Human Action Principles

March 19th, 1995

Lecture Number Fifteen


Aristotle 384 B.C. – 322 B.C.

Ladies and gentlemen, this session will be what I promised you on one topic, namely education.

I think I asked you, on the assumption that most of you have gone to school for 10 to 20 years, what is education? What would you put down? Especially if you’ve gone to school for 10 to 20 years. How many of you think the subject of education is a rather large subject? Several of you. Most of you.

Since the time of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, there have been many tens of thousands of works written on the subject by scholars and educators. You’ve heard of some of these writers. Most of them you have not. One of the educators that you have heard of was the great philosopher Aristotle.

One day, Professor Aristotle was asked how much educated men are superior to those who are uneducated. His answer from over 2,300 years ago has survived. Aristotle said, “Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead.”

What do you think of Aristotle’s statement? Is Aristotle some kind of an intellectual snob? He doesn’t just say that an educated man is superior to an uneducated man. The contrast is so great, he says, it’s the difference between the living and the dead. Can the difference between an educated man and an uneducated man be that dramatic?

I happen to like Aristotle’s metaphor and since I agree with him I won’t call it intellectual snobbery. Whether you agree with Aristotle or not, once thing is certain, for better or for worse, Aristotle has been one of the most influential educators in the history of Western civilization.

John Dewey 1859-1952

One of the most influential American educators has been philosopher and educator John Dewey. I’ll share with you Dewey’s answer to the question, what is education? “Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.”

Just from this answer, it’s still difficult to know what he’s talking about. Perhaps if we were to read more of Dewey’s works on education we could find out. For now, let’s see what the editors of my Random House Dictionary of the English Language have to say on the subject of education, quote, “Education is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

On the surface, this sounds impressive, but what can we learn from this? What is meant by knowledge? What is meant by general knowledge? What is meant by reasoning and judgment? How does one prepare others intellectually? If we’re going to be doing all of this for a mature life, what the hell is that? Define “mature life.”

On the subject of education, there has been, as you might suspect, something missing. For more than 2,000 years, educators have been writing on the subject of education and what it ought to be, but there’s a great omission in their work. The most important thing they could have given us, they have overlooked. They have not built, dear friends, a science of education.

If education has value and science has value, why not apply the methods of science to build a science of education? Where there’s a marketplace, a prime impetus to the creation of a new product is the entrepreneurial vision of a product that does not yet exist and one that could and should exist. Entrepreneurs and adventurers who create products do so where none have existed. That’s where the entrepreneur is. He creates products that have not yet existed.

If you’re going to unify science and education, where should you start? A good place to start would be to recognize that the two should be united in the first place. Here’s another challenging essay assignment for you, namely, on building a universal science of education. If this were the title of your essay, where would you start?

A good place to start might be to ask a seemingly obvious question, namely, what is education? Is there some essential element in education so central to the process of education that, without this element, education would not exist? If there is, can this essential element be defined? Can this element be expressed in a single sentence to form a precise definition?

I can think of only one sine qua non in defining education. If you have focused on a recurring theme in this seminar the definition I will share with you should come as no surprise. Here’s the definition of education. Education encompasses any increase in any individual’s correct understanding of the cause of any effect.

The genesis of a science of education should be a precise definition of education itself. I cannot find a more fundamental and elementary place to begin. The definition precisely defines the territory of human action that leads to education. Education, either formal or informal, is any human process that expands the individual’s understanding of causality.

Education has its antithesis, and it too must be precisely defined. The opposite of education is miseducation. Miseducation encompasses any increase in any individual’s incorrect understanding of the causes of any effect. Much of what passes for education today, especially in the so-called social sciences, is miseducation.

But if it’s learned in a school, what do we think? Most people assume, well, it must be education. You got it at school. A prestigious school. They really educate at a prestigious school, right? What’s a prestigious school?

There can be no greater failure in education than passing off education for what in fact is really miseducation. You will find that schools are among the principle broadcasters of miseducation. The greater the scope and magnitude of an individual’s miseducation the greater his potential to do harm to his fellow humans.

But even where education involves a correct understanding of causality, it will be overrated unless it’s viewed as the foundation of something else. That something else is in your vocabulary. I call it wisdom. How would you define wisdom? What is the connection between wisdom and education?

Wisdom is the measure of the successful integration of the individual’s education with his human actions. We start with education by acquiring a greater understanding of causality. When you can apply your education toward the attainment of the ends you seek, that becomes the measure of your wisdom.

I believe it is important for any serious educator to have a clearly fixed image of a standard of perfection in education that is an ideal conception of education qua education. I’ve given some serious thought as to what I might describe as the zenith of progressive education as an ideal. The zenith of progressive education as an ideal encompasses the totality of human actions aimed at exciting the student’s enduring pursuit of a correct comprehension of the known and unknown causes of every effect in the universe.

There’s a pragmatic component to this ideal goal because it gives us direction. You will never reach this ideal goal because you will run out of time long before the universe runs out of time, but the goal is our direction-finder that prevents us from going around in circles. I also call this the compass of education that keeps you from going around in circles.

For example, what do you do when you go into a library and there are five million books on the shelves? What do you do then? Good grief. If you don’t have any plan of action, you’re in trouble. You can’t separate the chaff from the wheat or the wheat from the chaff, either one. You can’t differentiate between true doctrines and false doctrines. You’re lost. You’re doomed. There are three million books, five million books. You don’t have time to read very many of these. You better choose wisely. You don’t have much time.

If your education involves, first and foremost, any addition to your correct understanding of causality, where can you get some of this valuable education? I’ll make it easy for you. There are only two sources. One, we correctly identify cause and effect on our own. Two, someone else correctly identifies cause and effect and transmits this knowledge to us.

If you correctly identify the cause of things on your own, that’s self-education. You are the self-educator. If the educator is someone other than you, he can be the original discoverer of causality. He can be someone else who learned directly or indirectly from the discoverer, who then transmits the knowledge to you. This educator could be a teacher in a school, the author of a book, a parent, a friend. By definition, education can include the indoctrination of doctrines into people’s heads, but only those doctrines that present a correct explanation of causality.

Any doctrine that presents a correct explanation of cause and effect is a true doctrine. Based on this definition, it should be easy to generalize the converse, a false doctrine. Any doctrine that presents an incorrect explanation of cause and effect is a false doctrine.

As I’ve repeatedly stressed, it takes a science to effectively, efficiently, and consistently identify false doctrines. As far as indoctrination per se is concerned, indoctrinations can be either constructive or destructive. The significant question is, what is the quality of the doctrine being indoctrinated?

Why is that so important? Well, if you think about it, whenever you are indoctrinated with someone else’s doctrines, you are thinking someone else’s ideas, and your very human actions are influenced by those ideas. Therefore, it is very much in your interest to be able to scientifically differentiate between high-quality versus low-quality doctrines.

In the second lecture of this seminar, I said I would be giving you a science on the qualitative analysis of social doctrines. I’ve been showing you this science every lecture. Why is this science on the qualitative analysis of doctrines so important? Its importance may or may not be obvious to you. Professor Ludwig von Mises had this to say on the subject of education: “Education can never be more than indoctrination with theories and ideas already developed,”

You cannot teach what has not yet been developed, can you? Education involves, almost exclusively, the indoctrination of traditional ideas. Education comprises the conservation of conventional wisdom. Schools of music and drama are often called what? Conservatories. They conserve what? The knowledge and doctrines of the past.

A doctrine can be a particular intellectual position that is taught. It could be a specific policy that’s advocated. A doctrine can involve the instruction of a certain system of principles or pseudo-principles. But do you know the difference? Teachers don’t teach the student to know the difference.

Therefore, a prime question, a profound question, an essential question is, what is the quality of the doctrine being indoctrinated, that is drummed into the student’s head? That is all-important. Do you know, as a parent? Do you know as a student? Did you know when you were a student?

Social doctrines are not equal. Some are high-quality and some are very low-quality. But can you tell the difference? The place to begin is with a formal definition. A high-quality doctrine presents verifiable explanations of the causes of things and promulgates true means that are successful in the attainment of the stated goals.

It should come as no surprise that there is a converse of a high-quality doctrine. You can figure out what the converse is. A low-quality doctrine presents unverifiable explanations of the causes of things and promulgates false means that are unsuccessful in the attainment of the stated goals. If you just get one down, you can figure out the converse.

One of the conclusions for which I’m using science is to confirm that all doctrines based upon the win-lose paradigm are false doctrines. Here’s an example of one of the most popular false doctrines in the realm of education. It’s a win-lose paradigm corollary; for teachers, students, and administrators to gain, taxpayers must lose.

I’ll take on this false doctrine later in the lecture. In order to build a science of education. It’s useful to recognize that the very process of education produces imitation and routine. If everyone merely imitates, there can be no progress whatsoever. Therefore, in order to progress, to flourish, someone must have the courage to defy what the schools have taught them.

The great innovators and creative geniuses throughout history have not only had to reject the indoctrination of schools, but they’ve had to defend themselves from the zealous attacks of the school indoctrinators. I’ve stressed again and again, the benefits of progress come to you from these mostly unsung heroes, the entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors. They all possess at least two essential prerequisites. You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it here again, the possession of extreme high initiative and the courage to assume extreme high risk.

But from where did they acquire these prerequisites? If some of that is good, where do you get it? I have this question for you. Can a school teach a student to acquire extreme high initiative? I don’t know how to tell you this, I believe it’s questionable.

I’m not talking about teaching a student how to acquire more initiative than he may have already have. Remember the concept is, how can he achieve not just high initiative, but extreme high initiative? Perhaps an occasional teacher with the right student in the right school at the right time can perhaps do this.

But to successfully teach the student how to acquire more initiative is not enough. To acquire even high initiative is not enough. The student must be taught, must be motivated to embrace a character trait of extreme high initiative, so high is his initiative that he’s ready to take off all the time. He cannot be held back. A thousand people cannot hold him back his initiative is so high. A thousand negative people will not thwart his ambition. A thousand losers will not dampen his enthusiasm. That’s extreme high initiative.

In the first place, how many teachers and how many schools have this as a goal? In the second place, if they did have this as a goal, how would they go about accomplishing it? In the third place, if the teacher is successful, the same teacher might motivate the student to apply his extreme high initiative to become a super-retrogressive. It happens all the time.

History has shown us again and again the mass destruction caused by good people with extreme high initiative who do not understand what they’re doing. There is probably no more dangerous person than the super high initiative fellow who doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on. That’s a disaster looking for a place to happen. And then if the guy is articulate and well-read and well-degreed, what a disaster.

If you think it would be a tough assignment to teach a student how to acquire extreme high initiative, then how about this question? Can a school teach a student to acquire the courage to assume extreme high risk? This does not mean teaching the student to assume risk for the sake of risk. This does not mean weaving your motorcycle in and out of rush-hour traffic sans helmet with your hair blowing in the wind. There’s now a law against sans helmet you know.

If you are an investor, this does not mean putting your savings into a savings and loan association. It means investment in the always high risk entrepreneurial or technological venture. It means the risk of putting your reputation on the line in pursuit of entrepreneurial, technological, or investment goals.

Now, assuming there is a teacher who has a goal to teach a student to acquire the courage to assume extreme high entrepreneurial risk, technological risk, investment risk, how would the teacher go about doing this? I don’t know. I don’t have any idea. I don’t know how to do it myself. If it can be done by someone, I think that’s marvelous. That’s a great achievement. But I don’t know how to do it.

I haven’t thought a lot about how to do this because I’m not in the business of teaching people how to do this. I’m just explaining the importance of it. You’re not coming to my school to learn how to be an entrepreneur. That’s a different subject altogether. What does an individual need to achieve entrepreneurial success or technological success?

The one thing they do not need is an academic degree from a school of business administration. I know that there are a number of people in this room who have MBAs. This is not said to offend you. I don’t know how many MBAs there are in the United States, but there are a lot of them. The two most prestigious MBA schools are Harvard and probably Stanford plus maybe some of the Ivy League schools.

What is the function of a business school? It’s a specialized school that essentially trains students how to assume routine jobs in various subordinate positions within a business organization. In the business school, the student is taught how to fit into some already-existing slot. Just like the military, corporations have their organization tables with certain slots that they think have to be filled.

The prestigious Harvard Business School, along with the others, is primarily involved in what I call slot training. Now, I’m not here to disparage this activity. To name it and to identify it is not the same as to disparage it. I didn’t say there’s anything wrong with your son or daughter getting an MBA from Harvard or any other school. But you have to put what it is into a rational perspective.

It’s important to understand that a business school cannot train a student to become an entrepreneur. That’s one reason why I don’t teach this. Nobody can do it. You cannot train an entrepreneur. You become an entrepreneur by seizing an opportunity to meet the demands of the consumer bosses for the highest quality products at the lowest price. No special or formal education is required to achieve success. None. It’s commonly a hindrance. Business school can commonly be a hindrance to entrepreneurial achievement. You were trained to work for entrepreneurs, not to be one.

In addition to having extreme high initiative and the courage to take extreme high risk, there are admittedly some other valuable character traits that will help you to become a successful entrepreneur, like leadership. That’s important. Sound judgment is important. Determination is very important. Foresight and integrity are very important. But what business schools teach the business students to have integrity? Is there an Integrity 1A at the Harvard Business School? I would be flabbergasted if there is.

Let me ask you this, how do you teach a student to have good foresight? In Foresight 1A? Maybe you can teach someone to acquire certain components of business leadership, but not easily. Maybe you can teach someone to have determination, to never give up no matter how discouraged and how rough things may get. But how do you teach somebody to acquire sound judgment? Try that one on.

If you look at the history of successful entrepreneurship, most of the great entrepreneurs were uneducated, in terms, certainly, of academic accomplishment. They were unlettered. There were no entrepreneurs who were summa cum laude or even cum laude or even in the top 50 of their class if it was a big class.

The same thing is true of the great technologists. Leonardo da Vinci was unlettered. Thomas Edison was unlettered. The Wright brothers were unlettered. The Wright brothers didn’t even graduate from high school. And yet, all of these men are our major teachers. What do you think about being taught by somebody who isn’t even a college graduate, like the Wright brothers, who invented aviation? Other than that, what did you do?

Here’s a photograph of one of the great entrepreneurs in the history of entrepreneurship. In the seminar for the first time? Raise your hand if you know who it is.

Yes, not to be confused with Dale Carnegie. On the screen is the illustrious Andrew Carnegie, one of the great entrepreneurs in the history of entrepreneurship. As I’ve said, the more the man has done for you, the less likely you will know his picture.

Andrew Carnegie 1835–1919

Some of you recognize Carnegie. When he came to this country from Scotland in 1848, he could not have afforded the three-piece suit that we see him wearing because he was an impoverished youth of 13 years. Friends, when you’re 13 years old, if there’s no one available to support you, it would occur to you to go to work if the opportunity presents itself.

So young Carnegie went to work. He got himself a job in the cotton mill as a bobbin boy. That’s the boy who puts the thread in the bobbins, re-threads all the bobbins. He got 20 cents a day. If you adjust for inflation, that’s not a lot. I didn’t say 20 cents an hour, twenty cents a day. But in those days, you could eat on 20 cents a day, fairly well. Not a whole lot more than that, but you could eat on 20 cents a day. At that time, nobody ever starved to death on 20 cents a day.

But if Andrew was poor in property, he was not poor in initiative. He possessed that character trait I’ve named extreme high initiative. He was soon promoted from bobbin boy to clerk. Later, he became a telegraph operator while he moonlighted as a newspaper reporter. Then he became a train dispatcher on the Pennsylvania Railroad. He worked his way up to become secretary to the general superintendent of the railroad.

In 1862, at the age of 27, he recognized that the wooden bridge was going to have to be improved in order to pave the way for the new progress in rail transportation. He said, “we’ve got to do better than this, or we’re going to have a lot of accidents and a lot of problems.” What did he seize? An entrepreneurial opportunity. No education required to seize this opportunity. You just seize it.

Carnegie bridge under construction

He organized the Keystone Bridge Works to build the first iron bridge across the Ohio River. Carnegie needed an adequate supply of iron to build his bridges but the suppliers were always either late or the quality was poor or what have you.

He was tired of this inability to depend upon his suppliers, so he founded the Union Iron Mills. In 1868, he was the first American to make use of the technology that revolutionized the steel industry. He was the first to use the Bessemer steel converter technology. What was the end result of his entrepreneurial leadership? He built the American steel industry.

The American steel industry was a major factor in building the America of the late 19th and early 20th century. Carnegie’s monument he founded in 1901. It is called the United States Steel Corporation. At the time, it was the largest corporation in the world. So what was the extent of Carnegie’s formal education that made all of this possible?

Did he graduate with honors from the Harvard Business School? No. Did he graduate from any college? No. Did he graduate from high school? No. He went to work full time when he was 13. There ought to be a law. Nobody should be allowed to work when they’re only 13, right? Who believes this? Most educated adults. Where do they get it? It’s called indoctrination. He didn’t have time to go to school.

He did have time to build America. He is one of the major builders of what we call America. Before his death in 1919, he did have time to finance and build 2,505 libraries, most of which were in the United States and at the time represented most of the libraries in the nation. They were built by Carnegie. I’m certain that Andrew Carnegie never earned an academic degree from the university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

But he did finance and build that university, and every graduate who’s earned a degree from there can thank Andrew Carnegie for the opportunity. Some years ago, I was in my library and I just happened to notice a book on the shelf that I’d been passing by for at least a decade. Have you ever done that? You pass certain books for decades, maybe wanting to pick it up and look at it, but for whatever reason you just don’t do it.

Finally, after a decade or more of passing this book among hundreds and hundreds of books, if not thousands, I picked this book up. It was a 1920 edition of the autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. On pure impulse, I opened up the book and started reading at random in the middle of the book, and I started reading the following words, starting with this sentence:

Wrote Carnegie, quote, “A great business is seldom, if ever, built up, except on lines of the strictest integrity. A reputation for cuteness and sharp dealing is fatal in great affairs.”  And then he went on to say, “The standard of commercial morality is now very high. A mistake made by anyone in favor of his own firm is corrected as promptly as if the error were in favor of the other party.”

And then, finally, he says “It is essential to permanent success that a house should obtain a reputation for being governed by what is fair rather than what is merely legal.” This is a statement from an entrepreneur who lived this principle, and I’d like to point out, if any young man or woman starting out in business can understand what Carnegie called commercial morality, and has the courage to apply these principles to business without fail, without compromise ever, if they have the courage to do that, I claim that can be a greater asset than any degree from any business school.

If you had to choose between somebody who’s a business associate who had a lot of degrees and no integrity or no degrees and a lot of integrity, which way would you go? Business leaders, such as Carnegie, accomplished the humanitarian social function of meeting the most urgent demands of the consumer bosses. It was the consumer bosses, through their consumer votes, who elevated these businessmen to the position of business leadership.

The consumer bosses are completely ignorant of the entrepreneur’s academic qualifications, and they could not care less. The fact is, these entrepreneurs were educated, except their school was the familiar school of hard knocks. The school of hard knocks has an advantage over all traditional and formal schools. You know what that is?

In the school of hard knocks, the knocks get your attention like no other school. In this school, you can move rapidly up the learning curve. This means that education has two sources. One, others educate us. Two, we educate ourselves. But in either case, I’m saying that true education involves the process of an individual increasing their correct understanding of causality.

If Aristotle is right, educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead, then through the acquisition of an education, an individual should be able to dramatically improve the potential quality of his life. Furthermore, if the process of education per se does involve the individual in some way increasing his correct understanding of causality, then how can society achieve the highest quality education for the greatest number of students at the lowest cost per student?

That’s one of the questions that we’re going to look at before this lecture is over. I hope by this time it’s becoming clear to you that only two human action approaches can accomplish any social goal. One is interventionism. The other is non-interventionism. In our 20th century, what has been the popular approach to education? Interventionist or non-interventionist? Clearly, it’s interventionist.

In most countries of the world today, children are literally compelled to attend school. Parents are forced under threat of bureaucratic violence to send their children to school for a specified number of years. As always, this bureaucratic violence is justified on the standard grounds, that this violence will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.

Where there are compulsory schools, it is common to find parents dissatisfied with the school system, but it is seldom the compulsion that dissatisfies them. With what are they dissatisfied? Why is it that Johnny, after attending school from kindergarten through the 12th grade, that’s 13 years, still can’t read, can’t write, can’t count, can’t think?

Some people ask, why is it that half, sometimes more than half of the graduating seniors from high school are illiterate ignoramuses? People ask these questions. Some people are appalled by this. They think, how can it be, after 13 years of school, the only thing Johnny learned how to do was throw balls, bounce balls, kick balls, catch balls, dribble balls, hit balls, sock balls, and drive cars?

That’s one of the classes, you know, in school. Driver’s education. I think everybody has to take that. Parents may be dissatisfied with a dozen other problems generated by the compulsory schools, but one thing they are not dissatisfied with is the cause of all of the problems in the first place, namely, the compulsion. They think that’s great.

Even if 100 percent of all of the high school students were to graduate summa cum illiteratus, translated from the Latin, “with the highest illiteracy,” this would only be a minor problem when compared to the major and paramount problem in education, which is what? This is minor. If they all graduate illiterate, it doesn’t hardly mean anything. I’ll come to that later. The ones to worry about are the ones that are literate. They are the ones that are potentially dangerous.

I’d like to point out, ladies and gentlemen, that the continued adherence to a policy of violently imposed compulsory school system is totally incompatible with the attainment of world peace. That is one of the prime problems in what is called education. If the goal is world peace, then every system of compulsory education is a false means. It is an incontrovertible fact of reality that any school that requires attendance through compulsion, requires financing through compulsion, is a school that requires the indoctrination of an ideology of guess what? Compulsion.

I hope it’s clear to all of you that an ideology of compulsion is an ideology of war. Since the beginnings of the compulsory school system, politicians have recognized that gaining control of the schools is a very important political prize. It’s a great mistake to believe that political indoctrination of children through compulsory schooling is limited to Nazi Germany or fascist Italy or a communist Russia or China.

It is a grave error to conclude that only a Hitler or a Mussolini or a Stalin will be the only politicians to recognize that when you gain control of the schools you gain control of the people. My friends, any school system that owes its very existence to the violent interventionism that compulsion represents will indoctrinate its students to accept ideologies and doctrines that, in order to be implemented, require violent interventionism and compulsion.

Violence always fosters more violence. It is foolish to anticipate any other effect. A compulsory school system remains one of the most potent ideological weapons ever developed for the purpose of indoctrinating students with the belief that interventionism will bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. They are indoctrinated with a win-lose paradigm, for us to gain, they must lose.

At what school that is a creation of bureaucratic interventionism can the faculty teach the students the regressive domino effects of bureaucratic interventionism? At what school that depends upon government special privilege to fund its building program and to pay for its faculty and administration can they teach the students the reality of government interventionism?

The reality of government interventionism has been understood for a long time. Writing over 200 years ago in the 18th century, Voltaire summarized the entire reality of government in one succinct sentence. Nobody said it better than Voltaire. He said it more than 200 years ago. “The art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.” I ask you, has anything changed since Voltaire’s time? That was the reality of government then, and it’s still the reality of government now. But where can they teach this reality?

Virtually every college or university in the world is subsidized with government-confiscated funds. At which college or university that is subsidized by the government can they teach the reality of government as vividly as it was explained two centuries ago by the illustrious Voltaire? Can you see this quote etched in stone with letters three inches high above the entrance to the social science department at my alma mater, UCLA? “The art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.” No. Don’t hold your breath.

It is impossible to present a true science of social causality in any school system that is funded through the violent confiscation of the people’s choice. However, my friends, I want to make it very clear I am not here for the purpose of condemning universities or its faculties. Some of the greatest super-humanitarians in history were college professors. That’s a fact of history.

I’ve already mentioned with great respect many of these in my seminar. Professor John Locke wrote an essay concerning human understanding, how to think for yourself and not be indoctrinated all of your life. That’s what the book is about. It was banned.

