Thursday, April 08, 2004

Samizdata.net:: I'm having a discussion about creating a new government more in line with libertarian ideals. Look at the comments for my thoughts. I mentioned that I think the government should fund education in the form of vouchers.

I got this implicit reply:

With all this talk of statism, the suppression of rights by the state, and the need to get rid of it, several mentions of public education as a legitimate role of government have me puzzled.

Why is state controlled or state funded (funded IS controlled) education seen as a fundamental function of government? The US Constitution certainly makes no mention of it. Of all of the things that Libertarians get worked up over, many of them I find trivial, state funding of education is as legitimate of a concern to me as anything else modern governments control. Public education is the strongest method available for government indoctrination from an early age (the Hitler youth example is the easiest extreme example).

I can't even begin to list the number of things I learned in school that had to be overcome just to begin thinking like a Libertarian, a process that has taken me over a decade. Regardless of the details, in public school in America we were taught that government is a good thing that can make everybody's life better, and lack of government action is almost criminal, inviting "bad people" to do "bad things" without being brought to justice. I'm still amazed after 12 years of public education and 4 more of college (thankfully for me at a relatively conservative University) that I could stumble into becoming a Libertarian at all.

When people talk of writing a new, better Constitution why is public funding of education a proper government function? Was the lack of public education in much of America during the first 100 years of the US a key ingredient for keeping the government small and relatively unintrusive? People of that time weren't as uneducated as most people think, so it's not the same argument that most couldn't read, write and do math.

It would be an interesting debate.

My basic reasoning is that a functional democracy requires an educated populous. Many of the founders agreed with this. The point is that you shouldn't trust a majority to act unlike a mob unless they have spent a bit of time thinking about something.

This has little to do with any manipulative curriculum you might have experienced, especially at the university level. A free market education system, where a minimal level of funding comes from the government, would rid us of such a system.

Funding does not equal control, as least not fundamentally. If the system worked that it was an individual’s choice of schools without a stipulation of government determined "accreditation", all control would be in the hands of the individuals. Increased funding for any program can be enforced by constitutional mandate to not exceed inflation + population growth, the government would tie its own hands to provide education at a reasonable level, guaranteed. A review every decade or so could give an optional boost in the level of funding if some larger increase is needed, but this might not be a good idea.

The point: education can work in government, but it was formulated improperly at its onset, and never reformed, only expanded. Indeed we are only at the first iteration of public education. Private education prior the the 20th century is virtually irrelevant given the changes in required levels of education needed to function on a basic level in this world.

Another point is something that might sound a bit cliché after you’ve heard Bush mention it a few times: training workers for the 21st century.

The rate of change of technology is increasing. Think about that for a moment. It isn’t just that we are improving. It is that we are improving faster than before. We’ve already seen the time is takes to adopt new modalities of communication change once those technologies are proven in value. The Internet was 10 years from obscurity to common usage. Cell phones were 5. Blogs are even faster. [__] will be even faster proportional to its size.

One of those technologies to fill the blanks which we don’t even know about today is robotics. ‘Robot’ is from the Czech word for forced labor or serf. Fortunately in this road to serfdom, robots won’t have the free will to describe a robotic economy as oppressive.

Anything that requires very little thought will be automated. Put in more gruesome terms on a longer time scale: anything that doesn’t explicitly require a human will be done by a robot.

I think this is GREAT. It will be true freedom. It could yield an end to scarcity, which would be interesting indeed from an economics standpoint. The exploration of space and other hostile environments becomes feasible when you don’t need to protect biological life. Mechanical Immortality will creep its way into reality. Scientific study, when automated, will yield amazing increases in technology, e.g. automated testing of pharmaceutical drugs.

It would make bad jobs unavailable. If you truly love what you do for work, needless to say you could still choose to do it.

There is one concern I have about this: what will impede technology's progress? We are already seeing illogical issues with biotechnology and soon we will see more fear around nanotechnology. It is and will be worse for robots because the intuition is ingrained in the minds of the masses and plastered across the silver screen: robots are a threat to you and your way of life.

We need lubrication for the inevitable friction. Some argue that welfare is a form of stabilization of free markets, where a safety net prevents revolution. I think they overestimate the will of the poor and their level of poverty, which relatively speaking is far above sustenance, especially when you take into account private charity.

The point in this context is that a better educated populous will be more adaptable to these and other changes, and it is well worth the price. With our current path, I wouldn’t be surprised to see legislation designed to slow the spread of robotics spawned by the whims of the recently unemployed lacking in foresight.

Here is one example of this friction. There are thousands more in the media and movies. Education is the key, and worth the coercion of individuals through taxes to achieve it.

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