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to Get Your Children to Care About Freedom
up in the 70s, part of a generation known for being rebellious against
"the establishment," for rejecting the values of the older generation,
and for not trusting anyone over 30. Although I didn't get caught up personally
in the culture of "love ins" and "dropping out," it
was certainly part of the mindset of my generation.
changed since those days. The 90s generation, it seems to me, has pretty
much grown up accepting the world as it is--wanting to get a job, make
money, buy a car--willing to pay taxes and go along with the system. "I
can get a good job and make money. What else is there to care about?"
seems to be the attitude of many young people in high school and college.
Most kids get their first job, see the cut that the government takes out
of their paychecks, and just accept it as the way things have always been.
How can we teach kids that they don't have to accept things just because
they have been that way for awhile? How can we get them to bitch a little
more--to be "constructively discontent"?
long time now, I have tried to think about ways to teach my children to
care about freedom. I have taken them shooting and taught them to value
their right to own firearms. I left a job where I was paid from tax money
(teaching at a state university) and took a job in a private research organization
where I was paid through voluntary, non-coercive contributions. We've done
home schooling and used private schools instead of government schools whenever
we could. I take my kids fishing at a private fish pond rather than pay
the government "license" for fishing privileges. I've raised
my kids on a diet of pro-freedom movies: everything from Shenandoah
to The Sound of Music to Star Wars to Schindler's List.
We discuss freedom issues at the dinner table and at other times. My wife
and I started a home business and we employ our kids and pay them as much
as we can in pre-tax dollars. These and other things have gone a long way
to help my children value freedom, but I still feel only moderately successful.
My older kids feel pretty much trapped in the present world--they don't
really see any alternative to the way things are. In spite of the things
I have done to help them, I don't see many signs of serious rebellion against
the present state of things. In fact, I often get chided by my kids because,
according to them, I can't carry on a conversation or watch a movie without
bringing up politics. It really isn't true. I hate politics. It's just
that I value political freedom.
your children about freedom really the most important thing? What about
teaching them about good and evil? Isn't that more important? Well, actually,
I think it is correct to point out that the two are intrinsically related.
Both good and evil will exist in a free society, but in a non-free society,
evil and tyranny will eventually triumph. That's because non-free societies
are based on a fundamentally evil principle--coercion. In an environment
of freedom people are more easily able to follow the dictates of their
individual moral and ethical conscience and to associate with other like-minded
individuals in advocating causes or ideas that they deem as good. These
things are more difficult in an environment of non-freedom. So, my answer
is that the battle between freedom and non-freedom is what matters more
than anything else.
can be done to teach children about freedom? Some of this is hindsight,
but if I were starting to raise my kids over again, there are a few things
I would consider doing.
- I wouldn't
get social security numbers for my kids. That's a decision I would leave
for them to make when they get old enough to get a job. If they chose to
register for an SS number and participate in the system, then they can
and should make that decision for themselves. I shouldn't make it for them.
Then they can choose to do it, or not, with an understanding of what it
really means. There are costs for such a course of action (I wouldn't be
able to claim
my children as dependents on my tax return, for example). But the lesson
that such an action would teach would be worth the cost. A number of helpful
articles have been written about how to avoid getting a government number
assigned to your child (in particular, see Keeping
the Baby Unnumbered by Claire Wolfe. This and other
articles also outline some of the risks and consequences of doing so.)
Any parent who might consider this course of action should read these articles
and consider the risks before deciding.
- I would
give my kids more and better experiences in writing about freedom issues.
Even though I believe that writing letters to elected officials is basically
fruitless, still, I would give my kids plenty of opportunities to do so
if for no other reason than learning how to write about freedom issues.
(A possible side benefit of such an activity would be for them to read
the asinine canned responses they would get from their elected 'representatives.'
) I'd also encourage and help them write letters to the editor of the local
paper and help them tune their writing and analytical skills in this way.
In addition, there are a number of essay
contests that are advertised through their schools or to homeschool
groups that I would encourage them to enter.
- I would
try to identify other freedom loving families with children and arrange
to get together occasionally or even on a regular basis. I would want my
children to develop some associations with others of their own age who
also care about freedom and with whom they might develop long term friendships.
They might even plan some projects together to bring attention to statist
abuses of children and youth. There are a number of areas where the
legitimate rights of young people are infringed upon by statists. Mandatory
community service, the right to purchase or own a gun, government imposed
curfews, and forced payroll deduction for social security are just a few
- I would
use dinner table conversations and other times as opportunities to teach
my kids about freedom. One idea would be to share a "thought of the
week" each week and then ask the children, as they get older, to participate
in finding and sharing a thought about freedom. Posting the "Freedom
Thought of the Week" on the fridge would give many of us a new way
to make good use of those refrigerator magnets we all have in abundance.
Powerful thoughts such as the one below are like mind bombs--they set off
new ways of thinking and we are never the same again.
FOR THE WEEK: If you would not confront your neighbor and demand his money
at the point of a gun to solve every new problem that may appear in your
life, you should not allow the government to do it for you. -- William
- I would
expose my kids to a lot of libertarian science fiction. One of the things
we did in our family when my children were growing up is to read whole
books out loud together. We worked our way through several of Laura Ingalls
Wilder's Little House on the Prairie Books that way, as well as
Call of the Wild by Jack London, Ann of Green Gables, and
several others. Later in life I discovered that it is the sci fi genre
where most good libertarian thought is expressed. Now I would make an effort
to read my kids such books as The Girl Who Owned a City and several
of libertarian genius Robert
A. Heinlein's excellent juvenile novels such as Red Planet and
Starbeast. Also, there is a lot of excellent stuff in the "Kids'
Fiction" section of the Laissez
Faire Books catalog and also in the LRT
Youth Library. I would make these part of my children's learning experience
whenever I could.
- I would
use "non-coercive parenting" techniques with my children. I can
only expect my children to honor and respect freedom and at the same time
be responsible if I model such behavior in the home. I can't employ manipulation
or force with my children or employ other coercive techniques such as pain,
fear, or guilt. Instead, I have to rely on techniques that allow me to
be a partner, teacher, coach, or counselor rather than their boss. I would
have to respect their personhood and free agency. As a parent, I would
counsel with them, guide them, reason with them, broker agreements with
them and in other ways help them make decisions and accept responsibility
for those decisions. As my kids got older, I would want to be their consultant,
not their manager. There are several books and web sites devoted to the
techniques of non-coercive
parenting that can be very helpful to parents.
- I would
develop a system of household rules based on private property and ownership.
Because the idea of private property is so fundamental to understanding
freedom, using it as the basis for household rules cultivates certain ways
of thinking and values that will transfer to situations outside of the
home. If something belongs to someone in the family, then most household
conflicts can be resolved by relying on the principles of private property
(i.e., who does this belong to? Did you agree to let this person have it?
Would you agree to sell it or exchange it for something else?, etc.). Recognizing
the laws of property and ownership allows me to set the rules for watching
TV or for using my car (since I own the TV and the car). It seems to be
in the case of shared property where most conflicts arise. Therefore, I
would try to designate "owners" wherever possible. Sharing, in
reality, can only take place in an environment of private property because
you can't share or give as a gift something you don't own. If children
grow up used to thinking about things in terms of private property and
ownership, they will likely see what's wrong with a majority voting to
take property from their neighbors or to transfer wealth from those who
earned it to those who did not.
- I would
use some creative "object lessons" with my kids. An object lesson
can be worth a thousand words. Political writer Joseph
Sobran suggests the following way to teach your child about the U.S.
tax system: Offer him $10 to mow the lawn. When he has completed the job,
withhold $5 and explain that this his income tax (to cover the costs of
all the wonderful things you provide him with). Then give $1 to his younger
brother and explain that this is "fair." When he complains, tell
him he is being "selfish" and that it his obligation as a "citizen"
of the family to pay these things. To teach how government works to make
sure business don't compete "unfairly," you might invent a version
of the board game Monopoly that you could play with your kids. In this
version, one player gets to be "The Government" and has control
of several monopolies (such as delivering the mail and education) but anytime
any other player gets too much of a particular market share, the government
can sue them under "anti-trust" laws and distribute their holdings
among the other players. How much of a market share is "too much"
is determined solely by the government.
was settled by individuals who were willing to stand up against the tyranny
and abuses of kings and tyrants. Remember, as far as King George and the
British government were concerned, the patriots of the American revolution
and the signers of the Declaration of Independence were tax evaders, smugglers,
and lawbreakers. They simply refused to obey laws that they thought were
immoral and pay taxes that they felt were unjust and abusive of their freedoms
and happiness. The 70s generation, of which I am a part, has too readily
accepted the system as it is. Our best hope for freedom is that a future
generation will emerge with the will to resist current abuses (which, in
many respects, cause those against which the colonizers revolted to pale
in comparison). There may be no better way to build a future of freedom
than to raise a generation
of young people who refuse to submit to tyranny. With proper help and
encouragement from parents, the youth of today and tomorrow may be better
prepared to "do freedom." Our children may be our best hope yet.
the Table of Contents
a Letter to the Editor