Business Miseducation

Is the business of America now hating businesses?

Most normal businesses of any size are concerned with market share - that is, the percentage of people needing their services who choose to purchase from them as opposed to giving money to a competitor.

Monopolies, on the other hand, don't worry about this.  In most places, if you want broadband Internet service or an electrical or gas connection, you have one vendor to buy it from - you can have theirs, or nothing at all.  That's why cable-company reputations are so legendarily low - it makes little difference how bad they are, you have no other choice.

Monopolies always work to make sure local politicians don't license a competitor who might challenge their monopoly, but as long as that doesn't happen, their service can be as lousy as they please and market share will still be 100%.

It's a truly bizarre situation when a monopoly manages nevertheless to have a declining market share, but that's the exact situation our public schools face.  Every child in America - yes, even including the illegal ones that have no right to actually be here in the first place - is not only entitled to a completely free education through high school, they're required to attend school somewhere - and any other educational choice costs a great deal.

Yet as we've seen in the last few articles in this series, our public K-12 education system, free to all users, has been losing market share to parents who choose much more expensive alternative ways to educate their children.

Rather than improve their product to attract parents back to it, the bureaucrats and unions who run the K-12 system have used their political clout to fight fiercely against parents who want to take kids out of their schools.  They would rather you didn't have that choice, because educating your kids outside of public school not only costs the bureaucracy state aid, it also means that they can't teach those children their preferred leftist ideology.

Ideology combined with money makes a potent combination indeed.  This is why the American edu-wars are so fierce - the ideology taught in K-12 determines how graduates will vote in the next generation.  Teaching the virtues of government spending is as important to liberals as importing illiterate Third World immigrants who plan to go on welfare and can be guaranteed to vote for more spending.

Nobody seems to think about the fact that unless public school teachers turn their students into world-class taxpayers, their pensions won't be paid.  Even worse, if they fail to teach the technologies which support our civilization, nobody will know how to keep the lights on and our high-tech agriculture and distribution systems will collapse.

As bad as that is, there's more: taking over the public schools and forcing children to absorb their chosen humanist ideology over the traditional values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so beloved of Abraham Lincoln isn't enough for progressives.  They also want to micromanage the rest of our lives so that they can use state power to force deplorables to conduct their lives as our ruling elites prefer.

Our Disappearing Freedoms

The modern mindset of our mainstream media, our elite educational establishment, and the entire Democratic Party can be summed up in one bumper-sticker phrase: "Blame America First."  They are convinced that all the world's problems are caused by American intervention in other nations' affairs and that all the world's poverty is caused by American wealth.  This gives progressives a logical reason to make America both weaker and poorerForbes magazine listed many quotes from Mr. Obama's books which show that these two thoughts animated pretty much everything he did as President.

That's one reason, though far from the only one, why Donald Trump's slogan of "Make America Great Again" struck such a chord in the normally-ignored flyover country of "real America."

Yet while ordinary citizens are generally ignored as to their opinions, preferences, and needs, they certainly aren't when it comes to enforcing bureaucratic regulations induced by alien coastal elites.  In addition to accentuating the negative, progressives believe that hoi polloi - whether one calls them "deplorables" or "bitter clingers" - simply aren't smart enough to run their own lives.  Or, at least, they aren't smart enough to run their lives the way the coastal elites want them to, so they have to be forced.

That's the origin of government impositions as diverse as Mayor Bloomberg's anti-liberty efforts to ban large soft drinks in New York City and the War on Drugs.  We see the same effect at play in Michelle Obama's efforts to force schools to serve healthy lunches kids won't eat.

What business is it of the government to determine what you and your kids may or may not eat?  Doesn't the government have better things to do with your tax dollars?  Not where progressives are concerned.

Credentialism and the Right to Work

The Declaration of Independence mentions "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution says:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Note that "property" ranks right up there with life and liberty as one of the fundamental privileges of US citizenship which states must respect.  Alas, many states have enacted "civil forfeiture" laws which allow police departments to confiscate currency and other valuables from you in a manner such that your have to sue to get your property back.  They needn't convict you of a crime to rip you off, they just need a "reasonable suspicion" that your property is related somehow to a crime, no matter how peripherally, and they can grab it.

