TBYN – Appendix 3 — Questions that nurture thinking

The current fad would have authorities consciously create consensus. Presuming to know the consensus to create is the kind of hubris faced down repeatedly over 25 centuries. Confucius, Socrates, Ibn Khaldun, Matthew Arnold, among others challenged those who promoted authority and politically correct social conformity at the expense of individual engagement.

Confucius promoted individual thinking skills to engage family, friends, community, and authority because decisions left to others cause people to lose contact with what matters.

Sidestep the tussle over what to teach. Nudge students to develop the ability to think analytically so they can engage themselves to answer why what seemed valuable to our predecessors might still matter. Each generation has to revalidate principles so teachers directed by authorities cannot enslave them.

Book 2 examined how a government-fostered lens called “critical thinking” elbowed aside sound material in history, economics, and political theory to promote docile compliancy.

Golden threads extracted from experience begin with a sense of time and one’s place in it. A Street Through Time[1] engages even young students in the arc of experience to mine it for useful patterns and exercise their tools for thought.

Follow that with good questions. There are so many, but samples will get the conversation rolling:


  • What is the value of history?

History is not a straightforward uncomplicated narrative but an exercise in making and remaking choices.[2]

  • How do you distinguish between events and the history written about those events?

History writing is a humanistic prose narrative of events based on systematic inquiry into words, deeds, ideas, conflicts, and sufferings that occurred in the past and that left verifiable evidentiary trails in the present.[3]

  • If the late 1800s were the period of robber barons taking advantage of needy people, and if it was also a time when immigrants with nothing could build a life and advance their children, what represents the history of the period and what lesson should be learned? Would today’s laws allow the kind of advancement possible in the 1890s?


  • Is capitalism as a political theory too important to leave to Economics?
  • What is required for capitalism to succeed?
  • How may capitalism vary—entrepreneurial, dynamic, democratic or nondemocratic, competitive or state driven?
  • Should commercial exchange be voluntary or mandatory?

Commerce is voluntary but government is mandatory.

  • Do price signals matter?

Price signals may be masked by tax policy, price fixing, or by government control. When might such things be good policy?

  • Along the continuum between globalism and nationalism what makes the most sense and how should one decide?
  • Does capitalism break down barriers or encourage them?
  • How do capitalism and enforced equality compare?
  • Should a state seek equality of result or equality of opportunity?
  • Adam Smith’s 1776 Wealth of Nationswas an attack on the government controls of his time—mercantilism, tariffs, and government monopoly—but aren’t those the results today’s reformers seek?
  • If people, as individuals do what works best for themselves, what does government do?
  • Since people and businesses adapt to whatever the tax code is or becomes, what should the tax code do? What direction for a tax code would be productive? How does one crate a tax code that won’t be hijacked by special interests?

Political theory

  • What is the purpose of government?

To do for individuals what they cannot reasonably do for themselves. Common defense. Enforce contracts … — Adam Smith

  • Who should set the goals for society, government of individuals? How should such goals be set.
  • Should society tend toward being free or managed?
  • If government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, who are the people?
  • What protections should people have from government run by other people?
  • Does an elected representative represent district voters or the entire country?
  • Does federalism that encourages competition benefit people more than top-down uniform compliance?
  • Absent federalism, what checks exist to protect against governmental abuse?
  • What are the requirements for a geographic area to expect independence? Economic self-sufficiency? What else?
  • Can individuals participate in community and retain individuality?
  • Is capitalism more a destroyer of traditional communities or a creator of news communities?
  • Should societies base themselves primarily on trade?
  • Is regimentation or liberty better for the good of society, and what is the good of society?
  • How much national income should be spent by the state? What should national income be spent on?

According to Milton Friedman, in 1928, less than 10% was spent on all government and 2/3 of that was state and local. In 1977, 40% was spent on all government and 2/3 of that was federal.

  • How does market-orientation affect household distribution of time/effort?
  • Should competition be open or secret, under cover of government?


  • What is science?

An ongoing process that compares experience with hypotheses, pruning away what is demonstrably wrong.

  • What is there to learn about past attempts to claim science was settled like Galileo’s theories?

[1]Millard, Anne and Steve Noon. A Street Through Time.2012. DK Publishing. New York. back

[2]Allen C. Guelzo, Civil War professor, Gettysburg College. back

[3]Ibid. back

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