There’s nothing wrong with collective bargaining from the voluntaryist perspective. Where labor unions go wrong is in their use of coercion. When collective bargaining breaks down and employers wish to hire competing labor, that is well within their liberty to do so. When labor unions employ threats and violence against so-called “scabs” (those who break away from the union or come from outside the union to work), they are engaging in criminal behavior. When governments protect unions from liability for this, they are aiding and abetting criminals. (But what’s new?) Nobody has the right to use coercion against their competition, not businesses and not workers. If you can’t collective bargain without coercion, then you aren’t collective bargaining. You’re bullying, and you’re a criminal. And that’s today’s two cents.Open This Content
The riots of the spring of 2020 are far from without precedent in the United States. Indeed, they seem to happen once a generation at least. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots are such an example of these “generational riots.” And while most people know about the riots, less known – though quite well known at the time – were the phenomenon of the so-called “Roof Koreans.”
The Roof Koreans were spontaneous self-defense forces organized by the Korean community of Los Angeles, primarily centered in Koreatown, in response to violent and frequently racist attacks on their communities and businesses by primarily black looters and rioters during the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Despite their best efforts, over 2,200 Korean-owned businesses were looted or burned to the ground during the riots. It is chilling to imagine how many would have suffered the same fate had the Koreans not been armed.
Standing on the rooftops of Koreatown shops they and their families owned, clad not in body armor or tactical gear, but instead dressed like someone’s nerdy dad, often smoking cigarettes, but always on alert, the Roof Koreans provide a stirring example of how free Americans of all races can defend their own communities without relying upon outside help.
The Koreans of Los Angeles were the ultimate marginalized minority group. They were subject to discrimination and often victimized by the black community of the city. Due to language barriers and other factors, they lacked the political clout of other minority groups, such as the large Mexican community of Los Angeles County. This in spite of their clear economic success in the city beginning in the 1970s and 80s.
The reasons for the tensions between the Korean and black communities of Los Angeles pre-dates the riots, which were largely just the match that ignited the powder keg that had been this region of Los Angeles for years. To understand what happened in Koreatown in 1992, it is necessary to understand much more than simply the Rodney King trial and the resulting riots.
The Roots of Korean Business Ownership in Black Communities
How is it that the Korean-American community of Los Angeles ended up owning so much property in what were largely black neighborhoods? The answer, ironically, lies in a previous riot, the Watts Riot of 1965. This riot, which included six full days of arson and looting, was kicked off when a black man was arrested for drunk driving.
The riots occurred roughly at the same time that the Koreans started showing up in America. This meant that, among other things, businesses and real estate were very cheap to purchase. The newly arrived Korean immigrants began buying up the businesses that no one else wanted. By the 1980s, it wasn’t limited to Los Angeles – Koreans were dominating the mom-and-pop shops from coast to coast. But the resentment in the City of Angels was growing.
Prologue: The Death of Latasha Harlins
While it was not the start of tensions in the city between these two communities, the killing of Latasha Harlins in 1991 certainly ratcheted the situation up to a new level.
Harlins, whose personal life is a hard-luck story that does not bear repeating here, was 15 at the time when she was shot and killed by Korean shopkeeper Soon Ja Du, a 51-year-old woman born in Korea. Du generally didn’t even work in the store, a task that typically fell on her husband and her son. However, that day she was covering for her husband who was outside in the family’s van.
Du claimed that Harlins was trying to steal a $1.79 bottle of orange juice, but witnesses said they heard Du call Harlins a slur and heard Harlins say she planned to pay for the juice, with money in hand. After reviewing video tape footage, the police agreed with the witnesses. Video footage further showed Du grabbing Harlins by her sweatshirt and backpack.
Harlins responded by striking Du twice, which knocked the latter to the ground. Harlins started to back away, prompting Du to throw a stool at her. The two struggled over the juice before Harlins went to leave. Du went behind the counter and grabbed a revolver, firing at a retreating Harlins from behind from three feet away. Harlins was killed instantly by a bullet to the back of the head.
Billy Heung Ki Du, Ja’s husband, rushed into the store after hearing the gunshot. His wife asked where Harlins was before she fainted. Mr. Du then called 911 to report an attempted holdup.
Mrs. Du was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a charge that can carry up to 16 years in prison. At trial, she testified on her own behalf. The jury recommended the maximum sentence, which the judge rejected, instead giving Mrs. Du time served, five years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $500 fine. The California Court of Appeals upheld the sentence about a week before the riots began in a unanimous decision. Harlins’ family received a settlement of $300,000.
The case wasn’t the first example of tensions between the two communities, but it was a microcosm for them and perhaps the worst from an optics perspective. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were four shootings in the span of just over four months involving a Korean shooter and a black target. The store was eventually burned down during the riots, never to reopen.
That same year, there was an over 100-day boycott of a Korean-American-owned liquor store that ended when the owner was effectively bullied into selling his store to a black owner. Then-Mayor Tom Bradley, who many blamed for the riots, was instrumental in coming to this “settlement” which chased a Korean owner out of the area.
When I told my 13-year-old homeschooled daughter that I would be participating in an upcoming debate with the Harvard professor who recommends a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling, she asked incredulously, “Why would anyone want to prevent people from homeschooling?”
I told her that some people worry that children could be abused or neglected by parents who choose to homeschool, which is why in a recent Arizona Law Review article, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet called for a “presumptive ban” on the practice, allowing the state to grant permission to homeschool only after parents first prove that they are worthy of the task and after they also agree to other state interventions, such as regular home visits by government “mandated reporters” of child abuse and ensuring that their children still take at least some classes at their local government school.
My daughter was baffled. I asked her what she thinks my response to the professor should be in the upcoming discussion hosted by the Cato Institute on Monday, June 15th, that will be livestreamed to the public. She said that many of the young people who attend the self-directed learning center for homeschoolers where my daughter and her siblings take classes chose homeschooling to escape abuse in their previous school. Many of them were bullied by peers or otherwise unhappy there, and homeschooling has been a positive game-changer for them. “Maybe the professor doesn’t really know homeschoolers,” my daughter said. “You should explain to her what it’s really like.”
That is what I intend to do. My argument in favor of homeschooling and against “presumptive bans” and regulation hinges on three primary principles:
Principle 1: Today’s Homeschoolers Are Diverse, Engaged, and Competent
As my daughter suggested, opponents of homeschooling or those who believe in greater state authority over the practice may not really know a lot about today’s homeschoolers. Stereotypes of homeschoolers as isolated radicals were rarely true even a generation ago when homeschooling became legally recognized in all US states by the mid-1990s, and they are even less true now.
Twenty-first-century homeschoolers are increasingly reflective of the overall US population, demographically, geographically, ideologically, and socioeconomically. They choose homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons, but a top motivator cited by homeschooling parents in the most recent US Department of Education data on the topic is “concern about the environment of other schools, including safety, drugs, and negative peer pressure.” Only 16 percent of homeschooling parents in this nationally representative sample chose a “desire to provide religious instruction” as their top motivator. Much of the growth in homeschooling over the past decade has come from urban, secular families seeking a different, more custom-fit educational environment for their kids.
Homeschoolers are diverse in many ways, from their reasons for homeschooling, to the educational philosophies they embrace, to the curriculum they use (or don’t use). Homeschooling is also becoming much more racially and ethnically diverse, with federal data showing that one-quarter of the nearly two million US homeschoolers are Hispanic, which mirrors the population of Hispanic children in the overall US K-12 school-age population. Black homeschooling is also growing, with many African American parents choosing this education option for their children to “protect them from institutional racism and stereotyping.”
Additionally, recent research by Daniel Hamlin at the University of Oklahoma finds that homeschoolers are highly engaged in their communities with frequent opportunities to build “cultural capital” through regular visits to libraries, museums, and participation in cultural events. Hamlin states: “Relative to public school students, homeschooled students are between two and three times more likely to visit an art gallery, museum, or historical site; visit a library; or attend an event sponsored by a community, religious, or ethnic group. Homeschooled students are also approximately 1.5 times more likely to visit a zoo, aquarium, or bookstore during the course of a month.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive school shutdowns this spring, over 50 million US schoolchildren found themselves learning at home. Whether because of ongoing virus fears and concerns about school reopenings with strict social distancing requirements, or because they found learning at home more rewarding than they expected, many parents are seriously considering opting out of conventional schooling—at least in the short-term. A new poll by USA Today/Ipsos found that 60 percent of parents say they will likely choose at-home learning rather than sending their children to school in the fall even if they reopen.
