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  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Responsibility Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, by Diana Hsieh. Sedalia, CO: Philosophy in Action, 2013. 214 pp. $19.99 (paperback). Imagine people in three different scenarios: . Abe and Bill both get blinding drunk at a bar, leave at the same time, and drive home at the same rate of speed. Both run a (different) red light at the same time on the way home. By bad luck, a single mother with her two children is driving through the intersection along Abe's course, and Abe rams his car into hers, killing her and her two children. Bill, on the other hand, makes it home without injuring anyone. . Alan and Betty walk along different piers at the same lake. Both are equally brave, but Betty sees a drowning boy in the lake and dives in and saves him. Alan does not see anyone in distress. . Adriana and Benjamin are born in very different circumstances. Adriana's parents are wealthy, and she grows up with a good education and many opportunities to improve herself. She becomes a successful neurosurgeon. Benjamin's parents neglect and abuse him and teach him how to steal for them. He becomes an armed robber who winds up in prison. Why do we blame or praise one individual in each scenario more, given that so much of what they do and what they accomplish depends on luck? Why do we send Abe to prison and sing Betty's praises, but not do the same for their counterparts? Such issues are the subject of Diana Hsieh's book, Responsibility Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. As Hsieh makes clear, one's answers to questions about moral responsibility radically affect one's approach to moral judgment, to criminal justice, and to political policy. Decisions made in the criminal justice system depend substantially on moral judgments. Hsieh opens her book with the example of a Colorado man who, in 2005, while driving drunk at speeds exceeding one hundred miles per hour, struck and killed another driver. The judge, noting that the man had previously injured someone else while driving drunk and that he had dropped out of an alcohol rehabilitation program, sentenced him “to the maximum penalty of twelve years in prison.” Hsieh points out, “According to ordinary moral and legal standards of culpability, [the man] deserved to be blamed and punished for his reckless driving” (p. 1). Yet, according to certain theories with which Hsieh contends in her book, the man was instead himself “a victim of bad luck” (p. 2). Moral judgments also play a key role in public policy. To draw on an earlier example, if a neurosurgeon is not fundamentally responsible for her success, then how can she deserve her large income? Why should she not be taxed in order to subsidize someone working in fast food? Indeed, if no one deserves his financial successes or failures—if such success or failure is fundamentally a matter of luck (in Barack Obama's terms, “you didn't build that”)—then it would seem that the best system is “an egalitarian political order” (p. 9). . . .
  • Topic: Education
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2014 issue of The Objective Standard.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I want to thank C. Bradley Thompson for his excellent (and disturbing) article on government "education" ["The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time," TOS, Winter 2012-13]. Among the many disturbing facts Dr. Thompson reports, one that affected me personally concerns homeschooling in California. I have done (and continue to do) some homeschooling for local California families and was disturbed to learn that what I do was ruled illegal by some judge named Croskey. I was relieved to find by the end of the paragraph that Croskey (partially) reversed his ruling. What an abhorrent man and system! I, too, am an abolitionist.
  • Topic: Education, Government, Law
  • Political Geography: California
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Ifat Glassman discusses her artwork, her atelier education, and her plans for the future. The interview is accompanied by images of several of her artworks.
  • Topic: Education
  • Author: C. Bradley Thompson
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: In “The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of Our Time” (TOS, Winter 2012–13), I argued that America's government school system is immoral and antithetical to a free society, and that it must be abolished—not reformed. The present essay calls for the complete separation of school and state, indicates what a fully free market in education would look like, and explains why such a market would provide high-quality education for all children.
  • Topic: Education
  • Author: Kevin Douglas
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The Beautiful Tree is the inspiring story of James Tooley's quest to discover “how the world's poorest people are educating themselves.” Tooley begins his book by describing his serendipitous discovery of low-cost private schools for the poor in Hyderabad, India. While on an assignment for the World Bank to research the contribution of high-end private schools to the education of middle- and upper-income Indians, Tooley discovered that dozens of low-cost, for-profit private schools serve the poor in the slums of Hyderabad, and that parents choose to send their children to these private schools despite the fact that government schools are available for “free.” When Tooley returned to the World Bank and told his colleagues of his amazing find, their responses were typical of those he would receive during the rest of his investigation. Many refused to believe that low-budget private schools existed. The few who acknowledged their existence attempted to dissuade Tooley from giving them much attention, because, in their view, these schools were “ripping off the poor” and were “run by unscrupulous business people who didn't care a fig for anything other than profits” (p. 21). Tooley responded to such skepticism and cynicism by redoubling his efforts to learn about such schools. Inspired by what he found in Hyderabad, Tooley searched for similar schools in the slums of Nigeria, Ghana, and China. Tooley writes that many education officials he encountered were completely unaware of the low-cost private schools in their nations, and others went to great lengths to deny their existence. For example, in Nigeria, Tooley met Dennis Okoro, recently retired chief inspector of schools for the Nigerian federal government. Initially, Okoro professed ignorance that low-cost private schools existed; then he denied the possibility of their existence. When Tooley took Okoro into the slums of Makoko and showed him several schools, Okoro concluded that what he saw could not be private schools serving the poor, because “[t]he poor by definition cannot afford to pay fees for private schools. So if this was a fee-charging private school, it couldn't be for the poor” (p. 50). Similarly, Tooley describes officials at a regional education bureau in China who “argued” that, because the Chinese government's official position is that government provides basic education to all children, rich and poor, “what you propose to research does not only not exist, it is also a logical impossibility” (p. 97). This exchange came only moments after Tooley explained that he had already personally visited five such schools. The Beautiful Tree documents how Tooley ignored the advice of “development experts” (such as those at the World Bank) and pushed past the resistance and ignorance of education officials to build a team to help him investigate the phenomenon of low-cost private schools serving the poor. . . .
