State of Missouri Enforces Start Date for School

School Start Date

My home state of Missouri just voted in a new law that forces local school districts to start their year no earlier than fourteen days before the first Monday of September. The basic idea is to extend the summer vacation so families will spend more on tourism. Here’s the problem. It should be up to the school district and their duly elected board to make that decision. If school board members want to have year-round education, that’s their business and they are accountable to the voters in their region.

It’s interesting, although unsurprising, to note that Missouri is dominated by small government Republican politicians and governor Mike Parson is part and parcel of that group. Their excuse, as usual, is it’s for the children. We want to help families spend more time together in summer. If you’ll excuse my crass language, nonsense. Someone convinced politicians an early start date cut into revenue and therefore they want to force local communities away from such.

In addition, the old rules allowed for school districts to start earlier if they gave notice and held a vote, the new rule prevents them from starting early for any reason. This is big, intrusive government in action.

This is exactly what the Constitution of the United States was designed to prevent. Those rights not given to government by the Constitution are reserved to the States or the People. That’s the Tenth Amendment and its meaning is very clear to this Libertarian. Those closest to the situation must have the right to pass their own laws. A school district can start sessions on any date it desires and the board members are then held accountable by local voters.

When the state steps in to enforce their rules onto local municipalities the voters have much less say in the matter. I’m sure there are many parents angry at their State Representatives and Senators over this action but a vote against such takes on a much broader range of issues. The school board is directly responsible for the operation of the school and local voters are in the best position to affirm or reject their decisions. The further removed we become from the local, the less likely we are to get a result in line with voter desires.

Now, to be certain, this means if a school board wanted to have a one-day school year because the majority of members didn’t believe in education, I would support their right to make such a foolish decision.

The freedom to be a moron is an important freedom. The state should not, and frankly cannot, protect us from our own stupidity. The state certainly should not be making school decisions for us when the main rational for doing so is financially motivated. Which is exactly what the Republican led legislature of Missouri just did.

Tom Liberman

The United States is becoming a Democracy

Focus GroupOne of the areas I find people have a great deal of confusion about is the idea that the United States is a democracy. The U.S. is a representative republic which I spoke about in a previous post. The issue I want to take on today is the idea that we are slowly becoming a democracy.

When the Founding Fathers established the political system of the United States they broke authority into three branches of government. The Federal Convention is where the Founding Fathers gathered to draft the wording for the new constitution. There was much consternation about how the people in these branches would get their jobs. There was also a great deal of concern about how much power should rest in the hands of the federal government but I’ll save that conversation for a future blog. For now I want to talk about how our representatives get their jobs and their duty therein.

The Federal Convention ended with a system, after much debate, where the lower house, The House of Representatives was elected directly by a vote of the people, an upper house, the Senate, appointed by state officials, the executive, the President, who was elected through a mechanism called the Electoral College, and a Judicial, Judges, who were appointed by the executive.

The Senate and House of Representatives make laws, the Executive signs them, and the Judicial determines their meaning in individual cases. The important factor here is that it is Congress (the collective term for the Senate and House of Representatives) makes the laws. The laws are not voted on by the people. The founding fathers did this for a specific reason that I will talk about tomorrow.

Most state governments operate the same way.

Things have changed to a large degree. The main culprit in this change, I think, is the proliferation and immediacy of polling and voter outrage. By this I mean that the people can almost instantly respond to any proposed legislation before it becomes law and organize opposition. Also, with sophisticated polling, the politicians are aware of the will of the people before they cast their vote. This has the effect of pushing politicians in the direction of the majority of the population. Not just in their legislative duties but in their campaign promises and party platforms.

Focus Group

We’ve seen massive vote swings based on popular opinion quite recently with the SOPA act but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Politicians regularly hold focus groups in order to weigh the popularity of a particular plan. They fear getting removed from office if they make decisions that are unpopular with their constituency.

This is not the system envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The original plan was that the representatives made the laws and the people redressed that situation once every two, four, or six years with elections. Even then only the House of Representatives faced direct election by the people. The Senators were appointed and the President elected via the Electoral College. So, the drift towards democracy is something that was not originally planned.

Now, there are quite a few people out there who consider this movement towards democracy a good thing and they have some interesting points. I’ll talk about what this change means for the future of the United States tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

I blame you … and me

VotingOne of the common themes I see in politics is frustration with our representatives in Washington. They are perceived to be partially if not fully responsible for the woes of our nation. Personally, I don’t find fault with them. I blame me and and I blame you.

In the United States we live in what is called a Representative Republic. This basically means that the voters elect representatives who make the decisions. Now, we are slowly becoming a democracy but I’ll save my opinion on that development for a future post.

One argument here is that if we don’t like what our representatives are doing in Washington, in our State, or in our home town, then we have a simple remedy. Vote for someone who makes better decisions.

However, this is not my main argument. In a representative Republic the politicians are representative of the voters. So, if we don’t like the politicians then our problem is with ourselves. What has happened to the United States? Or has anything happened? Have we always be selfish, bickering, and out to gratify our immediate needs regardless of future consequences?

I think the evidence suggests that there was a time when Americans cared about something besides themselves. Certainly the Founding Fathers were trying to build a nation that would change the world, not just their circumstances with England.

I realize there are many wonderful people in this country but the we must look to our politicians because they are a reflection of who we are. Our votes, our values, our desires. That’s what we see in Washington, us. I see men and women who desire election more than governance, whose decisions are based on what will grant them immediate gratification (election victory, donor money) and no stomach for painful solutions. Why do I see this? Because this is us. We vote for them, we, apparently, want them.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m still an Objectivist of the Ayn Rand school. People need to do what is in their self-interest. But, it is in our self-interest to have a strong country.

Your next question is, and should be, so Tom, complain away but what do you offer as a solution? Stop telling me what’s wrong and start telling me how to fix it.

Here it is. Teach people to think critically.

Write blogs on how to make good decisions. Think everything through so as to be a shining example for your friends and your family. Listen to the political pundits and then research their words. Read articles, come to an informed, critical decision. If the majority of people can do this, and it’s not easy, then we will elect politicians who do the same thing. Then, well, anything is possible.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist