Friday, August 01, 2008

A Union Agitator Speaks and Libels Adam Smith

Peter Goodman blogs at ED in the Apple and is reproduced in Edwize HERE:

Martin Niemoller’s haunting piece on Nazis coming to arrest their enemies, which is usually reserved for occasions of serious threats to liberty and person (Zimbabwe, Dofua, Srebnezia under Karadzich), is sometimes used for the most spurious of comparable occasion, as is this one about a dispute between teachers unions and their critics in New York in 2008:

Adam Smith, Plutocrats and Teacher Unions: Keeping Silent Because You Are Not a Trade Unionist Can be Fatal

After the heated rant of the union agitator – which wouldn’t be out of place in a true believer’s address to a political rally - we get this:

The invisible hand of Adam Smith, the cold, cruel world of the marketplace, with economic determinism as guiding force is the “answer” for the today’s neo-robber barons.”

If that doesn’t send shivers down the spine, Peter Goodman follows up with this ominous warning:

Journalists who blithely blame teacher unions for the ills of schools are hiding their heads in the sands of time. There will come a time when those same journalists will be the subject of the arrows of the economic plutocrats.”

‘So ‘there will come a time’, eh? You had better shut up you journalists; you are getting above yourselves in criticising the voice of the mob; only don’t be surprised if it’s not the arrows of ‘neo-robber barons’ that are fired at you – it may well be the ‘neo-bully barons’ of the ‘educators’(?) in the same unions you 'libel' with your charges of monopoly behaviour.

I am not sure which is worse: the ‘cold, cruel world of the marketplace’ or the ‘hot, cruel world’ of the political agitator, who lumps Adam Smith with 'neo-robber barons', as if Adam Smith ever associated with the likes. He favoured every parish having a 'little school' in it with every child, mainly from the poorest families (at the time the British colonies in North America neglected their children's education to the same degree). His strictures on the indolence of teachers at Oxford University (but not Glasgow!) in Wealth Of Nations is well known (er, Book V.i.f.1-61: pp 758-88, Mr Goodman).

And Adam Smith had not doubts about ‘men of system’:

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.” (Moral Sentiments: VI.ii.2.16).

Adam Smith – and I agree – did not want to be a mere ‘wooden piece’ on some agitator’s chess board. I don’t think I want such ‘men of system’ to be in charge of my children’s’ – or rather, my grandchildren’s’ – education about the world and how to get along with the people in it.

I don't believe that the teachers' unions - and the teachers in them - are above criticism and if there are serious problems in the schools, some large measure of their cause must be down to those who teach and those who administer the schools.


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