“It’s really a leap of faith. For any district that does this, it’s a real leap of faith.”
— Carolyn Childs, Hamilton County schools official
By David Tulis
The long process of decline in the U.S. national system is highlighted by bright, cheerily received news items making clear that a good time is being had by all.
This week it’s in the dining hall of state-run factory schools in your county and mine. Students in Hamilton County will now be served breakfast and lunch without having to pay a penny. A program starts in August in all 47 structures. “Parents can save money,” a cheerful story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press says, “upwards of $700 per year for a student who eats breakfast and lunch daily. Students should have more time to eat instead of fumbling with payment at the cash register.”
All students now can be fed undocumented, meaning they won’t have to fill out application forms giving SSNs, tax return data and income details to qualify for meals for “low income” people. Still, parents will have to fill out a “household survey” because a school’s ranking lets it feed from the federal program.
Even children in wealthy families will receive free fare, and because participation is 100 percent, “no one will know who is paying and who isn’t — because everyone eats for free,” eliminating “the stigma” of getting taxpayer-subsidized meals, nutrition boss Carolyn Childs told the newspaper.
The free-for-all in Hamilton County government schools is, perhaps, a near-final hurrah for a system that is antithetical to the concept of a free market. Government schools are a contradiction of free markets, and so are the feeding programs for those 40,000 students enduring what William F. Rickenbacker calls “the twelve-year sentence” in a 1974 book by that title. The system denies the claim of price, pretends to serve a pretended market whose members pretend to be satisfied, perhaps because they don’t have to pay directly for its service.
The lessons learned by students are that valuable services can be expected for free, that the saw “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” or TANSTAAFL is a lie. For, indeed, there is such a thing as a free lunch. The real world of government consolidation and national economy just can’t get any better.
The lesson for inmates and their moms and dads is widening the gap between their expectations about the world and about the role of the civil magistrate — the state, if you will. Their dependency upon it increases, their indifference to price and cost rises a step, and their remove from the real world is more secure. This further break from the problem of national insolvency suggests how brittle the state system has become, how it has become set in its ways, it has dammed up the river of reform.
Meanwhile, signs are all about pointing to collapse in confidence in the nation-state, a turning away from it as the savior of all. Its weakest point is its funding. Uncle’s administrative state is incapable of paying for its F$220 trillion in commitments and debts, and it intends to stiff tens of millions of people when it starts revising downward its raft of entitlements.
The free market — local economy— will slowly work its way around the nation-state and its oversold promises. In presence of an official economy, decentralization is akin to smuggling. As the tyranny of administrative systems peaks, people will have more reason to bypass the state in what are effectively black, gray, underground or free markets. Gary North, in one of two recent essays assailing the idea of a revolution, and counseling patience instead, puts it this way:
In every system of state controls, there are smugglers. Smuggling always eases transitions, for good and evil. Smuggling is always marginal. Smuggling creates unofficial but profitable institutional arrangements that reduce the effects of both political revolutions and economic contraction. Smuggling allows the flow of contraband.
The key product to be smuggled in every era is ideas. As my friend Percy Greaves used to say, the state cannot shoot ideas. The World Wide Web is the greatest idea-smuggling network in history. The question is: Which smuggling operations will put the Web to its most productive uses?
My statement of faith is this: Not the state.
Smuggling can lead to secession. It can lead to a withdrawal of faith and hope in the messianic state. It can lead to institutional alternatives to the messianic state. Example: online education as a substitute for tax-funded education. This is technically possible today. At some point, community by community, there will be a tipping point.
The mark of this tipping point will be this: the inability of local governments to get bond issues passed, despite the threatened loss of federal matching funds.
Impossible, you say? Repeat this mantra: “When Washington’s checks bounce.”
That will be the day of reckoning. That will be the tipping point.
Bumper sticker liberty
China and the USSR both collapsed, Dr. North reminds us. They weren’t overturned by a coup at the top, nor by a revolt from the bottom. These empires folded when their power to defy the real world of the marketplace and human nation failed them, and the bosses realized what had happened. They gave up and went away, a prospect we face as we watch the terrifying excesses today of the U.S. empire. Dr. North’s platform would fit easily onto bumper stickers. “Reform, not revolution.” “De-fund, don’t capture,” and “Withdraw Washington’s legitimacy.”
“Decentralization favors marginal changes,” Dr. North says. “Decentralization favors competition. Decentralization undermines revolution. We are in the midst of a worldwide process of decentralization. It has to do with technology. It has to do with networks of communications. It has to do with an aspect of Moore’s law: the steady reduction in the cost of information. This is why we are not headed for a revolution. We are headed toward secession. The heart of this decentralized, unorganized secession movement is this: the withdrawal of political legitimacy, voter by voter.”
Sources: Kevin Hardy, “Most Hamilton schools to offer free lunch for all,” Timesfreepress.com, July 7, 2014
Dr. Gary North, “Withdrawing political legitimacy,” July 7, 2014, garynorth.com