Pay Teachers Like Professionals

In yesterday’s NYT  Tom Friedman recycles the idea of tax-cuts for teachers.   Kevin Carey picks it apart over at the deuce.  Kevin’s objections are important but the larger issue is that there are plenty of public officials who can make as compelling a case as teachers for some targeted tax relief:  First responders, the military, urban emergency room workers, and so forth.   There are better ways to achieve the same goal that do not raise those equity issues. 

For teachers, the bottom line is that we ought to pay teachers more but we ought to pay them differently as well — meaning finding ways to incorporate measures besides years of experience and earned degrees into salary plans.   Those measures include factors such as shortages by subject, hard-to-serve schools, special skills and knowledge, and performance and results.  Right now salary  (which comprises the majority of education spending) is overwhelmingly allocated based on years worked and degrees, two proxies that research shows have little to no relation to effectiveness.  

Friedman’s suburban angst, though, is implicitly getting at a real issue and so while his solution is problematic the issue he’s discussing is real.   One of the reasons that pay looks the way it looks today is because of an unspoken assumption that a lot of teachers won’t be the primary wage earner for their family.  It’s a legacy of the longtime demographics of the field and it has created a parasitic economy around teacher salaries.   Problem is, that’s not the case anymore, creates real problems, and is another reason to really professionalize how we pay teachers.   But that’s an input and an output issue, not merely an issue of just how much to pay.

32 Replies to “Pay Teachers Like Professionals”

  1. Hi Andy,

    I have a friendly amendment to this claim: “Right now salary (which comprises the majority of education spending) is overwhelmingly allocated based on years worked and degrees, two proxies that research shows have little to no relation to effectiveness.”

    I was pretty sure the research said that years of experience does matter, but mainly for the first few years of a teacher’s career. In other words, teachers with 3 years of experience tend to out-do those in year 1, but those with 15 aren’t necessarily better than those with 5 or 10. Is that the way you read it, too?

    Paul Manna

  2. A free market in education takes care of all the issues you name but this country will have to let go of the idea of government schooling. Otherwise, recommendations based on scientific management via government offer no real core change. Whether power is ceded to the administration or the union does not address the reality that public schools are protection rackets. Doesn’t anyone out there think it strange that a country called the ‘Beacon of Liberty’ would have compulsory attendance, unionism, taxation and a web of regulations designed to prohibit competition in any endeavor? And that in the USA they have the nerve to call it ‘education’?

  3. Reason, we have a free market education already. It’s called private schooling. It doesn’t use educational research because it only teaches kids who learn the old fashioned way, and lets the others fend for themselves. That’s called Social Darwinism.

  4. Loren,

    The existence of public schooling makes private schooling prohibitive for many: how are parents supposed to pay for public school and then have enough left over for private school? Besides, even private schools are subject to state qualifications. In addition, teacher unions have openly worked to ban home schooling. How can you say there is a free market in education?

    What school do you know of trades on the stock market?

    What is humane about compulsion? Many of these systems are larger than many countries’ armies. The top 27 districts in the US all have over 100,000 kids each. Now combine that with employees etc. That is no cause for alarm?

    The opportunity costs match the enormity of these behemoths. When profit-loss evaluations, a function unique to the market place, cannot be performed, a huge chunk of rationality becomes unavailable to school managers. So even if these systems’ planners wanted to do right by every child they could not. Educational research you say?

    So whose interest is being served? Well, who has the power? Loren, public schools exhibit the ‘Social Darwinism’ you speak of.

  5. The poor don’t pay property taxes and pay little to no income tax. Public schools are the only ones reaching out to them. If unions are trying to stop home schooling they aren’t doing a very good job. Since when have state qualifications kept private schools from competing? States have qualifications for driving, but I’m sure you have a driver’s license Reason. Last time I checked private companies didn’t have to trade on Wall Street to be competitive. By the way, since when has the market EVER been humane? Your penultimate paragraph is the very definition of Social Darwinism. In nyc the mayor’s interest is being served. IBM, McGraw-Hill, and Deutsche Bank have the power.

