A short time ago I blogged on Cardus and their approach to government funding and what they refer to as independent schools (Their article can be found here). One of the critiques was that I took it easy on the assumption of economic intervention from the government over at Cardus. This is true. Let us turn to the main ideology behind the promotion of government intervention. I will look at socialism, its definition, and the impact it has had on society.
Socialism needs a definition. Google defines socialism as: “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” Merriam-Webster ties it into the government: “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Socialism isn’t necessarily Marxist, but it has connections to Marxist theory. Marxism centers identity in social class, and socialism assumes many of the categories of Marxism. Marxism is more closely connected to communism which is defined by Encyclopaedia Britannica as: “Political and economic doctrine that aims to replace capitalism with public ownership of the means of production.” In Canada, socialism is inherently tied up in government control. In Canada, socialism is at best at odds with capitalism and independent ownership of many public services. We are not communist, but we are communist lite. I define socialism by the government ownership or regulation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
The way that socialism works in Canada is that social organization of production, distribution, and exchange is heavily regulated and at least partially owned by the government. You could argue that the community has a social contract with the government to do this, since we claim to be a democratic nation. Recently, the Ford Government in Ontario asked parents to come forward with their thoughts on parental rights so that the Ford Government can write up a Bill of rights. This is essentially a manoever with socialist assumptions. Why? Because it assumes that the Government has the right to regulate the school system. Just because good ideas are coming forward doesn’t make the modus operandi or the foundational principles any less flawed. I am happy that Christians brought ideas forward, but we should be careful to reflect on the nature of the system we are in.
A number of socialists I know defend the concept of and right to private property. This is because many who might refer to themselves as socialist might better be referred to as distributist. Tom Woods responds to this concept over on Mises Institute. It is good that these individuals argue for private property, because the very existence of the 8th commandment in the Bible demands private property. But having accepted principles of government intervention (which is a socialist principle), what if the collective body of our democratic society demands that this too should be owned by the government, or some other independent body? The government already owns the hospitals, the public schools, the railroads, the roads, etc. The government already claims the rights to regulate our wages, so that some pay higher taxes and some pay less.
Technically, in a free society, a group of people have the right to be socialists. They have the right to pool together resources in some sort of collective ownership and administration, but they don’t have the right to coerce obedience. An “independent school” could potentially be said to be a group of people who collectively own and administrate a school so that they can educate according to conscience, but even this operates on other principles than the socialism being promoted in Canada.
The very presence of a contract, shows that two people have bound themselves together to produce, distribute or exchange a product. The police would come after a business owner who tried to coerce me to sign a contract with him. Meanwhile, the socialism in Canadian society, coerces those who have decided to educate their children independently to pay for public education. As Tom Woods responds to the distributist in the article I have linked above: “Say what you will about Home Depot, but it is not responsible for confiscating 40 percent of my income for purposes I find morally repugnant…“
I would propose that the promotion of government intervention (I’m careful to throw around labels of socialism or even distributism partly because such terminology detracts from the issue at stake which is government intervention) argued for in the Hamilton Spectator by Cardus, is fundamentally flawed. It is fundamentally flawed, because it promotes the regulation of education by the government. Again, just because we have a good government, doesn’t mean that we should hand control over to them. Look at where this thinking has gone in Alberta. We are reaching a point in Canada where the paradigm of socialism is so ingrained in our psyche that we cannot even imagine a society where production, distribution, and exchange is not at least regulated by the government. We have bought into a paradigm not only of heavy government regulation of finances but also ideas (ie the Ford government writing up a bill of parental rights). We have all but given up on challenging government ownership of schools, infrastructure and hospitals.
My argument is that a free gospel creates free men and free men create free markets. Douglas Wilson writes in his book Father Hunger (page 97):
If fathers are to be liberated from their confinement cells in corporate America, then they must pray and labor for free markets. They must also vote for them. Men who want to be providing fathers in a way that does not sever them from meaningful contact with their families must pray and work for a free society characterized by free markets. But this is only possible if the gospel has already created free men. Men who are enslaved to their lusts and petty envy will always be chumps enough to be easily manipulated by the rising plutocrats. But men who earn their own living and who refuse to take money that was extorted from others at the point of the tax collector’s gun are men who are the only basis of any free society worth the name.
I would argue that we should promote free markets where the government simply has the negative task to punish offenders who break the law. As such, the government doesn’t regulate, but operates primarily as a court system. In such a system, schools would operate independent of government control, but where the law is broken, the courts would step in. This would be a society that is free from government control, but still has the threat of punishment for evil that is necessary maintain this freedom.
Some food for thought…