more on privatized education

October 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

If we were to apply Plato’s tripartition to modern questions about the proper role of the state,  we would conclude that asking students to pay for education is about as stupid as asking soldiers to pay the military to let them fight.  The educational system (the brain) and the military (the hands) are the support structure for the market, or the working and commercial part of society (the stomach, or, if you like, the loins). They are not a part of the commercial part of society themselves, nor can they be.

Think about the relationship of institutionalized thinking to institutionalized fighting to institutionalized working.  These are the three basic pillars of any society.  Workers depend on a commercial system which makes specialization, trade, and division of labor possible because it creates the possibility of property rights and civic trust by conferring obligations on to buyers and sellers, employers and employees, and so on.  That system is imposed by the rule of law, which is the responsibility of the fighting or coercive part of society (the military, prisons, etc.), and how and when that coercion is applied is determined by the thinking part of society (theorist, academics, judges, etc.).

So it’s the thinking part of society which produces institutional designs, the fighting part of society which imposes them in the form of a structure which facilitates commercial transactions and division of labor, and it is the working part of society (which is most of us) which exists within and depends on that structure, and this is beneficial for everyone.

That’s the fallacy behind the idea that you can privatize miltaries and schools. Neither kind of institution can actually fulfill its function if it becomes beholden to commercial interests and without them, there is no possibility of a commercial system as we know it.  They are the commercial system’s foundation, not the other way around.

Privatized militaries will fight for profit, not for justice, since profit alone is what will enable them to exist.  It shouldn’t be difficult for any of us to conceive of any number of scenarios in which what is profitable financially is not simultaneously what is just. Privatized schools don’t produce research which will tell us what is true, but instead produce shills that will tell us what we want to hear so they can keep their funding.  It shouldn’t be difficult for any of us to conceive of any number of scenarios in which the argument that will be profitable financially is not simultaneously what is true.

The thinking part of society, if it is to be of any use to the rest of society, can only be beholden to what is true.  The fighting part of society, if it is to be of any use to the rest of society, can only be beholden to what is just.  What is true and what is just are not necessarily what is most profitable in a commercial sense, and it is our ability to discern truth and justice which produces the only means we have of creating a commercial system which could work towards rational (truth) or equitable (just) aims.  The brain is useless without the hands, and both work to satisfy the the appetites of the stomach when those appetites are beneficial (not just to the stomach, but to the whole body), and to hold those appetites in check when they are not beneficial to it and may threaten it.

To give the brain and hands over to the whims of the stomach is to ultimately bring about a situation in which the stomach itself goes hungry because it has no brain and no hands to work in concert to feed it.  Conversely, the brain and hands are pretty useless without the stomach which nourishes them (or loins which ultimately reproduce them).  Since the thinkers can’t think, and since the things they think up can’t be applied by the military which imposes the rule of law, the institutional structure which makes the commercial part of society and property relations possible breaks down.  Everybody loses.

This is why the god of wealth, or Plutus (the root of the word “plutoracracy”), was understood to be blind.  Plutus isn’t evil, but incapable of discerning good from evil if what is profitable financially may be either.  It’s why when Simonides was asked if it was better to be rich or wise, he replied, “clearly it’s better to be rich, since I see the wise knocking on the rich men’s doors” rather than the other way around.  In other words, if academics look for and find only those answers that their wealthy patrons want to hear, rather than concerning themselves with what is true for the sake of truth and nothing else, then we can’t very well expect them to give us the truth anymore than we could expect the subjects of the emperor to tell him that he wasn’t wearing any clothes.

Apparently we haven’t learned much in the last 2500 years.  More on this later.

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