“There is no use in excellent laws, even ones approved by all active citizens,
if the citizens have not been habituated to and educated in the city’s way of life.”
—Aristotle, Politics 5.9
In Céline’s nightmarish masterpiece, Journey to the End of the Night, the hero reaches America in a slave ship. He escapes, but the rest of the crew refuses to go with him. They have their reasons. Being a slave “wasn’t such a bad job.” (C’était du boulot moyen.)
And then—sublime advantage—you never got fired from the galley and the King had even promised them for when they were sixty-two years old a sort of small pension. That prospect made them happy, it gave them something to dream about and on Sundays in order to feel free, in addition, they played at voting.
Céline’s slaves come to mind when reading Peter Brimelow’s important new book on the “Teacher Trust,” his name for the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the two super-unions that dominate K-12 public schools in the United States. (Brimelow follows Milton Friedman in calling them “government schools.”) On the top are sensationally overpaid...