22 January, 2011

A Few Arguments for Market Competition in Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In one of my earlier posts under the name Public transportation for BiH students must be free. Really?, I had briefly touched upon the subject of education, by stating that the best way for the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to help students is to dismantle the government monopoly in education and allow for market competition to deliver students the best education possible.
In this blog post I wish to share a recent exchange I had with a collectivist minded highschool professor about this same subject. The whole thing started completely innocently, by me forwarding an interesting article talking about how the neoliberal education system would look like, if we had it.
Actually I must admit that I tried to make inroads about this subject with my friend a few times before, but without much progress. The very first attempt of reaching out with free market approach to education hit a brick wall, with him reasoning that education is a sacred profession, and that as such it is not suitable for market competition, because it would supposedly turn the teachers' focus away from teaching and towards the corrupt business. All my attempts to bring forward some explanations as to why that would not be the case landed on deaf ears.
But persistence sometimes pays off, and so was the case in our recent exchange. Another libertarian blogger later commented that it was a nice exchange, and suggested that I should share it with the World, and so here it is for the record, from start to finish.
Professor: Neoliberal education? Unsustainable system if you ask me.
Myself: Throw a few arguments in the ring for consideration :)
Professor: As far as the neoliberal education is concerned, I think that some of its positive ideas should be adopted, and that is freedom for teachers to create education plans and programs. But still, if you expect to be financed by the government then you have to accept their role in education. If you want freedom, ten you must ask for finances from students directly, which means that education isn't free. Honestly, if education in this country isn't free, I don't know how would I have completed my education. Except of course if neoliberals have a solution for that as well... maybe there should exist a category of people which would enjoy the free education in form of education loan, so that they would pay back at a later time. So we are still going back to the same old. Neoliberal education is not the solution for everyone. It is the solution for those that can afford it.
Myself: Neoliberal education implies market competition, where collectivism is still in place, but where students are given vouchers so that they can go to schools of their choosing. That would bring innovation and competition in providing the best quality and quantity education. Of course, the schools with poorest education programs will quickly lose students, and close down.
But a system in which everyone would pay for their own education would be the classical liberal (libertarian) education, and that is where what we should eventually strive for. Neoliberal education should be treated only as a transition (for the next 15 - 30 years), because the education is not a basic human right, it is a privilege. Rights that are made possible through robbing of the fruits of individual labor cannot be called human rights, they are privileges. Robbing fruits of individual labor to provide some right cannot be called human right, it is legalized plunder under the threat of a gun.
So the question which we should ask is whether our education unions would be willing to accept the market competition?
Professor: The main problem is the fact that you believe that the education is privilege, and I think that it is a basic human right... Glavni problem je što ti mislis da je obrazovanje privilegija, a ja da je to osnovno ljudsko pravo... You talk about improvement in quality through school competition, such as creating the best plans and programs and by hiring the best teachers, all for the purpose of attracting students. That is perfectly fine with me. However, quantity and quality are two different things, and we all know that it is difficult to maintain any kind of quality unless we make sure to maintain quantity as well.
The real truth is that there are higher chances to graduate from College if the student is paying for it than if the government is paying for it. The reason for this is simple: people running the private school feel obligated to 'allow' students to pass the exams in easier way, because students are paying for their education there. If those schools increase their criteria and make it more difficult for students to complete their education, fewer students will enroll next year. I believe that the desire for profit (quantity) is stronger, which means that the knowledge (quality) is put aside as secondary goal. It is sad to say that even students themselves know this, and that all they really care about is in the end is diploma. I think that it is better try and change people's mentality than the system of education in our country. These things that you talk about has slowly come to life in our country as well, but the people are using it to their own advantage and in a wrong way.
Myself: OK, I have already given my argument about the basic human right. It is clear to me that we cannot find common ground on this issue, so I'll stop trying. Lastly, I wish to repeat the same answer I offered few months ago, and that'll be my last.
When we talk about education in private sector, that also implies quantity as well - I would think of it as confidence in knowledge. Private school which exists for sole purpose of handing out false diplomas will not stay in market for long, because its potential customers will quickly realize that a diploma from such institution does not lead to employment, because it didn't produce confident knowledge. But a school that wants to stay in business long term will do its best to make sure its students gain the proper knowledge and self confidence before they are ready to step out in the job market. Why? Well, because its graduates are the image of the school they came out of, and as such it depends on producing as high knowledge as possible.
However, let's not leave untouched the earlier mentioned sense of guilt and obligation of schools to let their students pass, just because they paid for education themselves. From the earlier presented arguments, it is completely clear that such an outcome is possible only in institutions that only care about short term profit, because the free market will soon swallow them whole. And the reason as to why diplomas are commonly bought in our country, not only in private schools but also in those run by the government, is because we have a market for that kind of purchased knowledge. And that is of course the state labor market, where all that counts is a diploma and not the actual knowledge it is supposed to stand for. So with that in mind we can relate this problem to the problem of all problems, and that is too-big central government apparatus, which employs huge number of state employees for which there is no real need, and whose functions should be handled by the market, such as the holy education. Peace, out!
Professor: I agree with everything you said... especially with saying that diplomas are sold and bought because there is market for them. In some normal countries, it is perfectly normal to value diplomas according to where they were obtained from. In our country however, it is important that you have a proof of completed education on paper and that it has some seal of approval on it. Of course, the grades are important too, so that some student who graduated, say from Belgrade, has the same chances of finding a job as a student who graduated in a country village. (Of course, the student from the village university managed to have all perfect grades without any difficulties).

