Grassroot Perspective: Opinion Poll Manipulation, Teachers Unions and Can Government Stop A Hurricane? (Hint: No.)

article top

by Danny de Gracia, I

Hurricane Sandy moves over the eastern US.

A weekly liberty briefing and news guide to keep you informed and prepared on what’s UP to more freedom or DOWN to bigger, more intrusive government.


Quote of the Week:

“Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
John F. Kennedy

Local News

Conflicting opinion polls: but just whose report should the people believe?

This week you may have noticed that multiple local news outlets released seemingly contradictory tracking polls for several Hawaii candidates running for office, raising sharp suspicions among residents that media bias may be attempting to manipulate voter behavior. But whose numbers should the people trust?

ANALYSIS: Famed political scientist and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said that polls are a snapshot of public opinion but that it is impossible to lead a nation based on what polls say. Reflecting on his time in the Nixon Administration, Kissinger went on to say that leadership required intelligence, an understanding of historical cycles and courage. Here in Hawaii, we would be wise to heed that advice: no matter what you see in the papers, no matter what numbers polls say, you as a citizen must decide for yourself what you will do, independent of what others are doing (or not doing).

Humans by nature are conformity creatures – in ambiguous situations we tend to look to what others are doing as a judge for what we should do, think or feel. The problem with this is that authoritative entities – such as news outlets – can indeed use polls and other devices to steer mass behavior. In psychologist Solomon Asch’s famous conformity experiments, he asked participants to look at a set of lines in a vision test and report which lines matched each other. With the participants were 5 or 7 other actors who pretended to be part of the vision test and intentionally gave deceptive reports that lines which obviously did not match were identical.

The study found that in the control group (with no manipulation by the actors) the participants of the vision test correctly matched the lines. But in the experimental group where the majority of individuals provided deceptive answers, the participants conformed their responses to say that lines that didn’t match … matched!

When I was studying psychology as an undergraduate, one of my favorite social experiments was to bring a friend, walk into the middle of a park or some wide, outdoors place and then point our fingers at the sky and start saying “WOW! Look at that! Amazing!” pretending we saw something incredible. Wouldn’t you know everyone around us would stop, look up at the sky – and some would even “see” something that wasn’t even there! (Try it and see for yourself.) The point of both Asch’s experiment and my field exercise is that as “smart” as people are, they are all too easily susceptible to conformity pressure and mob behavior.

The lesson you should take away from this fellow liberty lovers is that in order to be free – and in order to get what you want in this world – you must train yourself to be independent and to stay on course no matter what “the majority” of people say. Democracy is a garbage in, garbage out system: if bad decisions go in, bad results come out. If you want UP to more freedom and liberty, you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and lock in to your beliefs even if 99.9% of the world says you’re wrong!

I’m the kind of person that growing up colored outside the lines, drew my own shapes in connect the dots and spoke from the heart when my classmates were told to read from notecards. I don’t like doing what’s popular.  I enjoy doing what’s unpopular. I like to stand out – and so should you! Don’t worry about what the polls say here in Hawaii … decide for yourself and think for yourself – that’s a big UP for liberty!

Study: HSTA Strongest Teachers Union in America (Civil Beat, 10/29)

Nathan Eagle at Civil Beat reports that the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is the strongest in the nation and mentions notably that “a full 20 percent of Hawaii’s delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions were teacher union members”.

ANALYSIS: I don’t know about you, but my first reaction to learning that the HSTA is the nation’s strongest teachers union was to say “That must also explain why Hawaii is also number one in the world when it comes to providing the best public education!”

One of the consequences of government is that whatever it involves itself in – be it education, healthcare, you name it –  it creates artificial monopolies (that is, cartels) as a result of its existence. Special interest groups and unions thrive not because of an absence of government mandates but rather because of government mandates.

In a free market, people decide exactly how much or how little of something they want and regular corrections occur that maintain balance. When government is brought into the picture, market action is restricted. People can say things like – speaking purely hypothetically of course – “there needs to be a mandatory minimum proportion of teachers to students” (as a pretext not for enhancing learning but for enhancing employment) or “we believe that tax refunds instead should be prioritized to funding educational infrastructure” and unlike a market, no one can opt out because law is used to advance external interests.