Professor Max Planck, who originated and developed the quantum theory. Professor Ludwig von Mises, who originated the science of human action. To this you could add a long list of impressive, important professors, which I won’t take the time to name now, but you cannot afford to ignore a serious cause and effect problem.

The universities promulgate interventionism, and interventionism promulgates war. It’s as simple as that. Almost every university and college professor in the world is an advocate of bureaucratic interventionism and political confiscation. But I do not condemn them for this. With different inputs, I could have been one of those professors myself. At one time, I thought of getting a Ph.D. in political science. It would be impossible for me to teach this course if I got a Ph.D. in political science. I would spend the rest of my life defending my Ph.D. One must justify all those years, all that drudgery somehow.

Everybody is defensive of their academic credentials, aren’t they? If we’re going to be effective human action scientists, we have to examine the effect of the professors’ advocacy of interventionism. As long as the academic community continues to support the concept of bureaucratic interventionism, this will cause the expansion of more and more bureaucratic interventionism.

The academic community is under the spell of the Montaigne dogma and its win-lose paradigm. Our university can only prosper when it’s funded with confiscated funds. Our college, it is said, can only profit if someone else suffers a loss. A can only profit when B suffers a loss.

From the Montaigne dogma, you get the familiar academic theme, give us academics special privilege and give the taxpayers, the losers, the gun. Today, virtually every college and university, as I said, acquires either all of part of its funds from government confiscation. This includes the universities we normally think of as private, such as a Stanford or a Harvard or a USC. They all get hundreds of millions of dollars in federally confiscated funds.

The beneficiaries who live off these confiscated funds cannot be expected to condemn either the source of the confiscation or their bureaucratic benefactors. It’s unrealistic to expect any other attitude on their part. Nevertheless, the regressive domino effect from all of this is large, because the colleges and universities of today are largely creatures of the government.

Whether they intend to or not, they will project a positive image of government policies of interventionism, confiscation, and violence. But people, for the most part, are awed by the prestige of the academic community, especially if they have not gone to college. The people who are most awed by this are people who do not have college degrees. At least someone with a degree can put it, if he’s honest, into some rational perspective.

When the eminent professors from our most revered universities openly advocate confiscation as the means to the greatest good for the greatest number, then the people both demand and accept the benefits of confiscation as if it were owed to them. Can we expect any other attitude on the part of the people?

Since the people have not earned these benefits through production, how do these professors profess that they be acquired? The professors profess society must redistribute the wealth. Freely translated, the politicians and bureaucrats must confiscate wealth they did not earn and redistribute that wealth to people who didn’t earn it either.

It’s no secret that all of this is accomplished at gunpoint. When any individual, professor or otherwise, advocates a gun-imposed redistribution of wealth, that individual becomes an aide to the government gunmen. To advocate a gun-imposed redistribution of wealth is to advocate slavery.

Here is a definition of slavery. Slavery exists where the individual’s discretion to choose is confiscated by interventionism. No matter how well-meaning the university faculty may be when it advocates bureaucratic interventionism as a means to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, the human action scientist, I hope you’re becoming one, cannot ignore the fact that interventionism in every form it may take is the one and only means to the establishment of a violently imposed system of servitude.

The salient fact remains. as long as the academic community is in open support of interventionism as a means, then in the end we will get the effect of the employment of that means, slavery. Slavery is always the inescapable effect of interventionism.

What would you say is the probability that we can, in some way, influence these professors to turn their thinking around and stop advocating slavery and start advocating freedom? For reasons I’ve already explained, the probability is low. For the most part, they are frozen in their thinking. Their position, in part, is explained by the Locke-Planck-Mises problem. Educated, intelligent, successful adults rarely change their most fundamental presuppositions.

But when any adult acquires a self-image of one who is an expert, then he is even more likely to become frozen in his thinking because he is compelled to defend his expertise. Whenever you find an expert defending interventionism, it’s too much to expect him to alter his presuppositions which led him to that defense in the first place.

Nevertheless, in the long run, if freedom is to be achieved, then we must find a greater number of professors of freedom. As long as the professors of slavery dramatically outnumber the professors of freedom, then the system of slavery will remain the system that is in vogue. What are we taught as children? Well, you must be in vogue. You don’t want to be out of step. You don’t want to lose popularity.

We must not underestimate the influence of the academic community upon the educated community especially. We must reach the intellectuals both inside and outside the universities who at least don’t have such a strong vested interest in the preservation of government interventionism. But it would be foolish to expect very many of these intellectuals, who are certainly on the payrolls of the confiscators, to denounce the confiscation.

Do you realize how tough that is? Do you realize how much honesty that takes? Wow. It takes more honesty than most people have. Therefore, we look elsewhere, and although the academic community is influential, it does not represent the totality of influence upon society, fortunately.

I’d like to further point out, friends, it’s taken thousands of years of societal evolution for a few people to arrive at the conclusion that interventionism is the cause of slavery and non-interventionism is the cause of freedom. That’s taken us several thousand years to reach that conclusion.

Where interventionism is taught as a true means to the attainment of the greatest good for the greatest number, slavery will be in fashion. Where non-interventionism is taught as a true means to the attainment of the greatest good for the greatest number, freedom will be in fashion.

The societal evolution from slavery to freedom will come about, in part, where and when the number of professors of slavery begins to decrease as the number of professors of freedom begins to increase. What will these professors of freedom be professing to their students? That the magnificent benefits to be reaped by all people where the individual’s discretion to choose is not confiscated by interventionism. They will be professing freedom. Where’s that? Freedom exists where the individual’s discretion to choose is not confiscated by interventionism, but today we find the professors of slavery outnumber the professors of freedom.

One reason for this is a general acceptance of bad idea number two, if the government does not maintain slavery, the quality and availability of education will diminish. Who believes this? Almost every educated adult believes this. The uneducated adults probably don’t care, because they don’t have any interest in education in the first place.

Must we maintain slavery in order to maintain the quality and availability of education? Let’s look at a popular dogma that supports this belief. Every child has the right to an education. Who believes this? Almost every educated person believes this, don’t they? Where do they get their beliefs? It’s called indoctrination. Almost everything everybody believes on all subjects comes from indoctrination.