  • Topic: Education, World Bank
  • Political Geography: China, Nigeria
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Winter 2013–2014 issue of The Objective Standard. Here's an indication of the contents at hand. The increasing popularity of libertarianism is both a problem and an opportunity. It is a problem because, although nominally for liberty, the ideology rejects the need to undergird liberty with an objective, demonstrably true moral and philosophic foundation—which leaves liberty indefensible against the many philosophies that oppose it (e.g., utilitarianism, altruism, egalitarianism, and religion). The increasing popularity of libertarianism is an opportunity because, although the ideology denies the need for such a foundation, many young people who self-identify as libertarian are active-minded and thus open to the possibility that such a foundation is necessary. Toward reaching these active-minded youth, my essay, “Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism,” examines libertarianism in the spirit of Frédéric Bastiat, taking into account not only what is seen, but also what is not seen in common and seemingly unobjectionable descriptions of the ideology. The article exposes major problems with libertarianism, compares it to radical capitalism, shows why only the latter provides a viable defense of liberty, and emphasizes the need to keep these different ideologies conceptually distinct.
  • Topic: Education, Religion
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Curt Levey is the president of the Committee for Justice, an organization devoted to promoting judicial nominees who uphold the written constitution, as opposed to a “living constitution.” After graduating from Harvard Law School, Levey clerked on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, then worked for the Center for Individual Rights, where he participated in affirmative action cases involving the University of Michigan. Levey worked for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education before joining the Committee for Justice. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Levey about the Supreme Court in the context of the upcoming presidential election. Although I disagree with various aspects of Levey's conservative perspective, I find his comments about the Supreme Court to be insightful.
  • Topic: Education, Law
  • Author: Michael A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: More and more Americans are coming to recognize the superiority of private schools over government-run or “public” schools. Accordingly, many Americans are looking for ways to transform our government-laden education system into a thriving free market. As the laws of economics dictate, and as the better economists have demonstrated, under a free market the quality of education would soar, the range of options would expand, competition would abound, and prices would plummet. The question is: How do we get there from here? Andrew Bernstein offered one possibility in “The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools” (TOS, Winter 2010-11): Sell government schools to the highest bidders, who would take them over following a transitional period to “enable government-dependent families to adjust to the free market.” This approach has the virtues of simplicity and speed, but also the complication of requiring widespread recognition of the propriety of a fully private educational system—a recognition that may not exist in America for quite some time.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Paul J. Beard II
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Matt Sissel is a young entrepreneur who is pursuing the American dream. After returning from military service in Iraq and paying his way through art school, he opened a studio in Iowa City, where he sells his fine art and offers art lessons. Until recently, Matt's entire focus had been on furthering his education and art business. So he made the considered judgment to forgo some luxuries-such as health insurance. In his twenties, Matt is healthy and has no preexisting medical conditions. He is self-insured-paying out of pocket any medical expenses that might arise-and wants to continue to self-insure because he believes the cost of health insurance premiums is excessive and that his money is better devoted to his business. But the federal government couldn't care less about Matt's priorities and choices. Beginning in 2014, it will force Matt, along with almost every other American, to buy a comprehensive, government-approved health-insurance plan from a private insurance company, on pain of stiff civil penalties. This "Individual Mandate" is at the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-also known as "ObamaCare"-which Congress enacted and the president signed into law in 2010. As a consequence of the Individual Mandate, Matt must act now to make financial plans: either purchase health insurance or pay a hefty annual penalty. Given the financial burden it will impose, he can no longer afford to hone his craft by furthering his education in art. Matt must focus exclusively on the creation and sale of his artwork in order to brace himself for the impending obligations the Individual Mandate imposes. Outraged that he is being forced to divert his hard-earned resources away from his education and career in order to buy a service he neither needs nor wants, Matt has decided to sue the federal government, asking the federal district court in Washington, D.C., to enjoin enforcement of the Individual Mandate on the grounds that it violates the United States Constitution. Other legal challenges to the Individual Mandate are pending in courts across the country, such as the well-known lawsuits brought by various state governments and officials whose purpose is to protect their sovereignty against federal encroachment. But few challenges take up the cause as championed by Matt, who is driven by the explicit desire to have the government recognize his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, exercised in accordance with his own values and goals.1 Let us consider the prospects for Matt's constitutional challenge to the Individual Mandate. ObamaCare's Individual Mandate In brief, here is how the Individual Mandate will work: Beginning in 2014, with few exceptions, all individuals with legal residence in the United States will be forced to purchase a health-insurance plan with "minimum essential coverage," as defined by the government. Exempt individuals include Native Americans, religious objectors, Americans living abroad, and the poor (whose health care will be subsidized). And what the law defines as "minimum essential coverage" is far more than is necessary for young and healthy individuals such as Matt. Thus, a catastrophic health-insurance plan covering only expenses related to medical emergencies-which would make sense for many Americans-would not satisfy the mandate's requirements. Moreover, individuals subject to the Individual Mandate cannot satisfy the "minimum essential coverage" requirement by self-insuring: Under the act, they are prohibited from paying for their medical expenses out of pocket.2 Thus, if Matt fails to buy "minimum essential coverage" by January 1, 2014, the government will assess a financial penalty against him for every month he remains without such coverage. The penalty for failing to purchase approved health insurance is the greater of 2.5 percent of the taxpayer's annual income, or $695 for each uninsured family member per year, up to a maximum of $2,085 per family per year-not an insignificant sum.3 Does the federal government-specifically, Congress-really have the legal power to force Matt and other Americans to buy a product or service, such as health insurance, from a private company? . . .
  • Topic: Education
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America