The Deep-seated Authoritarian Impulse
By David Henderson
If I were a state education minister I would endeavour to make it a compulsory part of a high school curriculum for students to have at least one field excursion to see with their own eyes a mine – or for that matter an iron smelter, a big factory or an agribusiness. But ideally a mine. I wouldn’t be able to force adults to go and visit anything, but I would happily encourage anyone out there who has never been anywhere close to a coal or a metal ore mine to put it on their travel and activity “to do” list.
So writes Arthur Chrenkoff in “Why Everyone Should Visit a Mine,” August 6, 2019.
I agree with Mr. Chrenkoff that it would be good if everyone visited some complex place of production that they would otherwise be unfamiliar with. They might get a little whiff of “I, Pencil” and/or start to wonder if markets and businesses are much more complex than they had thought.
And I have a particularly soft spot in my heart for mines, having spent a summer working at an underground nickel mine in northern Manitoba when I was 18. (It was a great coming-of-age experience. I remember my late sister saying, some years ago, that when I came back after that summer that this was the first time she thought of me as a man instead of a boy.)
What I disagree with is making it compulsory.
I’ve noticed that many people who have a good idea jump pretty quickly to a proposal to make it compulsory. That’s what Chrenkoff does and I’ve seen it a lot. When I was the health economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, I went to a lot of lunches where a health care expert would give a talk on a health care issue. I remember one time when a speaker said he learned a lot about how disabled people must feel when he had to be in a wheel chair for a week or so. Someone in the audience then spoke up to say she thought it would be a good idea if doctors, as part of their training, were required to be in wheel chairs for a day or two.
Or consider how many people, when they start to understand an academic discipline (I’ve seen it a lot with economics), advocate that everyone be forced to study that discipline.
The authoritarian impulse seems to come easily to many people.