Looking Backward on Socialism: Free College Education For All

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Looking Backward 2000-1887” was a socialist utopian science fiction story written by Edward Bellamy and published in 1888. John Taylor Gatto describes its influence in “An Underground History of American Education .”

The three most influential books ever published in North America, setting aside the Bible and The New England Primer, were all published in the years of the Utopian transformation of America which gave us government schooling: … the last [book was] a pure utopia, Looking Backward (1888), still in print more than one hundred years later, translated into thirty languages.

In 1944, three American intellectuals, Charles Beard, John Dewey, and Edward Weeks, interviewed separately, proclaimed Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward second only to Marx’s Das Kapital as the most influential book of modem times. Within three years of its publication, 165 “Bellamy Clubs” sprouted up. In the next twelve years, no less than forty-six other Utopian novels became best sellers.

The story of Looking Backward consists of a Bostonian man who falls into a deep sleep and then awakens 113 years later in the year 2000 to find the United States has become a socialist utopia. His book was so popular in its day as to become the basis for nearly every socialist movement since. Within Looking Backward Bellamy expounds all of the major themes of socialism from universal equality of income to universal free education.

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, David John Marotta appeared on Radio 1070 WINA’s Schilling Show to take a closer look at the calls for free college education in the socialist utopia.

Listen to the audio here:

Socialism believes teachers are not worth their wage.

In Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward,” Dr. Leete, the tour guide of the book, and Julian West, the main character, “devote the next morning to an inspection of the schools and colleges of the city.” In the course of the tour and conversation, they exchange the following conversation:

“You will see,” said he, as we set out after breakfast, “many very important differences between our methods of education and yours, but the main difference is that nowadays all persons equally have those opportunities of higher education which in your day only an infinitesimal portion of the population enjoyed. We should think we had gained nothing worth speaking of, in equalizing the physical comfort of men, without this educational equality.”

“The cost must be very great,” I said.

“If it took half the revenue of the nation, nobody would grudge it,” replied Dr. Leete, “nor even if it took it all save a bare pittance. But in truth the expense of educating ten thousand youth is not ten nor five times that of educating one thousand. The principle which makes all operations on a large scale proportionally cheaper than on a small scale holds as to education also.”

“College education was terribly expensive in my day,” said I.

“If I have not been misinformed by our historians,” Dr. Leete answered, “it was not college education but college dissipation and extravagance which cost so highly. The actual expense of your colleges appears to have been very low, and would have been far lower if their patronage had been greater. The higher education nowadays is as cheap as the lower, as all grades of teachers, like all other workers, receive the same support. We have simply added to the common school system of compulsory education, in vogue in Massachusetts a hundred years ago, a half dozen higher grades, carrying the youth to the age of twenty-one and giving him what you used to call the education of a gentleman, instead of turning him loose at fourteen or fifteen with no mental equipment beyond reading, writing, and the multiplication table.”

In other words, Bellamy’s solution to keeping the cost of higher education low is to pay all teachers the same salary as a first year graduate regardless of education level while cutting out any spending which is deemed extravagant by the central planners.

Forcing people to charge less is one of socialism’s main answers to inequalities. Socialist proponents overlook any evidence that might suggest that any one person’s service is worthy of a higher wage.

Looking only at the demand side, they ask why doctors or pharmaceutical companies should be able to get rich off sick people.

In fact, income inequality is an inevitable outcome of the laws of supply and demand. When there is only a handful of experts that know a particularly complicated task or subject, their high cost will incentivize them to continue to perform it while also naturally selecting which buyers benefit from their expertise.

In the case of higher education, workers in academia both benefit from this phenomenon and are often socialist supporters. If this were not the case, you might hear progressives complaining, “Why should Big-Education make such a large profit off poor ignorant students who simply want to be trained for a living-wage job?”

As the 2010 Daily Progress article “UVa faculty pay highest in state ” reports:

University of Virginia professors earn the highest average salaries in the state. …

The average salary for U.Va.’s full professors is $134,700, with associate professors at the public university earning $92,700. Instructors at U.Va. earn $53,300, but the average for all fulltime faculty remains the highest in the state at $103,900.

A decade later UVA salaries have risen even higher, and remain among the highest in the state. Several faculty earn over $300,000, $400,000, or even $500,000.

