What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
I received my annual property tax notice in the mail last week, informing me of the amount of my hard-earned money that the government was demanding I submit, without mercy or exception. The penalty for non-compliance ranges from fines to foreclosure, clarifying to citizens that they do not in fact own the property for which they hold a title; we must pay rent to the government or be evicted.
The tax notice I was provided showed the break down of which government bodies would receive certain divisible amounts, the largest of which is the government school district in which I live—nearly $2,000, and $170 higher than last year’s mandate.
As a homeschooling father, I find this burden to be excessive and unjust. Because this taxation mandate carries with it significant penalties should I fail to pay, it becomes a priority expenditure. As such, the costs of my own children’s education becomes secondary; curriculum, materials, field trips, activities, and other resources needed to help my children learn can only be acquired after I have first financed the education of others’ kids.
“But!” the statist immediately interjects. “Surely this sacrifice is necessary for the good of society—it is the price we pay to live in an educated populace.” This argument is represented fairly well—though in nausea-inducing fashion—by author John Greene, who offered the following comment often paraded around by public school supporters:
We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your life, you benefit from public education. So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don’t personally have a kid in school; it’s because I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.
This commentary is full of logical fallacies. I definitely benefit from others’ education, which must be contrasted against schooling—the highly regimented, pedagogically watered down, and bureaucratically micromanaged daycare system in which millions of children are now eagerly placed by parents uninterested, unwilling, or unable to shoulder this aspect of their parental stewardship. The result is alarming, suggesting that heavy schooling does not really result in adequate (let alone excellent) education—which, in many cases, happens outside any formal schooling, and often in spite of it. (This definitely was my experience.)
Further, even if schools were a necessary environment to educate a person, it does not therefore follow that everybody who might indirectly benefit from a person’s education must be compelled to finance it. I definitely desire to live in an educated society and benefit from the wisdom and innovation that would follow. But I also desire to live in a religious and moral society—and few people have an appetite for compelling the payment of tithes, requiring attendance at church services, and intrusively ensuring that a person is acting in accordance with the moral standard defined by a panel of politicians whose claim to power is that they won a popularity contest.
The statist will have none of this, side-stepping this rebuttal to assert another illogical argument. “Imagine,” they say, “how oppressive it would be for families with several children to have to finance their own childrens’ education!” At first blush, many might have sympathy with this argument, but it, too, is easily dismantled. The simple truth is that parents have the responsibility of providing for their children, and in deciding how many children to have, must ensure they can adequately provide their offspring with food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and yes, even education. Put simply, I should not be forced to subsidize the family planning decisions of my neighbor.
Education, like any other service provided by one person to another, should be paid for by those who are its direct beneficiaries. Arguing that the societal masses indirectly benefit from my child’s education does not justify coercing others to finance it, any more than does the suggestion that grocery stores should be taxpayer-funded and regulated by the government because society benefits in the aggregate from having a healthy, energetic, and active population. Most initiatives will indirectly affect others, in positive or negative ways, but these corollary consequences are insufficient reason to intervene and impose mandates.
As a father, I hope my children grow to improve others’ lives to find fulfillment in their own. I want them to influence the world around them; a loving person, as Joseph Smith said, “is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the world, anxious to bless the whole of the human family.” This aspirational outcome, as it applies to their education, requires it be structured as and considered a blessing every step of the way, by all involved—and coercively taxing others to fund my children’s education divorces the praiseworthy ends from the illegitimate means. It is not an arrangement to which I can in good conscience consent for my own children, and it causes me to protest to being forced into this mandatory funding scheme to benefit other children over whom I am not a steward.
Education is paramount, and society is improved when composed of knowledgeable, hard-working people. This is not in dispute. The statists would have us believe that ends justify means, and that these means are the “price of living in an educated society.” But no price can be legitimately exacted from a person without their consent, and no consent has been granted by parents not using the government school system to shoulder its heavy financial burden in support of substandard educational outcomes for other children in their community. As such, justice demands that they—my family included—should be exempted from being required to pay.
But let’s not kid ourselves—a government that has systematized injustice is unlikely to concern itself with matters of justice such as this.