The Mythical Greater Good

July 26, 2005

Last night I sat next to a grown man who was on the verge of tears. I had found him sitting alone in the dark, on the steps of a deserted school. There was a tear running down the side of his face, and I was disturbed to see this giant of a man so emotional, so vulnerable. Being a bloke as well, I couldn't really do anything except say "Bugger," and look into the distance.

The man was Ken Brown, chairman of the board of trustees of Orauta School - the small, rural school in Northland being forcibly closed by the State. What could possibly have caused him to lose his normally implacable composure? What had happened to upset the stolid Ken Brown, who is the immovable rock on whom so many people depend?

"I'm spitting," he said with a clenched jaw. "The bastards," he continued. He was on the verge of crying due to suppressed anger and frustration.

I suspected that Ken had realised that here in New Zealand, laws and justice are not the same things.

He had come back from another round of proceedings at the Kaikohe District Court. He and his wife were charged with operating an unregistered school and two parents were charged with failing to send their children to a registered school.

The hearing had not gone well. The judge had summarily dismissed his argument and evidence, which was based on obscure legal technicalities related to Maori sovereignty laws. The judge postponed Ken's next hearing for another month. The judge then refused to let Ken act as representative for the two parents and had him escorted from the courtroom. The judge dealt with the case "by formal proof", without the accused parties present, and now the parents are probably in for a stiff fine.

This was just another in a long string of challenges that Ken and the others have had to face. Every time I visit, he has new stories of conniving bureaucrats who try to undermine the school in various underhanded ways: from telling bus drivers not to pick up schoolchildren, to surreptitiously stirring up animosity between Orauta and other local communities.

As we sat outside, Ken told me the latest horror story. Apparently the New Zealand Teachers Council had sent the principal of Orauta School a letter saying that she had brought her profession into disrepute and would effectively ruin her teaching career by continuing to teach at Orauta. Yet according to a recent ERO (Education Review Office) report, she is a very experienced and highly rated teacher. Not long before, they had even tried to bribe her into moving to a new, combined school.

I pondered the puzzle of how we had reached a stage where the State was able to get away with violating the rights of innocent citizens, and using such dirty tactics.

I recalled my first letter to Ken. In this letter I explained why I wanted to help Orauta ( http://www.speakeasy.net.nz/?postid=4 ). A man who had read this letter, sent me a vitriolic email. He accused me of being heartless and thoughtless for promoting libertarian policies and claimed that these policies would never help the Orauta community. He said that the community just needed some more money (extorted) from taxpayers.

Then it struck me that this person, and people like him, were the direct cause of Orauta's problems. They think it's OK to violate certain individual rights, if it is for "the greater good". Presumably they advocate this only out of the best of intentions, out of sincere altruism. According to them, it's OK to take money from individuals and spend it on social projects - "for the greater good". The small violations become bigger and more extensive, but it's all still "for the greater good". Property rights essentially disappear. Prohibition becomes rampant. Once this erosion of individual rights gathers pace, it doesn't take very long before it becomes acceptable to force all children to go to registered schools exclusively - "for the greater good." When small schools are forcibly closed by decree, irreparably damaging communities - it's "for the greater good."

Consequently we end up with a whole raft of violated individual rights, but unfortunately, nobody can define just what this so-called "greater good" is that we have collectively gained. It is not difficult to see that one man's good could be another man's bane. Only individuals can decide what is "good" for them. Sadly, the fans of Nanny-Statism don't believe that people are capable of making these decisions for themselves.

So now we have the situation where these responsible adults from the Orauta community are being prosecuted for taking responsibility for their own children's education. This is where the good intentions of the sincere, yet misguided, majority have brought us.

As an example, the Greens congratulated the government for deciding to give the land, on which Orauta School was built, back to the original Maori owners who donated it for the purpose of a native school ( http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8308.html ). However, they failed to condemn the State's flagrant violation of individual rights, especially the right of parents to freely choose the education of their children. Instead the Greens want to throw some more misappropriated money at communities like this, on condition that they do what Nanny State thinks is best - which is registered state schools, of course! So heaven forbid if anybody should decide that they don't want to slot their children into the robot factories of Nanny State, and instead decide for themselves what kind of education their children should have.

So there I sat with Ken Brown. His grandfather had died only three weeks previously. Ken is one of the handful of staunch people who have kept the school going against all the government intimidation and treachery. He looked tired and he talked of his many frustrating experiences with the bureaucrats who hide behind the phrase "we are only doing our job", while they execute the inhumane policies of the State. We had a long talk about why we fight this seemingly interminable battle against creeping state control. When we finally said goodnight, he looked ready to take on the bureaucrats again.

For my own part, I had been reminded of why I started this difficult struggle against government bullying. Every time the State steals some freedom from any individual in our society, we all lose a bit of our own freedoms.

Ken and I disagree on many issues, most notably Maori sovereignty and treaty issues, which I consider racist, divisive and unfair to all New Zealanders.

However, we wholeheartedly agree that parents should have the right to choose and take responsibility for the education of their children.

The parents and teachers from Orauta School have done nothing wrong. They have entered into a mutual, voluntary agreement and are educating their own children. There are no victims in this arrangement. Why is the State persecuting them and treating them like criminals?

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  1. Rick says:
    July 29, 2005 @ 05:57 — Reply

    Julian, I know exactly where you're coming from.

    Reminds me of the Stuart C Scott book about the Treaty. He mentions the WW2 Allies finding the gas chambers even as the German public were attending Sunday church as usual- the truth in plain sight but blanked out. "Comfortably Numb", I call it. Like Scott himself, wise to some things and blind to others. They cannot see the connections, principles hold no currency for them. But they are our friends and our family, so what can you do but be *alone* and alienated by your understanding as you were 'last night'?

    The only answer I know starts with L and ends in Z

  2. Julian Pistorius says:
    July 29, 2005 @ 08:04 — Reply

    Thanks Rick. That's a great way to put it.

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