improvement initiatives in more than four states.
The program will focus on efforts to improve teacher’s results rather than simply compensate them on “educational qualifications.”
Announced on Thursday, the $335 million investment will benefit teacher effectiveness, funding experiments in tenure, evaluation, compensation, training and mentoring in several large school districts and a handful of charter schools.
The area schools receiving the most funding include:
- Hillsborough County Florida schools from the Tampa area: $100 million;
- Memphis Tennessee schools: $90 million;
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania schools: $40 million;
- Five charter school networks in Los Angeles, California: $60 million.
The awards will help revamp systems and reward teachers based on student results. For instance in the Hillsborough system, the award there will help administrators revamp teacher annual reviews so that student performance accounts for 40 percent of the educators’ reviews instead of the current 7 percent contribution.
The initiatives are proving that it isn’t just about single student tests, but facilitating multiple ways to evaluate student and teacher performance.
Federal stimulus dollars are also in play. A $4.35 billion school-reform grant competition also stresses teacher effectiveness coupled with student achievement. The Gates foundation award is striving to help states fund the preparation of applications for those larger Federal grant awards.
On Thursday Ms. Gates said, “We have been in this work for almost a decade now and we’ve learned a lot about what works. . . . Let’s focus on the thing that actually matters the most, which is the teacher.”
The existence of unalienable rights of individuals is an honored tradition in America, rooted in the philosophy of the classical liberal thinkers. The rights to life, liberty and property mean that nobody has the authority to take the life, liberty or property of anyone else. They apply to any person in any social arrangement.
This is opposed to modern liberal thinking, which is the negation of liberty of the individual and imposition of the will of society. Socialist mentality has introduced a whole host of additional positive rights which assume that society owes everyone a minimum standard of living and access to a full slate of services. Those additional rights deserve a closer look to see if they are truly universal and unalienable.
If two people exist on a desert island, both have rights, just as they do in an advanced industrial society. Neither has the right to injure or kill the other person, to enslave him or her or to take property that he or she acquired legitimately through his or her own efforts. These are the basic rules for all human cooperation and for societies based on true justice. It is legitimate to engage in voluntary trade that benefits both parties, but it is not legitimate to use force or coercion to get a benefit at the expense of the other person.
Does either person have a right to food, water or shelter? They do have a right to use their resources, their skills and strength to provide for their own needs, but neither has the right to have the other provide for them. Can person A legitimately force person B to give him medical care? Even if B was a doctor, the only way that A can enforce a right to any level of health care is to violate the rights of B. Thus, that positive right to health care is a spurious and illegitimate claim.
In any society, however, whether made up of two people or billions of people, all parties are better off if they cooperate. B can provide medical services, but A can provide other valuable services, and they will both benefit if they give each other value for value they get. They can each concentrate on the things they do best and depend on the other to provide for other things.
In the event that A becomes disabled and cannot provide any value to the relationship, does A now have a right to the services of B? The answer is unequivocally no. There is no right to violate the rights of others just because one cannot provide for oneself. That does not mean that that B should let A perish just because A has no right to B’s help. Charity and compassion are also important parts of the human condition, religion, tradition and ethics, and it is considered good for B to help A in time of need. The Good Samaritan is a famous and useful analogy that illustrates true charity. It highlights voluntary aid to others, using one’s own resources. It has nothing to do with A having a right to B’s property or service, but only demonstrates the good will of one person for another.
In a larger society, the rights of the individuals hold the same significance. The fact that advanced medical services are available on a wide scale does not mean that any individual has a right to any level of health care. Medicine is merely a valuable service that people provide. Voluntary cooperation is the essential characteristic of any free society, but no medical person owes anyone else medical service. It is based on mutual agreement about value given and value provided.
There are many charitable organizations and millions of charitable people who are willing to give of their time and their resources for the benefit of others. It is fitting and proper that they do that. It is not fitting and proper for organizations or individuals to use the force of the state to coerce others to do charity. Using the government to take money from others for enforced charity is still aggression against the rights of others. It is counterproductive and displaces true charity with violence.
There is no right to health care. The path to a prosperous society where the poor and disadvantaged are most likely to have their needs met is paved with respect for the basic unalienable rights of each individual, being bound only by the equivalent rights of others.
One of the central messages of President Obama’s inaugural speech was that Americans now must sacrifice in a time of great hardship. This sounds noble, but also is rather vague. What kind of sacrifice is Obama talking about?
It would be fair to venture to guess that sacrifice for Barack Obama means a number of things that our forefathers would have shunned. Sacrifice means higher subsidization of the masses by those at the top of the economic scale through increased taxation. Sacrifice means imposing the will of the government on the people in the name of “fairness,” “equality” and “justice.” Sacrifice means that everyone must be required to bail out the few who are reckless and irresponsible. Sacrifice means coercive taking of our life, liberty and property for the “greater good.”
At root of all of this is collectivism. How did we end up here? We had an economy that was mixed as opposed to a true, free-market one. We had a small republican government that grew to be a massive democratic one. We had a society built on success and failure, that gave way to one of success and protection against failure. We took the middling path, which inevitably led us to this socialistic mentality. I posit that democracy mainly paved the way for this collapse, but that will be addressed in a post in the near future.
Prior to the Great Depression, we lacked a government-imposed social safety net because of the sacrifice of individuals. Some voluntarily chose to provide for those who were less fortunate, not always with just a handout, but for some like Rockefeller by providing an education for those who showed aptitude in the hopes that they could better themselves. Our forefathers fought for our country, sacrificing their lives so that they could build a society where they would not need to sacrifice their liberty and their property. They sacrificed so they could establish a country built on the natural rights granted to them by G-d, not the rights so determined by the new Messiah, Mr. Obama.
People labored in steel mills and coal mines not out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of self-interest, and this work helped pave the way for unprecedented economic growth. It all brings to mind Adam Smith’s line in the Wealth of Nations, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
We did not achieve our prosperity from forced sacrifice, but from voluntary trade predicated on the self-interest of individuals seeking to better their lot. People could dispose of their wealth for the most part as they so chose. Universities, libraries and medical institutions were established by wealthy folks, and charitable institutions were able to provide (probably much more efficiently than the public) services for those who were needy. But this charity again was voluntary.
You have to wonder why it was the case that the government stayed out of the business of charity. Was it because individuals knew that politicians would only use these programs out of their own self-interest to gain votes? Was it because of the belief in a government with limited responsibilities? Was it because of the belief that it wasn’t the job of all of society to take care of those who were broke?
I think it was probably a combination of all of these things. Also, I think that while individuals may have acted out of self-interest in giving charity like politicians (be it for PR purposes or for religious reasons), they were still making this decision unto themselves, not forcibly requiring all others to sacrifice as well. There just is not this sense of individualism anymore. It is one for all and all for the banks. We all own a piece of Wall Street, we all own a piece of Fannie and Freddie over on Main Street and we all own a piece of Detroit too. Of all cities, I mean come on…Detroit?!
We did not build the most prosperous nation in the world through sacrifice and collectivism. We built it through the self-interest of the skillful, visionary individuals that immigrated to this land. Our forefathers did not sacrifice themselves during the Revolution for more sacrifice; they sacrificed themselves for freedom. To forget this fact would be to tarnish their efforts.