If socialism cannot make a person charge less, the other option socialists turn to is to get someone else to pay for it.

When government gets involved, they ruin the economics.

The Higher Education Act was signed into law on November 8, 1965. The original act has been reauthorized eight times since 1965, each time increasing the scope of government. Reauthorization legislation was passed in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998, and 2008.

According to “A Timeline of College Tuition ,” in 1972 only 49% of high school graduates went on to college, and grants covered 80% of the associated costs. Up until this point college was relatively affordable and college costs rose at a rate comparable to inflation.

Then, the 1972 reauthorization added the Pell Grant program providing extensive grants for middle and lower income levels. Then, in 1975 college costs began to increase at a rate much faster than inflation.

Andrew Ferguson in “Why the Heck Does College Cost So Much, Anyway? ” writes, “The annual cost of a typical private college increased nearly tenfold between 1975 and 2009.” His answer to why is because “There’s no incentive to save money and keep costs down. All the incentives run the other way.”

The incentive to keep costs down comes from the person who decides to purchase, pays for, and benefits from a service all being the same person. Any economic system in which one party decides, another pays, and a third party benefits has lost the incentive to keep costs down.

In the case of education, the school decides to accept the student and therefore the money, the government pays, and the student benefits. These third-party-payer markets are doomed to price increases. The most similar sector in the United States is healthcare which also suffers from prices increasing faster than inflation.

The federal government’s Direct Student Loan Program began as a pilot program in the 1992 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1993, direct lending was phased in under the Omibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. In 2010, private lenders were banned and the program switched to 100% direct lending as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

By the fall of 2011, the New York Times reported in “Student Loan Default Rates Rise Sharply in Past Year ” (9/12/2011) that:

The share of federal student loan defaults rose sharply last year, especially at for-profit colleges and universities, where 15 percent of borrowers defaulted in the first two years of repayment, up from 11.6 percent the previous year.

The more the government pushed making education affordable the less affordable education became, because they have artificially removed the incentives for colleges to compete on price.

These are the same economic forces which caused the 2008 housing crash. As the government tried to make borrowing money to purchase a house easy for families who would not normally qualify for buying a house, they also destabilized the mortgage industry and ultimately the entire financial sector. The government wanted everyone to be able to participate in the American dream of owning a home and thought that because mortgage loans were some of the safest type of loans they could simply include people to whom it is not normally safe to give loans. Such folly caused the 2008 housing crash.

Now, the government has tried to make borrowing money for college easy for students who would not normally go to college. They believe that a college education is such a large advantage that they can include people who don’t normally go to college and somehow they will get the same benefit. But successful outcomes depend more on the student who attends and the institution they are attending than any other factors such as availability to financing. Rather than benefiting these newly included students it has impoverished both students and the government. Now, students who are ill prepared to attend college attend anyway. Then, after going in debt many fail to graduate.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board describes the politics of this legislative history in their editorial piece “The Great Student Loan Scam ” writing:

Democrats in the 1990s created a public student loan option to compete with subsidized private lenders. Then in 2010, they nationalized the market to help pay for ObamaCare. The Congressional budget office at the time forecast that eliminating private lender would save taxpayers 58 billion dollars over 10 years. This estimate was pure fantasy and now we’re seeing how much. The government student loan portfolio has since doubled while severely delinquent loans have spiked despite a good economy. …

CBO has slowly scaled back its 10-year revenue projections for student loans to a 31.4 billion dollar government cost in this year’s forecast from a 219 billion-dollar 10-year revenue gain in 2012. Using fair market accounting that prevails in the private economy CBO now projects a 306.7 billion dollar cost to taxpayers over the next 10 years. The red ink will be far worse beyond that 10-year budget window. Another non surprise: The government is spending more to administer student loans than the Obama crowd forecast. In 2010 The government spent eight hundred million dollars on administrative costs, which CBO projected would increase to 1.2 billion dollars in 2019.

The government thought they could save money by taking over the student loan business. They claimed it would be a revenue stream and make money to help subsidize healthcare. Instead, total costs are $2.9 billion for 2019.

Has any of this lowered the cost of education? No. In fact, it has caused exactly the opposite. Not only has the government-run student loan business become a failure, but it has hurt the very constituency that it was intended to help: middle-income families trying to pay for college.

