Is Causeway forgetting about bureaucracy, wasting goodwill on school system?

Co.Starters for Causes is a nine-week program that helps individuals put ideas into action, and turn a passion for bettering the community into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. (Photo

Co.Starters for Causes is a nine-week program that helps individuals put ideas into action, and turn a passion for bettering the community into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. (Photo

The Chattanooga nonprofit sector is dangling gift money before people in hopes they will help improve government schools or at least lobby for their improvement.

Abby Garrison runs Causeway in Chattanooga

Abby Garrison runs Causeway in Chattanooga

The sector in view of these charitable sentiments in the biggest consumer of tax dollars in Hamilton County, absorbing F$405.68 million from the county’s budget, about 61 percent of the total for 2016. It is funded by state and local exactions and a stream of free money borrowed from future generations by that hallowed entity in the district of Columbia. It oversees 43,000 boys and girls and has 2,900 teachers, according to Wikipedia.

By David Tulis

As if it hadn’t already served generations of local people, the system appears to be just revving up and discovering its hidden strength. “Public education will always be a work in progress,” Jim Coppinger, county mayor, says.

The effort is organized by a group launching Causeway Challenge 4. “Causeway believes in equipping average citizens to solve problems they identify in their own communities. Through the Causeway Challenge, we look to the wisdom of the crowd to solve some of our city’s toughest challenges.

The group proposes framing the public school problem, and “you propose a solution.*** [W]e are asking: How can parents help transform public education in Chattanooga? *** Parents, guardians, grandparents, family members, and caretakers play an extremely important role in a student’s life. What tools can we build to help busy parents support their kids? What information do parental figures need to be able to advocate for public education?”

Causeway will reward the best applicants in the contest with sums up to F$3,000. The project should be led by individuals, be “small-scale, well planned, and able to make significant progress with $3,000 in four months,” bring people together a fit Causeway’s locally oriented and humanitarian ideals.

The Causeway argument is that local problems are amenable to local solutions, that because public schools are here, a contest for winning ideas would let local parents “help transform” the system. The group has net assets of F$1.46 million, its biggest funder being Benwood Foundation, a local nonprofit, according to Causeway’s 50-page 990 form of 2014.

Stephen Culp, a Causeway founder

Stephen Culp, a Causeway founder

But I wonder if the goodwill of founders Stephen Culp, Rob Bettis, Heather Ewalt, Andrew Scarbrough and Stephen Scarbrough is not wasted on an entity that by design cannot “produce” a “good education” product and which perhaps doesn’t need another voice lobbying for it.

The wisdom of the crowd is exactly that which public schools do not need. The wisdom of the crowd is one of the beauties of the Causeway crowdfunding concept — groups of people make small donations or purchases to support a project. The sharing economy and crowd-sourcing are anathema to the centralized system that runs from a bureaucratic top-down rule-bound and backward-looking system.

Collective vs. individual

Ludwig von Mises in his 1944 book Bureaucracy explains officialdom.

➤ “The objectives of public administration cannot be measured in money terms and cannot be checked by accountancy methods.” One can no more determine if a program of the Chattanooga police department is successful in dollar terms than a teacher skill enhancement seminar is successful. Success cannot be measured in dollar terms. A money grant increases the work done, and any act of discretion by an official expands the scope of his duties to consume all funds.

➤ But bureaucratic management is actually better than its replacement, “profit management,” in which the state operation is not bound by rules, but is expansive and seeking of dominion. (p. 44)

➤ Bureaucracies are unwilling to accept novelty, are conservative, built upon “a perennial and immutable doctrine” like that pyramid of government in Rome in the counter-reformation. “[I]t is precisely this adamant conservatism that makes bureaucratic methods utterly inadequate for the conduct of social and economic affairs.” (p. 103)

➤ “It is not fine to be a young man under bureaucratic management,” von Mises says. “The only right that young people enjoy under this system is to be docile, submissive and obedient. There is no room for unruly innovators who have their own ideas.” (p. 100)


Von Mises aligns the operation of state bureaucracies with a form of worship. The essence and superiority of mankind are enwrapped in his state administration.


Read the whole essay at Eastridgenewsonline.

Sources: 2015 CAFR, Hamilton County government
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (Cedar Falls, Ia: Center for Futures Education, 1983, 1944).

— Tune in to my show live 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays on AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio, on YouTube at the hotnewstalkradio channel. I cover local economy and free markets.

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