Some of these parents may be glad to know that a recent literature review on homeschooling conducted by Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation finds excellent academic outcomes for homeschooled students. She concludes that “the outcomes of those who homeschool, whether the result of homeschooling itself or other unobservable characteristics of families who homeschool such as greater parental involvement, shows positive academic outcomes for participants.”
The wide variety of reasons for and approaches to homeschooling means that subjecting homeschooling families to the education and oversight requirements of government schools, or requiring homeschoolers to take regular classes at these schools, imposes conformity on a population of families that is deeply heterogeneous. It may seem neat and easy to mandate government schooling regulations and expectations on families who opt out of this method, but it limits individuality, experimentation, and divergence. We may not like how different families choose to live and learn, but that is no excuse to intolerantly impose our own preferences on them through government force.
Principle 2: Parents Know Better Than the State
My husband and I chose homeschooling right from the beginning of our childrearing days, recognizing that it would provide a more expansive, interest-driven, academically challenging educational environment for our four children than would be possible in a conventional school. Instead of going to the same building every day, with the same static handful of teachers and the same age-segregated group of peers doing the same curriculum, our children are immersed in the people, places, and things of our city and, with the exception of this pandemic, spend much of their time outside of our home interacting with friends and mentors in our community. We rejected schooling from the start, but as my daughter suggests, many families use homeschooling as an exit ramp from an unsatisfactory or abusive schooling experience.
Peer abuse in the form of physical and emotional bullying is rampant in schools, and is one reason why some parents choose to withdraw their children from school for homeschooling. Data suggest that nearly half of children in grades four to 12 experience bullying at least once a month, and peer sexual assaults at school are alarmingly common. Depression and anxiety are rising among children and teens, and the youth suicide rate climbed 56 percent between 2007 and 2017. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found a strong seasonal relationship between youth suicide and school attendance, with suicidal acts and tendencies declining during the summer months and soaring at back-to-school time. This is an opposite pattern to adult suicide rates and tendencies, which peak in July and August.
Opponents of homeschooling point to rare examples of abuse or neglect by parents who identify (or who the state identifies) as homeschoolers to argue for heightened homeschool regulation. Yet, government schools are heavily regulated and surveilled, and abuse still regularly occurs there, and not only in the form of bullying.
Headlines abound of educators abusing children on school premises, and a 2004 US Department of Education study found that one in 10 children who attend a government school will be sexually abused by a government school employee by the time the child graduates from high school. Child abuse tragically happens in all types of settings, but some research suggests that homeschooled children are less likely to be abused than their schooled peers. This shouldn’t be surprising, as homeschooling parents are often choosing homeschooling, while making significant personal sacrifices, to ensure their child’s safety and well-being.
Child abuse is horrific and anyone convicted of this crime should be severely punished, but it is absurd to suggest that homeschooling parents need to be frequently monitored and evaluated by government officials who struggle to keep children safe within their own government institutions. Clean up your own house before telling others how to clean theirs.
Parents are not perfect and they do commit crimes, sometimes against their own children, just as educators sometimes commit crimes against the children in their schools. But if we are to grant power to families or to the state to protect children, we should side with families who have shown for millennia, well before governments were instituted, that they are capable of raising and educating their own children.
Principle 3: In America, We Have a Presumption of Innocence
Perhaps the most sinister aspect of proposals to presumptively ban or heavily regulate homeschoolers is the deep suspicion it betrays toward a group that chooses to live and learn differently. The suggestion is that because some tiny fraction of homeschooling parents could commit a crime against children then all homeschooling parents should be subject to increased scrutiny and surveillance. This says that homeschoolers should be presumed to be guilty until proven innocent, with frequent monitoring to ensure no wrongdoing.
