Quote Of The Day

…Is from F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom:

The “social goal,” or “common purpose,” for which society is to be organized is usually vaguely described as the “common good,” the “general welfare,” or the “general interest.” It does not need much reflection to see that these terms have no sufficiently definite meaning to determine a particular course of action. The welfare and the happiness of millions cannot be measured on a single scale of less and more. The welfare of a people, like the happiness of a man, depends on a great many things that can be provided in an infinite variety of combinations. It cannot be adequately expressed as a single end, but only as a hierarchy of ends, a comprehensive scale of values in which every need of every person is given its place. To direct all our activities according to a single plan presupposes that every one of our needs is given its rank in an order of values which must be complete enough to make it possible to decide among all the different courses which the planner has to choose. It presupposes, in short, the existence of a complete ethical code in which all the different human values are allotted their due place.

I like this quote, because it clearly points out that doing things for the “common good” supposes a particular value set, which may be one that you (the individual) do not agree with.

Recently there was much fervor over how necessary algebra is to students. Much was said on either side of the debate, but what I found striking was that at the root of it all was simply a difference in values. Some people value algebra; others don’t. Of course, there wouldn’t be nearly as much debate over this issue if education weren’t politicized. If parents were free to choose where to send their kids to school instead of being lumped into the ones in their district, the schools themselves could settle the debate. Perhaps some schools would stress the importance of algebra; others might choose to focus on more practical math skills like basic budgeting. Maybe even it would be left up to the student to decide. And you know what? That would be great! It would tailor education more to the individual student rather than a dogmatic one size fits all approach.

And that’s one of the follies of central planning: Individual values and freedoms get trampled because the government necessarily enforces its own values, and causes contention over subjects as benign as algebra.


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