Blogs > Liberty and Power > DIDN'T DO A GOOD JOB WITH THIS ONE.

Jan 15, 2004 10:59 pm


Ed at The Captain's Quarters has a story today of a student who doesn't quite understand TANSTAAFL.
By far the funniest of these was a young lady from our state, who described herself as a college student and a Republican who wants socialism and doesn't think Bush can deliver it. Medved, obviously amused, asked her what she meant by socialism, and she replied that she wants to go to college for free and thinks everyone else should be able to go without paying tuition, too. Now, obviously this young woman has not yet been schooled in the art of demanding socialism by proclaiming it as a selfless and noble system under which every person is given equal distribution of resources, and so on; she took the breathtaking and refreshingly honest course of telling us it would benefit her directly. Medved then asked if she thought a janitor working two jobs to put his own kids through a technical school should be forced to pay for her college education. She said,"Oh, I'm not asking him to pay for it, the government should pay for it." When asked where she thought the government got the money, if not from taxpayers, she said,"Well, it just should be free."
Walloworld thinks this is endemic in our culture.
I think this young lady's comments reflect a worldview that eschews personal responsibility, seeks to avoid discomfort, and essentially wants the proverbial"free lunch." It is reflected in the current debate over digital piracy of music and movies: I routinely hear file swappers suggest that what they're doing isn't a problem because it's just a few songs, or the music industry charges to much for CDs, or the like. Basically, that it should just be free.
It's not quite that bad. Most students think, when their classes are closed because they are full, that it's because the faculty member doesn't want to teach more students, so they come and whine. We don't have that problem, because we schedule our classes to be the size of our rooms. Rather than say we don't want to grade more exams, we say the room has no more chairs. (We didn't plan it that way, but years of budget cuts have led us to have classes that fill our rooms to capacity.) You often get in reply a blinking stare."Can I sit on the floor?" No, miss, the fire marshall has unkind things to say when we do this. Eventually they understand and leave. But it takes a cluebat that large to get the concept of scarcity through.

If we do not educate our kids enough in economics to at least know the omnipresence of reality, this student will become more and more common.

(Crossposted at SCSU Scholars)

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Keith Halderman - 1/16/2004

Sure government does things for people because it prevents them from doing these things for themselves. Take a look at David Beito's book on mutual aide societies if you want a good example of that process. The question is does government do these things well or poorly. I would say, based on abundant evidence, poorly in almost all cases. Just look at the schools. I like Harry Browne's old line; government is great at breaking your leg then handing you a crutch saying see you can't get along with out us.

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/16/2004

This illusion of the free lundh also shows up in students (and a lot of non-students) when you ask them what government does that effects their lives.

I've never done a scientific poll, but a remarkable number of students can sit in a classroom in a public university and say that the government does nothing for them--or even that touches them. (And I don't think it's subtle sarcasm most of the time.)

In fact what bugs me about anti-tax movements is not the percpetion that the government spends money on the wrong things or spends too much in general. Both of those can be argued knowledgeably.

It is the folks who say the government does nothing for them, vote for tax cuts, and then complain about lack of services who really bug me.