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The Chattanooga nonprofit sector is dangling gift money before people in hopes they will help improve government schools.
The sector in view of these charitable sentiments in the biggest consumer of tax dollars in Hamilton County, absorbing F$405.68 million from the county’s budget, about 61 percent of the total for 2016. It is funded by state and local exactions and a stream of free money borrowed from future generations by that hallowed entity in the district of Columbia.
“Public education will always be a work in progress,” Jim Coppinger, county mayor, says.
The effort is organized by a group launching Causeway Challenge 4, “Causeway believes in equipping average citizens to solve problems they identify in their own communities. Through the Causeway Challenge, we look to the wisdom of the crowd to solve some of our city’s toughest challenges.” The group proposes framing the public school problem, and “you propose a solution.*** [W]e are asking: How can parents help transform public education in Chattanooga? *** Parents, guardians, grandparents, family members, and caretakers play an extremely important role in a student’s life. What tools can we build to help busy parents support their kids? What information do parental figures need to be able to advocate for public education?”
Causeway will reward the best applicants in the contest with sums up to F$3,000. The project should be led by individuals, be “small-scale, well planned, and able to make significant progress with $3,000 in four months,” bring people together a fit Causeway’s locally oriented and humanitarian ideals.http://www.causeway.
The Causeway argument is that local problems are amenable to local solutions, that because public schools are here, a contest for winning ideas would let local parents “help transform” the system. The group has net assets of F$1.46 million, its biggest funder being Benwood Foundation, a local nonprofit, according to Causeway’s 50-page 990 form of 2014.
But I wonder if the goodwill of founders Stephen Culp, Rob Bettis, Heather Ewalt, Andrew Scarbrough and Stephen Scarbrough is not wasted on an entity that by design cannot “produce” a “good education” product and which perhaps doesn’t need another voice lobbying for it. The wisdom of the crowd is exactly that which public schools do not need. The wisdom of the crowd is one of the beauties of the Causeway crowdfunding concept — groups of people make small donations or purchases to support a project. The sharing economy and crowd-sourcing are anathema to the centralized system that runs from a bureaucratic top-down rule-bound and backward-looking system.
Collective vs. individual
Ludwig von Mises in his 1944 book Bureaucracy explains officialdom.
➤ “The objectives of public administration cannot be measured in money terms and cannot be checked by accountancy methods.” One can no more determine if a program of the Chattanooga police department is successful in dollar terms than a teacher skill enhancement seminar is successful. Success cannot be measured in dollar terms. A money grant increases the work done, and any act of discretion by an official expands the scope of his duties to consume all funds.
➤ But bureaucratic management is actually better than its replacement, “profit management,” in which the state operation is not bound by rules, but is expansive and seeking of dominion. (p. 44)
➤ Bureaucracies are unwilling to accept novelty, are conservative, built upon “a perennial and immutable doctrine” like that pyramid of government in Rome in the counter-reformation. “[I]t is precisely this adamant conservatism that makes bureaucratic methods utterly inadequate for the conduct of social and economic affairs.” (p. 103)
➤ “It is not fine to be a young man under bureaucratic management,” von Mises says. “The only right that young people enjoy under this system is to be docile, submissive and obedient. There is no room for unruly innovators who have their own ideas.” (p. 100)
Von Mises aligns the operation of state bureaucracies with a form of worship. The essence and superiority of mankind are enwrapped in his state administration. “When a German says ‘der Staat’ or when a Marxian says ‘society,’ they are overwhelmed by reverential awe. *** The good is embodied in the great god State, the materialization of the eternal idea of morality, and the bad in the ‘rugged individualism’ of selfish men. In this antagonism the state is always right and the individual always wrong. The State is the representative of the commonweal, of justice, civilization, and superior wisdom. the individual is a poor wretch, a vicious fool.” (p. 75)
Outgoing Dr. Rick Smith is “the humble handy man” of the god State, and so might be his interim replacement. While negligence in the Ooltewah high school rape case is the cause of Dr. Smith’s departure, nothing among his sins disturbs the paradigm of state management, state systems, state reorganization of human relations (poor black youth shifted to ritzy Ooltewah) and state authority by schooling.
“The State is the only institution entitled to apply coercion and compulsion and to inflict harm on individuals” for the greater good, von Mises says (p. 76).
Causeway’s goodwill and idealism, like that of the Chattanooga 2.0 lobby, are either of two things. Naive misunderstanding of how state systems work and an overestimation of marginal private activity. Or willful support of a system based on a religious faith in mankind at his organizational best. Either way, Causeway implicitly rejects private solutions as a starting point. The free market is not in view except as an ameliorative benefit for an existing state-based structure that has already been bypassed and rendered less relevant by the digital marketplace and freedom-oriented homeschooling.
The bureaucrat embodies the very best of organized mankind. I say that even though the winsomeness of bureaucracies are much declined in the past 80 years.
Advocates of state control in 1930s Germany” clothed all men in the government service with the gloriole of *** altruistic self-sacrifice. From the writings of the German etatists the civil servant emerges as a saintly being, a sort of monk who forsook all earthly pleasures and all earthly happiness in order to serve, to the best of his abilities, God’s lieutenant, once the Hohenzollern king and today the Fuhrer. The Staatsbeamte does not work for pay because no salary however large could be considered adequate reward for the invaluable and priceless benefits that society derives from his self-denying sacrifice. *** Every civil servant is, when on duty, a mandatory of the State’s sovereignty and infallibility” (p. 78).
Parents can no more “help transform” the state factory school in Chattanooga than they can help improve the design of the Passat dashboard or fenders at Volkswagen. School systems are as unflinching against private solutions as an Abrams tank is against a peppering of pellets from a shotgun. The Hamilton County school system is internally rational and immune from meddling in its great mission delivering us from ourselves.
Sources: 2015 CAFR, Hamilton County government
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (Cedar Falls, Ia: Center for Futures Education, 1983, 1944). https://mises.org/
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