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Bailly
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Local Politics
Dec 13th, 2013 at 11:51am
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Hi.  I'm new to these forums, though I am no stranger to libertarian values.  I had always been interested in getting involved in politics (not running for office), but didn't think I could create real change on the national level.  However, it recently occurred to me that I might have a greater chance of success on the local level.  I know what I would need to do, but the question is how to do it.

Obviously, libertarians want to reduce the size of government; a philosophy with which I agree.  However, I'm not certain how that is feasible.  Oh, not that it couldn't be done, but it would be very difficult making that argument to most people.  For example, if I tried to get the local government out of education, the opposition would say that I don't care about the children, teachers, and family values.  They would win that argument every time.  I'd just be spinning my wheels.  What do you think?

Thanks for your help.
  
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Josh
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #1 - Dec 13th, 2013 at 12:15pm
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Welcome to the forum

Politics is a different realm than philosophy. Do people want free stuff or some abstract concept of "more freedom" or "economic stability"? What are people going to understand and respond to? I got involved in the Ron Paul campaign which was a good experience but I don't know if I'd get involved in politics again because it felt dishonest. I would convince people to vote for Ron Paul, but I would have to appeal to their individual beliefs and couldn't challenge anything. Libertarianism is easy to convince people to *vote* if you go door-to-door, but it is a whole other ballgame to convince people of the philosophy. In the Ron Paul campaign, if I got the sense that they were Liberal, I would focus on the social issues the most -- people want to hear that they would be able to smoke pot -- and shorten up the economics as simply balancing the budget so we don't get into any further recession, and would emphasize that he wouldn't cut Medicare, Medicaid, etc., but he would be cutting the Department of Energy and other departments people don't really know what functions they have. To more conservative people, I would emphasize that he wants to make huge cuts and shrink the social issues into something like "yeah he doesn't want the government paying all this money to provide free food & board  to drug dealers in prison."

From a philosophical and/or economic standpoint, libertarianism is the ultimate conclusion, but educating that many people of philosophy/economics is hard to do. Politics is not about honesty but about appealing to lobbyists; be them huge companies for funds or the majority of voters for votes. It's not about making good arguments and points; it's about making deals that satisfy whatever lobbyist group you're shooting for.

A political response to the school question: "What my opponent is doing is completely turning around my position and not accurately reflecting anything I've said at all. I have never advocated to get rid of education -- that would be terrible! I believe the education of your children is one of the most foundational aspects of society. Your children need to go to school every day in order to better their self-worth. [This has to be said so parents know they can drop their kids off at school when you're in office.] You see, my position is simply that it should not be me or Mr. Opponent over here making decisions on how YOUR kids are educated. You should have control over your children, and the funds to do that should be in the hands of you, not me or my opponent. [This is saying that we need to privatize schools, but it a very political way. It's appealing to people's controlling attitudes over their kids, making it appear better.]"
  

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Shiva_TD
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #2 - Dec 13th, 2013 at 12:49pm
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Hi.  I'm new to these forums, though I am no stranger to libertarian values.  I had always been interested in getting involved in politics (not running for office), but didn't think I could create real change on the national level.  However, it recently occurred to me that I might have a greater chance of success on the local level.  I know what I would need to do, but the question is how to do it.

Obviously, libertarians want to reduce the size of government; a philosophy with which I agree.  However, I'm not certain how that is feasible.  Oh, not that it couldn't be done, but it would be very difficult making that argument to most people.  For example, if I tried to get the local government out of education, the opposition would say that I don't care about the children, teachers, and family values.  They would win that argument every time.  I'd just be spinning my wheels.  What do you think?

Thanks for your help.


There are ways to implement libertarian political ideologies but I would maintain that the person must be a "pragmatic" libertarian in doing so. For example I made a proposal that would reduce the size of the federal government that both social conservatives and progressive liberals came to support by privatizing Social Security. It is outlined in this thread:

http://www.libertariansforum.com/cgi-bin/freedom/YaBB.pl?num=1385736520/0#0

It was pragmatic because it was based upon a 45 year transitional period that would be required. It provided the funding for the transition and ultimately eliminated Medicare completely and all but a small safety net for Social Security so "social conservatives" supported it. At the same time the safety net was four times better than what Social Security provides today so "progressive liberals" also supported it.

At the local level the same "pragmatic" libertarianism needs to be applied. We have a problem with "education" for example because predominately education in the United States has been funded by the community. The best examples are provided for by the US expansion into the West. Communities would get together to hire a teacher and build a school house and the "public" paid for the costs. Eventually this was incorporated into the "property taxes" collected by the local sheriff's office.

Basically public education was a process of political evolution in the United States that addressed the previous problems with only the wealthy being able to afford education.

Of course there are things that a "pragmatic" libertarian could address related to local education.

First and foremost, IMO, is break the power of the Teachers Unions that are concerned with the Teachers and not the Children, Focus on the children. One issue I'd bring up is that it doesn't require a four-year degree and teaching credentials to teach most K-6 grade classes. The teaching credentials yes but not a four-year degree. Any relatively intelligent person can teach these classes as this is very fundamental knowledge. I'd also standardize what is actually being taught to end the constant "updates" that cost money as well as taking away the ability of the "teachers" to repeatedly re-invent the wheel.

These simple measures would dramatically reduce costs and reducing the costs of government are a primary concern of the libertarian.

For 7-12 education I'd focus more on creating online course instruction. The initial investments can be high but online courses are easily revised and updated and can accomodate multiple learning styles as well as being "competency based" where ALL of the children learn the course material.

Once agian this focuses on the children by providing superior education while reducing the overall costs.


  
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Bailly
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #3 - Dec 13th, 2013 at 1:35pm
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Thanks for the quick responses.

To elaborate, I'm a strict pragmatist.  All I care about are results and creating real change.  I don't care to change anyone's mind, provided I have their cooperation.  That said, I would endorse anything that I thought would get results.  It just so happens that I feel libertarianism would deliver the best results.

@Josh I understand the politically correct thing to say.  However, I highly doubt that people would listen to those words.  They are far more likely to believe someone who claims I don't value education for children than if I were to deny them.  As for parents retaining control of their children's education, I think they would see privatizing public education as costing them more, since they have the entire population to pay property taxes to pay for it.  Even if I showed numbers showing otherwise, I'm extremely pessimistic that they would listen.

@Shiva I don't see how I could possibly fight the power of the teachers' unions.  They're far more powerful, influential, and supported by the public.

This is just one issue.  I could talk about any number of current local government functions that would result in the same argument.  Even if I found an effective argument to make, it would still be against those who have more power than I have.
  
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #4 - Dec 13th, 2013 at 1:50pm
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@Shiva I don't see how I could possibly fight the power of the teachers' unions.  They're far more powerful, influential, and supported by the public.


While the "Teachers Unions" are predominately about the "Teachers" and not the "Children" it doesn't imply that the actual members don't care about the children. Most of them do.

Once again it only takes framing the issues as being "beneficial" to the children is the correct method of accomplishing the task. How can the children benefit by reducing the costs of K-6 education or how the 7-12 grade children benefit from compentency based on-line education has a huge influence on the issues.

Focus on the children and how they benefit and the local Board of Education can simply reject any Teacher's Union contract that is contradictory to the benefit of the children.


Quote:
This is just one issue.  I could talk about any number of current local government functions that would result in the same argument.  Even if I found an effective argument to make, it would still be against those who have more power than I have.


"Those in Power" can be convinced if the arguments focus on how they benefit by the proposal.

Once agian I'll refer to my plan to privatize Social Security. I "sold" it to liberals because Americans would be at least four-times better off under all possible scenarios. To convince liberals to give up Social Security as a universal welfare program and replace it with private investment accounts was about as hard as it can get. It was a lot easier to sell to conservatives as it ultimately reduces the size of the US government by about 1/3rd although it takes almost 45 years to accomplish.

Focus on the benefits of whatever your proposal is and it will be a "winner" politically. This is one reason the "Republicans" are finding it impossible to eliminate "Obamacare" because they're not offering something better to replace it. If Republicans would propose something better than Obamacare they would have a "winner" but they aren't doing that.

  
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Bailly
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #5 - Dec 13th, 2013 at 2:31pm
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Let me give a personal example from my own life.  In my hometown near Chicago, property taxes went up 40-50% every three years (not an exaggeration), largely due to increases in the education budget for teachers' salaries and pension plans.  Nothing to do with helping the children.  If I were to have tried arguing against it, they would say that I don't care about the children.  So while the rest of us were taking pay cuts and losing our pension plans, the teachers got raises and kept their pension plans.

The problem is that the libertarian philosophy does NOT benefit those in power.  The only way for it to work is to take away their power, which they're not going to give up willingly.  Using the previous example, if I were in power, I would have denied the raises for the teachers and their pension plans, in order to keep the budget balanced.  At worst, they may have gone on strike, and if I held out, the people would blame me.

The only benefit is a reduction, or at least not an increase, in property taxes for education, which would be my motivation.  However, people seem to value having others pay for their children's education.  Furthermore, even if I were to succeed in privatizing education, it would take away power from families with children.  Even if they got a better education, I doubt they would be in favor of paying more money, since others would not, anymore.

I'm not sure how I could frame this argument in a way that benefits those in power.
  
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Shiva_TD
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #6 - Dec 15th, 2013 at 1:52pm
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Let me give a personal example from my own life.  In my hometown near Chicago, property taxes went up 40-50% every three years (not an exaggeration), largely due to increases in the education budget for teachers' salaries and pension plans.  Nothing to do with helping the children.  If I were to have tried arguing against it, they would say that I don't care about the children.  So while the rest of us were taking pay cuts and losing our pension plans, the teachers got raises and kept their pension plans.

The problem is that the libertarian philosophy does NOT benefit those in power.  The only way for it to work is to take away their power, which they're not going to give up willingly.  Using the previous example, if I were in power, I would have denied the raises for the teachers and their pension plans, in order to keep the budget balanced.  At worst, they may have gone on strike, and if I held out, the people would blame me.

The only benefit is a reduction, or at least not an increase, in property taxes for education, which would be my motivation.  However, people seem to value having others pay for their children's education.  Furthermore, even if I were to succeed in privatizing education, it would take away power from families with children.  Even if they got a better education, I doubt they would be in favor of paying more money, since others would not, anymore.

I'm not sure how I could frame this argument in a way that benefits those in power.


Several issues some of which are specific and which I could not find information on but it can be noted that Illinois has the some of the highest property tax rates in the nation but that also varies greatly by county.

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The median property tax in Illinois is $3,507.00 per year for a home worth the median value of $202,200.00. Counties in Illinois collect an average of 1.73% of a property's assesed fair market value as property tax per year.

Illinois has one of the highest average property tax rates in the country, with only six states levying higher property taxes.

The exact property tax levied depends on the county in Illinois the property is located in. Lake County collects the highest property tax in Illinois, levying an average of $6,285.00 (2.19% of median home value) yearly in property taxes, while Hardin County has the lowest property tax in the state, collecting an average tax of $447.00 (0.71% of median home value) per year.


http://www.tax-rates.org/propertytax.php?state=illinois

While the statement is that the taxes when up 40% to 50% every three years I would believe that was based upon property assessed value as opposed to an increase in the tax rates. I oppose arbitrary property value assessments but they don't change the tax rate, just the amount of money owed.

In recent years I seen my property taxes decrease significantly because of declining property values in WA after the mortgage market collapse. The rate was unchanged but what I owe changed a lot.

I don't believe that the increase in property taxes was a result of the increase in teachers pay or pensions and would suggest it was the other way around. Because of increased revenue the school board was able to "pay more" and so it did when the teachers unions offered a contract. It's sort of a chicken and egg argument ultimately.

Here is where I find a flaw in the argument though:

Quote:
The only benefit is a reduction, or at least not an increase, in property taxes for education, which would be my motivation.


If that is the sole motivation you're going to lose the argument because you won't be able to convince anyone that the "children" are the primary concern. The key has to be in providing superior education for less cost so the motivation has to be framed in the context of "superior education" that can be obtained for less cost.

Of course "undoing a contract" is much harder than preventing the agreement to a contract in the first place. How did "more pay and better pensions" benefit the children was the question that needed to be asked up front instead of after the fact.

Now the issue has now transitioned to "how do we reduce future costs and improve education without reversing the prior compensation for the teachers" which included wages and pensions.

See what I'm getting at? You can "sell" the powers that be on "improved education that reduces future costs" without cutting the existing teachers' compensation package. In fact it can be agued that the teachers' compensation package can be increased while still improving education and reducing overall costs.

BTW I was an instructor (i.e. teacher) in aerospace and I earned far more than a public teacher and we has smaller class sizes as well. One misrepresentation by many libertarians is that a "teacher" would earn less but from experience in the private sector I would say that compensation will be higher but the overall costs would be less. 

  
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Bailly
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #7 - Dec 15th, 2013 at 7:51pm
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Regarding my property taxes, my property values never increased in the last decade.  If anything, they drastically crashed, yet my property taxes continued to go up.

The argument the teachers' union would make is that by providing more pay and pensions for teachers, that would attract higher quality teachers; thus, giving a better education to the children.  Furthermore, if we don't give the union what they want, the teachers will go on strike, and then the children won't get an education at all.  That leaves me with two questions.

1) How do I make the case that a union contract is contradictory to improving childrens' education?  Changes to the union contract increased teachers' pay and the pension plans.  Increasing or decreasing that would have minimal impact on the childrens' education.

2) How do I reduce overall spending without cutting the teachers' pay and pension plans?  That's where the majority of the taxes are going.  Even if we stopped buying new computers, textbooks, and/or cut classes that had no impact on providing children with the education to succeed in the real world, that would be negligible compared to teachers' salaries and pensions.  At best, I might be able to mitigate their growth, but that doesn't undo the damage that's already there.

EDIT: A few other problems I thought of.

If education were privatized, this would have two negative effects on the teachers.  First, they would lose their ability to force wage increases.  As it is now, they can pretty much get whatever they want, because the government pays for it, and they can just raise taxes without a vote.  Second, even if they did make more money in the private sector, they would lose the enormous job security they have from working for the government. 

Similarly, this would also hurt families raising children.  Right now, the poor and middle class have the tax dollars of the rich, and other families not raising children, to pay for their childrens' education.  Even if privatizing schools would reduce overall cost and increase value in education, I would think that the individual families would still end up paying more.'

Even if I were to make an argument focusing on the children, there would still be massive opposition that I don't know how to overcome.
  
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Shiva_TD
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #8 - Dec 19th, 2013 at 11:29am
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Regarding my property taxes, my property values never increased in the last decade.  If anything, they drastically crashed, yet my property taxes continued to go up.


When I reviewed the Illinois property tax laws I didn't see any significant increase in the rates historically but that is really not the points of the issue being presented. Let me address those but realize that the change must be evolutionary and not revolutionary as many little pieces must be fitted into the puzzle over time.

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The argument the teachers' union would make is that by providing more pay and pensions for teachers, that would attract higher quality teachers; thus, giving a better education to the children.  Furthermore, if we don't give the union what they want, the teachers will go on strike, and then the children won't get an education at all. 


Both assumptions are actually false.

Only if we "depend" upon the "teacher" as opposed to the course material do the individual teachers become significant to the education of the child. If the course materials are really good then virtually any "teacher" can provide quality instruction.

Next is that if the teachers go out on strike and the Board of Education refuses to comply with the demands of the contract most will cross the "picket lines" and those that don't can be replaced if the course materials are good where any competent teacher can deliver the course.

The key to both issues is first the establishment of quality course materials that virtually any "teacher" can deliver with equal results. This is a lesson learned from private "competency based" course development I learned in college.

Quote:
1) How do I make the case that a union contract is contradictory to improving childrens' education?  Changes to the union contract increased teachers' pay and the pension plans.  Increasing or decreasing that would have minimal impact on the childrens' education.


The assumption being made is that all provisions of the contract are bad or not beneficial to the student provisions and that is not true. The issue of teacher pay and pension has to be placed in the larger context but once agian if we reduce the "independent" influence of a "teacher" by standardizing course material so any competent person can deliver the course materials (e.g. remove the requirement of a four-year college degree that isn't necessary if quality course material exist) then costs can be reduced overall even though those with "higher education" might be paid more.   

Quote:
2) How do I reduce overall spending without cutting the teachers' pay and pension plans?  That's where the majority of the taxes are going.  Even if we stopped buying new computers, textbooks, and/or cut classes that had no impact on providing children with the education to succeed in the real world, that would be negligible compared to teachers' salaries and pensions.  At best, I might be able to mitigate their growth, but that doesn't undo the damage that's already there.


I return to the same basic solution that standardized course materials based upon "compentency based learning" as oppose to the rote merorization of traditional education as well as more online instruction reduces the need for "high priced" educators based upon college degrees.

The key again is in converting the actual course materials to standardized competency course insruction that any competent person can deliver regardless of irrelevant requirements such as a four-year college degree. Teaching credentials make sense (I have those) but a four-year degree is not necessarily required for K-12 education.

First you need the course materials before addressing many of these issues.
  
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Re: Local Politics
Reply #9 - Dec 19th, 2013 at 11:52am
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EDIT: A few other problems I thought of.

If education were privatized, this would have two negative effects on the teachers.  First, they would lose their ability to force wage increases.  As it is now, they can pretty much get whatever they want, because the government pays for it, and they can just raise taxes without a vote.  Second, even if they did make more money in the private sector, they would lose the enormous job security they have from working for the government. 


Taxes cannot be raised without a vote and most places where I've lived additional expenses are often paid for with local tax initiatives as opposed to state property taxes. Sometimes they are an addition to the state property tax and sometimes they are in addition to a state sales tax but they are passed locally as opposed  to being by the State legislature. In all cases they require a vote by someone to fund the expenditures.

Even in private schools nothing prevents a union from forming. The only problem I find with teachers contracts that relates to "job security" is tenure which can and should be elminated. Unions are not inherently bad but allowing provisions that don't benefit the student can be and tenure does not benefit the student at all. 

Let's address this from another angle. If we converted to more computer based education accomodating different learning styles, if the courses were standardized, if the courses were based upon competency based training as opposed to traditional memorization, and if any competent person could become a "teacher" then the costs overall can be dramatically reduced allowing for higher individual pay at a lower overall cost.

Quote:
Similarly, this would also hurt families raising children.  Right now, the poor and middle class have the tax dollars of the rich, and other families not raising children, to pay for their childrens' education.  Even if privatizing schools would reduce overall cost and increase value in education, I would think that the individual families would still end up paying more.'


In purely "privatized" education the parents must carry the entire cost of education as there would be no taxation to support it at all. Of course young families don't typically have the financial resources to pay the full costs of education which is why we have public education.

I would also note that from prior studies I've read the "wealthy" or high income households have a lower tax burden relative to income in the States as most states have regressive taxation. There is a huge problem related to regressive taxation by the States where low income households have a much higher tax burden relative to income than high income households. This is a taxation problem though and while I create a thread on federal taxation I have yet to post my solution to eliminating unfair taxation at the state level where regressive taxation imposes a much higher tax burden relative to income on low income household than it does on high income households.

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Even if I were to make an argument focusing on the children, there would still be massive opposition that I don't know how to overcome.


Once agian this has to be done as an "evolutionary" process and the first place I'd start is with the course materials. Standardize the materials and convert to competency based learning. In competency based learning "all students succeed" as competency is assured by the actual course materials. There are no failures.

It also allows multiple learning paths through the use of computer based technology. For example some students might do just fine reading the history of "Gettysberg" because they are very competent based upon "reading" ability. Others would more easily gain this knowledge by watching the History Channel's documentary on "Gettysberg" because they are more attuned to visual learning styles.

Once standardized learning materials are in place it reduces the necessary "compentency" level of individual teachers because the teacher is no longer the "course developer" as well as the person delivering the course material. Currently we're paying teachers to be both the delivery person and the course developer when it comes to education. A "delivery" person does not require the knowledge of the "course developer" in instruction. Separate the two different roles over time and the "teacher" will cost less than the combine teacher/developer currently costs.

It is a step by step process that is going to take time to address and not something that we could simply walk into and pull a magic string. As each step is accomplished it allows for the progressive implementation of the next step.

  
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