Belmont Club

Reagan Vs Obama

After the Read More

One can only wonder what the student activists of Quebec would make of Ronald Reagan’s thought experiment. Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail says that students in the Canadian province are demanding that the greedy capitalist class pay for however much their education costs because social justice demands it.

The real issue is the promise made during the Quiet Revolution that universities would eventually be free. The real issue is the fight against the ruling class, the greedy corporations, the tar sands, and the entire capitalist, neo-liberal elite. Of course, since universities actually do cost money, somebody will have to pay. Who? The greedy corporations!

The most militant protest group, the CLASSE (whose handsome spokesperson, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, has become a celebrity on French TV), has lots of other ideas about social justice. It wants a boycott of Israel’s “apartheid regime.” It wants courses, lesson plans and reading lists to be “feminized.” It wants an end to free trade. You get the idea.

Well the readers of this post probably get the idea. Unfortunately the students don’t. They think that they are getting something for nothing, even when they study subjects some of which have no educational value.

They should be even more furious at all the adults in the government and education establishment who have fooled them into thinking that the education they’re getting will equip them to thrive and prosper in the world.

The truth is, the education they’re getting is overpriced at any cost. The protesters do not include accounting, science and engineering students, who have better things to do than hurl projectiles at police. They’re the sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills. The world will not be kind to them. They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.

If the student activists had listened to the ghost of Ronald Reagan they would have realized the price signal (or in the video the grade signal) is the most important thing about capitalism. It is important because it describes the costs or benefits of a course of action. By decoupling the price signal from human capital investment and making things apparently “free”, the activists are essentially destroying information.  It is not that they’ve made things free, they’ve simply pulled the price tags off all the merchandise in the store.

Thismakes it impossible to rationally choose between spending four years studying postmodernism and an equivalent amount of time on biology because the labeling, which signals the contents of the box, has been removed.  Eventually people discover the true price of their purchase, only they discover it too late.

The feedback loop is not totally destroyed, it is just lagged. Many students will eventually receive the feedback signal from their choices, but only after they have been condemned. Thus, a student may learn that he spent four years earning a degree which qualified him to be a parking valet only after he has already wasted the time. This sad experience will be delivered courtesy of a system billed as “social justice”, a term which may prove ironically accurate in its own way.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” some may ask.  The sad answer will be “because you didn’t want to know”.


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