From R.C. Hoiles
September 30, 1949
Ludwig von Mises
777 West End Avenue
New York 25, N.Y.
Dear Mr. von Mises:
The English language doesn't mean a thing if you say you were not expressing an opinion of page 872 where you say: “In countries which are not harassed by struggles between various linguistic groups public education can work very well if it is limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Does not the phrase “works very well” express a good thing, or what does “works very well” mean if it is not an endorsement?
I contend that it cannot “work very well” and that it does great harm because it teaches the youth of the land that their parents are not responsible for the support or education of their children and that the parents have a right to gang up and make those people who do not want public education pay for it. It teaches the youth of the land by example that we do not need to have a definite limited government, and that if the government has a right to force people to pay for an educational system that they believe will destroy the country, then the government has a right to do anythingâ€”it is unlimited.
It cannot “work very well” because it interferes with an unhampered market. In fact it is the worst form of interference with an unhampered market. it takes from an individual who wants to education his own children part of his life energy and part of his income – part of his money that he would use in helping direct the market as to the things and services he wanted produced.
I am assuming, of course, that when you use the word public education that you mean tax supported education.
In your next to the last paragraph on page one, you say a man could write a voluminous book exclusively devoted to this issue (public education). No one can defend public education. He could write a long book just like Karl Marx's book on socialism that is just a lot of contradictions and absurdities. Any man who tried to contend that public education could “work very well” couldn't rationally defend his case in one hundred billion pages.
On the top of page two, you seem to use constitutions “written or unwritten” as a guide of human conduct. The first official doctrine of the United States government was the Declaration of Independence. By no stretch of the imagination can it be interpreted that the majority has right to coerce a man to pay for something he doesn't want to buy It contends that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,--That to secure these rights, government are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Notice the word “all.” That is mathematical – it includes everybody. We do not have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” if the government has a right to interfere with a man's pursuit of happiness by taking away from him part of his life energy. Notice also that it says “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It does not say from the consent of the majority governed. And the word “consent” certainly meant a voluntary agreement. The late Everett Dean Martin said that this meant that we would have to have a very limited government in order to get the consent of those who wanted their life and property protected. If men do not want their life and property protected and other people's life and property protected, it is not praxiologically sound to force them to pay taxes. If they pay taxes, they will very soon get control of the government and instead of protecting property will be its great despoiler. We are noticing this take place more and more in the United States as it is in England and throughout the rest of the world.
You refer to Poland's “liberum veto” implying that it would have survived if it had been governed by majority rule. Can you name a single nation that ever lasted very long where the majority had a right to force the minority to pay for anything that the majority wanted? Your contention is absolutely incompatible with an unhampered market and weakens your whole book.
I am amazed that you say: “The Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitutions of all 48 states have adopted the majority principle.” If that be true, then why did the Constitution specify that each state should have the same number of senators no matter how different the number of people in each state? Then why did the Constitution specify that this condition could not be changed without the consent of every state, let alone the majority of two-thirds? There are some things that will greatly reduce the production by interference with an unhampered market even if every citizen agrees to it. The number that agree to a course of action has nothing whatsoever to do with the practicability or usefulness to bring about a desired result.
If we are to study governments that will permit or encourage an unhampered market we must not look at history. There never has been a government that completely practiced or even completely sympathized with an unhampered market. The principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence approach it nearer than any other governmental document that I ever know of. The Constitution was a bad compromiser. It has been changed many times by amendment and by Supreme Court decisions. When you refer to our Constitution, I do not know what Constitution of the United States you are referring to. Did you know that William Garrison said the Constitution was in league with the devil and burned it? It sanctioned slavery, and slavery is the very antithesis of an unhampered market.
I am certainly glad that you didn't put in your book some of the majority rule ideas that you have written in your letter of September 23rd. It certainly would have weakened your whole book.
Kindest regards, I am
Yours very truly,
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