Friday, March 5, 2010

A Very Bad Lesson

On Thursday, college students across the nation protested funding cuts to state colleges. The students are upset because they are taking on more debt and in some cases, having to choose between eating or buying books. Not surprisingly, the students believe that they should not face such choices:
I want people to question where the priorities are. To see people getting together to accomplish a goal by creating awareness for something as simple and as basic as the right to be educated.
I agree with the first sentence. People--including students--should question their priorities. If they deem a college education worthwhile (and for the life of me, I sometimes wonder why) then they should be willing to undertake the actions necessary to attain that value. To her credit, the student quoted above is working three jobs, but she is obviously unhappy about her situation.

And she is unhappy because she believes that education is a right. She believes that the mere fact that she exists gives her a claim to an education. And who is to pay for this education? That, apparently, is not her concern. She wants something, and it is the responsibility of others to provide it.

I can certainly empathize with a student who struggles to work his way through school--I did it. But the fact that something is difficult or uncomfortable is not a claim on the property or life of others. Nobody has a responsibility to make the life of college students easy. More importantly, there is no right to an education.

A right is a sanction to act without interference from others in a social setting. It is not a claim to a value, but the freedom to take the actions necessary to achieve that value. To claim otherwise is to claim that someone must provide that value. In this instance, that "someone" is taxpayers. The students believe that taxpayers should be forced to give up their money to pay for the education of others, that taxpayers should be deprived of their rights. This is worse than a contradiction.

That these students regard education as a right is not surprising. It is what they have been taught. And that is a very bad lesson indeed.


C.W. said...

Education costs - tuition - have been increasing at about 7% a year for decades. Few have asked why, or if they have, the answer is as silly as the common ones for price inflation in general. Austrian economics teaches us that prices increase first and fastest where made-up money is put into the economy. One constant for decades has been the "help" of higher education by the federal government and the states. Guess what, that "help" has had a price tag, and it was ever increasing cost. Surprise, it can't go on for ever. So our educational system, from top to bottom, is a disgrace.

Brian Phillips said...

Good point. In addition, all of the aid increases demand, which also drives up prices.