  6. Markets offer the opportunity to make “things” as good as they can get. For any individual that may really suck. For people in that position a rational choice may be to break with the market system in the hopes that they can get better. To do otherwise would require a person to act beyond reason and go by faith. And at that point one has to decide what one wants to put ones faith in.

  7. Loren,

    Voluntary exchange, the cooperation that characterizes the market, is by definition humane- unless you are a Bolshevik.

    But I agree with you on one point.

    Mayor Bloomberg and the banks can go to hell. Their so called privatizations, public-private partnerships and bailouts are essentially fascist, economically speaking. They have little to do with the market and everything to do with government power. But do two wrongs make a right? Teacher unions and public school systems have had special access to the tax spigot for generations as well.

    If what public schools have to offer is so valuable, then why is it forced on people?

    In addition, government schools have been complicit in the statist war machine. As institutions claiming to have the best interests of their students, public schools seem never to stand up for their kids when Uncle Sam comes a callin’ for more meat. But isn’t that the kind of ‘opportunity’ government creates? Corporations sell out for war bucks, that is true. The Progressive Gabriel Kolko has written extensively on this. The question is, what are teachers selling out for?

  8. Voluntary exchange- that’s like when somebody says that you don’t HAVE to do ANYTHING but die, right? As though not participating in the market was a viable choice?

    Reason, you really should include us in your train of thought, because about 75% of what would be necessary to follow you isn’t on the posting.

    BTW, they must have turned off my tax spigot, I just get paid to do my job.

  9. Loren,

    Humans participate in society because they know they will get more by working together. The market is just the cooperative way of production, bringing untold millions together peacefully. All other forms of the social division of labor, outside of autarkic farming, rely on coercion: slavery, conscription, public schools etc.

    You may ‘just get paid to do your job’ but the money comes from involuntary servitude- call it taxation (if you work in the pub school system). Funny, you use the same excuse of prison guards at Nazi death camps.

    Being unable to follow my ‘train of thought’ is another way of conceding you do not have any reasonable comebacks.

  10. Wow, it only took 3 responses to call me a Nazi, after calling me a Bolshevik. I’m not interested in offering comebacks. It seems to me that you are stating your conclusions with little of the reasoning behind it. A university professor would be writing lots of question marks and “does not follow” on your posts.

    Look, if you believe taxation to be slavery, then you aren’t much of a realist, are you? I don’t think this blog is the place for fantasy about free market utopia. The original post is about compensating teachers fairly, and using tax reduction to encourage more individuals to enter the profession. The majority of free-market advocates have supported this strategy in many areas.

    Recent education decisions in cities like NYC have nothing to do with govt power, unless you believe IBM and McGraw hill are the govt.

  11. Come now, Ms. Steele,

    I did not call you a Nazi or a Bolshevik but like to make peolpe realize that the statist economics being espoused by government types (like you) are not that different than totalitarian regimes.

    How do you know how much teachers should get paid? If you take away all the artificiality of union bargaining and protection, compulsory student attendance, access to tax money etc, then what would the real demand for education services be? No one knows but chances are that teachers would make less than half of what they make now.

    Teachers average over $50k plus benefits, have a near ‘job for life’, and only work for 9 months or so. The average joe makes half or less than that and has the added chance of getting fired. It is teacher compensation that seems rather “utopian”.

  12. So your condescending attitude was based on the misconception that Loren is a woman’s name? It is the northern European version of Lawrence or Lorenzo. Try some reason on that…

    Now I’m a statist government type? Don’t play coy about calling me a Nazi or a Bolshevik. Unions do en mass what individuals do when asking for a raise, they just don’t get bullied by large organizations, who, BTW, join together for the same reasons unions do.

    How can you justify blaming teachers for the existence of public education? What about the sacred founding fathers? I reject your notion that my profession should be compared to the average Joe. I have a BS in Biology/Chemistry and an MS in Marine Bio. I make $60-100/hr on the free market as a one-on-one tutor for high school and university students. I know my value, and you can’t afford me. Even if you paid me to babysit your kids, I’d make more than $50K/year.

  13. Loren Sir,

    No condescension here. It would be unbecoming towards someone with the fine credentials such as you posess.

    Re: Unions.

