Taking Government Money for Grad School?
The following is a dialogue between Chris Arakaky and Walter Block.
I. Arakaky to Block
From: Chris Arakaky Date: May 13, 2008 10:14:16 PM CDT To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: I need your help!
Hi, it’s me, Chris again. I need your advice on something. You see, I am supposed to be going to XYZ University in the fall. The problem I am having is that my dad applied for financial aid and I really do not want to take welfare from the government. At first I thought that I would have to pay it all back anyway so I didn’t feel too guilty about this but then I learned that I only need to repay $3,500 of the $16,000 that I would be getting. That is just ridiculous. That basically is a free ride from the government, and obviously I don’t believe in it. I tried to explain it to my dad but he just doesn’t understand. He says I won’t be saying it’s a free ride when I owe $15,000. Then I told him that wasn’t the point, why should others pay for my own college education? He said that when you pay taxes you don’t only pay them for yourself but for others as well. When I said that goes against what I believe in he just laughed and said I’ve been listening to too much Ron Paul. I told him that Paul didn’t allow his sons to get federal financial aid and he responded by saying it is more expensive now than it was before. After I told him that part of the reason it is so expensive is because universities can rely on the government to pay for people when they themselves can’t afford it (I heard that argument from Thomas Sowell), he completely ignored the point that I was trying to make and went off about scholarships or something. This feels so hopeless. I feel like just telling him that I refuse to go if I have to receive financial aid. But I just can’t do that because number one he already paid the housing and tuition deposit, and my grandma is expecting too much from me. My grandparents have been saving up a lot of money for me to go to college since I was born and they always stressed how important an education is. I know she would be devastated if I told her I wasn’t going and I just couldn’t do that to her. However, I think she might be more sympathetic to what I am saying. She is a very strong anti-tax Republican and the IRS has always been harassing her ever since she came to this country. My grandparents came from Bolivia and earned a lot of money starting their own medical clinic, so naturally the IRS always wanted a big share. Even though she is now retired and my grandpa is dead they still demand more money. So I’m going to talk with her about taking out a student loan and seeing if she can help me pay it. But what do you think I should do? I feel like I am in a hopeless situation. I see no way out of this. Should I take the money because if it wasn’t for the IRS then my grandma would have a lot more money to pay for me to go to college? Should I absolutely refuse to take financial aid and not go to college if I can’t afford to otherwise? How do I get my dad to understand me? This is eating at my conscience and I feel like such a hypocrite voting for somebody who would get rid of the Dept. of Education yet taking money from that same department. Even my mom felt happy that I was getting a free ride and that made me feel even worse. Please tell me what you think I should do.
On another note, I recently ordered Road to Serfdom from the Mises Store and I can’t wait until it comes!!
II. Block to Arakaky
Walter Block wrote:
I greatly admire your attempt to stick to principle.
I hate to be too blunt with you, but I think that you (and Ron too, if what you say about him is true) entirely misconstrue libertarianism. Remember, in this philosophy, government is BAD, the people are GOOD. You’re one of the PEOPLE. It is BAD if the government has any given dollar. It is GOOD if these thieves are relieved of their ill-gotten gains. Did you not ever read Atlas Shrugged, that part about Ragnar Danneskjold?
If your views were correct (according to libertarianism, you can’t take stuff from the state), then you should not use “their” roads, sidewalks, currency, post office, libraries either. Are you really that much of a hermit? I doubt it. Thus, you are, happily acting inconsistently with your own (very mistaken) views. I urge you to continue on down this path regarding grad school. Can you tell me a relevant difference between availing yourself of these government services (sidewalks, currency, post office, libraries) and taking money from the state?
In any case, I have written LOTS about this. Please peruse my publications on this. I am willing to try to argue you into your dad’s position. He and I are probably of similar ages (please show this to him, your mother and grandmother), but that’s not why. I suggest you start with my "Ron Paul and Matching Funds."
Block, Walter. 2002. "Accepting Government Subsidies," Fraser Forum, February, p. 27.
Block, Walter. 2004. "Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part I" Reason Papers, Vol. 27, Fall, pp. 117—133.
Block, Walter. 2006. "Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II" Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp. 85—109; net taxpayer, ruling class analysis p. 87.
Block, Walter. 2007. "Ron Paul and Matching Funds," October 1.
Block, Walter. Forthcoming A. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism” Journal of Libertarian Studies.
Block, Walter. Forthcoming B. "Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique." Journal of Libertarian Studies.
As for Road to Serfdom, here’s my critique of it.
Block, Walter. 1996. “Hayek’s Road to Serfdom,” Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review, Vol. 12, No. 2, Fall, pp. 327—350; reprinted in Ama-gi: Journal of the Hayek Society at the London School of Economics, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 22—25
Best regards, Walter
III. Arakaky to Block
From: Chris Arakaky Sent: Wed 5/14/2008 4:22 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: I need your help!
Dear Mr. Block,
Thank you so much for your email. I am very humbled that a great economist such as yourself would write to me. I understand the point you are making. I certainly do use government roads and things like that. However, my problem isn’t going to a public university, its using other people’s money to pay for my education. The state has a monopoly on roads so what choice do I have but to use it? The law says I must go to high school and since the state also has a monopoly on education what choice do I have other than using tax dollars? I would like to see XYZ University privatized, but if it isn’t then I still do not feel bad about going there because it is beyond my control. But using tax dollars to pay my way there is not beyond my control. Isn’t the state acting on my behalf if it provides me with money that was forcefully taken from others? Am I not a beneficiary of the state? This is the way I honestly feel. I believe the Department of Education should be abolished. If it was, then maybe I wouldn’t be able to attend college since there would be no more financial aid. See the contradiction?
I remember reading that Ron Paul didn’t allow his kids to take federal financial aid. If I find where I read it, then I will send you the link. Anyway, thank you for responding, I really appreciate it.
With best regards, Chris
P.S. After reading your review of Road To Serfdom, it seems like Hayek was more of an economic interventionist than I thought. I certainly don’t agree with mandating work hours. I guess he was closer to Milton Friedman than to Mises or Rothbard.
IV. Block to Arakaky
Walter Block wrote:
Wow, that was a quick read of me on Hayek. I entirely agree with your assessment.
But we disagree, strongly, on the other matter.
Using public roads IS using “other people’s money.” Where do you think the government got the money to build the roads. Not from “other people”?
You do indeed have a choice as to whether or not to use the roads (currency, libraries, etc.). You could become a hermit; you could commit suicide. Ditto for high school. You could have gone to a private one.
Would you accept social security funds? How about tax refunds, when you pay more taxes than the government thinks you owe it? If so, why the difference? You might say, well, I’m just getting my own money back in these cases. But the same thing applies to XYZ University. Only here, you wouldn’t be getting your OWN money back; rather, that of your parents, grandparents, who have been taxed lo these many years.
I think that Ron Paul is a great guy. However, if he didn’t allow his kids to take federal aid, it need not be because this was incompatible with libertarianism. It could have been for pragmatic grounds. Did you read my piece on him accepting government funds? Please give me your criticism of it.
Best regards, Walter
V. Arakaky to Block
From: Chris Arakaky Sent: Wed 5/14/2008 10:26 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: I need your help!
I must say your article on Ron Paul and matching funds is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking articles that I have read on LRC. I think you do make some good points about how the government doesn’t deserve to keep the money it takes and since Ron Paul would limit the power of the state if he got elected then the stolen money at least would help out the libertarian cause. I am very interested in the Martian example. Most libertarians would find it offensive for somebody to take welfare and pay no taxes at all. Replace Martian with illegal immigrant and you can get the idea. In fact, this would go against Ron Paul’s own reason of why he opposes illegal immigration.
I never claimed that using the socialized roads wasn’t using other people’s money. I know it is but I have to use them to survive, just like you said. Surely you cannot suggest that I could have gone to a private school since that decision is up to my parents, not me. I don’t need financial aid to survive or anything like that, which is why I am uneasy about accepting the aid. Should I go and apply for welfare and not worry about getting a job as well?
Of course I would accept Social Security, tax refunds, and things like that. But at XYZ, I’m not so sure I would be getting my parent’s and ancestor’s money back. Their taxes have already been used for things like making bombs to drop on Iraqis. I would be getting counterfeit money from the Federal Reserve and borrowed money. You might argue that the state doesn’t deserve this money either, but I would still be ADDING to the problem. Because of people like me, our government needs to get more money somehow. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I was part of the reason our federal government was so big.
Another thing that I noticed in your article is that you say only non-statists may take the stolen money from the state. But if you accept the governments money for your own purposes (like I would be doing), doesn’t that make you a statist as well? How can you complain about welfare and yet take welfare yourself?
I do kind of understand what you are saying but I still feel very uneasy about it.
Best regards, Chris
VI. Block to Arakaky
Walter Block wrote:
Ragnar broke into Forth Knox and took state money. He WEAKENED the government thereby. If I could get the government to give me $1 million in welfare I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d use the money to further weaken them. Merely taking it from them in this manner would weaken them.
Ditto for you, albeit on a smaller scale. You’ll also be WEAKENING the government if you go to XYZ, get your Ph.D., and then promote liberty by teaching and writing about our political economic philosophy.
I see you haven’t yet read my other publications on this subject, where I discuss the ruling class. You might also want to read my Reason series on the unjust government (a redundancy).
A statist is not someone who takes money from the state. (Ragnar is a statist? Have you read Atlas? If not, go out and get this book immediately. That’s an ORDER.) Rather, a statist is someone who supports the state. Taking money from the state is GOOD. The less they have the better. A libertarian is someone who undermines the state. Taking money from the state can (sometimes) undermine the state. In fact, I hereby go so far as to characterize YOU as a statist: you have the ability to diminish the state by taking some of its money, and you, you statist you, refuse to do so.
I would like to publish this correspondence on LRC when it is finished, if Lew is interested in it. Would you object? If you wish, I can delete your name and make it anonymous.
Best regards, Walter
VII. Arakaky to Block
From: Chris Arakaky Sent: Wed 5/14/2008 11:34 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: I need your help!
Mr. Block, I have not read Atlas yet. I never really got into Ayn Rand since objectivism didn’t really seem like my thing. If you really feel like it is that important that I read it then I will go out and buy it. Even if I do take its money, I doubt the state will be weakened because they can always print more money. Ending the Federal Reserve and the income tax is probably the only way it will really be weakened. It’s been very refreshing to get your perspective on this. I wouldn’t really call myself an anarcho-capitalist so I guess I just never saw it your way. But that is why I love LRC, because it constantly opens my eyes to new ideas and points of view. I plan to read your other pubs on this subject when time permits.
As for me being a statist, I voted for Ron Paul and donated to his campaign. Aren’t you being just a little unfair in calling me a statist? But I do see the point you are trying to make. I have no objections at all about this correspondence being published on LewRockwell.com. I don’t even care if you use my name.
I appreciate you taking the time and talking to me about this. It was really beginning to get to me. Thanks for everything.
VIII. Block to Arakaky
I am a BIG fan of Atlas. But I’m critical about a lot of Objectivism.
Suppose I took $100 of yours. But, you have a printing press in your basement, and could print up as much more as you want (well, within some limits). Would you better off, worse off or the same if I hadn’t stolen $100 from you. Obviously, you’d be worse off from my theft. Ditto for the government.
Yes, other things equal, statism can be weakened with the demise of the Federal Reserve and the income tax. But, unless the hearts and minds of the people are changed, they will soon bring back these institutions, did they ever disappear in the first place. So, how can the hearts and minds of the people be changed? By people like you getting their Ph.D.s, and then writing and teaching and speaking out in behalf of liberty.
Hey, I was only KIDDING when I called you a statist. If you’re a statist, then I’m a Marxist feminist. I was trying to pull a reductio on you: until and unless you are willing to take money from the state, and thereby diminish its power, to that extent you do indeed retain a vestige of statism in you.
Best regards, Walter
IX. Arakaky to Block
Ha, I know you were just kidding but it is just in my nature to be contradictory. In the articles you sent me, you admit that conventional wisdom would say that libertarians shouldn’t take money from the state. I guess I fell for this conventional wisdom. I think a lot of libertarians do. So, I will go to XYZ and I will use financial aid. You seem to want me to get a Ph.D. and teach people about liberty. Since I have no declared major, this seems like a good option. But it also seems like a huge responsibility and a very big calling. I have a lot to learn, but I am willing to learn it.
Best regards, Chris
X. Block to Arakaky
Hey, wait a cotton-picking minute. I just realized that you are a high school student ("no declared major"), going on to get your BA at an undergraduate school. I thought you had just graduated from college, and were now going on to grad school for the Ph.D. This being the case, please do consider coming to Loyola University New Orleans. I’d LOVE to have you as a student. Our entire economics department is filled with Austro-libertarian Professors, and a disproportionate number of our students hold these views too. At the last Austrian Scholars Conference, we had about 6 professors and 15 students in attendance. That is a claim that very few undergraduate colleges can make. You’d be among friends down here with us.
Best regards, Professor Walter Block