We rightfully condemn racial profiling and other attempts to single out an entire group for increased suspicion out of concerns about the actions of a few. We should criticize efforts to monitor and control the beliefs and behaviors of people who live differently, valuing the pluralism of American culture. We must recognize the cost of trading individual liberty for some alleged security. It is a dangerous exchange.
If a parent, educator, or any person is suspected of abusing a child, then that individual should be arrested, charged, and tried. But to single out an entire group for pre-crime surveillance with no evidence of lawbreaking is wrong. Critics might argue that if homeschoolers have nothing to hide, they shouldn’t mind more state intrusion if it could protect children.
By this same logic, we should allow periodic police inspections of our homes to protect our neighborhoods and make sure none of us are thieves. If we have nothing to hide, we should allow the government to routinely read our emails and listen to our phone calls. We should be okay with stop-and-frisk. In a free society, we should not be okay with these violations of privacy that expand state power and make us less free and less safe.
The central question is what kind of society do we wish to live in? Do we want entire groups subject to special scrutiny and suspicion just because they are different? Do we want to accept a legal regime of guilty until proven innocent? Do we want government to serve families, or families to serve government? At the heart of a free society is tolerating difference and accepting diversity—in lifestyles, in beliefs, in values, and in parenting and educational practices.
Government schools have a lot to focus on, including reducing abuse in schools, raising reading scores, and getting more than 15 percent of students to be proficient in US history. Child advocates, educators, and policy makers should help these schoolchildren by making government schooling safer and more effective, while leaving homeschooling families alone.
Click here to register for Monday’s online discussion featuring Elizabeth Bartholet, Milton Gaither, Neal McCluskey, and me.Open This Content
A cop casually murdered a guy while his associates looked on and enabled the murder. Protests erupted, then turned into riots and looting, losing any moral high ground they may have started with.
Yet almost no one is pointing this out.
I guess it’s safer to lie and say it’s about “racial injustice” than it is to tell the truth and say it’s about cops.
The “job” of policing both attracts thugs who enjoy bullying and hurting people, and it turns formerly decent people into monsters who live on stolen money, keep their “job” only by robbing, molesting, and killing people, and routinely look the other way while fellow gang members commit evil as part of “doing their job”.
Get-away drivers are charged in the bank robbery committed by their associates. Robbers who didn’t pull the trigger are charged with murder just because they were present as associates of the fellow thug who did. But cops who stand around while a fellow gang member murders a guy can’t be charged with murder because… “reasons”? BS!
If you support the police in any way, you support tyranny. You support infinitely big government. Cops are where the boot heel– or the knee– of tyranny meets the neck of humanity.
There’s no legitimate excuse. It’s past time.
Abolish the police!Open This Content
1. The U.S. political system is deeply dysfunctional, especially during this crisis. Power-hunger reigns in the name of Social Desirability Bias. Fear of punishment aside, I don’t care what authorities say. They should heed my words, not the other way around.
2. Few private individuals are using quantitative risk analysis to guide their personal behavior. Fear of personally antagonizing such people aside, I don’t care what they say either.
3. I am extremely interested in listening to the rare individuals who do use quantitative risk analysis to guide personal behavior. Keep up the good work, life-coach quants – with a special shout-out to Rob Wiblin.
4. After listening, though, I shall keep my own counsel. As long as I maintain my normal intellectual hygiene, my betting record shows that my own counsel is highly reliable.
5. What does my own counsel say? While I wish better information were available, I now know enough to justify my return to 90%-normal life. The rest of my immediate family agrees. What does this entail? Above all, I am now happy to socialize in-person with friends. I am happy to let my children play with other kids. I am also willing to not only eat take-out food, but dine in restaurants. I am pleased to accommodate nervous friends by socializing outdoors and otherwise putting them at ease. Yet personally, I am at ease either way.
6. I will still take precautions comparable to wearing a seat belt. I will wear a mask and gloves to shop in high-traffic places, such as grocery stores. I will continue to keep my distance from nervous and/or high-risk strangers. Capla-Con 2020 will be delayed until winter at the earliest. Alas.
7. Tyler suggests that people like me “are worse at intertemporal substitution than I had thought.” In particular:
It either will continue at that pace or it won’t. Let’s say that pace continues (unlikely in my view, but this is simply a scenario, at least until the second wave). That is an ongoing risk higher than other causes of death, unless you are young. You don’t have to be 77 for it to be your major risk worry.
