Statism is any political system in which the political system has the dominant control over social and economic affairs. Under Statism, the political system becomes the moral religion of the people removing the rights of the individual to advance what the political system will describe as the greater “common good”. It is, however, the State or the political system which is determining moral right and wrong. In doing so the Statist attitude is one where the political system views itself with the authority of gods over the people determining on their behalf that which is good and that which is evil
The left vs right paradigm that exists in our society will argue as to which end of that spectrum is most open to becoming Statist. The left accuses the right of Statism and the right accuses the left of Statism. Both are futile arguments because both are right. Statism exists on both the left and the right once the rights of the individual are ignored to pave the way for any agenda that advances any political system’s control over the people.
When our Country was founded there was great concern about a centralized federal government’s power to become the moral dictator of right and wrong. A debate arose between Federalists and Anti-Federalists leading to the inclusion of a Declaration or Bill of Rights to reinforce the rights of the individual. For many Individual states, the inclusion of this Bill of Rights was important to the ratification of the Federal Constitution.
Many states had developed their own Constitutions to govern those states once the Declaration of Independence was established. Pennsylvania was among them. The 1776 Commonwealth Constitution perhaps foresaw the need to protect the rights of the individual and included a Declaration of Rights in the Commonwealth’s Constitution. It was important enough to be the first article of the Commonwealth Constitution and the 1776 Constitution included 16 declared rights which the state was obligated to protect. Five of those sixteen sections under Article 1 dealt with the protection of our rights to property.
I believe that understanding how we got here is an essential part of understanding what we must do to unravel the controls over our lives and individual liberties.
It is important to remember that we were primarily an agrarian society at the founding of our Commonwealth and our Nation. The only method of measuring wealth for the purposes of taxation was through property. A family who owned 10 acres of land used for farming would be considered to have less ability to generate wealth than another farming family with 100 acres. Property tax was then applied equally through land parcels. The more parcels you owned the more total taxes were paid but each parcel was still taxed equally.
In the colonial cities, business were established but these were small family owned businesses that primarily functioned from within the individual’s own home. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals would hang a placard outside their home offering their services to the local community. Then there were the Blacksmith’s, Tinsmiths, Copper-smiths, etc. Again, the overwhelming majority of these properties were also the homes of the tradesmen. Real Estate was a potential for generating wealth
The five declarations of individual property rights of the 1776 Commonwealth Constitution were intended to restrict the government’s ability of control when it came to the private property ownership.
As our Nation evolved and we shifted from being an agrarian society to an industrial society home-ownership was less and less reliant upon farming or a small family owned local business to maintain the home. Homes became places one went to after the day’s work was finished. The home no longer generates real annual wealth that can be used to pay a tax. Unfortunately for all of us, the system of property taxation remained. As new forms of identifying, generating and measuring wealth were established new systems of taxation were also developed but not to replace the property tax. They were added to the property tax.
As our society evolved the emphasis on education also evolved. Initially the state had little control over local schools outside of mandating an educational requirement. Schools were under the jurisdiction of local governments. They received their funding through local taxation applied by local municipal governments. Their budgets were approved through local government much the same as any other body of government.
That began to change in the 1940s. As educational revolutionaries like John Dewey sought to place education under the controls of federal regulations the management of education at the local level had to change. The Federal Constitution, however, stood in his way especially with the inclusion of the 10th Amendment which reserved any rights not enumerated in the Federal Constitution to the individual states.
Dewey understood that State control over education had more flexibility and that States needed to be implemented to enable the creation of a centralized power over education.
Pennsylvania, like other states began regulating local school districts. At the time there were more than 2000 school districts in Pennsylvania. By 1949 Pennsylvania established the Public School Code of 1949. The implementation of this regulatory power would require funding to the local level so a 1% sales tax was implemented which was to be disbursed to the school districts to help them meet their obligations.
It wasn’t working. Incremental increases to the state sales tax were needed. The argument began of consolidating school districts to save costs. It was also determined that a statewide Department of Education needed to be in place and that our local school’s accountability should be shifted away from the controls of local government placing them under the jurisdiction of a State Department of Education. We went from 2000 school districts to 500 school districts. Controls over those schools was shifted from locally elected government officials to an appointed body, the State Department of Education. This Department was then granted regulatory authority under Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code.
It is important to note that the local school district is not a governing body. It is a body of government. Prior to the implementation of State control it had no power over taxation. The powers of the local school board was only with regards to the local school itself. They pass no laws on society and as such had no governing powers, including the right of direct taxation.
It is also important to remember that the created bureaucracy of the Department of Education resides in the executive branch of government. Constitutionally, the Department of Education should have no authority to make any regulations or pass any mandates since all lawmaking authority is to reside in the legislative branch of government.
Once the States had created their own Departments of Education it was only a matter of time before the Federal Government would step in to create a Department of Education at the Federal level. This was finally realized in 1979. Now it should be stated here that the Federal Government was indirectly interfering with local control of schools since 1867 but those powers were extremely limited. Second Morrill Act in 1890increased Federal Controls over universities. Vocational education became the next major area of Federal interference to schools, with the 1917 Smith-Hughes Act and the 1946 George-Barden Act focusing on agricultural, industrial, and home economics training for high school students.
Without the created State Controls over education the Federal Controls would have been impossible to enact and enforce.
The final step in solidifying the outside controls over education was the move to unionize the public sector. It’s interesting to note that even those who advanced the notion of federal controls over education, men like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, warned against allowing the unionization of Public sector employees.