What's worse, your right to pursue happiness by laboring to earn a living is being eroded by "licenture laws" which require that you pass a certification exam after a long apprenticeship in order to be permitted to practice a trade.  State laws vary widely, but states often regulate fields such health care professionals (medical doctors, nurses); psychologists; lawyers; teachers; engineers; social workers, occupational therapists, architects; tradesmen (plumbers, electricians), and certain service industry workers (bartenders; massage therapists; barbers).

The problem is that most licensing boards are dominated by people who're already licensed.  They don't want too many new entrants into their fields because competition will push prices down, so they make getting licenses as difficult as they can get away with.  Having to spend a lot of time and money getting a license to learn a living waters down the freedoms that were supposedly guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, but that's what credentialism is all about.

Teachers were one of the first professions to require licenses.  John Dewey wanted people to attend his teachers' colleges and lobbying to pass laws saying that teachers had to have a teaching degree was an effective way for his colleges to get students.  Over the decades, teaching curricula have tended to focus more on educational theory and on ideology rather than on making sure future teachers understand the subject matter they plan to teach.  There is essentially no correlation between being certified as a teacher and competence in teaching.

The Business of America is No Longer Business

In America as it was designed and as most of us still think of it as being, each individual person should have the freedom to mostly run his own life.  We are assisted in this goal by the business community, which offers us an infinite variety of services and products from which we can choose.  Unlike the government, these businesses have to listen to our actual desires, because if we don't want what they offer we won't buy it and they'll go broke.

It should be no surprise that a vitriolic hostility to business permeates progressive education.  That's one of the reasons businesses have to import foreign workers for high-tech jobs and why foreigners account for such a large fraction of all start-ups.  The Economist reports that 40% of the Fortune 500 were founded either by immigrants or by their children.

Why can't Americans do this?  They can, as they did for hundreds of years up through the 1980s, but these days many young folks choose not to: for their formative years, they've been taught that business is bad and that they should find government jobs instead of working for greedy private businesses.  Even better, they can work for a nonprofit.

Conservatives haven't explained the relationship between the taxes businesses pay and having resources to spend on social justice.  The Obama administration claimed loudly that businesses have huge piles of cash and were sitting on money instead of hiring.  Business articles contribute to this error by telling everyone how many billions businesses made.

Although profit is a small percentage of sales, the numbers seem so big that taxpayers and jurors who judge damage suits can be forgiven for thinking that corporations are being selfish.

Businesses should say a lot more about how they benefit society.  Most businesses pay far more in wages than they earn in profit.  They pay more in taxes than they retain in profit if you include employee's income tax.  After all, salaries come from corporate income; employees would have no money to pay taxes without money derived from corporate sales.

Businesses also pay sales tax, real estate taxes, and buy parts from suppliers.  They haven't explained that customers pay every penny of all costs.  If a business makes a profit, it means that customers have given them enough money to cover all their costs with a bit left over.  Customers pay for the light, the heat, employee salaries, grocery bags, real estate taxes, plastic straws, coffee cups, utilities, and everything else.

It would be good PR for businesses to point out how much they pay in withholding, FICA, underemployment insurance, health insurance, and so on.  Businesses have a good story about their value to society but they're not telling it!  They do little to counter the anti-business ideology taught in public K-12 and by liberal politicians.

It's often hard to determine exactly how much value one individual worker produces, but at the company level it's easy: is the company making a profit or a loss?  A company making a profit, by definition, is producing more value than it costs to make what it sells, so society is automatically better off.

That applies to individual workers as well.   Nobody will have a job unless the value of their work to their employer exceeds their total cost to their employer.  It's simple to be paid more - figure out a way to make your employer's products worth more to customers so the business gets more money, either by serving more customers or by delivering more value to existing customers.

The Signaling Value of Profits

Progressives teach that profits are pried from the bleeding fingers of employees or customers; they don't realize the profits are the just reward for offering goods and services which people choose to buy with their own hard-earned dollars.  How did Steve Jobs get the money to develop the iPod?  From the profits he made on iTunes, and before that the Mac.  How did he fund the iPhone and the iPad?  From the profits he made on the iPod.

Can anyone imagine any government department giving us the gesture-computing interface of the smart phone?  Our society is far better off from having Mr. Jobs' inventions.  As we see it, he earned every single dime of his billions; so did Mr. Gates and the Google Guys.  We applaud the benefits these Internet firms have brought to society even as we deplore their taking sides in the culture wars.