At one point, student loans made money, but the government has very little experience at cutting costs and making a profit. Instead, government confiscates private sector profits, balloons costs, increases bureaucracy, and gives away money and discounts to special interest groups.

Currently, there are more than a dozen repayment plans. The default is the standard 10-year repayment plan. There are two graduated repayment plans, two extended repayment plans, three alternative repayment plans, one income sensitive repayment plans, and four income-based repayment plans.

We regularly counsel clients that it is normally best to pay the minimum on student loans and start investing for your future financial security instead. Paying the minimum includes finding the repayment plan that results in the lowest payments over the life of the loan. One of the many services we offer is Student Loan Analysis to help determine the best repayment plan, and we have written several articles about student loans to assist those who are making this decision without a financial advisor.

Government loans and subsidies have increased the cost of education.

Prior to any of this legislation, data from The National Center for Education Statistics shows the total cost of education for all institutions between 1963 and 1992 only grew at an annual rate of 0.89% over the rate of inflation.

But anytime the government gives away money to buy something, the cost of that item will increase at a rate faster than inflation. After the government started funding student loans, the cost of a college education grew much more quickly. Between 1992 and the latest data in 2015, the cost of education has grown at a rate 2.59% over the rate of inflation pushing the cost of college out of normal free market rates and out of reach for many middle class families.

Colleges have had no disincentive to accept anyone for admission as they get paid regardless of the success of the student. And students, because the government has made it easier and easier to receive money, have had little disincentive to restrain themselves from accepting the money and receiving the immediate benefit. Discretion would suggest that students consider carefully incurring such a large debt, but this has not been the case.

Advocates of government action are always surprised by the unintended consequences of nationalizing industries. They attempt to override the free market and the laws of supply and demand but end up just inflating the price. Additionally, many colleges have exaggerated the incomes that graduates could expect as a result of taking government loans in order to get a specific degree. It could be said that the government has acted as a predatory lender, and that now that we’ve seen the consequences of those practices it wants to artificially erase the cost.

After government ruins the economics, they try to take it over.

Bernie Sanders in his “College for All” proposal called it a “national disgrace ” that the high cost of college caused some people to decide not to go to college.

Sanders admitted, “A generation ago, our nation’s public colleges and universities were the pathways for all students, no matter their family background, to enter the middle class.” Alas, Sanders failed to own up to the fact that public funding for colleges is what produced the economic effect of driving up the cost of higher education in the first place.

Having driven up the cost of college in the first place, Sanders’s solution is to take money away from investors to pay for college’s higher prices. He advocated for a 0.50% fee on every stock trade. Sanders aimed this tax at “the wealthiest people in this country [who] have made huge amounts of money from risky derivative transactions and the soaring value of the stock market.”

A 0.50% fee on every stock trade would be a massive tax on financial transactions. We refuse to pay a 0.50% expense ratio on an entire year of fund management. To pay such an exorbitant cost simply for buying or selling a security would change the shape of retirement planning and prevent investors from rebalancing their portfolio or changing their asset allocation.

This poorly aimed tax is like putting a fee on heart beats measured in the hospital in an attempt to make the pharmaceutical companies have less profits. It is aimed at the wrong people and taxes a good thing. It would warp behavior to diminish the occurrence of an otherwise good behavior.

He estimates those transaction fees would rob investors of about $300 billion each and every year. While aimed at the hated abstract group of rich people, it would harm the middle class the most. A 0.50% fee hits all investors proportionately. The rich might be able to afford to pay their portion of such an exorbitant fee as they often have more margin in their finances. But for a working class American, making 0.50% less on their investments every year might mean that they retire 30% poorer or 4 years later. As a financial advisor, it seems as though Sanders’ proposal would jeopardize the plans of many Americans to retire.

Socialism assumes everyone wants to go to college.

The same chapter as quoted before, Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward,” continues:

“Setting aside the actual cost of these additional years of education,” I replied, “we should not have thought we could afford the loss of time from industrial pursuits. Boys of the poorer classes usually went to work at sixteen or younger, and knew their trade at twenty.”

“We should not concede you any gain even in material product by that plan,” Dr. Leete replied. “The greater efficiency which education gives to all sorts of labor, except the rudest, makes up in a short period for the time lost in acquiring it.”

Did you catch that? Dr. Leete argues that only “the rudest” sorts of labor do not benefit from a college education.

When you ask university students what they want to do for a living, you might only hear about 60 or so professions in the world. Doctor, lawyer, journalist. However, once you are out of college and you ask people what they do for a living, you realize there are answers far beyond the scope of what academia prepares students for.

In my own social circle, I know people who for a living wage repair pipe organs, are dance instructors, are general handymen, walk and babysit dogs, and even more occupations which are not obviously improved by a college education. I know people running drum circles and fantasy band camps. People bake specialized cupcakes for birthday parties. People who design games for a living.

None of these people received a $40,000 gift to start their businesses, nor does socialism propose that they should receive one. However, the assumption that these people must want to go to college is simply wrong.

College is expensive. Even if it were free, not everyone would choose to attend.

Progressively minded students tend to seek more education than do conservatively minded students. They mistakenly tend to believe that education can solve problems that are part of human nature.

I’m an advocate of a college education but not blindly.

A college education can be of great benefit depending on the student, the college, and the course of study. But a college education can also calcify opinions rather than making someone more open and aware of other points of view. As expressed in the Inside Higher Ed article, “Academic and Political Elitism “:

Compared to the general public, highly educated or intelligent people tend to be more ideological in their thinking, more ideologically rigid and more extreme in their ideological leanings. Highly educated and intelligent people are also more likely to grow obsessed with some moral or political cause. Research suggests that they are more likely to overreact to small shocks, challenges or slights. Other studies have found that, while they are less likely to be prejudiced against others on the basis of things like race, they tend to be more prejudiced than most against those who seem to think differently than they do — and often look down on those with less education.

In short, many of the biases and distortions to which all people are susceptible seem to be even more pronounced among those who are highly educated or intelligent.

College can, and often does, make people less open to new ideas.

Today, there are more education opportunities than just college. And more important than a college education is the openness to life-long learning and new ideas.

A free college education will tend, on average, to benefit the children of rich, white, liberal households. There is no reason why society should subsidize such already privileged children.

Any argument that their education “pays for itself” is an argument for students themselves to be responsible for paying back their own loans. Only when the person who chooses, benefits, and pays are all the same person can the normal economic laws of supply and demand keeps costs as low and outcomes as high as possible.

Additional arguments have been made that wiping out student debt would boost the economy . But these arguments are similarly flawed. It has been suggested that wiping out $1.4 trillion in student loans would boost the gross domestic product (GDP) by about $108 billion a year for the ten years following the debt cancellation. But this is no argument for cancelling student debt, this is simply an accounting tautology. Young workers paying back their student loans are not counted as part of GDP. Young workers with more discretionary money to spend boost GDP. The economy would be similarly boosted just by printing and giving away $1.4 trillion dollars. The fact that you are giving the money to people privileged enough to have gone to college is irrelevant. You might as well argue that a society can be enriched by the government giving away money for people to frivolously spend.

Socialism cannot enjoy the company of “the uneducated.”

The same chapter as quoted before, Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward,” continues:

“We should also have been afraid,” said I, “that a high education, while it adapted men to the professions, would set them against manual labor of all sorts.”

“That was the effect of high education in your day, I have read,” replied the doctor; “and it was no wonder, for manual labor meant association with a rude, coarse, and ignorant class of people. There is no such class now. It was inevitable that such a feeling should exist then, for the further reason that all men receiving a high education were understood to be destined for the professions or for wealthy leisure, and such an education in one neither rich nor professional was a proof of disappointed aspirations, an evidence of failure, a badge of inferiority rather than superiority. Nowadays, of course, when the highest education is deemed necessary to fit a man merely to live, without any reference to the sort of work he may do, its possession conveys no such implication.”

Bellamy had a very low view of those who were not educated, and socialism is normally intolerant of those it views as the lower classes. Unfortunately for many, socialism views anyone who disagrees with their version of utopia as uneducated.

In Bellamy’s utopia, eliminating the uneducated was necessary for the educated to enjoy society. Bellamy assumes that no one wants to associate with stupid and ignorant people and, if you force everyone to go to college, everyone will be as enlightened and as progressively educated as he is.

The “Academic and Political Elitism” article in Inside Higher Education concludes:

Up until the 2012 elections, Republicans tended to have a larger share of college-educated voters than Democrats (an effect that was even more pronounced among white voters). Most of us on the left did not take this as evidence that Republican policies were consistently more ethical and well grounded than those of Democrats. Instead, many interpreted these trends as a sign that the Republicans were the party of elites, while Democrats were the party of “the people.”

Yet now that the educated class has shifted their allegiance, condescension and elitism have become increasingly vogue on the left, while “populism” has become something of a dirty word. …

It may be emotionally satisfying for academics and intellectuals to disparage or patronize the less educated and their political allegiances, but this condescension is unearned. The political leanings of highly educated or intelligent people tend not to be any more rational or informed than anyone else’s. Putting on a pretense of superiority is likely to blow up in our faces.

The elitist condescension of many progressives is just another way that socialists are intolerant of those they disagree with. Although progressives fall short of suggesting that conservatives, libertarians, and religiously-minded people be put into reeducation camps, they do suggest that everyone be part of government education.

Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward” continues:

“After all,” I remarked, “no amount of education can cure natural dullness or make up for original mental deficiencies. Unless the average natural mental capacity of men is much above its level in my day, a high education must be pretty nearly thrown away on a large element of the population. We used to hold that a certain amount of susceptibility to educational influences is required to make a mind worth cultivating, just as a certain natural fertility in soil is required if it is to repay tilling.”

“Ah,” said Dr. Leete, “I am glad you used that illustration, for it is just the one I would have chosen to set forth the modern view of education. You say that land so poor that the product will not repay the labor of tilling is not cultivated. Nevertheless, much land that does not begin to repay tilling by its product was cultivated in your day and is in ours. I refer to gardens, parks, lawns, and, in general, to pieces of land so situated that, were they left to grow up to weeds and briers, they would be eyesores and inconveniencies to all about. They are therefore tilled, and though their product is little, there is yet no land that, in a wider sense, better repays cultivation. So it is with the men and women with whom we mingle in the relations of society, whose voices are always in our ears, whose behavior in innumerable ways affects our enjoyment—who are, in fact, as much conditions of our lives as the air we breathe, or any of the physical elements on which we depend. If, indeed, we could not afford to educate everybody, we should choose the coarsest and dullest by nature, rather than the brightest, to receive what education we could give. The naturally refined and intellectual can better dispense with aids to culture than those less fortunate in natural endowments.”

In other words, Bellamy argues that with care the smartest will weed and prune the minds of those with “mental deficiencies” so as to cultivate an intelligent mind.

Dr. Leete continues with:

“To borrow a phrase which was often used in your day, we should not consider life worth living if we had to be surrounded by a population of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated men and women, as was the plight of the few educated in your day. Is a man satisfied, merely because he is perfumed himself, to mingle with a malodorous crowd? Could he take more than a very limited satisfaction, even in a palatial apartment, if the windows on all four sides opened into stable yards? And yet just that was the situation of those considered most fortunate as to culture and refinement in your day. I know that the poor and ignorant envied the rich and cultured then; but to us the latter, living as they did, surrounded by squalor and brutishness, seem little better off than the former. The cultured man in your age was like one up to the neck in a nauseous bog solacing himself with a smelling bottle. You see, perhaps, now, how we look at this question of universal high education. No single thing is so important to every man as to have for neighbors intelligent, companionable persons. There is nothing, therefore, which the nation can do for him that will enhance so much his own happiness as to educate his neighbors. When it fails to do so, the value of his own education to him is reduced by half, and many of the tastes he has cultivated are made positive sources of pain.

“To educate some to the highest degree, and leave the mass wholly uncultivated, as you did, made the gap between them almost like that between different natural species, which have no means of communication. What could be more inhuman than this consequence of a partial enjoyment of education! Its universal and equal enjoyment leaves, indeed, the differences between men as to natural endowments as marked as in a state of nature, but the level of the lowest is vastly raised. Brutishness is eliminated. All have some inkling of the humanities, some appreciation of the things of the mind, and an admiration for the still higher culture they have fallen short of. They have become capable of receiving and imparting, in various degrees, but all in some measure, the pleasures and inspirations of a refined social life. The cultured society of the nineteenth century—what did it consist of but here and there a few microscopic oases in a vast, unbroken wilderness? The proportion of individuals capable of intellectual sympathies or refined intercourse, to the mass of their contemporaries, used to be so infinitesimal as to be in any broad view of humanity scarcely worth mentioning. One generation of the world to-day represents a greater volume of intellectual life than any five centuries ever did before.”

In other words, Bellamy is saying that living in the presence of uneducated people is so appalling that it is essential that “brutishness is eliminated” and every man forced to be educated.

Such snobbery and elitism regarding education is a mainstay of liberal discourse in public and even more vicious in private. The left has long reveled in the idea that they are the educated elite and conservatives are the brutish Neanderthals.

Sanders aims to “bail out rich kids” in Wall Street retaliation.

Sanders was very upset by the “$700 billion Wall Street bailout.” And while he and I were both critical of the bailout, we differed on the alternatives that should have been considered.

I would have suggested simply not having any bailout and allow the free market’s creative destruction to punish the banking institutions who took risks they shouldn’t have taken and thereby reward their competitors who wisely refrained from taking those risks. By giving a bailout, the government rewarded the banks who behaved poorly and punished their competitors.

Sanders also confused a bank bailout with the everyday non-risky investments of financial planners and their clients. He continually calls the bailout a “Wall Street” bailout. Literally taken, Wall Street is a location in lower Manhattan where the home of the New York Stock Exchange is located. Taken metaphorically, Wall Street represents the securities industry of the United States. I don’t know of a location or single institution which would stand for the banking industry other than the Federal Reserve. For the housing crisis it would be the government run Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. Neither of these have anything to do the financial transactions we make on behalf of our client families.

Sanders proposed a five-year, 10% surtax on families with incomes of more than $1 million year and individuals earning over $500,000 to raise $300 billion to help bankroll the bailout. Like many of Sanders’ proposals, there is no connection between the group being targeted and the group benefiting. Sanders targets rich people simply because that’s where the money is.

Much of Sanders’ motivation for eliminating student debt is as payback for the bank bailout. “If we could bailout Wall Street,” Sanders said, “we sure as hell can reduce student debt in this country.”

Meanwhile Barack Obama claimed on October 18, 2012 in a campaign speech, “We got back every dime used to rescue the banks.” Politifact called this claim “Mostly True ” and went on to cite ProPublica’s accounting showing that after being paid back for the loans the government received an additional $31.9 billion in interest.

The Washington Post Editorial Board in an opinion piece entitled, “Bernie Sanders is running on a plan to bail out rich kids ” wrote:

In short, the democratic socialist candidate is running on a plan to bail out doctors, lawyers and their children to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars — while touting it as middle-class payback for the 2008 Wall Street bailout. …

Genuine progressive policies focus federal resources on those who need the assistance most. Ms. Warren limited her plan’s benefits to households earning $250,000 or less. Even that is far too high on the income scale, but at least she acknowledged that people who can afford to invest in their own higher education, including those who voluntarily took on debt to do so, should be expected to contribute. It is an important distinction that Democrats can and must honor if they are truly the progressive party.

If even the liberal Washington Post Editorial Board writes that to “transfer so much of the revenue from one group of well-off people to another” in their opinion “makes no sense,” then we should pause to elect a candidate that supports such a senseless meddling with the economic laws of supply and demand. The negative feedback of cost should remain a regulator on the purchase of an education.

Sanders himself admitted that “67 percent of high school graduates do not have enough of the skills required for success in college and the 21st century workforce.” That admission means that Sanders wants to give a college education to the most privileged 33% of young people whose lifetime earning potential will be naturally higher and short change young people who either are not equipped to attend college or who choose not to go to college and start a career instead. Would Sanders suggest giving young people who choose not to go to college a gift of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement their life choices? He hasn’t yet.

If two thirds of high school graduates have not received the requisite skills required for success in college, perhaps we should begin the revision of education in the United States by offering vouchers so that students can leave the failing government run schools and attend a school which can prepare them for college. If government run Kindergarten through 12th grade schools are failing 67% of the time, why should we allow the government to ruin the opportunity for a college education as well?

Finally, if Sanders believes that those investment activities make “huge amounts of money,” it is unclear why he would be opposed to privatizing Social Security and allowing all Americans to “make huge amounts of money” for their retirement.

Socialism believes in a right to force others.

In Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward” Dr. Leete continues:

“There is still another point I should mention in stating the grounds on which nothing less than the universality of the best education could now be tolerated,” continued Dr. Leete, “and that is, the interest of the coming generation in having educated parents. To put the matter in a nutshell, there are three main grounds on which our educational system rests: first, the right of every man to the completest education the nation can give him on his own account, as necessary to his enjoyment of himself; second, the right of his fellow-citizens to have him educated, as necessary to their enjoyment of his society; third, the right of the unborn to be guaranteed an intelligent and refined parentage.”

This is the socialist view of education:

  1. Each man has a right to be educated.
  2. Each man has a right to enjoy educated neighbors.
  3. Each unborn child has a right to have educated parents.

What is interesting about each of these three is that they define someone’s right as being able to impose someone else to do something. Phrased more frankly:

  1. Each man has a right to force a teacher to education him.
  2. Each man has a right to force his neighbor to seek an education.
  3. Each unborn child has a right to force his parents to have sought an education before his birth.

Rights only pertain to what we are free to do or pursue for ourselves. You cannot have a right that obligates others to serve you.

Socialism believes in moderation of comfort.

Chapter 21 of “Looking Backward” continues:

I shall not describe in detail what I saw in the schools that day. Having taken but slight interest in educational matters in my former life, I could offer few comparisons of interest. Next to the fact of the universality of the higher as well as the lower education, I was most struck with the prominence given to physical culture, and the fact that proficiency in athletic feats and games as well as in scholarship had a place in the rating of the youth.

“The faculty of education,” Dr. Leete explained, “is held to the same responsibility for the bodies as for the minds of its charges. The highest possible physical, as well as mental, development of every one is the double object of a curriculum which lasts from the age of six to that of twenty-one.”

The magnificent health of the young people in the schools impressed me strongly. My previous observations, not only of the notable personal endowments of the family of my host, but of the people I had seen in my walks abroad, had already suggested the idea that there must have been something like a general improvement in the physical standard of the race since my day, and now, as I compared these stalwart young men and fresh, vigorous maidens with the young people I had seen in the schools of the nineteenth century, I was moved to impart my thought to Dr. Leete. He listened with great interest to what I said.

“Your testimony on this point,” he declared, “is invaluable. We believe that there has been such an improvement as you speak of, but of course it could only be a matter of theory with us. It is an incident of your unique position that you alone in the world of to-day can speak with authority on this point. Your opinion, when you state it publicly, will, I assure you, make a profound sensation. For the rest it would be strange, certainly, if the race did not show an improvement. In your day, riches debauched one class with idleness of mind and body, while poverty sapped the vitality of the masses by overwork, bad food, and pestilent homes. The labor required of children, and the burdens laid on women, enfeebled the very springs of life. Instead of these maleficent circumstances, all now enjoy the most favorable conditions of physical life; the young are carefully nurtured and studiously cared for; the labor which is required of all is limited to the period of greatest bodily vigor, and is never excessive; care for one’s self and one’s family, anxiety as to livelihood, the strain of a ceaseless battle for life—all these influences, which once did so much to wreck the minds and bodies of men and women, are known no more. Certainly, an improvement of the species ought to follow such a change. In certain specific respects we know, indeed, that the improvement has taken place. Insanity, for instance, which in the nineteenth century was so terribly common a product of your insane mode of life, has almost disappeared, with its alternative, suicide.”

Bellamy paints a rosy picture of a society where “the young are carefully nurtured and studiously cared for” and everything is a perfect utopia. He suggests that the ceaseless battle for life risks making young people less healthy, but every study of reality suggests the exact opposite. When young people are born they quickly learn that whining and crying gets others to provide their needs for them. It is only later in life through hardship and hard work that they learn to become independent and provide for their own needs. Learning this labor is part of learning to be a self-sufficient and productive member of society.

Nassim Tableb, author of “The Bed of Procrustes” said it best in his aphorism:

Don’t talk about “progress” in terms of longevity, safety, or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness.

Zoo animals are nurtured and studiously care for, but they die young. Compassionate zoo keepers purposefully stress zoo animals to simulate the ceaseless battle for life in order to keep the animals healthy.


The book describes the universal education system as key to building a socialist society. But this belief is based on the false notion that human nature is perfectible through education and the false notion that a socialist utopia represents everyone’s conception of utopia. Additionally, the methods used to try to achieve this universal education system ignores the science of economics and forces others to work for our benefit.

Education, like many other components of society, is best left to the free choice of individuals and the free market of services.

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David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.