July 2, 2019 by Anders Ingemarson
A few weeks ago, my wife and I had dinner with a good friend on the left and her husband. Our friend is passionate about education and especially the plight of children from low-income households, so she was thrilled by a bill recently signed into law here in Colorado expanding state funding for kindergarten from half-day to full-day.
When I mentioned that I couldn’t support such a bill because I object on moral grounds to forcing some people to pay for others regardless of how worthy the cause, she got very upset. I tried to explain that compassion for children in need should be funneled through private initiatives by those who care the most convincing their fellow men to voluntarily support their mission. However, I didn’t do a very good job of it, basically coming across as the proverbial unfeeling jerk who doesn’t care about our kids.
So here’s an effort to put my views in a broader context. No, it probably won’t change the mind of my friend, but hopefully she’ll gain an appreciation of, if not agreement with, where I’m coming from. And others who may struggle with this and similar issues will hopefully find it of value.
Communicating ideas and principles to friends, acquaintances and the broader public is a never-ending journey of personal improvement. If you feel so inclined, please share your thoughts and suggestions on how to further enhance the messaging.
When I learn about new government funded initiatives such as full-day kindergarten, my immediate thoughts go to those who are not mentioned: the unseen, forgotten, often innocent victims:
- The school owner with a passion for providing an alternative educational experience but struggling to make ends meet, for whom full-day Kindergarten is a death knell because it is giving the neighborhood government (public) school too much of a competitive advantage.
- The teacher at a local co-op who may lose her job if enough parents decide that the promise of “free” full-day Kindergarten is enough of a financial temptation to reluctantly pull out.
- The child who is thriving in an alternative educational environment, and whose parents are penny-pinching to afford the tuition as they also are forced to pay state income tax, sales tax and property tax that fund education they’ve elected not to use. Perhaps full-day government kindergarten will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and forces their child into the fold of public education.
You may say this is a small price to pay for providing full-day kindergarten for the majority of children and especially those in dire straits through no fault of their own. But what appears a small price to you and other supporters is a big price for those whose lives are changed for the worse at the stroke of the governor’s pen.
Perhaps you argue that this is how a democracy works, and you would be correct. In a democracy, the will of the majority trumps that of the minority. Described differently, in the name of democracy, the rights of the individuals in the minority are violated by those in the majority.
Our country has drifted towards democracy since its founding, but democracy was not the original intent. The founders provided us with a moral blueprint rooted in human nature, the Declaration of Independence, which states that each of us has inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Building on the founders’ achievement, the framers gave us a political blueprint, the Constitution, with its intricate system of checks and balances aiming at protecting those rights, preventing all types of tyranny from taking hold, including the tyranny of the democratic majority. Despite a magnificent effort, the result wasn’t fool proof, which little by little has brought democracy upon us.
When looked at in isolation, without regard for the consequences for the victims, full-day kindergarten may seem a worthy cause for the government to get involved with. But when you championed government funded full-day kindergarten, you not only chipped away at the rights of the minority, but in the same breath voluntarily asked the government to take away some of yours.
Since there is no shortage of worthy causes, in a democracy the government will over time play an ever-growing role in our lives with the aid of different majority constellations successfully championing their initiatives of choice. And one worthy cause at a time, our inalienable rights are more and more infringed upon until some day we find that the government has tied our hands. Like an invasive weed, it slowly takes over the meadow where a thousand flowers used to bloom. History is full of examples and we’re in the process of repeating them.
This doesn’t mean that full-day kindergarten is an unworthy cause. Like you, many compassionately feel the plight of innocent children coming to school without a proper breakfast, children who cannot concentrate because mom and dad are fighting every day, children who are left to fend for themselves after school because mom or dad has to work three jobs to make ends meet.
But in my book, the men and women with the biggest hearts and the most compassion put their time and money where their mouth is:
- Men and women who organize or finance volunteer efforts in their communities that help those in need.
- Men and women who, regardless of how worthy their cause, refuse to violate the rights of their fellow men by asking the government to step in.
- Men and women who know that spending their neighbor’s money by force is an immoral shortcut to their goals.
Delegating your compassion to the government is at best a mistake, at worst a convenient way of numbing your guilt for not doing enough, and always a violation of the rights of not only the unseen, innocent victims in the minority, but all of us, yourself included.
This, dear friend, is why my conscience prevents me from supporting government financed full-day Kindergarten.