Education is not the same as schooling. Professor Steven Davies explains the origins of the modern school system, and its original purpose in this new LearnLiberty.org video.
"It is time to move away from the idea that schools are the only, or even the best, way to deliver education."
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese fighter planes. The losses were severe. Over 2,500 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Eighteen American ships and nearly three hundred airplanes were destroyed or severely damaged. This devastating attack on America’s Pacific fleet is typically cited as the catalyst driving the United States into World War II. The U.S declared war on Japan the next day and would declare war on Germany and Italy a mere three days later.
The narrative frequently taught is that the Japanese attack was an unprovoked, preventive strike designed to decimate the U.S. Navy’s ability to interfere with Japan’s empire building in the Far East and the Pacific region. As Lawrence W. Reed notes, the popular perception is that Franklin D. Roosevelt was “…surprised and stunned by the Japanese attack.” During one of his most famous speeches, President Roosevelt “…summons the righteous indignation of a wounded nation. From his wheelchair, he stands tall and strong, inspiring even reluctant military men to do their duty.” We are to believe that up until the very moment the Japanese warplanes awakened the sleeping giant, the U.S. was still trying hard to remain outside the fray.
While it is true that the attack came as a shock to the American people and quickly reversed the previously strong national support for non-interventionism, the strike on Pearl Harbor was not a surprise to President Roosevelt, nor was it the reason for drawing the U.S. into war with Japan. According to Percy L. Greaves, chief of the minority research staff of the Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-1946), the attack on December 7, 1941 was neither unexpected nor unprovoked. The tragedy at Pearl Harbor was “…permitted as a public relations measure to rally the public.”
Historians today acknowledge that there is little doubt that President Roosevelt had prior knowledge of how, when, and where Japan was planning to strike. Even defenders of President Roosevelt’s actions now admit as much. However, apologists submit that the lies were necessary for a much greater cause. A wonderfully detailed account of events leading up to the fateful day can be found in WWII veteran Robert Stinnett’s Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor.
During the late 1930s and throughout the first eleven months of 1941, isolationist sentiments were still very strong in America. President Roosevelt pursued a foreign policy designed to incite Japan to action in hopes of forcing America in the WWII “through the back door”. Roosevelt believed that U.S. involvement in the war was necessary to defeat the Axis Powers. Additionally, he believed war spending would help bring the still struggling U.S. economy out of the now decade-long depression.
In Stinnett’s book he explains that not only did President Roosevelt have knowledge of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor, but FDR deliberately pushed Japan in the direction of military aggression for several years prior.  Moreover, President Roosevelt took steps to ensure the naval fleet would be concentrated in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, and the men on the ground in Hawaii would have no advanced warning.
President Roosevelt even reassigned Vice-Admiral James O. Richardson, commander-in-chief of the United States Fleet, when he openly objected to harboring the bulk of the Pacific navy in one place. Richardson’s replacement was Admiral Husband Kimmel who leapt 32 others in the chain of command to, in the end, fill the role of fall guy. The White House refused to alert Admiral Kimmel of the impending attack even though they intercepted seven damning Japanese naval broadcasts between November 28th and December 6th.
Of his own accord and without any knowledge of the intercepted broadcasts foretelling the attack, Admiral Kimmel sent several ships north of Hawaii where he feared Japanese aircraft carriers were gathering. Just days before the strike, the White House strangely ordered Kimmel to return his ships to Pearl Harbor. It turns out that Admiral Kimmel’s suspicions were correct. Yet, after the attack it was Kimmel who took the blame from the White House. Roosevelt promptly demoted him to rear admiral.
The merits of the decision to enter WWII may be debatable. However, regardless of one’s position on the need of the U.S. to enter the war, it should be clear to all that the “date which will live in infamy” was the culmination of intentional and deliberate actions by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Based on the information obtained during his time on the Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-1946), Percy L. Greaves concludes:
"It must be said also that the evidence revealed in the course of the several investigations leads to the conclusion that the ultimate responsibility for the catastrophe inflicted on the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, must rest on the shoulders of President Roosevelt.... It was thanks to Roosevelt’s decisions and actions that an unwarned, ill-equipped, and poorly prepared Fleet remained stationed far from the shores of the continental United States, at a base recognized by his military advisers as indefensible and vulnerable to attack.... Thus the attack on Pearl Harbor became FDR’s excuse, not his reason, for calling for the United States’s entry into World War II."