Alas, our progressive education system isn't teaching the technologies we will need to maintain or extend our civilization in the future or the work ethic needed to keep people climbing poles to keep the lights on.  Our current rulers have no intention of changing the education system.  They consider our objections to be a minor matter to be handled by a mixture of persuasion and coercion just as Horace Mann sent the National Guard to sweep deplorable kids into his public schools so long ago.

We've discussed the progressive plot to take the American education system away from teaching traditional cultural values of freedom, responsibility, and hard work in favor of teaching entitlements, fragile self-esteem, and conformity to guidance by the elites.  As The Spectator put it, "American schools operate on the idea that students' feelings trump their intellectual abilities."  This has led to a generation of fragile snowflakes who shout down any ideas which disagree with their strongly-held notions

During WW II, that same age group stormed ashore on Iwo Jima, fought the Pacific air war, and won the Battle of the Bulge.  Can anyone imagine 20-year-old collegians who have to repair to "safe spaces" full of puppies and play-doh when they hear conservative ideas doing that?  We find it hard to imagine anyone old enough to go to college being upset by the mere presence of unfamiliar ideas, but the New York Post reports that college administrators are working hard to make sure that students are easily upset.

... most of the blame [for fragility] falls on school administrators who all but demand the kids feel that way. ...

... a large rainbow flag went missing from the front of one of the Catholic college's social-justice centers - and the school's vice president of student affairs, Michele Murray, treated it as a crisis.

In an email to the entire student body, Dean Murray was "saddened to report" the "deeply troubling" disappearance of the flag "hung to demonstrate support for and solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ community."

Any student who is "in need of support regarding this incident," she went on, can get it via "the confidential LGBTQIA+ support groups" or the school's Counseling Center[emphasis added]

We can't imagine anyone being upset because someone swiped a flag, but modern academics seem to feel that it's a full-blown crisis and that their students need to be encouraged to seek mental health counseling.  Does teaching college students to visit a headshrinker because they're so upset about a flag help them become responsible adults?  Or does it prolong their period of immaturity?

No culture survives unless its members are both willing and able to put their lives on the line to defend it.  The world is full of poor people who desire to share the wealth we have generated over the past few generations, but it seems that keeping people who do not share our cultural values from storming across our border is regarded as immoral.

The Ideological Battle

Horace Mann wanted his compulsory "common schools" to teach Protestant religion, literacy, and the concepts of American life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Abraham Lincoln wanted the schools to continue with that emphasis.  In the late 1800s, Catholics did not want their children force-fed Protestantism so they fought for, and won, the right to educate their children themselves.  Both the Catholic and public schools added technical training along with their competing religious emphases as the industrial revolution gathered steam and the value of technical knowledge became clear.

At the same time, John Dewey argued that emphasizing literacy caused stress in students and that schools should worry more about social engineering than imparting knowledge.  Harming a student's self-esteem came to be regarded as emotional abuse, so students were promoted from grade to grade whether they'd mastered the material or not.

Mr. Dewey's de-emphasis of literacy didn't take hold until the 1960s, but it has resulted in a lower rate of American literacy than prevailed when compulsory public education was established.  He didn't realize that technical progress would make maintaining our civilization far more complicated and that unless schools emphasized technical knowledge, responsibility, and careful work over social engineering, we wouldn't be able to keep the lights on.  It's no surprise that in the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States ranked an unremarkable 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science in spite of having the highest per-pupil spending in the world.

Christian parents who became appalled at the secular, "blame America first" emphasis of the public schools fought for the right to teach their own children.  At the same time, Jewish parents are fighting for the right to educate their sons to become rabbis and their daughters to become homemakers without bothering with modern technology, while activists want to force Jewish schools to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

We've discussed the permanent conflict between STEM schools such as MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie-Mellon whose goal is to train students to start businesses and make the world a better place by adding value, creating jobs, and paying taxes, and the Ivies, whose goal is to train students to enter the government and make the world a better place by passing laws.  These laws make it harder for STEM graduates to start businesses and increase the cost of government.  Stems want to grow the economy; Ivies want to grow the government.  It's not clear which faction will win, but the rate at which new businesses are started has been declining for the past decade or so.