Liberty means the absence of compulsion. If Hawaii wants better education, government needs to divest itself from the education business and let learning be regulated by the market forces of students and schools. It’s the presence of government that makes things dysfunctional. When I was going to public high school in the mid-1990s in Texas, our school attempted to mandate that every student car parked in the school parking lot be left unlocked and subject to random search without warning. I asked one of my teachers how that kind of activity was constitutional under the fourth amendment (see Katz v. United States for the modern definition of “search”) and he replied, “When you’re at school, the standard of in loco parentis applies.”

Now let me ask you this: when was the last time you went shopping somewhere fancy and the store told you “As a customer, it’s our job to protect you and guide you, so while you are parked in our parking lot, you will leave your car unlocked, check in your keys with our staff and be subject to random automobile inspection”? It’s NEVER happened. And do you know why it will never happen? Because the minute a store does that, all of the customers would be so offended that they would take their business elsewhere.

In public school, no matter how bad things get – for the students and their parents that is – government will almost always side with teachers first because of the monopoly of force created by the education mandate. This is why government makes things harder, not easier on all of us as a whole.

If you want UP to more freedom, we need to shrink the powers of government as much as possible and repeal their mandates. Only freedom of choice and markets can provide what the people want – when they want it.

Ratepayers on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Should Not Be Forced To Pay for Pricey, Experimental Power (Hawaii Reporter, 10/29)

A letter to the editor appearing in Hawaii Reporter opines that utility hikes are not in the public interest and goes further to say “The Aina Koa proposal is to make fuel for one power plant but will result in hiking electric bills for people across the board, even for those not served by the Keahole power plant. How would the PUC handle similar proposals for biofuel contracts for other power plants  – contracts that would also raise rates across the board to finance them? How could the PUC protect the ratepayer if it sets this precedent?”

ANALYSIS: The author is 100% correct – people should never, ever, ever be forced to pay for anything they don’t want or need. Unfortunately, as we have said so many times before in previous Grassroot Perspective editions, the fusion of government and private entities – so called “public corporations” – creates unfair monopolization that locks people in to services and subscriptions that are often not in their best interest.

In a free market, people can always stop subscribing to something they can’t afford. When it comes to “public” utilities, we have the slippery slope where a “private” entity attains profits with the power of government on their side. No matter how much residents complain, a public utilities provider can effectively do anything they want. In days when the U.S. dollar was relatively strong and we didn’t have high volatility in energy markets, most people were willing to tolerate the rates of public utilities but now inflation has made this situation untenable. The worst part is, expect things to get worse as the dollar continues to decline.

As we have said before, the only way to save your pocketbook (and your liberty) is to divest government from private functions. Don’t combine private things with government! This is a serious DOWN to less freedom and DOWN to loss of economic liberty.


National/International News

Why Was The Answer “No” In Benghazi? (National Review Online, 11/1)

Former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Bing West writes in NRO regarding the ongoing controversy of the attack on Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff in Benghazi. West writes:

“the president said it was a mob that attacked, and intelligence officials say they didn’t conclude it was a terrorist attack until days later. Well, the U.S. military routinely scares mobs in Iraq and Afghanistan by a flyover of a fighter jet in afterburner. Generals Dempsey and Ham could have taken that action, even if the jet was ordered not to drop any bombs for fear of killing civilians. Surely a flyover at 600 miles per hour would not put the pilot in harm’s way from a mob […] So, did the commander-in-chief direct the U.S. military to take action? If so, did the Pentagon refuse to do so because of a lack of information about the mob, as the secretary of defense has said? Or did the military lack any air or ground forces that could reach Benghazi within the seven-hour window of the attack? “You return everybody’s phone calls in 15 minutes; we figure out a way to say yes.” Why, then, was the answer “no” on 9/11 in Benghazi?”

