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by Christopher Chantrill
October 22, 2006 at 12:00 am
PEOPLE HAVE needs. When your liberal friend tells you that, he imagines that hes justified the whole panoply of liberal social programs. Stop being selfish and pay up.
But after a century of paying up, you get something like modern Europe. With all basic needs taken care of, the average Euro doesnt get the point of life. So s/he doesnt produce any lifechildren that is. That is the argument of Mark Steyn in his America Alone. When all your needs are met by the European welfare state then you live life as any adolescent living in a family welfare state. You buy toys and entertainment with your allowance, and you complain while all the important decisions are made for you.
But is Steyn right?
Fortunately, in the remarkable Up Series documentary project, filmmaker Michael Apted has provided us a historical record of just what happens over the long term to a people living under the welfare state. This month, in the weeks before the latest DVD debuts in mid November, you can see the latest episode in this amazing chronicle. The movie 49 Up is playing in selected theaters around the United States.
The documentary features interviews with a group of Britons who we first got to see as seven-year-olds in 1963 in the Granada TV documentary Seven Up. The project was conceived as a melodrama about the British class system. It featured three adorable little working class girls from a government elementary school in the East End of London contrasted with three insufferable upper-class West End prigs from a swank Kensington private school. Now these children of the Sixties are forty-nine.
Its a pity the whole think blew up in the filmmakers faces. But it blew up for an interesting reason. In the mid 1960s the Labour Party reformed the British secondary school system and gutted the ancient grammar schools that provided a challenging academic program to children who could pass the Eleven Plus test. Instead the government decreed that every child would go to a new expert-designed comprehensive school where there would be no selection by ability.
Maybe its just a coincidence. The Up Series children who ended up as angry and bitter adults all went to comprehensive schools. The children who ended up divorced or as single parents went to comprehensive schools. The children who ended up on incapacity benefit, or job-seekers allowance, went to comprehensive schools. Bog standard comprehensives is what they call them today.
OK, so the public schools arent as good as they should be. But how can we hope to educate the children of the poor without universal, compulsory, expert-designed government education? People have needs!
We could ask the Third World. We could ask Professor James Tooley, whos done research on educational systems throughout the Third World. What he has found is that private school systems thrive precisely in the teeming slums where government education does not reach.
The Old City of Hyderabad in India is a slum of 800,000 people. Tooley writes:
our team found 918 schools: 35 percent were government run; 23 percent were private schools that had official recognition by the government (recognized); and, incredibly, 37 percent slipped under the government radar (unrecognized). The last group is, in effect, a black market in education, operating entirely without both state funding and regulation.
If we assume that of the 800,000 people about 200,000 are school-age children, then there is one school for every 218 children. In fact Toomeys survey team found that the average unregulated school had about 8 teachers and 170 students. So it seems that the black market in schools provides an adequtate number of seats for the Old City slum children. But what about performance?
In Hyderabad, students attending recognized and unrecognized private schools outperformed their peers in government schools by a full standard deviation in both English and math.
So what, you ask? We are just establishing a very small point. Contrary to the received notion, it appears that the urban poor are not too poor, or too ignorant, or too feckless to send their children to schoolor to pay for it.
And we are idly tossing into the air another very small idea, as inadvertently suggested by the documentary Up Series. What if children suckled at the teat of government schools generally grow up to be adult adolescents, dont bother to marry, and dont bother to have children?
They would be well on the way to the status of H.G. Wells Eloi in The Time Machine, humanity upon the wane, shortly to fall into the clutches of the Muslim Morlocks. For when society sets itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it has no need to develop intellectual versatility... the compensation for change, danger, and trouble, until it is too late.
People have needs, but they must need struggle to meet them.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State
Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures
The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since
1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and
philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West
Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its
characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then,
once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital