How Communistic!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the course of looking for blogging material one morning, a passage from this column, on a curious personnel decision by Apple, jogged an old memory. The passage?

[Criminal justice reform advocate Pat] Nolan agreed that there are jobs from which employers might reasonably bar ex-cons. Most businesses, for example, would not want to hire check kiters to operate cash registers. You don't want convicted child molesters working in public schools. Nolan thinks private employers should be able to tailor employment policies to keep certain offenders from sensitive jobs. [bold added]
Setting aside the small matter of the propriety of the government meddling in hiring decisions at all, it's the adjective public in the above passage that interests me.

I'm sure that Debra Saunders didn't intend to imply that we'd want child molesters working in private schools -- but not in public schools. The adjective probably went into her draft -- and through her editors -- out of habit. We are so used to the government running schools that the phrase "public schools" seems to be tantamount to "schools" for most people. For someone like me, who is interested in massive changes to the cultural and political status quo, the death grip such ideas have on the minds and imaginations of the public is a serious concern: We often find ourselves running head-on into things it doesn't even occur to the vast majority to question.

Another of those things people take for granted -- and this is what the passage reminded me of -- is what constitutes fairness. Most people learn -- wrongly -- from an early age to regard altruist ethics and collectivist politics as the ideal and implementation of fairness. These notions and their cultural penetrance were exemplified by myself when I was around eight. I was looking at a globe and saw the vast swath of the earth occupied by the USSR. Grasping vaguely that the Soviets were enemies (but clearly not why), I informed my father what I'd do about that state of affairs:
"I think we should divide the Soviet Union equally among all the other countries."

"How communistic!" my father said, smiling.
Although he did not explain the contradiction, my father's quip instantly made me aware that I'd said something odd. (Although I remember this, and there were other similar things he said that stand out, this did not directly lead me to question communism or altruism. I will say that I owe it to my dad that such comments made me aware of a certain kind of issue most people did not seem to be aware of. I'd only much later realize that these were philosophical issues.)

Such is the prevalence -- and early introduction -- of certain ideas that the task of contesting them is quite difficult.

-- CAV

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