Death from coronavirus is plausibly my single-highest risk worry. But it is still only a tiny share of my total risk, and the cost of strict risk reduction is high for me. Avoiding everyone except my immediate family makes my every day much worse. And intertemporal substitution is barely helpful. Doubling my level of socializing in 2022 to compensate for severe isolation in 2020 won’t make me feel better.
Alternatively, let’s say the pace of those deaths will fall soon, and furthermore let’s say it will fall by a lot. The near future will be a lot safer! Which is all the more reason to play it very safe right now, because your per week risk currently is fairly high (in many not all parts of America). Stay at home and wear a mask when you do go out. If need be, make up for that behavior in the near future by indulging in excess.
Suppose Tyler found out that an accident-free car were coming in 2022. Would he “intertemporally substitute” by ceasing driving until then? I doubt it. In any case, what I really expect is at least six more months of moderately elevated disease risk. My risk is far from awful now – my best guess is that I’m choosing a 1-in-12,000 marginal increase in the risk of death from coronavirus. But this risk won’t fall below 1-in-50,000 during the next six months, and moderate second waves are likely. Bottom line: The risk is mild enough for me to comfortably face, and too durable for me to comfortably avoid.
8. The risk analysis is radically different for people with underlying health conditions. Many of them are my friends. To such friends: I fully support your decision to avoid me, but I am happy to flexibly accommodate you if you too detest the isolation. I also urge you to take advantage of any opportunities you have to reduce your personal risk. But it’s not my place to nag you to your face.
9. What about high-risk strangers? I’m happy to take reasonable measures to reduce their risk. If you’re wearing a mask, I treat that as a request for extra distance, and I honor it. But I’m not going to isolate myself out of fear of infecting high-risk people who won’t isolate themselves.
10. Most smart people aren’t doing what I’m doing. Shouldn’t I be worried? Only slightly. Even smart people are prone to herding and hysteria. I’ve now spent three months listening to smart defenders of the conventional view. Their herding and hysteria are hard to miss. Granted, non-smart contrarians sound even worse. But smart contrarians make the most sense of all.
11. Even if I’m right, wouldn’t it be more prudent me to act on my beliefs without publicizing them? That’s probably what Dale Carnegie would advise, but if Dale were here, I’d tell him, “Candor on touchy topics is my calling and my business. It’s worked well for me so far, and I shall stay the course.”
12. I’ve long believed a strong version of (a) buy-and-hold is the best investment strategy, and (b) financial market performance is only vaguely related to objective economic conditions. Conditions in March were so bleak that I set aside both of these beliefs and moved from 100% stocks to 90% bonds. As a result of my excessive open-mindedness, my family has lost an enormous amount of money. The situation is so weird that I’m going to wait until January to return to my normal investment strategy. After that, I will never again deviate from buy-and-hold. Never!Open This Content
1. Getting people to be rational about politics is an uphill battle during the best of times. During a global hysteria, it’s hopeless.
2. Due to this doleful realization, I refrained from discussing the lockdown when it first emerged. The best course, I deemed, was to wait for readers to simmer down.
3. Since many have now simmered down, here’s what I was thinking three months ago.
4. I was convinced that coronavirus was a dire threat by early March, but I opposed the lockdown from day 1.
5. Why? Because per Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority, I accept a strong presumption in favor of human liberty. You cannot rightfully shut businesses and order people to “stay at home” out of an “abundance of caution.” Instead, the burden is on the advocates of these policies to demonstrate that their benefits drastically exceed their costs – by at least 5:1. Almost no one even tried to discharge this burden.
6. Telling government to “err on the side of caution” is a recipe for severe oppression. Individuals, in contrast, have every right to personally “err on the side of caution.” In early weeks of the crisis when risk information was scarce, erring on the side of caution was reasonable.
7. Nevertheless, I was initially moderately optimistic that lockdown policies would, in hindsight, at least pass an ordinary cost-benefit test. I no longer think so. Even draconian measures have mostly failed to put R0 far below 1.