    You write: “Unions do en mass what individuals do when asking for a raise, they just don’t get bullied by large organizations, who, BTW, join together for the same reasons unions do.”

    1) Unions, by forcing membership and/or dues, take away an individual’s right to bargain for their own wage.

    2) Unions tend to drive up the cost of production and, this cost, all things remaining constant, has to go somewhere. It might fall to the consumer- which results in higher prices and/or lower revenue. Both the consumer and the industry loses in this case. Or, the company cuts back on labor- which lowers production and the level of employment. The potential employee, who is now back in the labor pool, is the most immediate loser. To add, the labor pool is now larger and wages go down in general. Unions hurt labor as a whole. This is why unions can make no claim to raising the wages of all workers.

    3) Unions are government created privileges and could not exist any other way-unless they actually declared themselves the government. Via legislation unions become protection rackets, modern versions of medieval guilds that, like other privileged groups, have less incentive to provide quality products and services. They do not answer to the market and are less accountable than, say, private tutors.

    4) Teacher unions are especially heinous because they have access to taxes which- if increased, can mask the deleterious effects of privilege and protection. Just raise the taxes and compuslory parameters!

    5) It is true that many corporations are cozy with government and support war prep as a means to enlarging their coffers against the wishes and well-being of the greater society. Corporations seem are often the most anti-market. Why compete in the unforgiving marketplace when you can buy a congressman or two and ensure revenue out of taxation?
    It is also true that unions sometimes check this corporatism. But it is more often the case that unions go along with the corporation in its effort to drink at the congressional spigot. Easy money has great allure. The current union-corporation-congressional synergy is akin to fascism.

    6) It would make sense to end corporative and union privilege at the same time- because both rely on privileges originating in government power.

    7) Even if many of the Founding Fathers supported public education it does not mean that they were right or that they had in mind these giant conglomerative districts with thousands and thousands of kids and employees living off of taxes and compulsory attendance. The history of schooling in America has largely been about one group trying to thwart another anyway. Whether it was Mass Bay Colony enforcing puritannical purity, or the 19th century movement of Protestants trying to stamp-out the Catholicism of immigrants, public schools have been low-level civil-wars.

  14. So now I’m part of the fascist triumvirate? I respect your idealism, but this dialog is merely an impractical academic exercise. Capitalism will always reward those who game the system, so it is easy to feel no moral obligation to play fair. I don’t cheat at cards, and playing with someone who is out to win at all costs makes the game no longer fun to play. My career choice is a sincere political decision I can afford to make. I challenge any small business owner to do my job for a year and then question my pay.

  15. Loren,

    Of course, there will always be people who try to cheat, murder, rape and steal. How to best de-incentivise and manage this while releasing the best of human potential? The problem with government is that it naturally creates an inequality that lends itself to the abuse of power. Does it make sense to you that the agency that is supposed to protect us, the government, sets the price for this ‘service’ and makes us pay no-matter-what the outcome? Monopoly can be a dangerous thing- especially in policing and security. No wonder why less than half of murders go unresolved in the USA and 9/11 went ahead smoothly for the terrorists.

    The government is that card cheater, the ultimate one for sure, you talk about. In the market place, unhampered by government privilege, entities are checked because they have to answer to their customers and competitors- not as a matter of idealism- but as a structural reality.

  16. I do have to say that the debates (free market vs. current system) or pro/anti unions get very old very fast. I would think the more INTERESTING discussion is the point made in the original post (“One of the reasons that pay looks the way it looks today is because of an unspoken assumption that a lot of teachers won’t be the primary wage earner for their family. It’s a legacy of the longtime demographics of the field and it has created a parasitic economy around teacher salaries.”)

    I actually don’t think that is true. I THINK the current system reflects biases in the 1950s that teaching will generate the sole salary – for unmarried women (and that it was one of the few professions open to them). A whole SLEW of partneralistic things flowed from this – quick tenure, slow but steady salary increases, significant penalities for trying to leave and then reenter the profession, etc. There is a really interesting field for policy wonks to work in – what would a 21st century compensation system really look like for teachers given lessons learned in other professional service areas (the law, accounting, financial services)?

  17. Bill,

    Your dismissiveness includes you in the debate de facto.

    The history of government school teacher compensation says nothing by itself. It is in the interpretation- the key to any historian’s character and quality- that wisdom is revealed. But history teaches nothing practical.

    What is more telling about your stance is in this quotation:

    “There is a really interesting field for policy wonks to work in – what would a 21st century compensation system really look like for teachers given lessons learned in other professional service areas (the law, accounting, financial services)?”

    You want the government to determine compensation and by what you think is science at that. You even go so far as want comparison with other professions. Well, here is something for the empirical analysis:

    Government teachers get their money by force; market professions get compensated based on voluntary exchange.

    If your policy wonks assume taxation- then their science is that of theft. The institutionalized ability to steal, or live off the expropriations of formal government, is synonymous with the provision of lower quality services for higher prices. Let us not forget that these policy wonks would be blinded to rationality in whatever compensation advice they give- not having profit/loss statements to reference.

    Policy wonks do not advance knowledge or justice in any way. Thanks for joining the debate with your statist positivism.

  18. Reason,

    Your passion, naivete and blind obedience to your false idol the market puts you at about the same level of reality as Karl Marx. You quote scripture from some 19th Century economics theory book, without any evidence other than your own self-righteousness. I doubt that anyone who actually is involved with the reality of teaching in the 21st Century even remotely cares about your opinions. You serve zero purpose here. Every one of your posts is a violent attack against the hard work we do every day. The Market works like Natural Selection. It always regulates itself eventually, after all the pawns die. I care about the pawns. You don’t have that level of humanity.

  19. Hmmm…I think we now know where Reason stands with the following (“But history teaches nothing practical” and “Policy wonks do not advance knowledge or justice in any way. ) I will be sure to forward onto the Reason Foundation (foolish me, I thought Reason might be from that group, one I respect and from which has flowed very good free market work) or CATO. Oh well, the quality of posts in blogs continues to scrap the bottom of the deepest barrel.

  20. Bill and Loren,

    Your combined disparagements cannot refute economic law. Privileged groups, those with political power, like public schools and unions, will exploit their power to produce less for more- because they can!

    If public schools, their administrations and unions, were run by saints there would still be serious management problems because they have denied private voluntary exchange. Central planners, whether Bolsheviks, FDR’s brain trust, Hitler’s henchmen, Mao’s great leapers, Secretary McNamara, FEMA or the Federal Reserve System’s ‘economists’, have all been policy wonkers- many of them brilliant- but failed to raise the well being of their society. Without freedom of exchange there cannot arise the study of profit and loss, the social function of entrepreneurship or the efficient provision of desired services and goods.

    The failure of the wonkers to see this negates their claim to real science. They tend to think that lab science may be applied to humans. To cut to the chase, let me just say that the problem isn’t whether we have the right policy. The problem is policy.

    pps. Reason Foundation: fun stuff but not hard hitting. much better.

  21. OK Bill. Beter. But lets be frank. A real challenge for the Mises and hard core libertarianism is really the entire IDEA of universal education. If you are being true to form, you can’t only disagree with unionization and cartels but really the very idea of the state imposing a demand that individuals consume a particular good (education) rather than exert free and unfettered liberty in how they what goods they seek to procur. There is a strong libertarian tradition that has argued that point. And one worth debating and thinking about.

    But once you conceed that we are going to have universal education then you have to ask yourself whether eliminating unions is the right “dragon” to fight. Not sure it is. So stale. So old. So unproductive. I find it MUCH more interseting to ask the question of whether, IF we conceed that there will be universal education, is the current system the right one for recruiting and retaining educators. What would a freer labor market for teachers look like? What would be the most efficient given that information about the quality of the recruit is, using the economic term precisely, costly to obtain.

    You would conceed, I believe, that there are very different compensation systems that have developed in law, accounting and finance r to recruit and retain professionals. Lawyers tend to pay associates very well, partners even better, and use hours billed as a proxy for understanding the ability of a lawyer to generate new clients. Financial advisors tend to hire a lot, pay low base, and then pay a commission. Accounting tends to eliminate the revenue pressures on new hires, focusing on ability to work productively in an audit team. Those differences have proven, through the discipline of the market, have proven to be the most efficient and thus largely universally adopted in those professions. An interesting question for libertarians is to think about what would be the most efficient system for recruting and retaining teachers – understanding that there are STRONG market disincentives (kids can’t go back in time) for subjecting children to a bad teacher and, as noted above, information for the buyer has fairly high costs. Don’t just trot out libertarian tropes – use them to construct the policy proscription that follows once you get rid of your despised unions.