The following are Franklin Roosevelt’s own words with regards to the collective bargaining process of unions:
“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.
The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.
The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
In Pennsylvania, one of the primary methods of funding education is the property tax. While Pennsylvania legislators originally claimed that they would fund 50% of the local education needs as a result of the unfunded mandates they have not met that promise. Instead they have continued to pass these burdens on to home owners. At the same time they have continued to expand regulations over local schools as well as to allow the State Department Of Education to expand those regulations even further. Since most of the funding for the State Department of Education’s mandates comes through local property taxes state legislators continually ignore the Department’s Regulatory impact because it doesn’t involve the need for additional state funding.
The Property Tax is used to fund the unfunded mandates at the state level. The Property Tax is used to fund the demands of the Department of Education. The Property Tax is used to fund the demands of the State and Federal Teachers unions.
By looking for ways to usurp and undermine the Constitutional limitations in both our state and Federal Government’s the protected rights granted in those documents to our private property is ignored for what is determined by government to be the “common good” of a public educational system. The collective body controls the individual and this is the root of Statism.
We can fight for the freedom from the Government controlled system of Public Education but school choice, as it stands today, is only for those who can afford to do so and a primary reason many middle and low-income families cannot make this choice is the egregious nature of the school property tax. How many more parents would choose other educational opportunities if they had the financial resources to do so. The Property Tax is removing that possibility for many.
What good is fighting for school choice if it’s only going to made available to those who can afford it? Shifting to vouchers is still government controlled choices over winners and losers requiring taxation to subsidize the vouchers. This is essentially taking from one group to provide for another perpetuating the common good mentality where it is only the government which gets to decide what that common good is.
We can fight for spending controls but all we need is a change in the elected Administrators of Government and previous victories can be dashed to the rocks making it an eternal struggle with the home owner always at risk. Even the frugal local school board is at risk with the demands of unions and parents who think that all the other parents need to pay for their child’s ballet lessons through public education or a group of overly enthusiastic sports parents determine their school need a new state of the art sports field complete with astro-turf. If people must lose their homes if they cannot keep up with these demands, then so be it. That is the mentality of Statism.
We have a pension debacle where homeowners face losing their home because they can’t afford to keep up with the pension obligations. We are told that we can’t Constitutionally take away the pension from these public sector employees but yet, we can force people out of their homes if they can’t pay for it. Accepting that logic is Statism.
As the school property tax has grown more and more egregious in its demands from property owners the government has assumed the determining winners and losers role by passing a series of efforts that provide targeted relief to some by passing that financial burden on to others. Keystone Opportunity Zones, Clean and Green, Homestead and Farmstead exemptions, rent rebates all can be argued on behalf of the common good but in reality, while providing relief to some, it places additional burdens on others. When the government is the sole determining factor of who wins and who loses in the levying of taxes, that is Statism.
There are many individuals who would choose not to enter into these government run programs because it can often result in a compromise of property rights. When taxation removes that choice essentially forcing the individual to enter into an agreement that has the potential of compromising their right to property, that is Statism.
We have legislators who have openly declared that the reason people lose their homes is because they bought to much house. If the individual loses that home because they can’t keep up with the demands of the tax, it has nothing to do with the home and everything to do with the political system of the taxation. That is Statism. It demonstrates the fundamental acceptance that home ownership is not a right and the governments ability to decide who can and who cannot live in a home should be based on taxation.
An even more heinous claim is that if people can’t keep up with the taxes they do not deserve to keep their home…..That is when Statism begins to evolve into Fascism and historically Fascism is always born out of Statism..
There are a myriad of problems related to public schools that many people believe can be fixed and that this will somehow magically fix the theft of homes through funding education through the property tax. I disagree. I believe that until we eliminate property taxation to fund education we cannot undo the damage or unravel the Statist controls over our individual rights to the home we live in.
We must end this outside control over our homes first to allow any reforms that follow to leave our homes unscathed in the continual pillaging through governmental controls. Doing it any other way is like saying you are still going to bleed but we are here to slow the bleeding temporarily. That isn’t a solution to the plight and persecution of our individual rights to property.
Believing that we can return public education to real local controls is unrealistic. The political system that is in place must first be unraveled and that can not nor will it happen until we remove the ease of funding made to those systems and the controls those political systems have over public education. It will require an incremental change that must begin with restoring the right to property to place it rightfully belongs….to the owner of that property.
Until our right to property is unequivocally restored we will continue to live in a Statist society with regard to our homes…our property. This cannot be accomplished by selectively allowing the government to pick age, regional, or association demographics for select elimination. It can only be accomplished through the complete elimination to all in using the property of our real estate to fund education and that includes the property individually owned by homeowners and businesses alike.
The unfunded regulations over Public Education must be funded where they originate. They must be accountable for that funding. This is the only way to truly restore the people’s ability through elections to place the necessary spending controls over education. It is historically much more difficult with far more impact to raise taxes at the state level than it is at the local level. If that were not true few school boards would survive the next election.
Until our right to property is restored we will continue to see the expansion of the Statist control over our lives and our liberty through over-regulatory means that have no regards or respect to our individual right to property. Restoring that right is fundamental to the effectiveness of the restoration of the equally important rights to our lives and our liberty.
The choice is ours. Do we continue to allow the Statism of pillaging our homes to support public education or do we eliminate the property tax tying the hands of our government, Department of Education and the powerful unions while expanding our liberty and choices when it comes to the education of our children?