Perspectives: Free people don’t need to be forced to do right

OPINION – An accurate description of statism is the worldview in which some ideas are so good they have to be mandatory. Unfortunately, this is a point of view held by a great many people who should know better.

Why would the people of a free society choose compulsion over exercising their freedom of choice?

Why increase the state’s power over us at every turn?

State senator Aaron Osmond has started a long-overdue dialogue about doing away with compulsory education in Utah. In explaining why compulsory education laws should be repealed, Osmond said, “Some parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system.

As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness.”

The outraged reaction of Osmond’s critics shows a deep-seated attachment for state compulsion as a means to an end. The Salt Lake Tribune summed up the gist of its support for such laws by editorializing:

As we don’t want to be surrounded by firetrap buildings, open sewers or drunk drivers, we also choose not to be immersed in a crowd of stupid people. That’s why education, in civilized societies, is not optional.

The glaring logical fallacy of this editorial is the presumption that, barring state compulsion, we’d be unable to figure out how to educate our children. It simply doesn’t follow that if the state isn’t pointing a gun at our heads that our kids wouldn’t be educated by other means.

Plutarch said it best when he wrote, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” That can only happen when a student chooses to embrace his or her education. It’s not a product of being forced to learn what some bureaucrat believes is best for the student.

Former University of Chicago president Robert M. Hutchins spelled out the difference between schooling and education when he wrote, “True education does not consist merely in acquiring a few facts of science, history, literature, or art, but in the development of character.”

When the state becomes a mandatory source from which we learn knowledge rather than acquiring authentic character through self-driven learning, it will train us to be lifelong children rather than responsible adults.

This lack of character can be seen in areas other than education as well.

Heidi Yewman wrote a highly emotional anti-gun piece for the Daily Beast in which she states, “I decided to find out what it felt like to be that “good guy” by carrying a gun everywhere I went for a month, doing the absolute minimum that’s legally required.”

And therein is the problem.

By seeking to do the “absolute minimum” required by law, she is demonstrating clear moral mediocrity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his 1978 commencement address to Harvard warned how a legalistic society is not the same as a healthy society:

A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.

In the case of a firearms owner, the personal responsibility of learning basic gun safety, firearms handling, marksmanship and principles of personal defense are pursued voluntarily. Only a person whose spirit of freedom has been broken would allow their exercise of an inalienable right to be defined by the letter of a compulsory law.

There are too many Americans who prefer to take orders and fear the prospect of assuming responsibility for their own lives. They’ve been taught to be helpless; trained to act as their own jailers. They’ve also been conditioned to despise those citizens who remain independent.

This explains their unalloyed hostility toward millions upon millions of peaceable firearms owners who have chosen to be responsible without having to be forced.

Government is not our parent. We are not helpless children who must be scolded and directed in every instance.

It’s as wrong to compel a person to do what is right, as it is to forbid him to do it.


Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • philiplo July 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Perhaps in the utopia you see in your mind, eliminating compulsory public education would result in an abundance of clear-thinking philosophers and groundbreaking entrepreneurs, but reality has a way of intruding on such dreams.
    Reality #1: In many cases, schools are forced to act as parents because so many actual parents are too busy, working two minimum wage jobs in an attempt to put food on the table. Is the solution to get rid of schools, or to adequately fund them while also raising the minimum wage?
    Reality #2: Without public schooling, privilege and access to education will lead to more of same for those so blessed, while poverty and ignorance will doom the children born to parents of lesser means. With no hope in their lives, illiterate and broke, will they subsist on the generosity of the wealthy, living on scraps tossed absently their way? Or is it more likely they will take an easier route and turn to crime?
    Reality #3: Without some common standard (dare I say “common core?”) to strive for, how will these mavericks of your future interact with each other? When a noble comments on a work by Shakespeare, will the bourgeois understand the reference? Will the proletariat or the hoi polloi? It could be quite difficult to get things done without a core knowledge base from which to draw.
    I give your plan a D-. While reaching for a philosophical ideal, it ignores many pesky realities that have a way of screwing things up.

    • Bryan Hyde July 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you for demonstrating the precise dependence on state coercion I was hoping to highlight.
      Government policies that impose a minimum wage, debase our money supply and extract excessive taxation from us are partly why so many families struggle to make to make ends meet. What is your solution to the problem government created? More government. Right.
      Invoking privilege is consistent with the class warfare/redistribution narrative favored by statists, but central planning can never provide the kind of opportunity that an unfettered free market once produced.
      Forced egalitarianism is not congruent with reality. The truth is, we all have different strengths, talents, passions, and abilities. Dumbing us down to the lowest common denominator is not a true form of equality. Centrally planned learning creates followers not leaders.
      I’d actually be more concerned if you had awarded me a higher grade. Thank you for providing contrast and comparison.

      • philiplo July 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

        No, sir. The reason so many families struggle is that the profits from “the system” do not work their way down to reward the worker. Instead, they are swallowed by corporate entities and stockholders. In relation to those at the top, compensation for line workers is at its lowest point since the Gilded Age. Greed. Is it good?
        Equality of results is not the goal. Rather, we should reach for equality of opportunity. Should the children of the poor or uneducated not have the same BASIC opportunity as those of the upper crust? Or should they be happy to remain in the serf class, knowing their place and staying in it?
        Your free market, left to itself, would never work to create the type of country our founding fathers envisioned. There needs be legitimate restraints and regulations placed upon it, and the entity to enforce such is our (representative) federal government.
        By the way, setting education goals and standards does not equate to “dumbing us down to the lowest common denominator.” These are meant only to serve as a baseline that all citizens of our country should try to attain, giving us at least some standard of knowledge and understanding common to all. Beyond that, you’re on your own — the whole bootstrap thing, you know. But you must also know that the better educated the least of us is, the better off every one of us is.

  • Isaac July 25, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    So I suppose we should also get rid of speed limits because responsible citizens will just know how fast they should be going around every corner?

    • Bryan Hyde July 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      A speed limit is an arbitrary number that substitutes the state’s judgment for a driver’s judgment. Often for profit. I like how Eric Peters explains it:
      Free people are responsible people. Subjects don’t have to think and act responsibly any more. Their decisions have already been made by others.

      • Bender July 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm

        Randian fairy tales. Just like the hippy movement you posit that if only the man would only get off your back you’d prosper.

      • RPMcMurphy July 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

        And how do we assure that only free responsible people with good judgement can buy cars capable of 150 mph and want to demonstrate it on River Road ??

        • Bryan Hyde July 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

          You do understand that there are plenty of cars in St. George that are capable of 150+ mph, right? Do you see people regularly getting ticketed or arrested for driving that speed? Of course not.
          The only person I’m aware of who drove at excessive speed on River Road and ended up killing people was a highway patrolman.
          How about this: we hold people accountable for their actual behavior and not what we think or fear they might do, someday, somewhere.

          • philiplo July 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm

            Are you seriously proposing that last statement?
            While it sounds good and, on its surface makes a lot of sense, looking just a little deeper reveals huge flaws that would rapidly become apparent if such a system were implemented.
            You seem to be saying we don’t need traffic laws, including speed limits. I’m assuming your theory is that people will pilot their automobiles safely, because it’s in their selfish interest to do so (to avoid personal injury?).
            I suppose that would work great if we all lived in personal bubbles, but the reality is that we currently co-exist with thousands (or millions, in larger cities) of other people. The speed laws (and traffic signals and stop signs) are not there to punish you for what you might do; they are there to make the movement of traffic predictable, and therefore more safe for all. In your world it’s every man for himself and get the hell out of my way. I’m fairly certain I don’t want to live in that world.
            We are more than individuals here; we are a society.

          • Bryan Hyde July 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm

            Collectivism is wrong because it presumes that the will of the collective can trump the inalienable rights of the individual. This is the real conflict in our country today. Not left vs. right or conservative vs. liberal. You’re confusing lack of coercion with lack of rules or order.
            This inherent distrust of how others might use their freedom is the siren song that lulls a lot of good people into putting government shackles on everyone including themselves. Who wants to live in a world like that?

  • Isaac July 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Or maybe we should get rid of the entire driver license process because only responsible people who take the time to learn how to drive safety are going to be driving anyway.

    I agree with you that there are too many laws and that a new one isn’t always the solution to every problem. However, many laws are helpful even to “good people”. Do good people just know that they should all drive on the right side of the road? You could say we don’t need laws against something more obvious like theft but you and I both know that if there weren’t laws against and penalties for theft if would become even more common than it is.

    • Mike Ebert July 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      You assume that because Bryan advocates an end to government compulsion in areas it has no business controlling, he is also advocating and end to some of the correct roles of government. Such is not the case.

