Big speaks to big, or how giants work to quench local economy, free market

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This four-minute video shows how robots run much of the Volkswagen factory.

It is the nature of a large enterprise that as scale increases, its perspective shifts into the realm of politics and the making of laws favorable to itself. It thinks in terms of bigness, and likes to deal with big entities. Its interest in “public policy” grows to include a lobbying, litigation and political budget.

Inevitably a big company like Volkswagen will pronounce its interests in terms of a controlled — vs. a free — market. A giant automaker wants to get along with the local establishment, avoid offending long-entrenched interests. Endorsing a free market solution to educational disaster  disturbs the tranquility in important relationships.

VW personnel director Hans-Herbert Jagla talks about workforce improvements in terms of better rapport with government, a media report suggests.

“VW calls for more educated workforce” is the headline in the Saturday Times Free Press. The story tells of how Mr. Jagla, in an interview in the newspaper conference room, discusses the idea of government, business and public schools’ working together to provide the company with employees to run its factory. The story refers to an “enhanced partnership between the business sector and government” and quotes him as saying, “What we’re trying to do is secure the future. *** We need to invest more together.”

As example of cooperation, the story cited the carmaker’s training program at Chattanooga State.

Poor workforce — but more of the same?

Thanks to the machine, and nowadays robots, demands on factory workers are considerably less than they are upon entrepreneurs, craftsmen and others. Assembly line work is standardized. By reducing the variety of output, people of varying skills can produce the same product. An idiot and a genius working the floor of the Chattanooga VW plant produce the same product. Each Passat is meant to be exactly alike; the German company’s push for quality is an insistence on the similarity of each vehicle. While reports about the company’s arrival in Chattanooga lead us to believe factory work is skilled, it’s not. Craftsmanship, artistry, relationships, individual gifts and entrepreneurialism are not important; following rigorous protocol is.  (See the 1997 book “Sovereign Individual” by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg for more on this point.)

Is the sort of person a factory owner wants the kind of individual you want your school-age son or daughter to become? What to make of the suggestion from Mr. Jaglia that public schools improve their focus in producing factory workers?

Public schools produce school people, often, people whose drive and initiative is rubbed off. The decline of numeracy and literacy has been marked since academic changes were imposed in the 1920s in the state school machinery. Public schools, generally speaking, are not intended to produce genius, brilliant individuals, and highly articulate public speakers. Rather, they were created to produce a commoner, a subject, a follower, a schooled person who got the schooling benefit for free. By the design of John Dewey and other advocates, public schools should produce docile, democratically oriented citizens suitable to industrial economy, good consumers and followers of protocol.

Certainly, many bright people escape the dampening effects of public school and live and prosper despite the experience. We see their faces in the Saturday’s good for you section in the weekend edition, and cheer them.

In contrast to schooling, education is about giving people a means to despise assembly lines — to think independently, to love creativity, novelty, artistry, poetry, imagination, cultivation. Real education for the individual is for his genius to be uncovered, nurtured, and brought to some sort of fruition by the time he is 18, for his own benefit and for the gain of the larger world. Old-fashioned humanism shares this goal with Christianity.

But, alas, we live in the real world, not the would-be world. I would not expect Mr. Jaglia and VW people to think outside the current paradigm of monopoly economics. It would take a very unusual person, operating outside the familiar corporate and intellectual consensus, to attend such a meeting at the Times Free Press and suggest that Chattanoogans need to improve their educational output by turning to free market solutions.

Monopoly economics and a case of incest

If I were making the argument for disestablishment of the public school business, I would point to an overlooked story in the same edition of the newspaper. It is about a conflict in Gwinnett County, Ga., over subsidies paid by a public school system to the chamber of commerce for corporate recruitment.

A “citizen watchdog group” is making a stink about the school system’s giving F$900,000 to Partnership Gwinnett, a unit of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. The state attorney general, is investigating, but the school board has been exercising its discretionary spending powers in the grants since 2007, and it hardly looks like a case of corruption.

The school system gives the money as an investment; if business recruiting succeeds, it brings tax-paying companies into the county, boosting the school monopoly’s budget.

Is commercial government a dead-end?

Mr. Jaglia’s interview and the Gwinnett story highlight the peril of commercial government. If the civil magistrate, whose job is protection and public peace, goes into business, he is operating outside his competency. He is also operating outside of what the Christian religion would call for as the duty of the ministry of the sword (a matter I have developed elsewhere). The civil magistrate is not about doing good, as modern liberalism claims. He is about oppressing vice, murder, fraud and other evils. Why, then, does he go into business?

But Americans reject self-determination in education. They admit there is an education-industrial complex, but few people, even critics, see an alternative. They distrust the free market. They distrust one of the basic tenets of local economy.

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