Each One Teach One

One thing I haven't seen around much anymore that we used often when I was in elementary school was the grab-bag. All of the students in a class each brought one treat to school. All of the treats were thrown into a bag, and then we could each take a turn reaching into the bag to pull out a surprise. Obviously, the game broke down if some students didn't bring anything. Those students had to be excluded from the exchange or else kids who had brought in a treat would be left with nothing in the end. After the game, perhaps, some kid might take pity on one of his treat-less friends and share a bag of candy or let him play with a toy. Thank goodness that era's school teachers didn't come up with any complex schemes of breaking gifts in half or otherwise shortchanging people who had actually brought in things.

Games like that work so well with kids because they mesh with their natural insight as to how the world should work. From early on, it seems most of us can readily pick up and accept the intuitive moral order. Then, as John Taylor Gatto illustrates for us, the job of the crust of individuals who run the system is to pound that common sense out of us.

I work with a great group of individuals. In turn, we work for a division of a great business that sells double-digit interest loans to people with lousy credit (historical aside: this American company was almost destroyed when it was nearly entirely nationalized during World War One to perpetuate Woody Wilson's arrogant murderous fantasy of remaking the world to suit himself). Not surprisingly, in light of the intellectual pollution still eddying in popular thought, a few of my coworkers express a touch of shame to work in our business. One story I picked up in the office was that a couple of my predecessors quit their jobs there shortly after being hired because they were ashamed of the interest rates we charge our customers. My most completely propagandized coworkers carry notions that the individuals who work for non-profits or government bureaucracies are performing morally superior work. One of the satisfying activities of my day is to disabuse someone of these loony ideas.

My point is irrefutable: Everyone who produces valued goods or services to throw into the great swap-pot is helping out his fellow human beings. Those people who bring nothing to throw into the pot (or the worse case of those who simply take from it) diminish the pot of stuff with which the rest of us trade. Of course, I often get the standard response of how self-serving profit seekers are just in it for the money ' how they aren't truly helping anyone because they are only interested in stuffing their own pockets. But this refrain is easy to respond to with examples related to the other person's own experience. For example, would they argue that the physician who treated their broken arm in exchange for pieces of paper was not helping them? Or does the guy at the community center qualify who taught the class on simple car maintenance for the automotive ignoramus? My personal favorites from the ranks of the under-appreciated are the workers in fast food places. I love these people. Despite the disdain and jokes heaped upon their profession, they do honorable work day after day in relatively difficult conditions. They directly make my own life better, providing me with a satisfying meal three or four times a week. When I think of civilization's heroes, my hat goes off to the convenience store clerks who risk their lives on a nightly basis to enable me to make a midnight run for a packet of cough drops. A lot of these heroes are assaulted, robbed and murdered every day, and unlike a lot of weapon-toting government employees, they are forbidden by the companies that employ them from even trying to protect themselves.

Take profit, non-profit, volunteer and even a few tax-funded workplaces--everyone who produces treats to throw into the great grab-bag is helping out and should be proud to do so. And of that lot, those workers who operate on the voluntary exchange end of the spectrum--aside from being the most efficient producers--own the moral high ground, because persuading people to trade with you is morally superior to forcing them to do so.

I invite every freedom-lover to fight these little battles against ignorance! The cognitive dissonance that the truth creates in classical liberalism's opponents weakens their morale. Occasionally, it will even convert one or two of them. For anarchists, objectivists, minarchists, libertarians and constitutionalists, this is an ideological fray in which we can close ranks on the same side. If the final testimony of the lives of Spooner, Thoreau, Rothbard and many other intellectual trailblazers teaches one lesson, it is that we'll all very likely be taking the long dirt nap before a philosophy of individual liberty comes to dominate society's thinking. So let's leave the internecine purges for that future ideological generation and today enjoy the stimulating thrill of shining the light of truth on collectivism's intellectual house of cards.

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Bob Jackson's picture
Columns on STR: 27

Bob Jackson is the author of "The Amazing Liberteens."  His libertarian comic book can be viewed online by clicking the SANCTUARY link at www.amazingliberteens.com.