Having found myself with about ten minutes of free time in between studying for my state-funded classes (Principles of Animal Behavior and Mechatronics) at my state-funded school (the University of Nevada, Reno), I decided I’d use it to address what has to be one of the most often repeated criticisms of we libertarians over here at UNR. The complaint, in a nutshell, comes to, You’re all hypocrites, Look, you attend a public school and you feel their shouldn’t be public schools, Why is okay for you to attend and not for others, You are hypocrites and thus your opinions are wrong.
Not only is it parroted constantly by those with the political insight of a wool sock, but it’s about as relevant to any discussion on political philosophy as what one eats for breakfast.
Briefly, You’re all hypocrites because you attend a public school. Now, before we begin, I’d like to just point out that even if we were “hypocrites” (or “fascists” or “nazis” or “stupid-faces”) this would in no way effect the claims which we make. Claims are independent of the claimant. This is equivalent to saying we shouldn’t listen to X talk about evolutionary biology because X is a fundamentalist Christian. But it doesn’t matter what X is, only what X claims. Our claim that public schools shouldn’t exist is independent of the fact that we, unfortunately, attend them.
That said, one of the largest criticisms for state-sponsored schools is that they horribly mismanage funds and send contradictory signals to the market. By lowering the price of tuition they send two messages: demanders, demand more; suppliers, supply less. What are we as students but demanders of education? By artificially lowering the price, there is little that prevents us as partakers in a market, from seeking the biggest bang for our buck. Thus, we’re not so much as hypocrites as we are two entities: 1) People who know how markets work (and would love to see them work properly) and 2) People who are in the market. If a college cost a dollar a year, I’d attend it. Granted, I would know that such a system couldn’t sustain itself, but that is not my primary concern. Can I really be held responsible if I go to Bob’s Paint-a-Pet store only when he’s offering $1 paintings and no other times? No. I know that what I’m doing by participating isn’t helping the state-supplied system, but I don’t care. Why should I? I don’t care about my purchases at Wal-Mart or Taco Bell, why should I suddenly give a damn about the State?
Why is okay for you to attend and not others? I can’t recall anyone of us urging anyone else not to come to UNR or any other state institution. I don’t recall us ever saying it was okay for us and not for others to come. Strawmen of the world unite. But more to point, what is this criticism really driving at? I think it wants to force libertarians in general to be somehow HolierThanThou about everything, as if we weren’t normal people with normal desires. We’re against a State for a number of reasons, one of which is its rampant inefficiency. We believe it’s too easy to exploit it for money. The fact that we ourselves do this does not diminish our claim, but only furthers it: We stand and we say, look at how easy this is to exploit. I fail to see the point of this criticism.
Thus, to wrap this all up: the You’re-Hypocrites criticism is nothing more than an ad hominem attack directed at no one in particular that proves absolutely nothing. Anyone who squawks this line enough may come to believe it has some effect as all arguments from one side seem to die down — silence as interpreted as victory. And if this is what it takes for these pathetically sad individuals to feel good about themselves, then fine, let them chirp and sing and dance around proclaiming Hip-O-Cray-SEE and feeling they’ve done something. Who are we to say what they should do? We just don’t care.
Chirp and flutter and make all the noise you want, what does it compare to the absurdity of pooping in a cage all of your life…