March 24, 2009

Fox and Friends and Free MarketsUnderstanding the Assumptions of Salary Caps

Note: The following is an open letter to the news anchors of Fox and Friends, the morning show on the Fox News cable network. The letter is in response to a report just released that the highest paid university employee in the nation was the football coach at the University of Southern California, Pete Carroll, who received $4.42 million in 2007. The three anchors, Steve, Gretchen, and Brian, discussed whether universities should be paying salaries this high in light of our current economic recession. As I suggest in this open letter, a little "worldview analysis" would have enhanced the discussion and enlightened viewers.

Dear Friends at Fox and Friends:

The news item you mentioned Monday morning (Feb. 23, 2009) concerning the flap over high salaries paid to coaches and professors illustrates an underlying problem when reporting this kind of news.[1] A little "worldview analysis" illumines the problem.

Through Summit's unique "worldview" focus, we teach high school and college students a two-step approach to understanding what is happening in the public square. This same approach would also add depth and insight into your on-air discussions. Here's the skinny . . .

Questioning Assumptions

First, we train students to "question assumptions." Applying this technique to the issue of salaries, we discover an underlying assumption: everyone should make the same income. Otherwise, why even bring up the issue. Furthermore, this idea carries with it an air of moral superiority, which is why the coach, when asked about his salary, responded with moral indignation for being asked the question.

Next, we teach students to ask: What is the source of that assumption? The idea that everyone should have the same income is certainly not a free market idea, so there must be another worldview that supports it. And, of course, we find this idea coming from Marx and his present-day disciples. Chapter 9 of David Noebel's book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today's Competing Worldviews, details the Marxist-Leninist view of economics.

The Leftist Tactic: Create Social Unrest

The reason that salaries have become an issue in recent months, whether it's executives in the auto or banking industries or university coaches and professors, is because of the Marxist/socialist/progressive/liberal/leftist intention for everyone to have the same. In their effort to equalize the workforce on every level, leftists continue bringing examples of unequal distribution of wealth to public attention. Their stated goal is to generate social unrest, increase that unrest to a fever pitch, and continue to keep the pressure on until change is made.

In this case, the tactic is to create unrest among the general public over "inequality" of salaries. This in turn brings social pressure to bear on congress to "do something" and, at the same time, convinces the American people that once something is done (for instance, a law capping salaries), it will be accepted as the morally right thing to do. Again, note the moral superiority of this assumed position that is used as leverage with the public.[2]

Interventionist vs. Free Market Assumptions

So the discussion during your show could help viewers consider the underlying assumptions for why this "news" item is news. One way to do that is by asking the questions: "Why is this being reported?" "What is the underlying assumption?" And, "What is the assumed moral position that drives the issue?"

Regarding the last question, the discussion about who makes what could revolve around how the free market is morally superior to government intervention because it is based on the Golden Rule. For example, salaries in a free market are determined by agreement between the employer and employee. There is mutual benefit between the two parties. In other words, the coach is saying if you hire me I'll improve your football program and make the university a lot of money in the process. I get what I want (a good salary) and the university gets what it wants (a nationally ranked football team). (Whether the university should be in the football business is another matter for another time.)

Also, you could include the importance of individual liberty. Unlike an interventionist economy, a free market allows individuals the right to make their own economic decisions. The government's role is simply to ensure that business transactions are conducted peacefully and without coercion. This means, at a minimum, setting up a system of law enforcement and courts where individuals are brought to justice who break the moral laws of economic exchange by stealing, lying, or coercing their fellow man. For the state to coercively take from some and give it to others is the true moral outrage.

For example, the University president and coach freely agreed on his salary. It is no one else's business. If the public doesn't like it, they can send their children to another university or not donate to that university. On the other hand, if the state interferes with the university president and coach's contract, it is restricting their individual freedom to reach that agreement. This is called tyranny, not liberty.

The Limits of Government

In addition, there are the unintended consequences that come when government enters into the economic picture. For example, when public money is given to support a university the entire educational process becomes a political football used for influence and power, and thus, a way to manipulate economic outcomes. This is another example of why government was never intended to be involved in the education business, or any other private business for that matter (think banks and auto manufacturing, for example). Sticking our collective political nose where it does not belong always results in turf wars which invariably only benefit those in power, i.e., the politicians and those they choose to fund. This is call cronyism, not capitalism, and certainly bodes ill for educating our young.

Thomas Jefferson had these stinging remarks to make on a bill that would have placed control over a system of education in the hands of state officials.

If it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund, or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience. Try the principle one step further and amend the bill so as to commit to the governor and council the management of all our farms, our mills, and merchants' stores. No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions he is competent to.[3]

Notice how Jefferson used the illustration of the folly of government intervention in the economy, which was obvious to all, as a way to point to the equal foolishness of government intervention in education. The principle applied in both areas rests on the conviction that the best kind of government is disbursed as broadly as possible instead of being concentrated in the hands of a few. Of course, this principle is not arbitrary, but the reflection from what history teaches. And it is the opposite of what many government planners (we call them politicians) on both the state and federal level are proposing today.

The founder's of our nation had it right: the federal government should be limited to the few things it does well, such as defending our nation from external attack, settling disputes between the states, and securing internal tranquility, as our constitution outlines. Government was never designed to intervene in other areas such as education or the economy, except, as stated earlier, to ensure the free and peaceful exchange of goods and services. These other powers, to quote the Bill of Rights, are "reserved to the states, respectively, and to the people."

In summary, not only is government intervention morally objectionable, but from a pragmatic standpoint, history teaches it simply does not work in real life.

If our goal it to empower the people, we need to shout it from the housetops (and our news outlets) that individual liberty is the ultimate political moral good. Our unique system of government was designed to provide for that moral imperative, grounded as it is in a fundamental God-given right. For that reason, if we allow government to control the economy, we lose individual liberty and abandon our moral duty to God, to ourselves, and to our posterity.

I hope this provides a few talking points you can use on your show. I wish you the best as you seek to provide an oasis of insight in the wasteland of leftist assumptions that are draining our nation dry.

Yours for developing "worldview" thinkers,
Chuck Edwards


PS: BTW, the above is not based on some "conspiracy theory." This analysis is simply taking the published statements of socialists and making the connection between their stated goals and tactics and what is taking place throughout America. For example, during the 1950s, UCLA was dubbed "the little Red schoolhouse" because of the influence of the radical — meaning Marxist — students on that campus. The Marxist influence continued throughout the 1960s on campuses across America. And many of these radical students never left the university. Neo-Marxist Professor Bill Ayers is just one of hundreds who have remained to teach the last couple of generations of students. The leftward lean of our national consciousness reveals the success of their indoctrination in our "public" schools.

For more information on the six competing worldviews in America and how each answers ten key issues (including economics), see David Noebel'sUnderstanding the Times: The Collision of Today's Competing Worldviews. To better understand the radicalization of our universities, see David Horowitz's The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America; Thomas Sowell's Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas; and Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education. And for an excellent take on how economics is being taught on campus, pick up Dobbs' (editor) Keynes at Harvard: Economic Deception As a Political Credo.

  1. See the lead story, "Dermatology Professor's $4.3 Million Rivals College Coach Salaries," accessed 03/05/2009.
  2. On this point, see the writings of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci [], and more recently, the father of "community organizing," Saul Alinsky [see], whose social philosophy influenced Hillary Clinton [see] as well as President Obama [see], accessed 03/10/2009.
  3. Public Education and Indoctrination, The Foundation for Economic Education, NY, 1993, p. 15.

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