One Teacher’s Resignation

My decision to homeschool and the reasons for homeschooling listed in the book are mostly based on structural differences between the two, rather than a criticism of modern curriculum. However, I am aware that between “No Child Left Behind” and other modern movements many teachers these days are becoming disenfranchised from their own profession. Below is a video resignation from one such teacher. To quote from the video one line that strongly correlates with MicroSecession, “I care more about the people my children become, than the scores on the tests they take”.

A Clerihew About Oklahoma

I hope to find some time to say more about the disaster here in Oklahoma over the next few days, because it really shows how the values of MicroSecession work. I was born, grew up, and still live in Oklahoma, and I believe that the principles espoused in MicroSecession are the basic principles of Oklahoma itself, but clarified and expounded upon.

In any case, I wanted to share with you a Clerihew poem I wrote about Oklahoma:

Oklahoma is our state
of our strength of character there is no debate
we love to cling to our God and our guns
and when trouble strikes we get ‘er done!

For those who don’t know, a Clerihew is a whimsical 4-line biographical poem with a rhyming scheme AABB. It must name its subject in the first line (or in extreme cases the second), and, if possible, should have one forced or contrived rhyme. It was popularized by G.K. Chesterton, and created by his friend Edmond Clerihew Bentley.

Family Wealth…Without the Wealth

I have been reading a great book by James Hughes titled Family Wealth: Keeping it in the Family. The book is about family trusts, but it is really about more than that. It is about reversing the normal way that people look at family assets. One of the core tenets of the book is that the most important assets in a family are the people in the family, not the money. Rather than focusing on developing the money, the most important thing is to develop the people.

Many people, when developing trusts, don’t give the slightest thought to how the money will impact the personal growth and development of the beneficiaries, but only how they can best keep the money going into the future. James Hughes says that this is very backwards, and can actually cause the money to become a burden rather than a blessing, and change a gift of love into an entitlement. Hughes advocates developing a structure of family governance which organizes the whole family as an organization, and the focus of the governance being the betterment of the people in the family, not just increasing the asset value. Hughes looks into the history of a number of families that have been successful in developing a legacy, and shows how their focus on the members of the family, rather than the money, led to the long-term survival of the family’s wealth.

However, while reading the book, I continually get the sense that, while Hughes was writing entirely to people who have money to put into a trust, one could incorporate a number of his suggestions even if you have no money to put in a trust. For starters, Hughes suggests an annual family meeting to discuss family business – i.e. not just chit-chat, but really discussing where people are in their lives, where they are going, how they can better get there, and what the rest of the family can do to help. This is something any family can do, even without a single penny.

Another suggestion Hughes gives is in family philanthropy. Hughes suggests that grandchildren should present philanthropic suggestions to grandparents, so that grandchildren get a sense of what it is like to put together and make such presentations. They can start really young, and you simply adjust the kind of presentation based on the age of the grandchild. The grandparents not only consider the request, but also offer suggestions for improvement to the presenters. When a decision is made, not only is money given, but the whole family participates in whatever philanthropic activity was suggested. As should be evident by now, there is nothing in this that actually requires money. Time is one of the components of this plan, and it can actually be given completely independently of any financial gift. Therefore, grandchildren can present ideas for how the family should spend their time philanthropically to their grandparents, and the whole family can participate in the endeavor once a decision is reached.

It is my contention that if family’s acted more cohesively as Hughes suggests, it can be a model for not just how a family can protect wealth long-term, but also develop wealth from nothing. Like Hughes, I believe that if we develop the people, the money will follow. I also think that even if the money did not follow, developing the people would be a sufficient goal warranting such an exercise. Anyway, I hope you read the book. While it focuses more on money than a MicroSecession view of the world would, I think a lot of the ideas and refocusing on different forms of value available are very consonant with the ideas of MicroSecession.

Another Reason to Buy Silver – The Gold/Silver Ratio

The main reasons I advocate for silver ownership in MicroSecession are non-monetary factors. I recommend silver not as an investment for money, but as a storehouse for value. However, in this particular time in history, I also think that silver is a very good investment. Not only are the central banks printing money like mad, but the gold/silver ratio is out-of-whack.

Historically, the silver/gold price ration varied from 1:2 to 1:14. However, currently, the silver/gold price ratio is 1:60! This means that if the historic silver ratios and the current gold price are anywhere near correct, silver should be worth 4.5x its current value! In addition, the uses for silver have gone up, not down, so it is also useful as a commodity.

Therefore, once sanity returns to the precious metals market, investing in silver could be a great windfall somewhere down the road. If gold goes up, and the pricing discrepancy between silver and gold resolve, you would stand to make some serious cash.

But, as I said, the real reason for owning silver is in its intrinsic value over generations, not in today’s paper price.

Elizabeth Warren’s Crusade for the Middle Class

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday railing against Senator Elizabeth Warren and her comparison of student loan rates and the federal reserve discount window, so this post, while I will still have some criticism, I want to focus on some good aspects of Elizabeth Warren’s policy ideas.

First of all, though, I want to take a moment to talk about progressivism in general. I am a conservative. I like conservative approaches to solving problems. I do not, in general, like the progressive approaches. However, I do think that progressives are often better at identifying problems (especially systemic ones) than conservatives are. The problem, as I see it, is that their proposed solutions are almost always worse than the problems that they identify. Thomas Sowell, for instance, wrote an inordinately large book detailing the difference between a policy goal and a policy result. Progressives are very good at identifying real problems. They are very bad at solving them. Conservatives tend to not want to acknowledge real problems. But, when we do, actually, finally, eventually acknowledge them we tend to propose solutions which match reality rather than fantasy (by the way I am speaking of conservatives, not neo-cons or RINOs). So, going back to my article on Elizabeth Warren yesterday, my point was not about the two problems she has identified (education costs and banking system immorality), but rather her proposed solution.

In that spirit, I wanted to share with you all two things that I think Warren has done very well. First of all, recently she has addressed the problems in the federal government in their refusal to hold financial institutions morally accountable for their actions. Normally, the government allows financial institutions to pay a fine without any admission of guilt, and Warren was questioning this practice. I concur, and was not even aware of this practice until she brought it up.

The second thing she has done is identify a very bad trend in family finances. In the video below, Warren shows that the problem with family finances today is that we have two incomes but more debt and no savings. Obvious, right? Well, what’s not so obvious is the reasons why. We may be a consumerist society, but we are less so than we used to be. Warren showed that in every discretionary family expense category, we are actually paying less than we used to. So why are families being squeezed? It’s our fixed costs. In other words, we are being swamped with the price of homes, the price of insurance, the cost of medical care, and taxes. Plus, since there are now two incomes, we have additional expense categories such as childcare and multiple vehicles. And, we have increased educational expectations, such as expecting our kids to go to college, not just high school. Plus, since we have both parents working, and require more income, we are more vulnerable to any perturbation of our life pushing us off the financial cliff.

Now, here’s the interesting thing about the list of things where we are spending less and where we are spending more. In the things where we are spending less, the primary driver of prices is the market and family choices. In the things where we are spending more, the primary driver of prices is federal policy (i.e. government regulatory measures), macroeconomics (i.e. the federal reserve), and left-wing social experiments (two-income families, and thinking that everyone needs a college education, and the necessity to have a “safety net”). In other words, it is the policies of the Democratic party (the one Warren belongs to) which are driving the very issues that she is suggesting.

This is why I advocate for MicroSecession. The costs really are going up. The only way out is to not participate.

Interestingly, and I will do a fuller post on this later, I think the best thing I can do for my kids is not send them to college. Instead, it would be to buy them a cheap house that they can live in payment-free, fix up, and sell for a profit. Why? In other words, the biggest problem we have right now is the size of our fixed costs. Rather than try to push their paycheck up, if I can instead push their asset column up, and reduce their fixed costs, I will have helped them out for a lifetime. Plus, if they own their car outright, and rely on each other and the family for help instead of having insurance, then all we have left to worry about is our 43% tax rate (see the book for more information on how I calculate that). But at least they will have a good start.

Anyway, here is the Warren’s lecture, and it is well worth your time. The only question is, if the real problems are with the mismanagement of governance, why are we trying to make that portion of our lives bigger?

Farming and Teaching

My wife sent me this great link to a discussion on the similarities between farming and good teaching. One of the gems:

Slowness

Farming

Farming depends upon slow processes, many of which take years to come about. The best farmers act out of a respect for this slowness and love for the third and fourth generations to come. Their views repudiate the modern notion of “fast” or “instant” gratification.

Teaching

The best teacher knows that their efforts will outlive them. A lesson well taught and well caught continues into the grandchildren of the student. Such means that few teachers “see” the fruit of their work. They depend and love this very reality. This repudiates the current fad of immediate “assessment” and measurement of desired outcomes.

I would argue this is true even on smaller scales. A farmer must look to the next year, and see how well his crop will come in. A teacher must ask whether or not his teaching will produce fruit in higher grade levels. Certainly we must also look to further generations as well, but I think that our present country would do well to merely look 5 to 10 years in the future.