 5 Facts About Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona, Barbara Maranzani, 2011. http://www.history.com/news/5-facts-about-pearl-harbor-and-the-uss-arizona
 The Real Crime of Pearl Harbor, Lawrence W. Reed, 2001 http://mises.org/daily/688
 Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, Percy L. Greaves, Jr., 2010 http://mises.org/document/5364
 Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941 Charles Callan Tansill, 1952
 Day of Deceit, Robert Stinnett, 1999 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684853396/ludwigvonmisesinst/
 Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor? http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=408
 Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, Percy L. Greaves, Jr., 2010 http://mises.org/document/5364
In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a day of family, football, turkey, and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. How did this day of giving thanks late in November become part of American culture?
We all know the commonly-told story. It goes something like this: The Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. Times were tough that first year. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims learn to cultivate the land. The Pilgrims invited everyone over for a big Thanksgiving feast. Everybody lived happily ever after. Today we gather with family and friends to celebrate, remember, and give thanks.
There is some truth to that narrative, and there is some fiction. But, there is a lot missing from that story too. I thought it would be timely to fill in a few of the gaps and share some lesser known facts about this popular holiday:
1. Most of the colonists on the Mayflower were not Pilgrims.
“Just over a hundred colonists sailed from England on the Mayflower in September 1620. Of these, only forty-one were Pilgrims, from Leyden, Holland; eighteen were indentured servants, bound as slaves for seven years to their masters; and the others were largely Anglicans from England, seeking economic opportunity in the New World.” - What Really Happened at Plymouth, Murray Rothbard
2. Thanksgiving, as we have come to know it, is based historically on an amalgamation of the 1621 meeting between the colonists and the Native Americans and a celebration of the Pequot massacre.
We are told the celebration of Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1621, when Governor William Bradford invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians to a feast in celebration of the good harvest.
The Pilgrims did have a feast to celebrate the harvest, but it was not repeated again until years later. It certainly was not the beginning of a Thanksgiving tradition. In fact, the Pilgrims didn’t even call the feast Thanksgiving. That would come a decade and a half later.
1621 was indeed a very difficult year for the Plymouth colony. Over half of the colonists were dead by the end of the first winter. The harvest was not the beginning of better times. Food was scarce for several more years in Plymouth (we will learn why a little further down).
The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was actually proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor, John Winthrop. What is not typically taught is that the annual “Thanksgiving” festivities we have come to know and love have origins in the celebration of the Pequot Massacre.
In May of 1637, a group of well-armed English settlers, along with Narragansett and Mohegan allies, surrounded the Pequot village, set it on fire, and slaughtered the inhabitants.
Winthrop issued a proclamation stating: "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children….This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots."
The annual “thanksgiving” became a regular tradition after the Pequot Massacre in 1637. Most Americans think about Thanksgiving as being a symbol of colonists and Native Americans working together in peaceful cooperation. However, now that we know the other side of the story, it is easy to understand why many American Indians today call Thanksgiving a "Day of Mourning".
3. The Plymouth Colony was originally organized as communist order, and nearly perished because of it.
“A major reason for the persistent hardships, for the "starving time," in Plymouth as before in Jamestown, was the communism imposed by the company. In this alliance, each adult settler was granted a share in the joint-stock company, and each investment of 10 pounds also received a share. At the end of seven years, the accumulated earnings were to be divided among the shareholders. Until that division, as in the original Virginia settlement, the company decreed a communistic system of production, with each settler contributing his all to the common store and each drawing his needs from it — again, a system of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." - What Really Happened at Plymouth, Murray Rothbard
Governor William Bradford, far from an individualist or supporter of free-markets, wrote that the taking away of private property and bringing the harvest into the commons for distribution based on need “…was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense.” - William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47, New York: Knopf, 1952, pp. 120–21.)
By 1623, Bradford and the colonists were forced to abandon this communal arrangement. Governor Bradford decided to allocate a parcel of land for each household for private ownership. He told them “…they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit.”
In other words, Bradford unleashed the colonists from the chains of the communist economic system and instituted a system of private property.
Richard J. Maybury, in The Great Thanksgiving Hoax, writes that: “The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.”
4) Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November?
On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.”
From Washington until Lincoln, the date that Thanksgiving was observed varied, but the last Thursday in November was customary in most U.S. states. In 1863, Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster unity between the states.
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season in hopes of boosting the economy. (We know that these Keynesian ploys don’t actually do anything to generate wealth but merely shift consumption patterns).
