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High School Curriculum Editing - Help Me School distance learners in the Austrian Perspective?

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wmcompanyman posted on Tue, Sep 13 2011 1:38 PM

Hello - I emailed the Mises Institute, and then Dr. Woods.  Dr Woods referred me to your forum.  Here is my situation.  I am editing online content for high schoolers.  When I am done, the content will be reused hundreds, even thousands of times.  

I have been assigned an American History course.  One of the defects of the course is that it does not tell both sides of the story on many issues, and in so doing, the course material obscures the interpretive function of the historian. Because of this defect, and because the statist perspective of the course annoys me to no end, I am attempting to provide some balance to some of the economic topics treated in the course.  Again, I am not re-writing, I am only attempting to add a dissenting perspective.

I have some knowledge of the Austrian School and of the revisionist history it inspires.  I have listened to lecture courses by Woods and by Rothbard.  I have also read some Woods, Rothbard, Hazlitt, and Hayek.  In essence, I know enough to provide the alternative perspective in some cases, such as the Fed role in the Great Depression.  However, in other cases I know that some of what I am reading in the course for which I am responsible is wrong, but I do not know enough to offer an alternate interpretation alongside that material.  

 

 

 I have run into two propositions, repeated incessantly in these lessons, that I know to be wrong but have trouble refuting.   Perhaps you guys could help me find good cites so that I can provide another perspective?
 
 First, the lessons I am editing assert, boldly, that the dominant philosophy of the so-called Gilded Age was not laissez-faire, but "social Darwinism."  The effect is to make students believe that everything from market competition to factory conditions were a semi-deliberate attempt to weed out the weak.  Obviously this is idiotic, but where can I find a corrective to this?  Who can I read in order to be able to offer, succinctly, an alternate viewpoint? Has an Austrian dealt with both the truth and the smear aspect of classical liberalism as social darwinism?
 
Second, these lessons blithely assert that the Fed and inflation are necessary because, before the Fed, there was "not enough money." According to this course, when we had sound money people such as farmers and small businessmen had to both pay dear to borrow the money and - because of deflation - had to pay back staggering sums as the money they owed had not only accrued interest but also increased in value.  Again, I am sure that somewhere in Man, Economy, and State, this is refuted - but my employers are pressuring me to turn this editing job out quickly.  Can you give me a user-friendly, relatively quick cite that I can learn so that I can give the other side of this argument?
 
I am grateful for your time in helping me track down good material on these two questions.  Hopefully, I can successfully integrate the pro-liberty perspective into this curriculum.
 

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Golden, golden opportunity! I have a bunch of points to add

- Gilded age really was not laissez-faire. Companies received a lot of government aid. Corporate welfare is no better than "poor people" welfare

- Unions were a capitalistic construct in their beginning. Reading the ideas of the leader of the Knights of Labor, he wanted to buy up the means of production, not take them through government action

- The Grange and the Farmers' alliance were capitalistic coop constructs to compete with companies

- Sherman antitrust was used to bust unions. This prevented them from being as useful

- Government broke factory strikes, hurting capitalism's own response mechanisms

- Large companies arose in the US around 1850s (correct me if I'm wrong). Unions arose early 1860s. This lightning fast "fix" to capitalism shows the power of the individual and of voluntary associations.

- The income tax was initially supposed to be temporary, tiny, and only on the top income earners. This perfectly demonstrates the concept of "slippery slope" regarding the government.

- Combat the idea of monopolies in the 19th century:

http://mises.org/daily/5266/The-Myth-of-Natural-Monopoly

Start at the subsection "How "Natural" Were the Early Natural Monopolies?"

- Show them that government is what creates monopolies (besides the 19th century utilities in the link above): AT&T was given​ a monopoly by government.

- Though this is a side argument, remind them that 1) Communism (at least capital C communism) has killed over 100 million people, more than both World Wars combined 2) communism was actually attempted at the beginning of the USSR

- Debunk the idea that Hoover was the opposite of Roosevelt. Hoover had some Rooseveltian policies.

 

Others may come as I do random stuff during the day. I will add to this.

 

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wmcompanyman:
First, the lessons I am editing assert, boldly, that the dominant philosophy of the so-called Gilded Age was not laissez-faire, but "social Darwinism."  The effect is to make students believe that everything from market competition to factory conditions were a semi-deliberate attempt to weed out the weak.  Obviously this is idiotic, but where can I find a corrective to this?  Who can I read in order to be able to offer, succinctly, an alternate viewpoint? Has an Austrian dealt with both the truth and the smear aspect of classical liberalism as social darwinism?

Milton Friedman was quite fond of pointing out the fact that the 19th century was the period of "the greatest outpouring of eleemosynary and charitable activity the world has ever known."

John Stossel (with David Boaz of the Cato Institute and Jeffrey Miron of Harvard) cover this here as well.  Boaz specifically mentions the fact that voluntary welfare organizations sprung up all over the place, and people took care of each other...they didn't sit around and expect "the government" to do it.  Some sources on this:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/u7h412q66342p8x0/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-6443.00181/abstract

 

Mises scholar Jeff Riggenbach has said:

...there is considerable evidence that the entire concept of "social Darwinism" as we know it today was virtually invented by Richard Hofstadter. Eric Foner, in an introduction to a then-new edition of Hofstadter's book published in the early 1990s, declines to go quite that far. "Hofstadter did not invent the term Social Darwinism," Foner writes, "which originated in Europe in the 1860s and crossed the Atlantic in the early twentieth century. But before he wrote, it was used only on rare occasions; he made it a standard shorthand for a complex of late-nineteenth-century ideas, a familiar part of the lexicon of social thought."

Definitely look into the history of the term...

Also, go to mises.org main page and do a search for "social darwin", and another for "charity history" and "19th century charity".  You'll see things like this:

"Is the Starving Man Free?"

"Why Don't People Get It?"

 

Second, these lessons blithely assert that the Fed and inflation are necessary because, before the Fed, there was "not enough money." According to this course, when we had sound money people such as farmers and small businessmen had to both pay dear to borrow the money and - because of deflation - had to pay back staggering sums as the money they owed had not only accrued interest but also increased in value.

"Should the Quantity of Money Be Increased?"

 

Hoppe:

"Once a money is established, any stock of money becomes compatible with any amount of employment and real income. There is never any need for more money since any amount will perform the same maximum extent of needed money work: that is, to provide a general medium of exchange and a means of economic calculation by entrepreneurs." ("The Misesian Case Against Keynes")  (also you might check out Gold as Money: FAQ)

 

This may be too technical, but Mises obviously goes into this in The Theory of Money and Credit...at this part he explains how expanding the money supply only hurts the economy.

 

 

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Sep 13 2011 10:50 PM

Bummer, I had wanted to mention that Rockfeller was actually one of the biggest donors in the nation, with aid to universities, blacks, and medicine (among others):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller#Philanthropy

(I know, that source... but you can double check it).

Also, please teach people that Thomas Paine was really more of a socialist (or georgist), not​ a capitalist libertarian:

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

...

[C]reate a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

Any mention of Austrian economics at all would be useful, but do not make it seem like it was a fringe movement that was overridden by Keynesianism (as that will make it seem like its ideas were inferior)

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Bump

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In the spirit of the bump, I'm kind of curious to see how this turned out

 

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So, update?

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