10 January, 2011

What characterizes an ideal man?

What would be an example of an ideal man? Famous writer and philosopher Ayn Rand was obsessed with this idea. She described two such men in her novels: Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, and John Galt in the Atlas Shrugged.

Here is an excerpt from movie The Fountainhead in which Howard Roark (acted by Gary Cooper) makes his defense speech, in which Ayn Rand's vision of the ideal man can be clearly seen. From the speech it can be concluded that he is definitely a libertarian.

- video translated by CowboyBebop2012 YouTube channel.
Text of the speech:
Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived, and he lifted darkness off the earth.

Throughout the centuries, there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators -- the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors -- stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed; every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid. But they won.

No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered.
His truth was his only motive.

His work was his only goal.

His work -- not those who used it.

His creation -- not the benefits others derived from it -- the creation which gave form to his truth.

He held his truth above all things and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not, with his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement. Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be subordinated to the needs, opinions, or wishes of others. It is not an object of sacrifice.

The creator stands on his own judgment; the parasite follows the opinions of others.

The creator thinks; the parasite copies.

The creator produces; the parasite loots.

The creator's concern is the conquest of nature; the parasite's concern is the conquest of men.

The creator requires independence. He neither serves nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice.

The parasite seeks power. He wants to bind all men together in common action and common slavery. He claims that man is only a tool for the use of others -- that he must think as they think, act as they act, and live in selfless, joyless servitude to any need but his own.

Look at history: Everything we have, every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction came from attempts to force men into a herd of brainless, soulless robots -- without personal rights, without person ambition, without will, hope, or dignity.

It is an ancient conflict. It has another name: "The individual against the collective."

Our country, the noblest country in the history of men, was based on the principle of individualism, the principle of man's "inalienable rights." It was a country where a man was free to seek his own happiness, to gain and produce, not to give up and renounce; to prosper, not to starve; to achieve, not to plunder; to hold as his highest possession a sense of his personal value, and as his highest virtue his self-respect.

Look at the results. That is what the collectivists are now asking you to destroy, as much of the earth has been destroyed.

I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live. My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me.

It was believed that my work belonged to others, to do with as they pleased. They had a claim upon me without my consent -- that it was my duty to serve them without choice or reward.

Now you know why a dynamited Courtland. I designed Courtland. I made it possible. I destroyed it. I agreed to design it for the purpose of it seeing built as I wished. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid. My building was disfigured at the whim of others who took all the benefits of my work and gave me nothing in return.

I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life, nor to any part of my energy, nor to any achievement of mine -- no matter who makes the claim!

It had to be said: The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing. I came here to be heard in the name of every man of independence still left in the world. I wanted to state my terms. I do not care to work or live on any others.

