Setting People at Each Other’s Throats

Anytime you politicize anything— by letting government dictates and legislation force a one-size-fits-all path on everyone– people get angry. And who can really blame them?

People on both sides are likely to flip out instead of being civil and letting people make their own choices.

Then you’ll have the clueless ask “why are people so partisan?

Well, if you didn’t threaten people with the guns of the state they wouldn’t feel they have to be partisan. It’s viewed as necessary for self-defense… by both sides.

If you have a good idea, talk people into going along. And if you can’t, let it go. Don’t demand “a law”. Don’t demand stronger enforcement. If your idea relies on either of those your idea is probably garbage and you– by insisting on government intervention– are a failure.

I have room in my Being to not try to control other people, even if I think they are doing something stupid. I may say something, but I won’t force them to adopt my path. If I think it might harm me, I step back to a safer distance, and I may warn others, as well. I won’t try to encourage others to molest you with “laws”.

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School’s Out; Reactionaries Hate That

If there’s been one bright spot in America’s COVID-19 experience, it’s the near-complete shutdown of an expensive and obsolete government education system cribbed from mid-19th century Prussia.

Across the country, “public” pre-K thru 12th-grade programs closed their doors this spring. Some districts attempted to hobble along using not yet ready for prime time online learning systems. Others just turned the kids loose to likely learn far more than they would have in the combination daycare centers and youth prisons that pass for schools these days.

It was a perfect opportunity to scrap “public education” as we know it, perhaps transitioning entirely to distance learning as a waypoint on the journey toward separation of school and state.

Naturally, the political class hates that idea. Primary and secondary education constitute an $800 billion per year job and welfare program, with beneficiaries (read: voters and campaign contributors) up and down its extensive food chain.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran isn’t one to let a little thing like a pandemic derail that gravy train: He’s ordered the state’s government schools to re-open in August,  operating at least five days per week and offering “the full panoply of services” — from glorified babysitting to teacher pay to big agribusiness buys for school lunch programs — to those beneficiaries.

It seems likely that most states will follow Corcoran’s lead to one degree or another, naturally also seeking ways to blow even more money than usual on enhanced social distancing, increased surface disinfection work, etc.

That seems to be the consensus of the entire American mainstream political class, from “progressive left” to “conservative right.”

Yes, Republicans and evangelical Christians will bellyache about the teachers’ unions,.

Yes, Democrats and the unions will gripe about charter schools and voucher programs.

But they’re united in their determination to resuscitate the system as it existed before the pandemic, instead of letting that rotten system die a well-deserved death and moving on to better things.

There’s a word for that attitude.

The word is “reactionary.”

As time goes on, we’ll hear lots of agonized propaganda about how the pandemic has forced huge changes in “public” education. Those changes will be entirely cosmetic. The authoritarian infrastructure beneath won’t have changed at all.

By letting the political class pretend that history can be forced to run backward, we’re denying future generations the real educational opportunities that past generations denied us.

School’s out. We should keep it that way.

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Think While Doing

I recently listened to a fine episode of the Working Man podcast in which the interview made the good point that the trades are beneficial to help young men stop living so much in their imagination. They’re tactile, and they require presence.

His observation bore itself out for me today, as I spent much too much time scrolling through Twitter rather than starting my day productively. I felt depressed – and it wasn’t so much from thoughts of the ridiculous and tragic things happening in the wider society – but more from a feeling of listlessness about my own life.

Here’s what I gather from my experiences with moments like this:

If you are only thinking about your future, you will feel despair. You will continue to project out your current mode of behavior (in my case, sitting on Twitter) into the future and see what a bleak place it is. Thinking about how bad the world is, too, – while sitting on your butt – will only make you more depressed about the future of the world.

Thinking about the future – even some daydreaming – is fine and natural, but do it while you’re doing something to move forward into the future. This is the only way to keep imagination – which can tend toward darkness and anxiety or grandiosity – in check.

Daydreaming is not ideal during action, but it’s a lot better than being an idle daydreamer. You can think about your athletic future when you’re on your next run, or your next building project while you’re making the saw cuts. You can think about your move while you work to save money for it.

Your thoughts will find new channels – optimistic channels – in the work you are doing in that moment. They will take assurance from your actions. And your mind may still play tricks on you, but it will at least extrapolate out your better behavior rather than your stagnation.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Thaddeus Russell: Thoughts of a Renegade (1h11m)

This episode features an interview of post-academic historian and education entrepreneur Thaddeus Russell from 2017 by Nick Gillespie of the Reason podcast. Russell talks about discovering the Austrian School of economics only long after he left the academy, why actual Marxists hate postmodernism and why libertarians should love it, the insidious nature of America’s Protestant work ethic, and how the Democrats are reviving the Cold War.

Listen To This Episode (1h11m, mp3, 64kbps)

Subscribe via RSS here, or in any podcast app by searching for “voluntaryist voices”. Support the podcast at Patreon.com/evc or PayPal.me/everythingvoluntary.

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Feel Challenge, Not Pride, from Your Heritage

If you were born in America, you were gifted with quite a heritage: explorers, craftsmen, warriors, statesmen, sailors, writers, and artists from Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Edison.

Should you take pride in that heritage? (Set aside the bad heritage – and there is plenty of it – let’s talk about the good.)

A common rejoinder is that even the best of our heritage is not a reason to feel any pride. After all, we are not those men, and we did not do their great deeds.

This is true. It’s a good criticism, really. But in its oft-intended effect – to make us lose interest in our heritage (or to be more critical of it) it misses the mark.

We should not feel any personal pride for the inventions of Edison, for the writing of Thoreau, the explorations of Lewis, or the philosophy of Jefferson. We should instead feel our pride challenged. These guys should make us ashamed of ourselves – at least insofar as we are not living up to their standards of character and achievement.

See, this is what our remembrance of history and heritage should do for us. It should not be self-congratulatory, but self-examining and self-motivating. It is up to us to rise up to the best of the legacy given to us, and to exceed that legacy.

If this seems like a tall order, it is. But there is another gift of heritage. With its challenge comes also the strength to meet it. The blood of great men and women flows in our veins – either literally, in genetics, or metaphorically, through ideals and tradition. The heritage they left includes the strength to be better men and women ourselves. And that, insofar as we use it, may be something to be proud of.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Want to Reform the Criminal Justice System? End the Drug War

Protesters say America’s criminal justice system is unfair.

It is.

Courts are so jammed that innocent people plead guilty to avoid waiting years for a trial. Lawyers help rich people get special treatment. A jail stay is just as likely to teach you crime as it is to help you get a new start. Overcrowded prisons cost a fortune and increase suffering for both prisoners and guards.

There’s one simple solution to most of these problems: End the war on drugs.

Our government has spent trillions of dollars trying to stop drug use.

It hasn’t worked. More people now use more drugs than before the “war” began.

What drug prohibition did do is exactly what alcohol prohibition did a hundred years ago: increase conflict between police and citizens.

“It pitted police against the communities that they serve,” says neuroscientist Carl Hart in my new video. Hart, former chair of Columbia University’s Psychology department, grew up in a tough Miami neighborhood where he watched crack cocaine wreck lives. When he started researching drugs, he assumed that research would confirm the damage drugs did.

But “one problem kept cropping up,” he says in his soon-to-be-released book, Drug Use For Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, “the evidence did not support the hypothesis. No one else’s evidence did either.”

After 20 years of research, he concluded, “I was wrong.” Now, he says, our drug laws do more harm than drugs.

Because drug sales are illegal, profits from selling drugs are huge. Since sellers can’t rely on law enforcement to protect their property, they buy guns and form gangs.

Cigarettes harm people, too, but there are no violent cigarette gangs—no cigarette shootings—even though nicotine is more addictive than heroin, says our government. That’s because tobacco is legal. Likewise, there are no longer violent liquor gangs. They vanished when prohibition ended.

But what about the opioid epidemic? Lots of Americans die from overdoses!

Hart blames the drug war for that, too. Yes, opioids are legal, but their sale is tightly restricted.

“If drugs were over the counter, there would be fewer deaths?” I asked.

“Of course,” he responds. “People die from opioids because they get tainted opioids….That would go away if we didn’t have this war on drugs. Imagine if the only subject of any conversation about driving automobiles was fatal car crashes….So it is with the opioid epidemic.”

Drugs do harm many people, but in real life, replies Hart, “I know tons of people who do drugs; they are public officials, captains of industry, and they’re doing well. Drugs, including nicotine and heroin, make people feel better. That’s why they are used.”

President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. America’s drug war funds a prison-industrial complex. Hart says his years inside the well-funded research side of that complex showed him that any research not in support of the “tough-on-drugs” ideology is routinely dismissed to “keep outrage stoked” and funds coming in.

America locks up more than 2 million Americans. That’s a higher percentage of our citizens, disproportionately black citizens, than any other country in the world.

“In every country with a more permissive drug regime, all outcomes are better,” says Hart. Countries like Switzerland and Portugal, where drugs are decriminalized, “don’t have these problems that we have with drug overdoses.”

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drug use. Instead of punishing drug users, they offer medical help. Deaths from overdoses dropped sharply. In 2017, Portugal had only 4 deaths per million people. The United States had 217 per million.

“In a society, you will have people who misbehave, says Hart. “But that doesn’t mean you should punish all of us because someone can’t handle this activity.”

He’s right. It’s time to end the drug war.

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