  22. In a recent report by McKinsey & Company, How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top, this prominent consulting company finds that school success hinges on recruiting and supporting high-quality teachers for all students. The report looks at the world’s top ten high-performing school systems, according to OECD’S Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and seven rapidly improving school systems in the states. These school systems are characterized by these three attributes: 1) highly selective teacher hiring process, 2) a focus on developing effective instruction, and 3) access to high-quality teachers for all students. In brief, they invest in teachers as their most important asset, their human capital.

    Interestingly, the business leaders and other “free market” advocates who have greatly influenced public education policy over the past two decades have not shared with educators this relentless focus on human capital, which is common sense in the best and most innovative companies. Instead their focus for improving schools has been on a stodgy version of standards-based reform, driven by accountability and testing from the top-down. In this view, federal and state education officials and testing companies, along with psychometricians and educational researchers, carefully calibrate incentives and penalties based on test data. Their intent is to pressure schools, principals and teachers to move in the right direction with this simulation of market forces. Whereas the leading companies strategically recruit and develop their talent as the foundation for their competitive strength, these thought leaders and advocates of standards-based reform continue to seek to perfect accountability and assessment, thinking of human capital as an afterthought if at all.

    Moreover, our international peers like Finland and South Korea, outstripping us in student achievement in mathematics and science, recruit teachers from among their top college graduates because they have made teaching attractive not just in terms of money but in professional stature and decision-making authority. Yet our business leaders and education researchers have joined with the state education officials in a united front in the campaign to tinker with NCLB accountabiliity. As seen in the proposals for ESEA reauthorization, lobbying groups like Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors’ Association (NGA) are offering tweaks at the margins of NCLB, suggesting, for example, growth models for accountability to better account for individual student growth, and differentiated consequences for varying degrees of failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). They would bring a substantial increase in the top-down system of testing with their proposal for “multiple measures” (i.e., adding local tests and other measures to the statewide tests for accountability) and the next generation of performance-based assessments. This reform consensus would continue to leave teachers and the public disenfranchised.

    This would be more testing, more data, not less. It would make education even more complex, further removed from the simple wisdom gleaned in the McKinsey report that educational excellence depends foremost on investment in quality teachers. The utter failure of the current leaders in education policy to see and pursue investment in human capital reveals the impoverishment of the education bureaucracy. It suffers from a want of imagination, energy and creativity. What can explain this? It may be that business and educational researchers are highly vested in the current system of data-driven, not people-led, accountability and assessment. For business, aside from the obvious self-interest of test publishers and other vendors who profit directly from it, the emphasis on data and the focus on results is to speak their language. It shifts the very discourse about education to the language and methods of business management and thereby allows business leaders to speak from a superior position in shaping schools at the local, state, and national level. Similarly, the educational research world benefits from the current overemphasis on data, for this enables powerful research paradigms and the work of multitudes of scholars and students. Finally, given the exalted position of these two groups, educators themselves are self-selected to positions of authority in the education bureaucracy to the extent that they speak this language of data, accountability, and assessment. This vast preoccupation with testing and building systems of data-driven decision-making is blinding education reformers and leaders from the seminal insight that investment in human capital, recruiting, developing and supporting high quality teachers, is the single-most important factor in supporting achievement, confidence, and self-efficacy for all students. One wonders why the education system fails to act on this insight. It can only be that there is such a closed system of thought.

    Given this state of inertia, it would be naïve to think we can reform the education system with mere legislation. Such is the complexity and interdependence of the many parts of this system that reform efforts are unsustainable and quickly overwhelmed by the status quo. The “education industrial complex,” to paraphrase President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military industrial complex,” composed of bureaucrats, business leaders, and researchers, is continuing to tighten the bindings of data systems and accountability algorithms. Those closest to students — teachers and principals — are the least influential in this vast enterprise. Their voice is further diluted by the public face of teacher unions, regrettably caricatured in the press as jealously protective of the status quo, of various collective bargaining rights, work rules, pay and seniority. The real challenge of getting meaningful change, one based on investment in human capital, begins with restoring the stature and credibility of teachers and their unions as leaders in support of world-class schools and high quality learning for all students.