If education is a right and everyone has a right to it, where does this so-called right come from? Does this right come from nature? Does this right come from God? Was there an 11th commandment, thou shalt have a right to an education? Clap of thunder, bolt of lightning. The wrong order there. Bolt of lightning, clap of thunder, unless you’re real close to the lightning.

If your right to an education comes from nature, will nature pay for your education? If your right to education comes from God, will God pay for your education? Send God the bill. Will God’s check clear or bounce? Who’s going to pay for this right? If neither nature nor God will pay for little Johnny’s and Susie’s education, then who will?

If we point a gun at Mr. Citizen and compel him to pay for Johnny’s and susie’s schooling, we have just established a formal system of slavery. The question I raised earlier comes up again. Should we abandon slavery, servitude, in favor of freedom? Dear friends, we have no choice. At this point, we have no choice.

Once man develops high technology, he’s forced to abandon slavery once and for all in the interest of his own survival. Therefore, if we scrap our system of slavery, each individual is responsible for providing his own education just as he is responsible for providing his food, clothing, and shelter.

If one is a child, it is not improper to accept an education from one’s parents. Along with accepting the food and the clothing and the shelter, you also accept education. There’s nothing wrong with that. Since it’s not efficient for parents to personally, at least in all cases, teach their children everything they should know, then there’s a logical market for professional teachers. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s called the division of labor.

It’s possible a professional teacher could do a better job of teaching your kids than you. Is that possible? Is there anything wrong with it if the parents can’t? No. That’s what the professional teachers are trained to do. They spend their lives learning how to do this. That’s not an insult to you if they know ways to do it better than you can.

How long a time a parent will pay for professional schools is a matter to be decided between the parents and their children. When the child matures, and becomes a producer of products or services, they have the indefinite action of hiring their own teachers in pursuit of whatever educational goals they may desire.

Furthermore, the options for learning outside of a formal school are limitless. Unlimited. When you purchase a book, from which you acquire valuable knowledge, you’ve actually hired a teacher. The author is your teacher and could become one of your most influential and valuable teachers throughout your entire career. True? True.

You will not, likely, meet the teacher in person. Your teacher may have lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago. You were taught plane geometry by the Greek mathematician Euclid, who lived 2,300 years ago. It was his texts, Euclid’s Elements, that you used in school. Little changed from the way he wrote it down. My teacher is Euclid, a Greek who lived 2,300 years ago. It was Euclid that taught me geometry, and probably all of you, if you learned geometry.

Which you should learn. Every child should learn geometry. There is no exception, unless he doesn’t give a damn about what the hell is going on. A person that doesn’t know geometry has really got a serious disadvantage in understanding what the hell is going on. Ditto algebra. Minimum basic algebra and geometry if you want to do any serious thinking. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter.

In order to establish a science of education, here is one of the questions we must be able to answer. if the practice of compelling children to attend schools and compelling adults to finance them falls into disuse, then wouldn’t the children of the poor be denied the opportunity to acquire an education?

This question will always be raised if anyone gets an inkling that you’re ready to do away with the institution of slavery. They will suddenly bring up all of the reasons why we’ve got to maintain slavery, and all of them will have the same source. Indoctrination.

To answer the question I just posed, I must first give you a broader picture of this evolutionary transition from servitude to freedom. There will also be an evolutionary transition from bureaucratic management of services to entrepreneurial management of services, if, for no other reason, the overwhelming advantages of entrepreneurial management of services over bureaucratic management of services cannot be hidden forever.

I’ve got good news for you, ladies and gentlemen; fabulous news. You cannot hide a principle forever. It is impossible. You can’t even hide a principle forever in China or India or anywhere else in the world, or even in the United States. There will also be, in a free society, an evolutionary transition from private, nonprofit management of services to entrepreneurial management of services for the same stated reasons.

Even where there is a private school that refuses to accept government confiscated funds, when it instead accepts subsidies in the form of donations, endowments, and various voluntary grants, it cannot escape from being rendered inefficient in its operation.

Let me give you another principle here. This whole seminar is on what? Principles. If you don’t have to make a profit, then you don’t have to be efficient. It’s as simple as that. That’s why everything that’s nonprofit is inefficient. They don’t have to be efficient. There’s always another supply of funds coming in, and you don’t have to meet the requirements of the consumer bosses.

A school is a service that does not differ in principle from any other service. The goal of every entrepreneur who is in the business of operating a school must be singular. What’s that? What’s the prime goal if you’re in the school business? To maximize your profits.

The means of achieving the profit will be the same as it is for all other entrepreneurs, regardless of the product or service with which they seek to serve their customers. That means is always the same within a free society. The enterpriser’s means to profit is to satisfy the most urgent demands of the consumers with the highest quality products at the lowest price.

There is no approach, dear friend, to the entire subject of education that will accomplish a greater revolution, a more dramatic change for the better, than the replacement of every school principal, every university chancellor, every college president with what? An entrepreneur. That will revolutionize education like it has never been revolutionized before.

This will involve a social evolution of profound significance. This will involve the evolutionary liberation of children from the condition of involuntary servitude within the compulsory school system. It may sound even harsh to your ears to label the public schools a system of slavery, but, again, where is slavery? Where does that exist? Slavery exists where the individual’s discretion to choose is confiscated by interventionism.

Does the public school system fall within the territory of this definition? Whose choices are confiscated? Are the parents’ choices confiscated? Yes. Are the students’ choices confiscated? Yes. Are the people’s choices confiscated? Yes. Then that’s where slavery is. It’s confiscation.

Is the confiscation enforced? Yes. Is it enforced with violence, violent means? Yes, if you will admit that to be threatened with a gun if you do not pay, that you will be fined, imprisoned, or killed, that’s violence. If it’s not violence, I don’t know what it is. If somebody points a gun at me, that’s violence. That’s a serious threat, especially if he thinks he’s authorized to pull the trigger. Of course, you wouldn’t authorize them to shoot me, would you?

What are the parents who are advocating a public school system actually demanding? Give us special privilege. Give them the gun. The win-lose paradigm. Because these parents are civilized, of course they will not go through the neighborhood confiscating their neighbors’ money at gunpoint to pay for little Johnny, little Susie’s schooling. That is the bureaucratic gunman’s job so they won’t personally do this.

Let me pose the question again. As society evolves, and it will, or we won’t have any society at all, from a system of slavery to a system of freedom, which means the compulsory schools evolve to a system of voluntary schools, then the question arises, without slavery, what would prevent the children of the poor from being denied an opportunity to acquire an education?

The argument is, if we do not maintain slavery, the poor will remain uneducated. In other words, this will be an elite educational system where only the children of the rich will go to these fancy, expensive schools, and the poor get nothing. First of all, you can answer the question with another question. Where there is freedom, who will be poor?

Where there’s freedom, there is a free society, and where there’s a free society there’s a free market. Where there’s a free society, the principle of prosperity is allowed to flourish. Where prosperity flourishes, there is no poverty. What is the characteristic feature of all poverty? Poverty is where people have access to few products to consume.

But where the marriage has taken place between the principle of the free market and the principle of the division of labor, poverty is rendered obsolete. Wherever poverty is not yet rendered obsolete, you’ve got a lot of people that don’t know what they’re doing. Wherever there’s poverty, it’s wall-to-wall inability to understand cause and effect. Where both a variety of products and the abundance of products is overwhelming, there is no poverty.

But there’s another societal evolution taking place at the same time, the evolution from world war to world peace. Imagine, if you will, the magnitude of wealth that will be unleashed upon the world when the tools of production are no longer employed to produce weapons of war. Think about that one for a minute. No more capital for the tools of war production.

What is that going to mean in terms of the overall prosperity? Only butter, no more guns, as the economist would say. Imagine all these tools of production used instead to produce consumer products demanded by the consumer bosses. Furthermore, the general level of prosperity will be yet even greater as we evolve from a society of bureaucratic bosses to a society of consumer bosses.

Furthermore, the free operation of the closest-to-zero-but-not-zero solution will bring about undreamed of magnitudes of prosperity. The free operation of Sparks’ principle, the freedom-to-try solution, will cause even more prosperity to be thrust upon us.

All of these evolutionary trends will culminate in what I call the educational revolution. I earlier discussed the significance and the reality in industry of the Industrial Revolution. That term was popularized, incidentally, by Karl Marx, and Marx remains the interpreter of the Industrial Revolution for most intellectuals and educated people even to this day throughout the world.

Well, if Marx is your teacher, you’ve got big problems. You don’t know straight up from sideways at all. And yet Marx is a dominant teacher in the Western world because of the influence of Marxism in our colleges and universities. Entire English departments are made up, for example, of Marxists. You think, well, the last place you think of, in the English department.

All Marxism means is the optimization of a social system that has a total distortion of causality in terms of its structure. In other words, Marxism is the zenith of the inability to understand cause and effect applied to the social structure. You can’t improve on Marxism for distortions of reality and the total failure to understand cause and effect.

In the field of education, we are on the threshold of a revolution, or a rival in its positive impact upon society, of the earlier Industrial Revolution. I call this the educational revolution. This revolution in education will come about as the result of a simplex change. The revolution begins with an evolution. Where there’s an evolution, there is change. There will be a gradual evolution from bureaucratic management of the schools to entrepreneurial management of the schools.

As this evolutionary trend is completed, the result is a revolution that will have turned everything around in the realm of education. In fact, this educational revolution may just turn out to be the greatest turnaround in history. It will be for all the reasons I’ve just given you in earlier lectures on what will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, bureaucratic management or entrepreneurial management.

The impact of the educational revolution upon the world will result in the educational industry becoming one of the super-giant industries, eclipsing, certainly, anything we have ever witnessed. Even now, we are just beginning to see the mass marketing of education designed for the masses.

Through mass marketing techniques, closed-circuit television, pre-packaged tape courses, education at all levels can be available to anyone at a nominal fee. By expanding the size of the market, education programs can be produced that no single school or university could afford to produce for their exclusive use alone.

These programs can be marketed on a contractual basis to other schools, to home viewers. We’re just beginning to apply computers to all kinds of training applications. I really don’t know how to apply computers to education, but it certainly can be applied to training.

We already find ourselves in the middle of an electronics revolution. None of these technological applications will diminish the demand for traditional schools featuring live teachers in the classroom. Machines will not obsolete teachers any more than word processors will obsolete secretaries. It only increases their potential to be both more efficient and more effective and better spellers, except the computer is the better speller. Don’t you wish you could spell as correctly as your spell-checker?

With entrepreneurial imagination finally unleashed in the realm of education, there will be a boom in vocational and technological schools. There will even be a boom in pure academic schools for those students who are in pursuit of intellectual goals and who thirst for learning for the sake of learning. There will always be a market for this.

That’s the elite market, those who thirst for learning for the sake of learning. They place that above training because they realize anybody can get trained. What’s tough is to understand what the hell is going on, and that takes an education. That takes a lifetime.

Once entrepreneurial inspiration is applied to libraries, the library can be one of the most exciting places in town. You replace Marian the Librarian with what? An entrepreneur entrepreneurs the library. When entrepreneurial imagination is applied to libraries, it’ll be the center of interest in your town, and you will be complaining about the fact that your little Susie and Johnny, “Well, you’re always down at the library. Why don’t you come home and watch TV? You’re always down there learning something. Why don’t you spend some time here at home goofing off?”

Dear friend, if you get that problem you can live with that problem. Am I right? By applying the principle of free trade to education, we will optimize the potential for the highest-quality education at the lowest price. If an individual gets off to a slow start in pursuit of an education, so what? It’s never too late. If through progress and biology we can increase a person’s productive years from 40 years to 80, even beyond that, many people will want to build two or three major careers during a productive lifetime.

Historically, many productive achievers have acquired their education late in life. Even today, if one learns how to read, there’s not a subject you couldn’t master on your own. There are millions of books available on every conceivable subject. If one doesn’t know how to read, I have some strong advice. Learn.

In fact, you can divide all non-readers into two broad categories. One, those who want to learn how to read, and two, those who do not want to learn how to read. That covers all possibilities. Any problem with that? There are no gray areas. Either you want to learn or you don’t. There is no gray area.