ANALYSIS: It is obvious that what happened during the anniversary week of 9/11 in Libya, across the Middle East and in Afghanistan was an organized asymmetric warfare attack against the United States. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of crises that emerge when we are neither (officially) at war or at peace: politics often results in hair-splitting decisions that put citizens and soldiers alike in danger.

The Constitution was written by men who fully understood war and all its implications. When America is at peace, we know what our responsibilities and limits are. When America is at war, our military has a clearly defined enemy, a clear set of objectives and our military is free to take whatever steps are necessary to defeat the enemy and return us to peace. Today, we live in a world where our elected officials have us unrealistically straddling peace and war all at the same time and neither can be maintained. This is why if we are at war we should declare war but if we are at peace we should come home.

Nothing so gravely imperils a nation than committing our forces and people to foreign lands. If our policymakers had followed the Constitution, we would either be at war and be winning or at peace and be safe. What happened in Benghazi is a serious DOWN both for the prestige of America and for the families who lost loved ones.

Will Climate Get Some Respect Now? (New York Times, 10/31)

Hot on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof writes “President Obama and Mitt Romney seemed determined not to discuss climate change in this campaign. So thanks to Hurricane Sandy for forcing the issue: Isn’t it time to talk not only about weather, but also about climate?” and goes on to mention “many scientists believe that rising carbon emissions could make extreme weather — like Sandy — more likely” and cites several ways that climate change can be addressed including giving more power to FEMA.

ANALYSIS: I’m reminded of the story of King Canute, the ruler who one day ordered his servants to tame the tides. Neither speaking human commands to the waters nor scourging them with metal chains could stop the waves. Today, our government once more wants to control nature – but the truth is, no matter how many carbon taxes we levy, no matter how many things we make illegal, no matter what agencies and powers we assign, no man can stop a hurricane any more than Canute could stop the tides.

This is a serious DOWN for decency and a DOWN towards more tyranny if anyone actually uses Hurricane Sandy as a driver for political action in the area of climate change legislation.

NY/NJ Gas Shortage, Mile-Long Lines, Rationing, Fights, Police Draw Guns (Brietbart/Big Government, 11/1)

Big Government at Brietbart reports that on social networks there are “widespread reports about fistfights and people bringing guns to gas stations, thanks to gas shortages in New York and New Jersey. Some on Twitter are also reporting that law enforcement has been stationed around many gas stations to prevent incidents”.

ANALYSIS: Many observers during the Japanese Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 wondered why, unlike in the United States during Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese did not engage in looting or acts of civil disorder in the absence of law enforcement and other civil authorities. My response? Good question.

While the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a continuing drama, one thing is clear: every private individual should make it a top priority to work and bring relief to others in their neighborhoods. When citizens step up – that is, when people police themselves and refrain from engaging in aggression or theft against other people and their property, less government is needed. The key to American independence is self-government but if you are unable to govern yourself, you can be sure that someone else will.

The more private initiative and private self-control that a population shows, the less government and less police power there is. The lesson to be learned from this is that if America wants to be free and independent, we the people have to exercise control and restraint over ourselves. Lawlessness results in more law but self-control produces freedom. (Makes sense, doesn’t it?) If we want UP to more freedom and UP to more liberty,  individuals need to take charge and be responsible citizens in of every aspect of their community and private life. Anything else is a DOWN for such a modern and advanced civilization.

Danny de Gracia is the Economic Policy Adviser for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.


Was this commentary helpful to you?  If so, please help us defray our costs by clicking HERE to support the Grassroot Institute.  We exist based on contributions and accept no government funding.


Please let us know what you think about this reporting. We want to serve your needs, so include your recommendations. Send to





  1. Now for the HSTA….. who never "asked us a single question about education before endorsing our opponents" – what does that say to my children who attend public schools in Hawaii? It says that the HSTA is ignorant – and follows party lines – no matter what the actual candidates have to say…… I thought our teachers were supposed to be the "smart ones"….. both my children are "smart enough" to figure out just how how "ignorant" the HSTA is…. I guess I could go on forever about the hypocrisy of politics in Hawaii…. but I have to hit the pavement and go out and win this Senate seat…. wish us luck…. for the sake of our children….

Comments are closed.