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Ocean View: Musings of a Homeschool Dad

by Michael Leppert

Self-reliance: The True Social Security

I begin this issue’s installment of O.V. with a revelation. All of my life I have been unable to understand how an American could embrace socialism or communism . . . having someone else controlling his/her destiny in virtually every respect, in exchange for “security” – of work, housing, health care, food, etc. Now, at long last, I can grok this point of view! Of course, I still don’t agree with it as my way of life, and hope I never do! However, knowledge is power, and I owe this latest blast of enlightenment to Nathaniel Branden, writing an article entitled Reflections on Self-Responsibility and Libertarianism in the April 2001 issue of Ideas on Liberty, published by the Foundation for Economic Education or F.E.E. in upstate New York. (I really love reading IoL even when I disagree with something.)

On page 21, Mr. Branden discusses the fact that a free society cannot guarantee results of an individual’s efforts, nor abolish all risk and uncertainty from citizen’s lives. The security a free society can provide is protection of one's rights; not protection from the vicissitudes of life. The author then states “This is accepted more readily if you have a decent level of self-esteem – that is, if you have fundamental confidence in your ability to cope with life’s challenges. But to the extent that self-esteem is lacking, then the self-responsibility that a free society requires can be terrifying.” That is “it” in a few lines. The answer to my lifelong wonderings at how and why people could trade their hard-won American freedom for various government programs that reduce personal freedom but “guarantee” security. As a homeschooler, I see this sort of process going on all of the time. Charter Schools and Voucher programs, being dangled in the air like carrots in front of so many donkeys, bring out the soul-searching, hand-wrenching “freedom or security” debate in many parents. It seems I have always had a pretty high degree of self-esteem – I have only yearned for false security a few moments in my entire life . . . as soon as I realized that in exchange, I would have to sacrifice the freedom to rise and fall on my own efforts, I lost interest in such enslavement – er, security. I now see how others can feel completely comfortable making the trade, however. I see examples of low self-esteem in the general population all of the time; while I cannot empathize with such examples, I can sympathize. Recently, I saw a well-kept, late-model four-door auto festooned with numerous politically liberal bumper stickers, one being “I am too poor to vote Republican.” Normally I would snidely sneer to myself and maybe shake my head, but now I truly feel sorry for a person who would drive a clean, well-cared-for auto and broadcast her liberal low self-esteem in such a manner. Too bad she doesn’t think more highly of herself than to advertise her lack of self-faith so blatantly!

I once had a telephone “conversation” with a woman who did all of the talking and was extolling the virtues of socialist countries in Europe. Her husband was a construction worker in the Mid West and during winter he was unemployed. She was complaining about low unemployment benefits, “we need more government programs, etc., Sweden is great, blah, blah” and I couldn’t help wondering to myself if her husband had ever thought of doing something else for a living, or at least the nearly six months he was unemployed. She didn’t mention such a thing (Perish the thought!) I assumed he probably just “fell” into his line of work as a tradesman, maybe right out of high school and had no intention (drive) of changing from it. I couldn’t bring myself to say the truth to her face. (I had little sympathy for anyone unwilling to change occupations, having done so myself hundreds of times.) Obviously, this couple suffered from low self-esteem and didn’t have faith in hubby’s ability to learn something new – at least that is how I see it now thanks to Mr. Branden’s article. I think the Great American Disease, Laziness, can be traced to a strangling degree of low self-esteem. There are millions of people with low self-esteem who would never dream of creating new work, creating more than a beer-and-T.V. culture at home, or creating a real family by homeschooling and being 100% parents! We homeschoolers know them – sometimes we say “That used to be me. But I’ve crossed over to the sunny side of the street. My family and me take care of ourselves! We are self-responsible! We are the Founding Fathers reborn!” . . . sorta, maybe. But such people are cultivating self-responsibility and passing it on to their children. However, the way to gain a higher degree of self-esteem isn’t to wear a T-shirt that says “I’m beautiful” or “I am great” or being made to think you are the intellectual equal of the achievers in your class, if you clearly are not,  so that you don’t “feel badly about yourself.” That foolishness is pure Public-School Superficial Pabulum. Kids in institutional schools who are made to think that they are what they are not, find out the famous Hard Way when they become adults, maybe. Real self-esteem has to come from (usually painful work) to produce achievement and accomplishment that brings the knowledge that if you work hard enough and long enough, persevere, grit your teeth and bear down on the goal, you actually can learn something new, do something well, be someone else than you thought when you began the endeavor. If you have ever learned enough of a foreign language to realize that you will be able to be fluent someday – if you Will, then you know what I say. If you have learned how to do anything better than before, you know what I say. If you don’t have high self-esteem from these accomplishments, please give it to yourself! It is yours! If you need someone to second the motion – I will!


John Taylor Gatto points out in his new book “The Underground History of American Education” that the modern interpretation of  corporations being individuals and having the same rights as such is the (unholy) creation of a California Supreme Court case in 1886, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Up until this ruling, corporations were recognized as dangerous entities if not kept in check and the British government had done its best to keep the reins tightened upon the necks of corporations. But Santa Clara changed the previously wise and similar American view to the beginning of the warped situation we have today wherein corporations run the country in every conceivable way. The basic problem with this is that the court’s error was not corrected by the California legislature or the U.S. Congress immediately following the misguided ruling. Had such been the case, various laws of restraint upon corporations would have been imposed. For instance, in order for a corporation to be an individual, it cannot be virtually eternal (as is the case). The corporate charter should have limited to the average lifespan – today that would be approximately 72 years. Upon the cancellation of its charter, the corporation would have to be dissolved, its assets sold off and divided up among the shareholders and that would be that. It would not be allowed to conglomerate, purchase other corporations, or perform any other non-individual functions that make corporate entities so dangerous and so eternal. They also would have been prohibited from contributing to political campaigns beyond the amount they pay in taxes each year. For the highest tax year since the last election, they could match that amount in contributions. It is a matter of public record that CISCO, the high-tech giant, paid no corporate income taxes last year. But do you suppose that they contributed nothing to the coffers of politicos in California and Washington?  Don’t bet on it. Many other large corporations paid no income tax last year, either. But you can rest assured that they contributed heavily wherever they deemed necessary. Of course, as my 13-year-old son has pointed out to me, until you remove the legalized bribery of lobbying from the political system, you can’t expect any form of honesty or representation of the people’s interest. What would Abe Lincoln say to all of this today? If he were of the same ilk as the Bush/Gore corporate employees we had to “vote” for this past year, he would say “. . . government by the corporation, for the corporation and of the corporation, shall not perish from the earth.”  For this our forefathers fought and died? Happy 4th of July.

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