Low Taxes, less government, more freedom!
It was not all bad. A cluster of laws that would have deprived business-owners of more of their right to run their private businesses as they see fit never really got off the ground. Such legislation would have prohibited the firing of employees except under certain conditions (H-480, S-180, H-403) and prevented the hiring of permanent replacements for striking workers (H-76). We're glad these bills didn't make it. They would have taken away an employer's right to manage his own business, and would have placed his enterprise under the socialistic control of his workers. Other legislation would have interfered with personal morality (such as H-182 prohibiting same-sex marriage) which we think should be beyond the purview of the state. The Vermont Libertarian Party particularly opposed legislation that would have allowed the state to confiscate automobiles used by drunken drivers even if owned by innocent third parties, without charging the third parties and leaving them the burden of proving their innocence to get their vehicles back. Although this disgracefully unconstitutional bill passed the Senate, our active opposition and lobbying served to delay it sufficiently so it didn't get to the House. We know from experience that these bills will be introduced again. With your help, our Party will continue to lobby against them.
But some good proposals didn't get far either. The bills (H-124, S-12) that would have eliminated private driveways from the definition of public roads didn't get out of committee. These bills would have countered the Vermont Supreme Court's ruling (in a case of a person arrested for operating a motor vehicle while drunk in his own driveway) that a private driveway may be regulated by the police because the public goes onto it. This assault on fundamental privacy rights MUST be countered. If allowed to stand, nobody's private property will be safe from the government intrusion. And we are disappointed, but not surprised (given the radical tone that has developed in this state), that H-478 and H-110 which would have permitted hunters and dog trainers to carry handguns for personal defense didn't get out of committee, nor did the cluster of bills that would have limited the State from levying unfunded mandates in localities without local approval (H-169, S-147), or would have granted some freedom of choice in education through vouchering (H-393), a concept that has its origin in the Libertarian Party.
It is not what the legislature did not do but what it DID do that is particularly heinous. It passed a law (H-536) that forbids a private landowner who owns over 40 acres to cut timber on his own property without state approval predicated on recommendations of a forester. Application for a permit will cost $100, refunded only if the proposed cutting is approved. In effect, this law puts everyone under land-use restrictions who owns more than minimal acreage, whether he's agreed to enter the land-use conservation program or not. The Vermont Libertarian Party considers this new law an egregious violation of private property. It opens the door to further erosion of property rights in the years to come, and will go a long way to emphasize our image as a radical-leftist state. Under it, your land is really no longer your own!
A bill that is a direct assault on democracy (H-28) became law. It will severely restrict how a private citizen runs for office by limiting how much money he or she can raise from individual sources, It also imposes burdensome reporting requirements, and mandates severe punishments for even unintentional violations. In this way, this bill, which provides for public financing of political campaigns, penalizes and severely discourages anyone who chooses not to avail himself of the public trough for his campaign money. (See our press release attached to this newsletter.) The Vermont Libertarian Party lobbied extensively against this bill, and we were invited to testify three times against it. Our efforts contributed significantly in delaying and somewhat watering down the original version. We object to raising new taxes to fund this scheme, and we are appalled that a taxpayer's money may now go involuntarily to a candidate he does not support. We particularly object to the unconstitutionality, in light of U.S. federal court decisions, of restricting how free citizens support their candidates. This latter point was admitted by the bill's supporters and even by Governor Dean who, when he signed the bill, said he was approving it in the hope the U.S. supreme court may change its mind. This new law shows how unconscionable Vermont's incumbent parties are in crafting anti-democratic legislation designed to suppress their opponents. Shame!!
And last is the Equal Education Opportunity Act (H-527) which creates a centralized funding for Vermont public schools, including a state-wide property tax. It concentrates yet more power in Montpelier over private property in our state. It will inevitably lead to centralized educational policy and standards which, we believe, will further weaken our already-inadequate school system. (There is a press release attached to this newsletter on this bill as well.)
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Sure, this change is sweetly wrapped as property tax reform. Property taxes, the largest source of revenues for local school boards, are passing to Montpelier. Thus, the State of Vermont will shear local towns and cities of their leverage on the education of their children.
Ridiculous, say legislators, lobbyists and promoters of the state property tax bill. They say local control will not be tampered with.
Yet human nature is alive and well. Once the purse of education funds lands in the state capital for redistribution, humans, who are also bureaucrats holding new purse strings, will assuredly begin expanding and then adjucating exactly how local jurisdictions must spend their allocated monies.
Nothing new in this. In fact, once the U.S. Department of Education was established under President Carter, his payoff to the national teachers' union for their electoral support, the feds have been encroaching steadily into local education. Now Washington wants national standards, administered, of course, by the Department of Education. A Czar of Education, Commissar, if you will, makes everything alright.
Monopolies lead to monopoly labor power.
During the debate on property tax reform to finance education, the teachers' union was squarely in favor of this "reform." And with good reason. It preserves the status quo and gives the union more power. For human beings, power and control are important; it's in our genetic survival code.
Is this union in favor of any form of voucher system that would free school districts from rigid bureaucratic control? No.
Is this union in favor of supporting home-taught education with grants from local school funds? No.
Does this union support elimination of tenure to improve teaching? Not at all.
An economic consequence of a market monopoly is that monopoly labor unions come into being because there is no competition. Monopoly labor control is guaranteed. And state-provided education is a textbook example of this relationship. Market monopolies equal monopoly labor power.
And this property tax bill will only enhance this power. It will close the circle on the complete socialization of education in the public sector in Vermont.
Does increased spending on education equal better grades?
Sadly, most Vermonters believe that government can solve problems by spending money on them. Equally so for improving educational standards.
The radical-leftist judges of the Vermont Supreme Court may by schooled in law, but certainly not in the economics of education. The legislators, many of whom are lawyers, also have a lack of economics smarts.
Spending more on education does not lead to better educational results. This is not to say that one does not need books and shelter to be able to teach from scratch. Above the basics, there are no studies concluding that spending more yields better results.
To the contrary. Overall verbal and math SAT scores since 1968 (one need not go back farther) show that a doubling (that is a lot of money considering a rising student population) in constant education dollars has resulted in a 10% decline in verbal SAT scores and 5% in math.
(Note: SAT scores have risen recently due to a lowering of grade standards to compensate for lower educational levels)
(One must be careful here with percentage changes up and down. For example, while spending per pupil rose to roughly $7000 from $3500, a doubling or 100% increase, to decline to $3500 from $7.000 is a 50% drop, not 100%. Comparing percentage changes up and down is deceiving, to say the least).
Nonetheless, obviously throwing money at students did not have desired results. The fault is not with the student but with the tax payers' largess.
The modern radical education agenda
Vermonters are affected by the radical education agenda, and probably more so than the U.S. as a whole given the political flavor of Burlington and its environs which accounts for about a quarter of the state's population, and considerably more of the state's economic output.
The modern radical education agenda is to turn all schools into tools for social and political engineering. Unfortunately, in Vermont goals have been met. The majority of school class instruction is taken up with politically correct indoctrination, which has re-placed basic academic learning. If this is not so, why then does UVM require remedial courses for freshman in English and Math, and other basic courses needed to do well in a university? Even common civil behavior, such as not chucking gum wrappers and empty soda and coffee cups, for example, on campus has not been taught in high schools.
What goes on here? Not much. The impact time at school is at most six hours. After school, student have nine hours (2 to 11 o'clock) free with not a helluva a lot of homework.
How grade levels sink lower
The impact of leftist manipulation of curricula, which is centred on tax-financed schools, is that "grade levels" are levels attained in these tax-financed schools which are the norm for all other schools. By definition, therefore, parents respond well to these"grades" all being good no matter what. Then, to compound the problem, private companies supply materials to these schools' "grade levels".
Ye gads! In no way can improvement be achieved because the educational materials provided support the very mediocrity of the "grades". Downward spirals are achieved. The school bureaucracy butters up parents which, without an eye blink, hands out diplomas even if the child cannot read.
And, here in the U.S.A. (where else?) diploma mills start with graduation from kindergarten!
We've been bamboozled
Wake up Vermonters! You've been hoodwinked into a great socialistic enlargement of your educational system.
If you really believe that jiggling the property taxes to spread largess to towns in need, a need determined by a new set of bureaucrats, will result in an improvement in reading, writing, and whatever for your children, then you deserve the bill delivered by your legislators. Assuredly educational standards will not only continue to decline, but the decline will accelerate. The Libertarian Party believes this change in Vermont's system of delivering state-supported education is another signpost along The Road to Serfdom.
We'd better do something about it. Fast!!
(Ed: Hugh Douglas is a political- economic consultant, a former Adjunct Professor at Stanford University, and a Vermont Libertarian.)
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The Libertarian Party was forged by those who were dissatisfied with the social policies of the Democrats or the economic policies of the Republicans. Our Party encompasses the righteous intentions of both incumbent parties, while claiming its rightful place as progressive standard- bearer of Liberty itself.
We are not just a better Party, but also a Party that supplies a vital portion to the political situation, which cannot be supplied by anyone else. Those who feel they have lost their political articulation by accepting only two realistic choices for partisan representation should not despair for our authenticity of our commitment to prevail. We are growing by every standard of political science. Our growth defies the suppression tactics of incumbent powers.
Even newer parties are coming into recognition with the encouragement of the incumbents who wish to stall and discourage our own inexorable growth. The more the merrier! We are not afraid that the popularity of Liberty will be obscured by its many opportunities: Wise Reform, Natural Law, Smart Ecology, and Fair Taxation. Neither Reformers, Naturals, Greens, nor Taxpayers are neglected by our goals, but we do warn that the idea of Liberty itself can be distorted by political ambition, as has happened among the incumbents.
We are brave enough to persist in shaking the trees of Liberty in order to gain their wide variety of fruit, and we will continue struggling to establish Liberty as the central feature of government.
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[Our Sign Me Up! page has information on joining The Vermont Libertarian Party.
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