8. Due to the absence of Paid Voluntary Human Experimentation, we still lack definitive answers to almost every crucial coronavirus question. Over the last two months, though, I have raised my best estimate of the Infection Fatality Rate from .3 to .6.
9. During the same time, initial claims about the age and especially the pre-existing health status gradient of mortality have been confirmed even more strongly than I expected. Near-zero people known to have no underlying conditions have died of coronavirus. There is a middle category of “underlying conditions unknown” with fairly high mortality. I wish we knew more about such people, but my best guess that 90% have underlying conditions (versus about 40% for the general population).
10. Roughly 5% of survivors seem to have long-run problems, but risk of serious long-run problems almost certainly correlates highly with risk of death. (And of course a wide variety of other risks, like car accidents, commonly maim survivors. Coronavirus is not remotely a sui generis package of dangers).
10. Am I saying that I don’t care if old and sick people die? No, but I confess that I would care even more if young and healthy people died. I know this sounds terrible, but my view is not eccentric. It’s implied by the standard notion of QALYs, and almost everyone I surveyed agrees with me.
Suppose the main people who died from coronavirus were children rather than the elderly.
How much morally worse would the pandemic be?
— Bryan Caplan (@bryan_caplan) May 1, 2020
11. QALYs aside, the extreme heterogeneity of risk highlights a cheap, humane alternative to the status quo: Healthy people should return to approximately normal life, while people with underlying ailments should maintain elevated to extreme caution.
12. Why “approximately normal” rather than “fully normal”? Because healthy people should make reasonable efforts to protect vulnerable people. This obligation should be legally enforceable in extreme cases, like deliberately coughing on others. Otherwise, we should trust to conscience and social pressure.
13. Why “elevated to extreme caution”? Because though the data on underlying conditions is binary, the actual severity of conditions like diabetes varies widely.
14. Following this dual path would get us to herd immunity with few deaths, especially when combined with multiple other layers of reasonable precaution. Hopefully I’m wrong, but waiting around for a vaccine seems like wishful thinking. Nor should we forget that unemployment is a grave evil.
15. What’s my risk of death if infected? Being a 49 year-old gives me roughly the average risk; being white and male roughly cancel. Since I have no underlying conditions, I estimate my risk at about 5.4% of the base risk of 0.6%. That comes to about 1 in 3000.* That’s about three times my annual risk of dying in an auto accident. That gives me pause – I’ve long told my kids that driving is the most dangerous thing we do. When choosing my behavior, however, I have to remember that I might still contract the disease despite exercising extreme caution, and might avoid the disease despite exercising merely reasonable caution. I’d put the former probability at about 15%, and the later probability at about 40%. So the marginal cost of hewing to reasonable (versus extreme) caution is only a 1 in 12,000 risk.
16. Driving, moreover, imposes roughly equal risks on all my family members. Coronavirus, in contrast, poses near-zero risk to my children.
17. The U.S. has ample state capacity to follow the advice of a few reasonable economists. But no wise policies will be adopted, because we have bipartisan dysfunctional state priorities. You might think a crisis would bring demagoguery under control. Alas, it hasn’t and it won’t.
18. Alex Tabarrok is wrong to state, “Social distancing, closing non-essential firms and working from home protect the vulnerable but these same practices protect workers in critical industries. Thus, the debate between protecting the vulnerable and protecting the economy is moot.” Moot?! True, there is a mild trade-off between protecting the vulnerable and protecting the economy. But if we didn’t care about the vulnerable at all, the disease would have already run its course and economic life would already have strongly rebounded. Wouldn’t self-protection have stymied this? Not if the government hadn’t expanded unemployment coverage and benefits, because most people don’t save enough money to quit their jobs for a couple of months. With most of the workforce still on the job, fast exponential growth would have given us herd immunity long ago. The death toll would have been several times higher, but that’s the essence of the trade-off between protecting the vulnerable and protecting the economy.
* The rough math: In NYC data for my age bracket, (deaths with no underlying conditions + .1*deaths with unknown conditions)/total deaths=3.4%. 40% of the adult population has underlying conditions, so their risk is 1.5*.966/.034=42.6 times as high as mine. Setting my risk equal to x, we have .6x+.4*42.6x=.006, so x=2940.Open This Content