      Speaking to your example, the government shouldn’t compel people to drive certain speeds or learn to drive, but it should enforce consequences for people who deprive others of their life or liberty. Thus, there shouldn’t be government-set speed limits but there should be penalties for causing accidents. As far as speed guidelines and rules of the road, there are a variety of independent standards boards in all sorts of areas and industries, so why not for driving?

      • Isaac July 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        Well who gets to decide what is “government compulsion in areas it has no business controlling” versus “correct roles of government”?

        • Mike Ebert August 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          The Constitution is an attempt to define the proper role of government. The people, through their representatives, are supposed to choose the laws and limits enacted (within the framework of the Constitution).

          It’s sad to say that the Constitution is being ignored, that representatives often don’t represent, and that most people are choosing captivity instead of freedom.

  • Bender July 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Disagree. Public schools play an important role in uniting us as an American people. We as a public have decided to mandate certain behaviors. Insisting that children get an education and following up to make sure that happens is common sense. A democracy won’t function with an ill-educated populace. Witness Egypt. The founding fathers you venerate were adamant supporters of public education and understood its role in preserving democracy.
    You fundamentalist conservatives are every bit as naive as any of the loons on the left. Democracy and capitalism depend on the population acting in good faith. A fraction of us will always try to game and cheat the system. I wish the fundamentalists would focus more on improving government and streamlining regulation than pretending that if we just throw it in the trash a Utopian society will appear.

    • Bryan Hyde July 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Again, there is the assumption that if government doesn’t educate the children, the populace is too helpless to figure it out themselves. This has as much moral authority as the question of “who’ll pick the cotton if the slaves are freed?”
      Real education has little to do with why governments insist upon schooling the masses.
      Please, learn the history of our compulsory public school system and the Prussian model from which it is derived. I’ve written on this before:
      The fact that you don’t trust other people to use their freedom wisely does not give you the right to insist the state abridge their freedoms to assuage your fears. Force is the tool of the tyrant when educated people cannot be successfully persuaded to accept collectivist dogma.

      • Bender July 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm

        OK John Galt, you got me. Your heroic speech has aroused the inner patriot in me. I’m off to the Abajo range to ponder my past parasitic reliance on government. After I come back from my sojourn high above the beautiful Monticello campus of GWU I hope to have new insight into helping the enlightened few create the new institutions which will allow free men to soar.
        Just kidding. I mostly think you are a like-able nut. A crazy uncle who never quite got a firm grip on reality. Carry on. You too Oak.

    • Oak July 26, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Prior to compulsory education in the 1800’s, Massachusetts had a literacy rate of 98%. After compulsory education was enacted, it dropped to 91% and remains at that level today, or at least when Ted Kennedy’s office published a letter back in the 90’s that mentioned this. The Founding Fathers didn’t labor under compulsory education. The people in that day that valued education so much chose to do it.

      Parents today have an atrophied responsibility muscle because the state has been doing it for so long. It may take a little time to rediscover that muscle that hasn’t been used for some time, but the same thing happens to any liberated people. Once they regain freedom, it takes a little time to discover how to use it and once they do, they excel.

  • Roy J July 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    may be wrong, but I believe Plato says that the state is, in fact, your parent. I believe he says so in the Crito, as the conclusion of the argument between Socrates and his interlocutors, who are pleading with him to escape certain death. Pretty sure his answer was that if the state chose to do away with him, so be it, since it had suckled, reared and protected him from birth. On the other hand, Aristotle is said to have escaped Athens saying ” I will not allow this city to sin twice against philosophy”, but his own ideas on education, at least in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics are highly exclusive, however broadminded they may be. Stillf further, a Montaigne will throw the higher learning right out the window, but a Descartes will systematize and apply purest of all disciplines, mathematics, in search of the highest truth. Knowing all of that does not build a specific sort of character, or build it in a specific direction. The students from Great Book schools like St John’s, Thomas Aquinas, Rose Hill , Ave Maria University, George Wyeth and maybe soon Monticello, derive their specific direction from the institute itself, not in fact from the works they study. (Actually, some graduates of St John’s might argue that they ended up with no direction at all!) That has been my experience, at least. That being said, I would only like to point out once again that the Great Books were outlined as a course of group and self study for the average middle class, working American (or maybe upper middle class) over the course of many years, and as such, was not specifically designed for a college curriculum. I know that concept has changed over the years, but I wonder sometimes what the founders of Great Books programs think about that.

  • Eric July 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Statists don’t like to be challenged Bryan. They are comfortable in their ideal. Those who challenge their ideal of “freedom” (a government forced structure of social programming) are tyrants. See how the definition has changed? See how 1984’s ‘Newspeak’ has become normal in today’s society? Maybe Statists are afraid of personal responsibility. Personal responsibility to teach their family, personal responsibility to become self sufficient, personal responsibility to promote public and private virtue. I’m not sure statists can handle true freedom, which is liberation from compulsion. Dear Statists and friends of Statists, you can not legislate or regulate public safety, personal responsibility or public morality absolutely, it is impossible. If people look to government for equality and rights, they will have the government’s idea of those things forced on us. I also love how Bryan has made an argument for a form of freedom and suddenly he’s been turned into an anarchist monster. But think about this Newspeak. The classic definition of anarchy would fit Bryan’s argument, which is freedom from an all encompassing government. But today the definition of anarchy has changed to promote fear, that somehow without big government we will have complete and utter chaos.

  • William July 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I have asked this question it has become as irrelevant as some think it has always been.

    At what point is one person justified in depriving someone of their desires in order to satisfy the needs of another?

    The answer to that question defines the expansive role of government.

    My asking the question is not some rhetorical gimmick. I would like someone to provide, along with justification, the precise point at which the justification exists. Another way to ask that questions is “What is the precise point at which TAKING is justified so that giving can be accomplished?”

    Education is a wonderful gift to any person. Yet, when it is given in any measure, by a compulsory power, than something has been taken. At what point is that justified?

  • Oak July 26, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Great article Bryan. Compulsory education cannot co-exist with current Utah laws that give parents the fundamental liberty interest in the education of their children. We should either change the law or end compulsory education because they are in conflict with each other.

    62A-4a-201. Rights of parents — Children’s rights — Interest and responsibility of state.
    “Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children.”
    “(d) The state recognizes that:
    (i) a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage, train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent’s children; and
    (ii) the state’s role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.”

  • Karen July 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

    As an older American, I think the esoteric arguments like this article from the “new” Republicans from Fox News, etc. are just a re-branding of tired and worn ideas from the John Birch Society that I had thought we debunked many years ago as the extreme fringe of the Republican Party. When I was a Republican, the party stood for helping small business and job creation. Now, locally and nationally, the Republican Party wants to take us back to some imagined perfect past where issues like race, poverty, and inequality didn’t exist, at least in their minds. How can we learn from the past if we keep repeating past mistakes?

    • Bryan Hyde July 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Karen, surely you’re not suggesting that issues like “race, poverty, and inequality” no longer exist? They have always existed. The question that remains is whether state-mandated uniformity of thought or the freedom to think and act independently and creatively would provide a more likely solution. The biggest mistake of the past (which we keep repeating) is allowing the state to separate us from our personal responsibilities. It’s not a party issue since both parties support this particular flavor of statism.

      • Karen July 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm

        Bryan, you missed the part of my sentence which says that many in the Republican Party believe in a “imagined perfect past” where, to them, those issues didn’t exist. Maybe they can’t or don’t want to remember them. Race, issues, and poverty have always existed but, as a whole, the Republican Party seems to want to go back to the “good old days” and pretend that everything was ideal.

        Bryan, your article just feeds into that narrative. Aaron Osmond’s ill-conceived idea is also based on some ideal that doesn’t and never has existed. I don’t need laws to make me drive the speed limit. It is just common sense to drive at the same speed as other vehicles. I sent my kids to school to get an education not because I was forced to send them. Your ideal of personal responsibility doesn’t really mesh with the real world. Like I said, it is just an esoteric argument and devoid of common sense.

        • Bryan Hyde July 26, 2013 at 8:54 pm

          It appears that we’re looking at the problems from two very different vantage points. I am arguing specific principles that are at stake not semantics. I’d like to know what principles you’re standing on that constitute “common sense”? Feel free to share them.

  • Tracy Winchester July 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    if you look back into the late 19th and early 20th century many children were working at factories doing hard labor.why?because their parents were poor and they needed to work to help their families,thus receiving little to no education.where was the nobility in that,the personal responsibility of the factory owner?I can only guess you are a middle aged white man to write such an article.that’s why woman had to fight for the right to vote,or a war was fought to end slavery.these things were not changed by personal responsibility.they were changed by people who fought for their rights under our constitution.I agree with you on an intellectual basis,but the real world works alot differently.I also suppose you think women should quit working to educate their children? Schools should teach facts and theories,parents should teach you character

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