    The current system, however, is highly resistant to change. In April 2006, in response to yet another error by a testing company resulting in wrong test scores, Secretary Margaret Spellings called the major test publishers to Washington D.C. to demand that they get together and fix these systems. She stated that they needed to create error-free systems to keep the public faith in accountability and assessment. Following this meeting, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) offered to convene the top state education leaders and the test publishers into a collaborative enterprise to resolve these problems in testing operations. But tellingly, this initiative never got off the ground as there was little real interest in the endeavor. One of the stumbling blocks was the demand by the state testing directors that test publishers include a code of ethics, and in particular a promise that they would no longer directly lobby education chiefs or governors. This missed opportunity to improve the quality and accuracy of the testing systems belies the reality that the education industrial complex is motivated by its own interests, not those of students. Another example of this is when a test publisher tried to rush through data reporting at the request of a state client, foregoing the usual regime of quality control checks, the resulting errors in scores revealed the fragility of these systems. They are increasingly coming under strain as pressure mounts due to the increasing volume of testing and the demand for quicker reporting. Interestingly, over this same period, CCSSO, a non-profit organization, has aggressively pursued business partnerships for revenue, selling access to the education chiefs through various forms of membership and sponsorship to most of the top companies in education, including the major test publishers.

    The failure of the testing industry and education chiefs to regulate itself means we can expect further errors, and potential harm to students, every testing season. The implementation of NCLB and the emergence of this education industrial complex has subverted the integrity of testing and disastrously influenced the development of standards, curriculum, and instruction. It has corrupted the very processes of teaching and testing. And most tragically, it has blinded us to the true insight for reform, investment in and support of teachers and principals — human capital — that the top nations and top businesses understand to be the simple commonsense for achieving excellence.

  23. Bill,

    But you hit the nail on the head. I do advocate the complete abolition of universal education. It is the only way to increase the real opportunity for education within just limits, accountability and progress. “Universal Education” only means mass schooling accompanied by the economic problems I have already mentioned. UE also means a constant low-level civil war for the control of ideological levers at the points of centralization. Local or national (near) monopolies, almost always created by the state, are destructive of the most basic human rights of life, liberty and property.

  24. Don Long,

    You mention an Education Industrial Complex (EIC) and a paradoxical focus on testing, like ‘ NCLB tweaking’, as obstacles to an educational reform that should focus on human capital. Fair enough.

    I agree that the the bureaucrats, administrators and business interests fail in ‘self-regulation’. Like its cousin in the defense industry (you rightly point out the MIC), the EIC is a natural development when state control, centralization and conglomeration takes place. The hubris of the education planners, with their so-called scientific management, is also paralleled in the Pentagon. Although the Pentagon’s activities result in waste, murder and destruction. Economically speaking, the whole education endeavor, like the MIC, is akin to fascism.

    You say that teachers and unions should have their credibility restored in the public face as a piece of this human capital reform. But unions also create a block against change as a matter of legal ability to do so. That is what unions are about: parasitically exploiting their ability to provide less for a higher price. That is economics. Of course you would observe that “The current system, however, is highly resistant to change.”

    All this discussion of ‘human capital’ leads me to believe it is just another socialist euphemism, like the empty term ‘stakeholder’. Only when education is returned to civil society- the place where property rights still exist in some degree, where school is not compelled and forced via taxation, unionism and bureaucraticism, will this nation see progress in education.

    Essentially, government schools are unaccountable by definition.

  25. Reason

    You’ve made the same assertions in 10 different ways, never resonding to any questions or comments other than through repetition.

    Economics has no laws. At best they are vaguely formed hypotheses. I’ve never seen a field of study so fractured into small groups of thought. And you have it all set up to defend ANY evidence against your market hypotheses by calling the examples unpure or outliers. Which is what you’ve done in every post.