My terms are: A man's RIGHT to exist for his own sake.

source: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechthefountainhead.html

06 January, 2011

Music for Libertarians

We libertarians have strong unwavering convictions, based on philosophy of freedom that has no shortcomings. However, in the collectivist world we live today our ideas are hard to get across, which may sometimes bring down our spirits.
Here's a musical suggestion to keep those spirits high: Sons Of Liberty: Brush-fires of the Mind.” Follow this link to the website http://www.sons-of-liberty.net and then use the MP3 box on the right side. Relax and enjoy!

You can find out more about the album “Brush-fires of the Mind” here:

04 January, 2011

A New Year's Resolution of a Libertarian

Here we are at the start of the 2011, and it's time to start acting out on those new year promises that so many of us made. You know, the usual promises such as resolving to lose weight, to exercise more, to stop smoking or drinking, to get better grades in school, to save more money, and so on. I myself could certainly make a pledge to lose a couple of kilograms, spend less time on my computer, and exercise more often, but that's not the kind of resolution I want to bore you with. Instead, I want to tell you about my Libertarian New Year's resolution.

Summarized in one short sentence, I promised myself to keep fighting for freedom and prosperity in my country.

While most people in Bosnia and Herzegovina would agree with reasoning that their country isn't prosperous, unless they are well-off politicians or highly successful crooks of course, many would wonder what this indication of their country not being free is all about. Website www.freedomandprosperity.tv is a good starting point where they can find out more about their precious freedom, and I surely hope that even more people will be checking it out and discovering the real truth this year. 
So to fulfill my promise of contributing to freedom and prosperity in 2011, I resolve to do the following:
I resolve to defend my natural rights and natural rights of others, to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I'll keep in mind that no-one has the right to steal, enslave, or murder, no matter who it may be or how many people may want to do it, including the government. 
I resolve to continue to remain clear of hatred and discrimination of others. I will not attack a person's intellect in order to argue issues. Instead I will treat others respectfully, listen, and acknowledge their opinions.

I promise to always speak my mind, and express my libertarian opinions, no matter how politically incorrect or how offensive it may be to my collectivist friends. I will not be afraid of being called a kook and being looked down upon for my personal convictions. Even more so, I resolve to stand up to and confront the conventional socialist wisdom that plagues the minds of people of Bosnia and Herzegovina for over 60 years, and crush it with clear reasoning and sound arguments of freedom whenever given a chance.

I resolve not to ask the government to give me handouts, but to demand of it to be left alone to work out solutions to my own problems. I promise to keep in mind that taking money away from people with force and giving it to those in need isn't charity but theft. That so-called social justice is equality in poverty, and that freedom is the mother of prosperity.

I promise to rely on my own abilities and the free market solutions for my needs whenever possible. I will educate others about how market competition delivers goods and services that are superior to those of government monopolies. To educate others that entrepreneurship is not evil but a good thing, since it promotes job creation, innovation, and creation of wealth.
I resolve to continue learning about the evils of big government and failure of collectivist systems throughout history. To continue to study principles of libertarian philosophy and free market economics, that created the freest and most prosperous countries in the world.

I resolve to resist apathy and become a more active member of the society. I will use every opportunity to educate others about the benefits of a free society. To spread the ideas of liberty through all means at my disposal. I will openly discuss politics in public. I'll talk about it with family and friends, I'll write blogs, make videos, and share my opinions in online forums with fellow countrymen.
I will pay attention to politics, by watching news and reading newspapers. I will hold our politicians accountable, by letting them know my opinion and reminding them that they are servants of us the people, and not our masters. I promise to keep reminding government that its proper role is protection of life, liberty, and property of all individuals, and nothing more.

I resolve not to blindly believe media. I promise to learn more about European Union on my own. To pay attention to the heated debates in the European Parliament, and inform everyone about the opposing views and problems inside the union. I resolve to learn about the real benefits and downfalls of EU membership, and discuss them openly with everyone I know. 
And finally, in the year ahead this libertarian resolves to keep searching for and joining forces with like minded people who cherish individual freedom and free markets over big government coercion and bureaucracy. With that in mind, I wish you all a free and prosperous New Year 2011.

For Liberty!