Texas A&M Professor Flunks All Students – Libertarian Perspective

irwin-horwitzThere’s been an interesting story in the news the last couple of weeks about a professor at Texas A&M who decided to flunk all of his students and refused to finish out the semester. It’s an interesting decision to analyze from a Libertarian perspective.

Let me preface my remarks with the note that I do not speak for all Libertarians.

There are certainly many different possible realities to this situation and I would guess that there is a fairly large amount of blame to go around, but I want to examine this from a point of view that assumes one side of the story and then analyze it from there.

A quick recap of the story is that Professor Irwin Horwitz of Texas A&M – Galveston sent an email to all of the students in his Strategic Management class informing them that he planned to fail every student and would not be finishing his duties as instructor that semester. He cited his reasons as being general disrespect, rampant cheating, threats of violence, and unpreparedness for life after college.

The extreme viewpoint is that Horwitz is telling the absolute truth and his students were uniformly guilty of these transgressions. A second idea would be that Horwitz is an awful teacher and the students are not guilty of the behaviors listed. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle but for the purpose of this post I’m going to look at if what Horwitz did would have been appropriate in the first case.

Let’s imagine all of the students were cheating. Let’s assume he did face threats of physical violence. Let’s assume the students were uniformly unprepared to move on in life.

I still have a huge problem with his behavior. To begin with he has an obligation to finish the class. The students signed up for his class under that understanding. I’m not talking contract law, I’m talking about honoring your word.

My second big problem is that if cheating was rampant he should have immediately reported it and flunked those who were doing it. If several students are cheating and the professor lets them get away with it then the other students immediately feel cheated themselves. If cheaters are allowed to cheat then what good is being honest? I have the same attitude in regards to students who made verbal threats of physical violence. Why were they not immediately reported?

Professor Horwitz behaved atrociously even assuming everything he said is true. The reality is, as I mentioned above, there is probably blame to go around. In that case he is even more culpable.

The University has stepped in and the situation seems to be fairly well under control so that’s a good thing.

I also wanted to take a second to assign some blame to the students. If students are aware other students are cheating and don’t report it they are likely in violation of ethics rules at the school. If they were aware of threats of violence and did nothing to stop it then they have failed as humans.

Not a lot of good in this story. 🙁

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Casino Refuses to Pay Grandma Misleading Headline

Casino HeadlineThe big, bad, old evil casino is refusing to pay Pauline McKee her $41 million winnings and isn’t that just awful?

At least that’s what the misleading heading from the Chicago Tribune would like you to think. Here’s the real story.

McKee was playing penny slots and won $1.85 but an error on the machine posted a message proclaiming that she won a $41 million bonus. The casino employees came over and immediately paid her real winnings, shut the machine down, gave her money to play another machine, and paid for her and her family’s room that night.

The casino did more than enough.

McKee responded by filing a lawsuit for $41 million.

If there’s a villain here it’s granny.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Cheating to Win – Kendall Schler at the St. Louis Marathon

kendall-schlerI have several friends who run marathons and specifically St. Louis area marathons so when I saw a story about how a woman cheated to win this year’s GO! St. Louis Marathon I was intrigued.

The story gets even worse because the woman, Kendall Schler, apparently successfully cheated to finish third in last year’s race. When she won this year a more thorough investigation was performed and it was determined that she did not run in the race at all. She simply jumped in right before the finish, reminiscent of Rosie Ruiz in the 1980 Boston Marathon.

At first I thought it was a rather amusing story because her attempt to cheat was relatively laughable in that she tampered with electronic tracking equipment but when I learned that she managed to pull off the trickery the previous year and I got a little upset. I’m not going to try and analyze why Schler cheated. I play online chess and cheating is epidemic in that milieu. People cheat for reasons that seem bizarre to me but they still do it.

What I want to analyze today is the overall anti-Libertarian effect that cheating incurs and how a society of Libertarians would deal with such things. The thing about being a Libertarian is that you largely believe people should succeed through their legitimate efforts. When one person cheats to get ahead that not only subverts society by putting a lesser qualified person into a position of power but also denies more highly qualified people at every level.

The person who finished in second should have won, yes, but the person who finished  in eleventh place would have finished in tenth and gotten some particular reward. The cheater cheats every other person behind them and society as a whole. I’m thinking rather broadly here, not just about a race but about business, relationships, and life in general.

Let’s imagine we Libertarians have taken over the world. We have in place a society where achievement is the highest goal and the majority of people simply do their best at everything they attempt. How do we deal with people like Schler? In a Libertarian society there might not be electronic tracking in race bibs because we assume people will not cheat. How do we safeguard our society from such as Schler without becoming the authoritarian state we so detest?