    Every claim you make about govt and unions can be made about those who control the markets. Your statements might apply to individuals in a small town agrarian-based economy. The reality is that “saints” in the market are small potatoes, and the winners don’t succeed because they make a superior product or hire the best MBAs. Those strategies aren’t cost effective. Instead, they gobble up competitors using every scam ever imagined until they monopolize the market. They cook the books to fool their investors. Those who profit most are long gone before the stuff hits the fan. Essentially, markets are unaccountable by definition.

    Why? To quote you, “because they can.” I get it, you don’t like paying taxes, or government, or unions, or universal education. I can’t imagine any scenario where your “laws” have been or could be put into effect. Do you get a thrill from the possibility of anarchy?

  26. Loren,

    The fallacious idea that ‘economics has no laws’ was part of the state ideology taught in late 19th century Germany. There were almost no liberal economists left in teaching positions in the entire empire at that time. Worse, this German “historical school”, which said that economic rules are determined by circumstance, taught the generations of German leaders that lost two wars and destroyed their society through hyper-inflation and fascism.

    Indeed, a review of what qualifies as economics today seems like a giant hodgepodge of disagreement and useless hypothesizing. But what needs to be understood is that economics is not empirical- its laws cannot be discovered by review of history or experimentation. Since there is no determinism in human behavior- there can be no laws of history. Likewise, trying to apply lab science to humans can never work. Humans do not have the predictability of physical objects- they are logical beings making decisions. It does not mean they make rational or right decisions- it just means that humans are hard wired to think about things.

    Economics is a deductive science- the study of human relationships.

    What we know irrefutably is that humans act and act out of a desire for something. Humans use scarce means to try and attain those ends sought. Supply and demand, which follow these realities, ia a law deductively derived, a prioristically. Not inductively.

    Therefore, the vast majority of what goes for economics today is really economic history, mathematics, statistics and lots of sophistry (read Paul Krugman’s NY Times articles). Real economics, where supply and demand are law, that leads to conclusions that are anti-socialist, anti-state and pro-liberty, is squelched because it stands as the greatest threat to the statist status quo.

    ps. I get a thrill at the possibility of justice- which means ending statism.

  27. How convenient for you that you have laws and irrefutable knowledge without evidence. And how terrible that the world is conspiring against you. There isn’t the possibility of evidence because real economics doesn’t exist. Boo hoo. And your conclusion regarding Germany is totally without merit or evidence. Just because I believe in Santa Claus and the myth is that Santa Claus delivers gifts, it does not follow that if I get a gift that it proves the existence of Santa Claus or that the gift came from Santa Claus. Deductive science requires givens that in your case no one accepts. Your facts are based on false assumptions, and your terminology is self-defined, and therefore useless in an intelligent dialog. The justice you wish requires decisions by institutions that you would have already dissolved.

  28. Loren,

    One basic tenet of the science of human action, an irrefutable one, is this:

    “Humans act.”

    By trying to refute this you would engage in an act and thereby prove the statement correct. Some knowledge is indeed based on logic and not open to empirical refutation. Before you jump to conclusions you might want to read up on Austrian Economics a little bit.

    You think I invent German history? Here, I even Wiki’d some of it for you:

    German Historicism Luminaries:

    Re: institutions. I will just say this. The demand for justice, protection, sustenance and society is the given. What means humans decide to employ in trying to effect these values can be judged through the lens of economics. In the absence of the state variants of police, courts, schools and armies does not mean an end to justice. It means that the opportunity for more just institutions that deliver on the social demand. Imagine a police force that is not forced on you- but rather you sign-up for its services after shopping around.

  29. Reason
    You are shifting to a more defensible position due to the weakness of your assertions. Any statement can be part of a syllogism. Your statement is ripe for equivocation and I’m sure that’s what you’re trying to set up.

    German History exists. Your interpretation and conclusions lack causality. There is no knowledge without evidence, merely belief. In your case, fantasy. If you have to shop around for justice, then it certainly doesn’t exist as a universal given. Please feel free to have the last word, because I won’t be commenting again.

  30. Kate,

    Thank you for all that you do. You might be able to get paid more if you worked public- but what keeps you from the system?

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