01 March 2012

A Mess Of One’s Own Making


That evening, I met with hundreds of parents from the same community. In a weirdly antiphonal response to what I’d heard earlier in the day, they rocked the school auditorium with their complaints of how hard—no, impossible—it was to be a parent today. School was a bureaucratic, relentlessly demanding, social and academic rat race that wasn’t even preparing their kids for the future. A vast and frightening Internet culture was hijacking their kids, and they were helpless to do much about it. These parents said they were trying so hard to make ends meet that they had little time left over just to be with their kids, much less maintain consistent authority over their lives.

One thing that really stand out about this laundry list of complaints is that much of it is self-caused.
In the first place, parents choose to send their children to public school, even though private school and home school are two very viable alternatives.  In fact, home schooling eliminates the bureaucracy of higher education, scales down the demands to something more reasonable, and eliminates the social and academic rat race (which often helps kids win said rat races).  So, parents that complain about the problems that arise from putting their kids in school are essentially saying that they aren’t responsible for the fundamental choice that put them in this quandary.  Namely, parents are absolving themselves of their decision to enroll their children in public schools in the first place.

In the second place, the internet culture can very much be avoided, and rather easily to boot:  don’t have the internet in your house. This is pretty extreme, obviously, but the fact that parents don’t even consider this option tells us that parents aren’t actually that concerned about their children’s exposure to the internet.  I would bet that most of them don’t actually make any serious efforts to regulate their children’s exposure to the internet.

In the third place, parents are very much responsible for their desire to make ends meet.  I wonder how many of these parents pay for cable, high-speed internet, designer clothes, expensive housing in prime neighborhoods, and so on.  Many parents decide on the ends before figuring out how to make them meet.  They get sucked into materialist dreams, and then work to make them reality.  This is precisely the opposite of how it should be.  It would be better to consider what it would take to pay for the bare necessities, and then find a job that covers the costs of said necessities.  Then, one should only considering earning more than what is necessary than the minimum if doing so doesn’t require spending long hours away from home.

Thus, it is truly astonishing to see how many problems parents face simply because they think they need to do something that is, in fact, entirely optional.  It is sad to see how many problems parents visit upon their families and upon themselves because they are too materialistic to learn contentment.  And, it is disgusting to see how parents have confused wants for needs, and have thus been sucked into the discomfiting rat race, deprived of happiness in the pursuit of material wealth.

4 comments:

  1. Your support for home schooling encourages me that we might make a guaranteed minimum income supporter out of you yet. Parents don't choose which school to send their children to in a void: there are economic considerations. Homeschooling requires having one parent staying home to be the teacher, and that pretty much wipes out much in the way of job prospects for that parent. (And private schools tend to be expensive.) If you want a major upsurge in homeschooling, institute the guaranteed minimum income.

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  2. @GFM- as a consequentialist, I would accept a GMI as a matter of course. However, I only truly support undoing the interventions that led to the mess we have. In this case, I'd like to undo title IX, the EEOC, the federal subsidization of post-secondary education, the mandatory school attendance requirement, and unconstitutional regulatory agencies (which is basically all of them).

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  3. I don't see how a guaranteed minimum income follows. Besides, we already have one and it has been a disaster:
    http://mises.org/daily/3822

    If parents would decide to live in cheaper - more "vibrant" - neighborhoods and send their kids to private schools, their problems would be solved. That means that you need to come up with another $20k/year if you have a family of 3, which is not insurmountable if you live in a cheaper neighborhood. The wife can work part-time while the kids are at school. Most businesses would rather hire someone part-time for the type of work women do anyways.

    Living in expensive neighborhoods on 2-incomes has worked out fabulously for our enemies in the government and managerial class. We pay higher state and federal taxes with 2 incomes, it drives up housing prices and forces the second parent to work in a vicious positive feedback loop. Managers love it because having 2 times the number of people in the workforce ensures stagnant wages. Public school administrators love it because mommy has to work and leave her kids to be schooled in the cheapest way possible.

    All we need to do is stop doing what the government and elites want, which is to put our kids in daycare or in the government schools.

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  4. "All we need to do is stop doing what the government and elites want, which is to put our kids in daycare or in the government schools."

    Agreed.

    As to the more general issue of a GMI, it is important to understand that the issue is not predicated on a desire to avoid work, as much as it is predicated on technology being so ubiquitous that virtually every form of work is completely automated, save for the task of managing technology, which has become so simple and reliable that no more than, say, 10% of the population is needed to manage it. In the latter scenario, there will *need* to be a GMI because it is assumed that most human labor will be of such little value that there is no practical price it can offer in order to be put to use.

    There are two main issues with the latter assumption. First, any vision of a technocratic future is going to highly idealistic, and likely impossibly so. Second, it is assumed that silicon is more ubiquitous than humanity (not that there is always separation between the two, amirite plastic surgeons?). To state it another way, it is assumed that the resources necessary for ubiquitous technological functions are so readily available that they can replace human beings.

    I don't think that a GMI will be practically necessary, mostly because I am a very pessimistic individual, and I expect technology to regress over the next, say, one hundred years. From a pragmatic standpoint, I don't have an issue with the GMI as a response to government intervention. My thought is that if people want to make it illegal (or prohibitively expensive) for some labor segments to compete on the labor market (i.e. have a job), it seems reasonable to expect the government to compensate these people for their inability to get a job.

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