It’s not an easy question to answer. In my opinion we actually must allow Schler to win. Our suspicions aroused, we (all the other racers and officials) now watch her more closely next time. When we try to create rule after rule to safeguard against Schler and her ilk we end up creating a system designed to thwart cheaters rather than promote achievers. Sure, Schler gets the win but does she benefit in the long run in a Libertarian society. My answer is no. She is quickly discovered and shunned.

However, in a non-Libertarian society with millions of rules the cheaters, provided they are stealthy enough, can prosper, as did Schler last year. No one watches too closely because they assume officials and existing rules will eliminate cheaters. Meanwhile the cheaters know the rules and use various methods to skirt them. How many cheaters are out there right now, unbeknownst to the rule makers?

It’s a tough question and the Libertarian answer is not easy to digest and understand. Still, I think it’s the right answer for society and for the world.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Rachel Lehnardt – Mom has sex with 18 Year old – Who Cares?

rachel-lehnardtAny sex story that involves a woman with younger men immediately garners headline attention and I’m not opposed to having a minimum age for consensual sex but why is it a crime if the boy involved was passed that age?

In this case a woman named Rachel Lehnardt had sex with an eighteen year old boy and apparently allowed her sixteen year old daughter and friends to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in her home. Lehnardt has had her other children taken from her by the state of Georgia and is being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allowing people to drink in her home.

Lehnardt denies allowing anyone to drink in her home although apparently admitted to her Alcoholic’s Anonymous sponsor that she did engage in sexual acts with several boys over the age of 18. Who cares? Apparently everyone because the comment sections are filled with horror and outrage at her behavior.

Personally I have no problem with a parent who allows their child to drink alcohol in moderation at home. I certainly sipped beer and drank wine in my household from a young age. What is freedom if we cannot have sex with other adults no matter the age difference? What is freedom if we cannot allow our own children to have alcohol in our own homes.

The only possible criminal activity I see here is the allegation that she allowed minors not her own child to drink alcohol in her home. If we’re going to charge every person who is under 21 with possession of alcohol or marijuana I guess our jails just aren’t full enough with people who committed nonsense crimes.

It’s not like she forced these kids to drink. They drank because they wanted to drink. The boys had sex with her because, gosh, people like sex.

The state has taken her four children from her. Do we think placing them in foster care is really to their benefit?

Lehnardt admits a problem with alcohol and is in treatment. That’s where her sponsor ratted her out for being honest about what was going on in her life.

This is one where I know outraged moralists are going to yell at me and tell me how wrong I am. How the state must “save” those poor children from their evil and out of control mother.

I completely disagree. If she wants to let her kid drink at her home she should be allowed to do so. If she wants to have sex with people who are passed the age of legal consent then more power to her. Freedom means being free, not being free to tell everyone else how to live their lives.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Andrew Sadek – Another Victim of the War on Drugs

andrew-sadekAnyone who ever watched a realistic police drama knows how informants are used by law enforcement officers to help them make arrests. These informants often suffer horrible consequences and the case of Andrew Sadek reinforces my opinion that the War on Drugs does far more harm than the actual drugs upon which war is being waged.

Sadek was a young college student who sold small amounts of marijuana to his friends at the North Dakota State College of Science. The police recruited a person on campus to be an informant and when Sadek sold him marijuana got the young man to allow them to search his room. There they found residual marijuana in a grinder.

The laws in North Dakota about selling even small amounts of drugs on school grounds and federally mandated sentencing guidelines meant that if convicted Sadek faced the potential of many years in prison. To avoid this he agreed to be the next chain in the link of drug informants. He made a few buys for the police. Then he ended up dead with a bullet in the head.

The investigation is ongoing and it’s possible Sadek was murdered or he committed suicide. It doesn’t matter to me which one. He’s dead because police terrified him into doing something stupid. He’s dead because we have laws in this country that potentially put people in jail for decades because they sold an easily grown weed to people who willingly pay for it.

I discussed this matter with a friend who suggested that Sadek was more than partially responsible for his death and that the police were merely doing their job in trying to catch higher level drug dealers. I don’t completely disagree with this thought. Sadek could have refused to cooperate but I think the burden falls more heavily on the government officials who at the very least coerced him into doing something quite dangerous. I’m of the opinion Sadek didn’t do anything wrong at all in his sales but the current laws say he did. He knew he was breaking the law and risked punishment.

That being said it seems awfully vicious, cruel, and manipulative to threaten a young man with the destruction of his life over such a minor thing as selling a little marijuana and then using that threat to place him in what can only be described as a physically and emotionally dangerous world. It’s irresponsible of law enforcement to do it. They must be held at least partially accountable for Sadek’s death.

The main question I have over this incident and the many other’s I’ve written about is quite simple.

Is it worth it?

Is this War on Drugs worth doing such horrible things to people? I ask law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and tax payers. Is it worth it?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition