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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8402/peddlers-of-ideas/

Peddlers of Ideas

August 15, 2008 by

Book Pddler

I realize that many teachers today would consider it demeaning to be called a “peddler” — even a peddler of knowledge and ideas. I consider it a badge of honor.

In a free market in education, teachers would be sales reps for their schools.

Catering to needs and wants is the challenging task of, first, identifying the needs and wants of one’s customers, then carefully crafting products that will meet those needs and wants. The teacher who does this successfully year after year is a peddler par excellence and deserves praise.



Ohhh Henry August 15, 2008 at 11:43 am

My teenager told me the other day, “I’m glad I took that Saturday morning acting class last year because I learned more about acting in 2 hours there than I learned in theatre classes at school, where they taught me nothing in 2 years.”

The Saturday morning classes are taught by fairly impoverished young actors and directors who do it for a fairly small salary with zero benefits and zero job security. The public school theatre classes are taught by professional teachers with Bachelors and often Masters degrees earning around $70-80k per year with gold plated benefits, ironclad job security, and 2-month paid summer vacations plus weeklong Christmas and Spring breaks.

What’s the difference? One activity is cheap and rewarding, the other one is expensive and useless.

The Saturday morning classes, while subsidized by local government (meaning, a useless municipal arts bureaucracy sticks their noses in periodically), are entirely voluntary – nobody is forced to attend them or pay their fees, so if they taught *nothing*, nobody would show up and they would lose their funding. The public schools are compulsory and no matter how worthless we are forced to fund them and our children are forced to attend.

Harry Wood August 15, 2008 at 11:51 am

Dear Mr. Kirkpatrick,
I can easily agree with your premise that a free market educational system would be superior to our current pubic educational system. But I have to ask two questions. First, in a capitalist society the rich can enjoy the finest available and arguably that is still true for education today, the rich send their children to private schools, and the poor have to settle for nothing. Is that how you would see education working? You are destined to abject slavery if you are unfortunate enough to be born into poverty. And second is simply this, who would be the customer in this free market system, the students or the parents? If it is the parents then that would not be a truly free market system would it? Should we let the students choose? I would not have an issue with that even considering some will make terrible chooses. As my dad used to tell me “either start making better decisions or become a ditch digger, the world will always need good ditch diggers.”

EnEm August 15, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Peddlers? In a free market they would be revered. In a free market a 15-year-old pimple-faced punk would not have the gall to think that he’s doing the teacher a favor just by turning up in class and then goofing off. And why would he not have the gall? Because the Free Market is a philosophy that is driven by the concept that free economies are created by free minds. And a Free Mind is a grave responsibility. Capitalism and its executive arm the Free Market are not just economic conveniences to be practiced by ruthless communist regimes and dictatorships.

magnus August 15, 2008 at 1:32 pm

You are destined to abject slavery if you are unfortunate enough to be born into poverty.

If you believe this tripe, you must be entirely in the thrall of the State’s propaganda.

The State has apparently succeeded in convincing you that some bogeyman is out to get ‘cha … but never fear! The almighty State is the only organization capable of rescuing people from being ground under the boot of said bogeymen.

It’s a lie. It’s complete garbage. The modern corporatist State IS the threat. The State creates and causes all sorts of problems, and then convinces people that this fictional bogeyman is the culprit. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

The State is not only wholly incapable of rescuing anyone, it is the most effective instrument of death, destruction, impoverishment and enslavement yet devised in the history of mankind.

Michael A. Clem August 15, 2008 at 1:50 pm

the rich send their children to private schools, and the poor have to settle for nothing.
People like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton made huge fortunes by finding ways to reduce their costs and sell their products to people who previously had been unable to afford them. I see no particular reason why a free market in education would not be able to provide education to the poor, even if it wasn’t as good an education as the wealthy get–it would still be better than what they get in the public school systems.
A private market is more flexible, more adaptable, and can engage in niche marketing and specialization in ways that the public sector cannot. And what with computers, the internet, and other advancements in technology, information, and such, there’s no reason that some pretty impressive educational progress couldn’t be made in the short term.

Lorenz Kraus August 15, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Don’t public schools deliver nothing for millions already? The fear of capitalism in education is simply fear. Didn’t Roosevelt say, there is nothing to fear but fear itself?

Here’s more.


The freer the economy the cheaper and more developed everything else gets. Computers improved the ease of writing, which improved the writing and publishing of knowledge everywhere. Maximizing the benefits of freedom by starting a tax-free society is one way to make that experience real. http://taxfreesociety.com

magnus August 15, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Don’t public schools deliver nothing for millions already?

No, it’s even worse than nothing. Nothing would be preferable.

For the millions of stolen money that they spend, they deliver several things — a population conditioned to accept mandated conformity, checkpoints, a lack of privacy. Its graduates are inculcated with a herd-mentality, fear of life outside the collective, and Stockholm-syndrome attitude toward authority and governmental organizations.
In other words, they perpetuate attitudes that tolerate and support the State.

And that’s not even counting the content of the so-called “curriculum,” which by any reasonable assessment is simply a massive dose of lies about the history of government. Government-run schools are the primary delivery system for the State’s propaganda. They were designed by avowed socialists for that very purpose.

Make no mistake — government-run schools are prisons. The ones in poor neighborhoods are more obviously prisons, with metal detectors, random searches, police forces, official papers for the inmates, drug-sniffing dogs, bars on the windows and chains on the doors, etc.

The ones in middle-class and above neighborhoods are nicer, but they are still prisons. They are more your Brave New World type of prison — where the inmates are programmed into enjoying the conditions of their captivity.

Marcello August 15, 2008 at 9:08 pm

About the poor, they would get a more valued education. Of course the free market will have parents choosing because they want what’s best for their children. The Montessori method was invented to help the poor get better education, but friend of John Dewey, Kilpatrick, would have none of it. He criticized the method because kids would sometimes work in solidarity being focused on their self-motivated project. The poor already get a bad government funded education compared to middle class suburbs because they rely on the value of the property rights.

Jerry Kirkpatrick August 16, 2008 at 12:25 pm

In response to Harry Wood, the rich will not be the only ones to be educated in a laissez-faire capitalist society. That’s the point of my analogy to the clothing market. Everyone, both rich and poor, have their bodies clothed quite well, and that’s without any government involvement. The poor may have to wear shirts made out of chicken feed sacks, as I did as a kid, but it’s still clothing.

Today we do not live in a fully capitalist society. Education in particular is highly socialized. If the government got completely out of education and all other businesses, one organization calculated that every man, woman, and child in the US would find something like $19,000 each in our pockets per year. That’s quite a chunk of change to spend on education and other necessities.

Who decides? Well, the parent pays the bill (until college and often then, too), but children are the users, so, as they get older, they will help in the decision making. This differs not a whit from the clothing market today.

And, by the way, I helped dig a couple of ditches in my youth. It’s not a bad way to make money!

John Westra August 16, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Peddling the same old educational system isn’t going to work. Just as Detroit needed to improve its products to meet the superior quality and warranties offered by Japanese competitors in the 80′s and 90′s, so too the public education system needs reduce waste (tenured non-performers, bloated administrative overhead, etc.) and provide a superior product.

I sent my two sons to a private school with tuition that was less than 2/3 of what the state pays to public schools to educate a student. This for me is a compelling argument for the controversial topic of school vouchers.

As the world continues to “shrink” we will increasingly find ourselves up against nimble, well educated global competitors. If we want to remain competitive and have good paying jobs go to the sons and daughters of people who are currently citizens of this country, we must act NOW! The window of opportunity for reinventing our educational system is closing rapidly.

magnus August 17, 2008 at 12:01 am

This for me is a compelling argument for the controversial topic of school vouchers.

You may want to browse around this site for discussions of vouchers — it should be clear that they are a sure-fire way for the State to gain control over the private school system. Vouchers will not save government schools; they will destroy the privacy of private schools, since they will become beholden to government money, just as the universities are now.

Deacon August 17, 2008 at 7:06 am


Speaking of ‘Peddlers of Ideas,’
have you read this article of criticism
of liberatarian businessmen and the
Mises camp?:

The Economic Development Clique (1978)


Bruce Koerber August 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Contemporary education is in the same boat as contemporary economics!

It rests on a fallacious methodology – and not only that – but it is the exactly same fallacious methodology!

If humans were regarded as subjective beings how could any education be anything other than ‘tailer-made?’ How absurd would a rigid curriculum appear?

With regards the wealthy and the poor and education, subjectivism implies that teachers (whether they are paid or volunteer) are as unique and diverse as humanity itself. There will be many teachers who desire to serve humanity because it is part of their subjective quality to do so, and these lovers of the culture of learning will reach every single person on the planet unless the ego-driven interventionist corrupt and distort our human potential, our human reality.

Deacon August 18, 2008 at 7:56 am


Public Education: What Went Wrong?


Nate J August 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Speaking from an American perspective (as I have no idea what the education system is like in any other country, so I cannot comment on them), I would love to see education privatized. The civic religion, the “patriotism” that they teach in schools leads to nothing but death and destruction. The lies they teach people about the founding of the country, the government, and history can all lead to an indoctrinated and mindless youth.

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