If an individual wants to learn how to read, there is virtually nothing you can do to stop him. Nothing. If an individual does not want to learn how to read, there is virtually nothing you can do to get him to read. Nothing. Not a damn thing you can do. Nothing you can do. He says “I’ll show you. I’ll never read.” Guess what? What do you expect? If your goal is to be literate, you will read, and if your goal is to be illiterate, you will not read. There are no exceptions.

We have a tendency to overrate the value of formal schools. Here’s some advice from an American who was not known as an educator, but in fact was one of the great educators of the 19th and 20th centuries. He will continue to be one of the great educators of all time. One of my favorite people of all time. You’ve read his works. The illustrious American humorist and author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), who said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

It was the same Mark Twain who said, “The two most interesting characters of the 19th century are Napoleon and Helen Keller.” All of you know who Napoleon was, right? He was a 19th century French general. But who was Helen Keller? Well, all of you know that, too. There have been Hollywood movies, books, TV plays about this woman’s life.

Helen Keller became one of the most remarkable women in history because she was fortunate enough to have one of the most remarkable teachers in the history of teaching. Helen’s teacher was Anne Mansfield Sullivan Macy. She got married. If any teacher thinks that he or she has ever had a problem communicating with or getting the attention of a particular student, whatever the difficulty, it pale when matched with the difficulty that the young 20-year-old Anne Sullivan encountered in trying to get the attention of the seven-year-old Helen Keller.

When Helen Keller was a year and a half old, she went blind, which means she can’t see. That was not bad enough, she went deaf, which means she can’t hear. If you’re totally deaf at age one and a half, you’ve got another problem. What’s that? You will be dumb, which means you cannot speak. If you can’t speak, can’t write, can’t read, you know what else that means? You can’t think. You can scarcely think, because we do most of our thinking with language. The young Helen Keller didn’t even have a language.

When Anne Sullivan arrived as the newly hired teacher of Helen Keller, she was not the Helen Keller we know. She was the most wild and unmanageable animal that any teacher had ever had to confront. Time does not permit me to tell you the story of Anne Sullivan’s monumental teaching victory. I wish we had time.

But in Helen Keller’s own words, she tells us of the day of days in her life when she first came to the realization there was a phenomenon known as human speech. She writes in her autobiography quote, “It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me and, for the first time, longed for a new day to come.”

Not only did she come to learn there was such a thing as speech, this amazing girl actually learned to speak. I’d like to share with you the first sentence that she spoke. She said, “I am not dumb now.”  This thrilled, elated, and excited little girl kept repeating that sentence over and over again. “I am not dumb now. I am not dumb now,” over and over and over.

Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller

This incredible Helen Keller, with the help of her incredible teacher seen here – that’s Helen Keller on the right and Anne Sullivan on the left – not only learned how to speak. She later filled lecture halls all over the United States and Europe, and she was the star lecturer. Not only did she learn how to read, she was the author of a dozen books.

But I ask you this, would any of you have found fault with this blind, deaf, and dumb little girl if she’d never learned how to read, write, and speak? Would you have? I’ll answer for you. I don’t think you would. I certainly wouldn’t. But, dear friends, I will find a lot of fault with anyone who can see, who can hear, and who can speak who does not know how to read and write.

And I won’t even blame all of the teachers of our American epidemic of illiteracy, which includes 40 to 50 million illiterate adults in the United States. I won’t even blame all the teachers. Because if any illiterate complains that his schoolteachers were incompetent teachers, that his parents were inept tutors, then my advice is to become your own teacher.

The history of human achievement is replete with examples of men and women who were self-educated, major achievers. In the teaching profession, you will not find many Anne Sullivans. Don’t be disappointed. There won’t be many. Ms. Sullivan has not only earned my continuing respect, but I salute this woman as one of the great teachers in the history of education.

She’s given us a lesson of supreme value. Anne Sullivan has taught us that, even when a child is overwhelmed with blindness, deafness, and dumbness, it is still possible to motivate that child to seek knowledge and to seek an understanding of the causes of things.

Her courage and dedication have taught us that, no matter how great the challenge and difficulty a student may present, the indomitable teacher can even educate the uneducable. The indomitable teacher can succeed even where the child is uneducable.

Why has Helen Keller earned my continuing respect? She’s one of the great students in the entire history of education. Think about it. If Anne Sullivan is a teacher’s teacher, then Helen Keller is a student’s student. This totally blind, deaf woman graduated from the prestigious Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and because Radcliffe had a long academic association with Harvard University, many of the Radcliffe girls, including the young Helen Keller, attended upper division classes at Harvard.

Both Radcliffe and Harvard maintained the highest academic standards at the time when high standards were still fashionable. The young Helen Keller did not merely graduate from Radcliffe. The Radcliffe and Harvard administrators did not give Helen, because of her handicaps, a lower academic standard to accomplish than they gave to her classmates who could both see and hear.

Helen graduated from Radcliffe with the academic honor of cum laude. In her graduating class of 1904, she earned the third highest academic honor only after magna cum laude and summa cum laude. Helen Keller’s life achievement is a powerful lesson that takes a paragraph of superlatives to even describe.

Through her astonishing victory over ignorance, Helen Keller has shown us that if we seek education through a greater understanding of the causes of things, and if we are blessed with the ability to see, to hear, and to speak, then it will be easy for us to enhance the quality of our education every day of our lives.

And so, I simply say thank you my dear Helen. You were not only a great student, a great teacher, and a great lady, but, beyond anything else, you have taught us what I call the Keller standard, which is, there can be no excuse for academic failure. There is no excuse, no excuse, not even if you’re blind or deaf or dumb or all three. But if you can see and you can hear, what an advantage you have.

I’ll end the lecture on education where it began, with the words of one of the founders of Western civilization. Aristotle was right. Educated men and women are much superior to the uneducated. They are as superior to the uneducated as the living are to the dead. Without education, you cannot understand anything about anything all the time.

To be educated is to understand what the hell is going on in the physical world, the biological world, and the social world. To find out is the challenge of a lifetime. I’m sure all of you are equal to that challenge.


© Sustainable Civilization Institute 2010