The far-right Fraser Institute is pushing disproven libertarian values into Canadian highschools, with almost zero oversight.
Since 1999, the Fraser Institute has run high school “economics” training seminars, reaching over 10,000 students. The courses are for students from grade 7-12.
One course is called “Why Do People Behave The Way They Do? An Introduction to Economic Reasoning” for grade 10-12 students. Admission to these events is free, and they teach topics such as “scarcity”, “incentives” and “choice”.
A Google search for their course shows a website called Essential Hayek.
The site is sponsored by the Fraser Institute.
For those unaware, Friedrich Hayek is a far-right libertarian economist who tried to discredit “state intervention in the economy and assert(ed) the primacy of free markets.” A far-right Republican Tea Party activist said they hoped to fill the U.S. Senate with Hayekians.
It’s troubling that the title of a high school economics course is so closely associated with a far-right, Libertarian economist. But we are only just scraping the surface.
Meet Ninos Malek
We don’t know what they discuss in these seminars. To the best of our knowledge, they do not release the information online.
What we do know is that some of the courses are taught by Ninos Malek, who (as you’ll find out shortly) has a troubling history of support far-right libertarian ideas that would make even Canadian Conservatives cringe.
He is a professor of Economics at the De Anza College in Cupertino California. Malek is also involved with the Mises Institute, a far-right think tank that Media Fact Bias says “produces news that has a right-wing economic bias and sometimes sources to other highly biased right-wing sources”.
Private Corporations Should be Able to Discriminate
Malek recently argued that private corporations should be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. The case involved a baking company refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that it was “human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society”.
Malek argued it was “far from ensuring freedom in America, this ruling is a direct blow to liberty”, arguing the cake company did nothing wrong by refusing to serve gay couples.
Many legal scholars argue corporations that refuse to serve gay couples are similar to businesses that refused to serve black Americans.
Invisible Hand To the Rescue
In an article titled “How Price Gouging Could Help Houston Right Now”, Malek makes the argument that during natural disasters, businesses that dramatically raise prices actually helps disaster victims.
He argues that businesses had the right to do whatever they wanted during the Houston floods.
Beyond the positive economics (the neutral analysis) we must not neglect the normative (the value or moral judgment). The anger we often see toward businesses that raise prices implies that customers believe it is their right to get certain goods and services; they believe they are owed those goods and services. But it is pure arrogance to assume that customers are entitled to the private property of business owners, especially at a particular price.
Malek provides zero evidence to support this claim, relying heavily on disputed economic theory. Not one number or statistic is cited in his entire argument.
Malek goes even further, arguing the government has no right to interfere or stop businesses that increase prices during natural disasters.
The pure free-market view is that nobody is entitled to the property of others. Texas, a state that prides itself on its conservative values, forgets that it is an immoral intrusion by the government to interfere with the free market and the price system. The same politicians who argue for free enterprise become hypocrites when they call for price-gouging laws.
Malek evidently believes that charging $20 for a gallon of gasoline when people are flying flood zones is acceptable. More disturbing is that this is a man the Fraser Institute is employing to teach children.
A Christian Fundamentalist?
In 2011, Ninos Malek left the Valley Christian High School, a fundamentalist Christian school. Here’s a quote from their website illustrating some of their core principles…
Valley Christian Schools bases its dress code upon two criteria: Biblical standards (I Timothy 2:9, Romans 12:1) and the desire for a neat, clean and attractive appearance. Dress should be distinctly masculine or feminine and students are not permitted to dress like the opposite sex (Deuteronomy 22:5).
The purpose of Valley Christian Schools’ dress code is to promote Christian unity among students and to avoid a segmented student body based on distinctive cultural or religious attire. This purpose disallows attire representing images, messages or traditions that are inconsistent with Christian faith.
Malek left the school in 2o11, and provided some parting words in the school’s newspaper. He called on students to not give in to “tolerance” or become “open-minded”. He also called on students not to embrace certain lifestyle choices:
“You who openly claim true Christianity will be labeled as “judgemental” because you hold to the truths of the Bible, especially when it comes to “lifestlye choices”
Given America’s Christian fundamentalist opposition to gay rights, you can easily infer what he means when he urges students to resist certain “lifestyle choices.”
Personal Responsibility or a Socialist Plot?
In one article written for the Warrior titled “Fast Food Nation”, Ninos defends tobacco companies and shifts blame on to their customers:
The ridiculous claim that corporations are responsible for people’s health problems is nothing new. Remember the lawsuits against the tobacco companies? If you smoke, let me ask you this: did an employee from one of the tobacco companies put a gun to your head and make you smoke a cigarette? I didn’t think so. People who are dying because of smoking-related illnesses have nobody to blame but themselves.
For years, tobacco companies lied about the dangers of smoking, even though they knew how dangerous it was. They marketed low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful, which was untrue. They also manufacture a product specifically designed to be addictive. No matter, though — 100% of the blame lies with the customer, in Ninos’ view.
In the same article, Malek also expresses concern that public health movements, which protect people from the dangers of corporations (like Big Tobacco) are nothing more than a “socialist plot.”
All of this paints a troubling picture of the type of people the Fraser Institute is using to indoctrinate Canadian students. We don’t know for certain what the Institute’s instructors are telling students in these “seminars”.
But given Ninos’ radical rightwing beliefs, we have every reason for concern.