Sunday, May 30, 2004

Introduction to Flow

The purpose of Flow is to create a dialogue community that combines two contrary trends in existing social/political discourse:

1. The progressive, humanist desire to make the world a better place by means of conscious effort.

2. The increasing recognition that market solutions to social problems are more effective than are command-and-control government strategies.

Hitherto, for the most part, advocates of the first position have identified themselves as "Left" and they have pushed for government legislation to fight "capitalism." For the most part those who have advocated the second position have identified themselves as "Right" and have been considered "conservative" rather than progressive.

As an inveterate do-gooder, I am constantly horrified that the Left continues to advocate policy measures that will increase poverty and human misery while failing to advocate measures that would significantly enhance human well-being.

I am an educator who has created public school programs and private and charter schools from scratch. For me, school choice is not an academic issue. Given adequate freedom from government control, I can create schools that are significantly more humane and intellectual than are standard government schools. (Those interested in creating better private or charter schools should email me, socraticpractice@yahoo.com, and we can get to work immediately on designing a great school in your area). It disgusts me that "progressive" advocates of public education continue to undermine the development of new and better ways to educate young people. Advocates of social mobility, human potential, intellectual ability, independent thought, spiritual awareness, creativity and innovation, and most other valuable human traits need to band together to destroy our public school monopoly. Microsoft has a smaller market share and less control than does the government school system. Those who hate Microsoft's influence in the software industry should hate government schools ten times as much: the stakes are much higher, the constraints on innovation are vastly larger, the extent of monopolistic control is incaluculably tighter.

Consider other sectors of the economy: In the 1970s health food stores were tiny, hippy places that were only open occasionally and forced us to eat carob instead of chocolate. If Safeway and Albertsons had had a government-enforced monopoly in the 1970s, Whole Foods and Wild Oats would not exist and Safeway and Albertsons would not carry health foods. If Crown Books and Waldenbooks had had government protection at the time, then Barnes & Noble, Borders, and amazon.com would not exist. If IBM and DEC had had government protection, the entire microcomputer industry, the consumer software industry, and the internet as we know it would not exist. If Keds had been controlled by the government, there would be no Nike or Adidas. And on and on. As an innovative educator, my projects are constantly attacked and destroyed by the government education monopoly - endless specific anecdotes are available on request (Or request my manuscript Whole Lives: The Creation of Conscious Culture Through Educational Innovation.)

A few more conventional examples from the globalization issue:

1. Global Trade: Although certainly the WTO is no model of social justice, the fact that the WTO is imperfect is not a justification for fighting globalization. Oxfam, hardly a right-wing organization, recognizes that increasing international trade is the _only_ way that global poverty will be reduced. We can, and should, be concerned regarding the rules for international trade. In particular, Oxfam cites the $1 billion per day in agricultural subsidies in the wealthy nations that greatly reduces income in poor nations. Glaring injustices such as this are cause for pushing for more freedom in global markets, not less. The fact that Jose Bove, the French agricultural protectionist, is celebrated as a hero by the Left, strikes me as surreal.

2. Immigration: Increased immigration should be one of the top agenda items for Leftist do-gooders. By means of remittences, education, contacts, and familiarity with first-world social and legal institutions and customs, immigration is probably the single most effective means of transferring wealth from the first world to the third world. The $30 billion in remittances that U.S. immigrants sent home last year is a very small fraction of the total value of these cross-cultural exchanges. The creation of a thriving software industry in India is due to the know-how and contacts that Indian software engineers and entrepreneurs acquired in Silicon Valley and then transferred back home in hundreds of ways, formal and informal. Those who are concerned about global population growth should note that immigrant families who move to the first world typically have much smaller families than they did in their home countries.

3. Out-sourcing: Why should a U.S. software engineer make $80 an hour if an Indian software engineer will do similar work for $5 an hour? The wealthy industrialized nations provide relatively high incomes for their citizens in part by excluding competition from the billions of needier human beings on earth. Do-gooders should celebrate the transfer of jobs to the third world.

4. Economic Freedom: The Economic Freedom of the World index, published by the Fraser Institute, rates countries around the world on their economic freedoms, including trade issues, but also banking laws, the free flow of capital, etc. There is a high correlation between those nations highly ranked on this index and most of the those features of society desired by the Left: health, education, welfare of the poor, etc. Finland, often regarded as a "socialist" paradise, is the top-ranked nation outside the Anglo-American leaders (including former British colonies Singapore and Hong Kong as Anglo-American). In general, Scandinavian "socialist" nations might better be described as wisely capitalist nations with extensive social welfare benefits. They tend to have low corporate tax rates and significant freedoms with respect to the flow of capital. Leftist rhetoric, if followed, would destroy Scandivian "socialism." Leftist rhetoric, as followed, creates poverty in the third world. If third-world nations allowed their citizens the same economic freedoms as Finland, they would all experience a dramatic increase in their standard of living.

It trouble me that most advocates of markets do not adequately advocate for the amelioration of social problems and for the reduction of injustices in global markets. At the same time, Leftist attacks on market mechanisms cause much greater poverty and injustice than do the greediest capitalists on earth. We need to develop a coalition of individuals and organizations who seek to improve the world and who recognize that, often, market mechanisms are the best means of doing so.

1 Comments:

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12:45 PM  

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