There is nothing new about students protesting. It must be part of their job description. When I was traveling in France in 1987, we picked up a hitch-hiker who was a student at the time, in the time of nationwide student protests about tuition fees. He was shocked speechless by my arguments. I questioned his morality. I questioned the morality of forcing the poor to subsidize the rich. The argument was clearly new to him. I am yet to meet someone who can offer a reasonable rebuttal to it.
Why would you go to University? To be able to get a better job. Why would you want to get a good job? To make more money.
It is known and proven that your projected lifetime earnings with a university degree is significantly higher than without it. Higher education is an investment proven to pay healthy dividends.
In North America, about 50% of the people between 18 & 25 attend some sort of institute of higher education. About ¾ of the cost of their education is paid by taxpayers. Some of those taxpayers did not go, cannot go, wouldn’t go and will not go to university. Why should we use the tax dollars of a farmer, a plumber or a cook to subsidize the education of doctors, lawyers and hedge fund managers????
Am I the only one thinking that something is wrong with this picture?
Of course, the calculation is not this simple, the rich pay more in taxes, but this argument is not about actual dollar figures but about principles. Forcing the poor to pay for the rich is fundamentally wrong, fundamentally immoral.
The arguments in the media never go far enough to point this out.
Even Sun news, the supposed extreme voice of the right, goes only so far as calling them selfish and irresponsible suggesting that they should pay a little more. We should not be afraid to say that government funded higher education is fundamentally immoral on a principle. Unless of course we are willing to admit that in Canada, we tax the poor for the benefit of the rich as a matter of principle.
There are several other possible arguments against government funded higher education, such as distorting the market, raising prices by its monopolistic practices, getting overly politicized etc.
These would deserve separate treatment, as indeed, there are several books dedicated to these subjects.
The most typical argument for government funding is a variation on the standard phony argument for any government paid service: universal access. That it is actually for the benefit of the poor. Never mind that the facts never bear out the theory, never mind that the overwhelming majority taking advantage of the system are NOT the poor. Never mind that there are options.
Another argument that has been thrown at me a few times in the past is that the poor benefit from living in a society full of smart, educated people. Do you buy that baloney? That they will use the money of the poor with no selfish consideration for their own benefit? That their motives are purely altruistic and they only suffer through the hardship of living in fraternity houses so that they can bestow the benefits of their wisdom on the uneducated masses?
Even if that is the case, does it justify taking very real money away from the poorer half of society today for the promise of some entirely intangible fuzzy benefits in the future?
Let’s dream about an equitable system.
In a just, fair and moral world, there would be no government involvement of any kind in higher education. No regulation, no loan guaranties and definitely no direct subsidies of either the institutions or students. Universities should live on tuitions, donations and whatever side business (such as research) they can muster. The only role the government can play is the encouragement of different endowments and private scholarship funds through tax breaks. Any deserving student should be able to find a scholarship or a business sponsorship.
Sponsoring education should be based on merit, the proven ability and willingness to study hard.
On the other hand, if the National Organization for Women wants to fund women’s studies, then all the power to them. It just shouldn’t be the taxpayer. Smart and hardworking students will be able to find someone who is willing to invest in their future.
A system of free education (free from government interference) would offer tremendous benefits:
- Competition on value.
Education is expensive today because the taxpayer’s pocket can always be raided for a little more money.
- Better response to market demands
True market forces would start working and we would have a few more engineers and a lot fewer baloney studies majors. If people have to spend their own money on it, they will look twice at the potential job prospects with a ‘whatever studies’ degree.
- Less time spent in school
the whole society would benefit from people entering the work force sooner as it will be very expensive to linger around in the Universities well into their thirties.
- Less politics
We need about as many PHDs in Marxism as we need flat-earth cartographers and as many women’s studies majors as we need witchcraft masters. In a rational system directed by market demand in knowledge, we would see a lot fewer politicized subjects. We could still have crazy billionaires offering scholarships for esoteric subjects, but this, in a way, is also a market phenomenon.
- Businesses will take greater interest in education
The role of scholarships (with the associated sense of responsibility) would increase along the role of alumni association. Between those three, most of the money lost from government funding would be replaced.
I have to stop here for a second. While my indignation about the regressive taxation created by government funded higher education is an incontestably valid argument, the real problem of morality is somewhere in this last point.
What do you think the mob will feel if(when) they win their battle in Montreal? They will feel victorious, jubilant, happy, empowered and I could go on with the adjectives. The thing they will not feel is gratitude. They will not be grateful for the tax dollars of the business they are vandalizing today. Why should they be grateful for receiving what they consider to be rightfully theirs? The sentiment of gratitude has no place in a confrontational, violent conflict of demands and concessions.
What makes voluntary exchanges morally superior to political ones is their personal nature. If I give you something, you owe me something. Maybe gratitude. Maybe an effort to use my gift well. Maybe a commitment that you will do something similar to somebody else in the future. These exchanges and interactions are the building blocks of moral societies and this is what the Montreal mob is trying to destroy once and for all.
For them it is all politics, it is all power. Goodness, morality, justice and fairness have nothing to do with it.