We've also explored the societal crash that comes whenever the total cost of government exceeds society's ability to pay.  The lack of STEM education, combined with a politically-correct decline in its quality will lead to a shortage of people who can fix elevators and electrical systems, repair roads and railways, and do the hundreds of other jobs which keep our society functioning.

On top of that, we've shown that the "blame America first" ideology means that young people aren't willing to defend the American traditions of freedom, individual responsibility, and economic growth.

How has this come to pass?  Why do we need so desperately to "Make America Great Again?" In the next article in this series, we'll explore how the leftist ideas that have taken over our school systems and culture have undermined faith in the market-driven economic system which gave America the highest standard of living in all of human history.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Business.
Reader Comments

As a fellow writer on this illustrious website, I must insert my two cents worth into your discussion. Although I agree heartily with most of what you say, I think that there is a societal need for registered professionals.
As a registered architect of many years, I have seen the damages done by those without credentials who have tried to pass themselves off as competent professionals. We have many who present themselves to the unsuspecting public as competent designers when, in fact, they are nothing of the sort. There are codes, some of which take precedence over others (Life Safety Code versus Building code), which must be followed; we have design guidelines which must be sifted through to select the applicable ones (wind speeds); there are also aesthetic considerations and owner preferences that must be accommodated.
The practice of architecture is complex, as is the practice of medicine, the practice of law, and the practice of other professions. Thus, the practice of regulation of professions has evolved into the convoluted mess that we have now.
States who have tried to become involved in regulating the performance of occupations, such as clipping finger nails or applying color to them have evolved procedures regulating simple tasks and allocating those tasks to individuals of varying licensure: in Florida a separate license for each of those two activities is required.
At this point, the licensing process for professions becomes ludicrous.
There are far too many instances where states charge a fee to regulate professions. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) could not even answer the question as to how many different licenses are required within the state.
But, a simple way of proving his bona fides is required for any professional. That is how this whole licensing process started.

March 11, 2019 11:40 AM

I agree with Mr. Anderson. When the incompetence of a professional has the potential for causing serious physical harm, whether that is the collapse of a building or bridge or the death of a patient, the state should be licensing professionals in those fields. The system isn’t perfect, but it does provide some degree of safety.

But when it comes to licensing for services such as hair braiding or shampooing or manicures, the purpose is to keep people out. It’s not just the licensing procedure that’s at fault; it’s the ridiculous amount of education required to obtain a license, and the considerable expense of obtaining that education. People generally have enough sense not to continue patronizing people who give a bad manicure or accidentally nick a finger with their scissors. The market is sufficient to regulate such activities.

March 11, 2019 12:54 PM

I'm not sure. Is it the proper purview of government to decide who can do what? We have, for example, the independent Underwriter's Laboratories who does a very good job of deciding which electronics are safe; that is not a government entity.
It's appropriate for government to enforce truth in advertising, so requiring people to honestly display what certifications they do and do not have is sensible. But you don't need to have a doctor to bandage a wound, or even stitch one up.
And, as important as proper engineering is, it's not as if genuine, certified engineers and architects haven't implemented the occasional disaster.
We published an article awhile back putting forward a somewhat unique proposal:

March 11, 2019 6:58 PM

Yes , I agree that the government should not decide who does what. It’s also true that people in licensed professions botch things horribly and sometimes kill people. I don’t think we want to return to the days when anyone could put up a shingle and scam people, and I have very little confidence in the willingness of independent associations to police their own members. I’m not sure what the answer is.

March 12, 2019 12:45 PM

In the licensing arena, there seems to be an inverse proportion of trust versus number of practitioners – there are not many registered architects, and the trust in their competence is high; there are scads of nail polish technicians, and the trust in their competence is not so high.
In any case, the professionals do a pretty good job of regulating themselves; the process of regulation sometimes gets pretty lengthy, but the miscreants are usually sorted out and punished. This has become more prevalent in the recent past than in previous years, because professionals are realizing that members of their professions are not completely trustworthy. That was an assumption in the past that has proven wrong.
And there is a need for professional licensing which can be relied upon. If the licensed professional holds the life-safety or personal security of his client in his hands, his client should have a reasonable expectation that he is competent.
That last may have sounded rather lawyerly, but I am required by my profession to state that I am not a lawyer. (Not really, but it is part of my point.)

March 13, 2019 11:01 AM
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