Anyway, this move set off a national debate and on December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (in close competition with Secession Day on July 4th). It is a day of joyous reflection about all we have to be thankful for. I love that I am able to spend the day enjoying delicious food and spending time with my family.
I think we can still learn much from the Pilgrims’ early lessons about the merits of economic freedom. As Governor Bradford came to understand: Incentives matter!
Finally, I also took a few minutes today to somberly reflect on the fact that the new colonists committed horrendous acts of genocide against the human beings that had settled the New World long before the Europeans.
Today, the average American enjoys a standard of living that is virtually unmatched in history. For centuries, the majority of human civilization lived a basic hand-to-mouth existence; gathering, hunting, or farming the goods needed for survival. In many parts of the world this is still the case. What then have been the major contributing factors for economic progress in America? What makes our high standard of living possible?
American prosperity was not the result of an edict from a king, decree from a pope, or redistribution of some static wealth from the haves of the Old World to the have-nots of a new nation. American prosperity was created; created by individuals homesteading new land, producing to the best of their ability, and exchanging goods and services voluntarily to mutual benefit. American prosperity was created by hard work and real savings. The availability of real savings allows for capital investment which enables an economy to exponentially augment its production capabilities.
It is important to note the reasons why Americans were able to amass real savings and invest capital at an unprecedented rate. Perhaps most importantly, the political and economic system in America has been largely structured in such a way that the rights of the individual have been respected. While not perfectly applied, the concept of individual liberty flourished in America and led to the abolition of slavery and advancements toward the equal treatment of races, religions, sexes. There is no question that we still have a long way to go. The concept that each and every man and woman has a right to his or her life, liberty, and property is still very new to human history and is far from being fully understood and upheld by most.
While the protection of individual rights has never been upheld in full consistency, having a sense of security that the fruits of labor would not be confiscated by the masters and feudal lords allowed the American entrepreneur to flourish. The American system has traditionally respected the individual's right to justly acquire, use, and dispose of private property (at least to a relatively high degree). The rule of law provides stable expectations, minimizes fear of unjust seizures, and helps to enforce contracts in an evenhanded manner. When people are left free to produce, trade, and innovate then limited resources are directed towards the fulfillment of the needs and preferences of the people in society. As Murray N. Rothbard explains:
“The productivity of the private sector does not stem from the fact that people are rushing around doing "something," anything, with their resources; it consists in the fact that they are using these resources to satisfy the needs and desires of the consumers. Businessmen and other producers direct their energies, on the free market, to producing those products that will be most rewarded by the consumers, and the sale of these products may therefore roughly "measure" the importance that the consumers place upon them.”
If the consumer behavior directs resources to their most preferred use through the process of the free market, then any interference in the market necessarily diverts resources away from their highest and best use leading to a relatively lower standard of living than would otherwise be enjoyed. Unfortunately, market interference has become the new American standard. Onerous taxes, regulations, subsidies, bailouts, and handouts are now the norm. Political pull has become more important than ability to serve customers on the market.
Many Americans today have incorrectly inverted the cause of prosperity with the effect. They believe that prosperity is not something that is to be created, but rather something to be redistributed. Most all Americans support policies of taking from the earned and giving to the unearned in one form or another. This primitive, irrational ideology of the Old World is still deeply ingrained in American culture. If we wish to avoid returning ever closer to the hand-to-mouth existence of our ancestors, it is a political system that tolerates violations of individual rights that must be fought.
Finally, we should recognize that the freedom of the market does not deliver some kind of perfect utopia, however in the span of a few generations enough real wealth has been created in America to allow even the poorest citizens to enjoy luxuries not available to kings a short time ago. We are able to enjoy these luxuries because we produce. The degree of economic progress is highly correlated to the degree that individual rights are protected.
The only social system that is conducive to a prosperous society is one that respects people as free and morally equal. The only economic system that respects individual human rights is one that operates by mutually beneficial voluntary exchange; not the compulsive force of government. We have flourished despite the onslaught of market interventions. It can only be imagined what level of prosperity would be possible to a free people liberated from the yoke of the political class.
In 1983, I won the birth lottery. I was born at the end of the twentieth century in the greatest country in the history of the world. I was born of healthy body and mind to two loving parents who ensured I was provided with all of the grandiose middle-class luxuries that many in our society today take for granted as basic necessities. I never went hungry, though sometimes I would complain that our fridge was stocked full of healthy food while my friends feasted on delicious, processed junk!
As a child, I did not have to work in the fields, or in a factory, or on the streets to make ends meet. I would do my homework and then spend my afternoons on the baseball diamond perfecting my batting and fielding abilities. I was given a car on my sixteenth birthday (which I still drive today, thirteen years later). I was given a cell phone. I bought a guitar with the money I saved from my summer job. I received an academic scholarship that covered my college tuition. My parents paid for my living expenses, including my entertainment, during my four years at the university. Relatively speaking, I had it pretty easy growing up.
I obtained a position as a consultant at a global risk management firm upon graduation and earned a salary that allowed me to purchase a house and travel the world. The opportunities and experiences I have been afforded in my lifetime would make the great rulers of history rile with envy. King George III would be jealous of my summer vacations to Europe, Asia, and Central America, not to mention, my ability to enjoy the best food from around the globe on any given night of the week at local restaurants.
Emperor Caligula, in all of his mighty extravagance, could not imagine the marvelous riches I command to my doorstep with a few simple keystrokes. Heck, even Alexander the Great who learned under the tutelage of Aristotle, perhaps the greatest mind in the history of the world, would be awestruck at the access to information that I possess. Not only do I own the Complete Works of Aristotle, I can access the planet’s greatest libraries from the comfort of my living room.
I am not royalty, but I live better than kings and queens of the past. I would much prefer my DVR to an entire court of jesters. Thanks to the incredible advances in technology, I get to watch my high-definition LCD television with better than 20/20 LASIK-corrected vision.
Kings and noblemen lived in magnificent stone castles. I have central plumbing and climate control. I wouldn’t trade my backyard for the gardens of Versailles if it meant an August without air conditioning and a February without heat. King Louis XIV can keep his royal carriages, too. I travel in airplanes and automobiles.
It is amusing to think how much better I am living than history’s ruling elite. My family is not ruling elite. I come from average America. The choices available to the average person in America today could not be imagined by the aristocracy of a century ago. Stories similar to mine are common for millions of people around the developed world. We live far more lavishly and have far more opportunities than most all people that have walked the earth at any time throughout history; including the present day.
Next week I will consider a few of the factors that make it all possible.
To better understand and situate the current state of the American politics, we must first appreciate the origins and evolution of the liberal and conservative ideologies.
In the 1965 essay titled "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty," Murray Rothbard explains that the origins of these two dominant political ideologies had their beginnings in Western Europe nearly 200 years ago. Liberalism (remember we are talking 19th century definition of the term) was the party “of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity.”
The opposition to 18th and 19th century liberalism was embodied by the Tories; the party of “...hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the Old Order.” The Tories were conservatives in the original sense of the word. They were the party of reaction whose goal was to preserve the traditional order of society. Roderick Long summarizes that the Tories “…had traditionally been the advocates of hierarchy and compulsion, while the Liberals had traditionally championed voluntary association and free exchange.”
Liberals on the “left” originally advocated for free markets, voluntary exchange, freedom of association, and tolerance. Roderick Long points out that these free-market radicals embraced and promoted “many of the causes we now think of as paradigmatically left-wing - feminism, antiracism, antimilitarism, the defense of laborers and consumers against big business” while the Tories, or traditional conservatives, on the “right” advocated the hierarchy and compulsion of the Old Order.
During the end of the 18th and well into the 19th century, these two ideologies started to shift and change. We saw rapid economic and social progress due to increasing adoption of the radically liberal idea of individual human rights. The American colonies asserted their independence from the established order claiming the right to life, liberty, and property. It can be argued that America was the first nation in the history of the world founded on genuine liberal principles and within a few short decades, the world witnessed the end of chattel slavery, increased rights for women, and an economic revolution.
Unfortunately, the idea of liberalism began to transform in the later part of the 19th century. During this time we saw a rise of nationalism in Prussia – the model for the central, powerful modern nation-state. Both the Left and the Right were tempted to use the apparatus of government to achieve their ends. Roderick Long, drawing from a 1884 essay by Herbert Spencer titled The New Toryism, explains that, “…liberals came to conceptualize liberalism in terms of its easily identifiable effects (benefits for the masses) rather than in terms of its essential nature (laissez-faire), and so began to think that any measure aimed at the end of benefits for the masses must count as liberal, whether pursued by the traditional liberal means of laissez-faire or by its opposite, the traditional Tory means of governmental compulsion.”
Furthermore, on the heels of great scientific advancement, intellectuals came to believe they could order and plan society to reach the liberal goals of human flourishing faster than the incremental gains achieved through the voluntary market process. Instead of continuing to be the radical champions of freedom, which had led to steady improvements, the liberals presumed they could eliminate all the ills of society and create utopia if only they could use the existing power of the State to engineer and force their design for the benefit of humanity. In short, the liberals thought they could use the Tory means to achieve their liberal ends. Remember, the Tories on the Right traditionally instituted big-government solutions to address what they considered to be the problems in society.
Instead of focusing on the freedom of the individual to pursue happiness, the liberals believed they could arrange society in such a way that man could be free from want – that government could engineer happiness and prosperity. Because the liberals thought their end goal to be a noble one, they had great intellectual backing and what we identify as today’s version of liberalism grew rapidly. We saw the rise of socialism and Marxism across much of the globe and by 1884, Spencer observed that "[m]ost of those who now pass as Liberals, are Tories of a new type."
Remember that at the time of Spencer’s writing in 1884, the concentration of political and economic power was considered a cornerstone of the Tory ideology. In fact, historically speaking, most people in most times have considered a concentration of power as being a right-wing ideology. Spencer went on to issue a warning that turned out to be all too true. In 1884 he said, “So that if the present drift of things continues, it may by and by really happen that the Tories will be defenders of liberties which the Liberals, in pursuit of what they think popular welfare, trample under foot.”
Murray Rothbard offers further detail about this impact on the ideological transformation of the Left and the Right. The Liberals on the Left “with an orientation toward activism were led to abandon the old libertarian form of liberalism for the more energetic and proactive state-socialist version, while those liberals who resisted the slide toward state-socialism found themselves drifting toward the pessimistic and reactionary outlook of traditionalist conservatism.”
As a response to these new radical developments, the reactionary wing of the Left (weary of growing collectivism) and the traditional Tories on the Right (concerned with preserving the Old Order) evolved into what we would today recognize as the conservative movement. Their mission became to slow the rapid growth of the new socialist and progressive governments. However, the focus of these conservatives, still deeply rooted in maintaining the old traditional order and traditional values, was not principally concerned with the defense of individual rights and laissez-faire, as that was the original position of the radical liberals!
So what does this mean for us today?
Now, with an understanding of the history of the American liberal and conservative ideologies, it should not be difficult to identify and explain the origins of their present internal contradictions.
The folks that would today be considered libertarians and the present-day liberals had common origins, but they went their separate ways in the 19th century. While the libertarians are characterized as fighting oppression in all forms, the modern-day liberals rail against non-governmental forms of tyranny (like the big bad corporations) while simultaneously championing institutionalized oppression in the form of government. Liberals today seem especially concerned about the concentration of power by the wealthy businessmen but ignore the concentration of power by the political elite. They pay lip service to civil liberties while systematically destroying economic liberties. They have long since forgotten the lessons of their laissez-faire roots and now believe the economy can be ordered by wise central planners. They look at government as the great equalizer instead of recognizing the fact that government is quite instrumental in ensuring in the oppressive Old Order of the Tories.
As for the conservatives, their policies become intelligible if we remember that the conservative movement has its roots in the Tory ideology of maintaining traditional order by force. Ironically, after the perversion of classical liberalism into socialism, conservatism evolved as a reaction to the progressive, socialist agenda. The original advocate of centralized power is now our only safeguard against ever expanding government? At times, conservatives have successfully retarded the agenda of the modern-day liberal, but haven’t been able to offer any real alternative. Conservatives today accept the idea of progressive government solutions and only offer us with the alternative of implementing them more efficiently or at less cost than the liberal. The conservative message of liberty is impotent. Conservatism has never stood for laissez-faire or the principled respect for individual human rights. Furthermore, arguments for economic freedom from the conservatives carry little weight when they advocate using the blunt force of big government to secure their vision of traditional social values. The conservative pays lip service to economic liberty while destroying our personal liberty.
We have good reason to be frustrated with both of the major political parties. In American politics today, liberalism and conservatism are not fundamentally different. They merely fight over the application of government power. Both have origins rooted in authoritarian power structures designed to centrally order society according to their respective visions.
If you stand for liberty, human rights, and freed markets….you are not a conservative or a liberal in today’s terms. You are a libertarian. If you still consider yourself a conservative or a liberal after having full disclosure of what these terms mean, then you are a bully.
To champion sound economics and individual liberty with an uncompromising respect for human rights. Privatize everything!