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Student Fees: Buy the Education, Skip the Brainwash

Opinion Editorial
February 22, 2000

By Linda Gorman

A recent letter to the Colorado Daily [1] illustrated the vast philosophical chasm separating those who believe in individual liberty from those who believe in Big Brother.

The letter opposed House Bill 1127. The bill would make it illegal for state colleges and universities to require students to pay fees to support politically active student groups. The letter writer claimed that “student fees do not fund any groups that endanger public peace, health or safety. Our groups are only working to enhance campus life and to make our world a better placeWithout BSA [the Black Student Alliance] and other community interest groups such as Amnesty International, the Women’s Resource Center, and Stop Hate on Campus, our students might not be as peaceful, healthy or safeour ideas would be held silent without proper fund-raising.”[1]

There you have it. By definition, Colorado students are oppressive, hateful, racist, misogamist beasts. And probably environmentally insensitive, to boot. Unless forced to fund those who tell them just how oppressive, hateful, racist, and misogamist they are, their incorrect views will endanger their health, and the health of others. It would be dangerous to let people pay for the education and skip the brainwashing.

Rarely is the self-absorbed, narcissistic, character of the Left so obviously displayed. As always, its anointed adherents can do no wrong. Campus groups make “our” world a better place. You might have to work extra hours to pay their fees and have less choice and a higher cost-of-living as a result of their programs, but “your” world does not count.

Those who disagree are uneducated proles. Those who persist, in spite of reeducation, are sub-human. The morally benighted, even if there are 35 million of them, cannot be allowed to interfere with the progress of the great leap forward. The prole role is to free the elites from such mundane considerations as earning money so that they can concentrate on more important things. Hence the reference to “proper” fund-raising.

In sum, we are to believe that “fund-raising” by compulsory student fees is good because the organizations that get the money say they are good. Whatever they do with the money is also good because they tell us that it will help “the community.”

In the real world, of course, “the community” does not exist. Instead, we have a heterogeneous collection of individuals with different beliefs. Sometimes their beliefs overlap. Sometimes they do not. As Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute points out, “Why (or for how long) would an organization that can use force base its decisions on the views, values, and interests of an entire community? To ask the question is to answer it. How is it even possible for an organization to know the many views, values, and interests of the people who will be affected by its decisions?”[2]

Market economies that protect private property and promote the rule of law are successful precisely because they do force participants to pay careful attention to the views, values, and interests of the people affected by their decisions. Businesses that fail to understand what customers want, or that cannot provide it at a price customers are willing to pay, are soon out of business. Employees who cheat their employers find themselves out on the street. Unreasonably demanding customers, even if they can find suppliers willing to deal with them, ultimately pay a premium for their nasty ways.

Because a system of voluntary transactions forces people to pay attention, it is no accident that groups on the dole tend to talk the most about “the community” and generally exhibit the least respect for the views, values, and interests of the people who comprise it. In fact, whenever a small number of people has had the power to control other individuals for the good of “the community,” they have typically ended up enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. This explains why voluntary transactions are preferable to coerced ones in all but a small minority of narrowly defined cases.

The pampered groups supported by coerced student fees prescribe identity politics, extreme feminist agendas, and radical environmentalism for the maintenance of peace, good health, and safety. One need look no further than the junkscience web page, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses by Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate[3], or Michael Fumento’s Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment to conclude that there is good reason to believe that such ideas promote dissension, disease, and danger instead.

If an agenda makes good sense, others will support it. Student leaders who truly believe that their organizations are as worthwhile as they say they are ought to be eager to put them to the test by supporting HB 1127.

[1] Danielle Levin. 15 February 2000. “HB 1127 would stifle student groups,” Colorado Daily, Letters-to-the-Editor. As posted on <http://www.codaily.com/Opinion/LettersPage.htm> on 15 February 2000.
[2] Joseph L. Bast. February 2000. “After 170 Million Deaths, Socialists Still Don’t Get It.” The Heartlander, the monthly newsletter of The Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois, p. 2. Possibly available on the Institute’s web site, http://www.heartland.org.
[3] Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Sliverglate. 1998. The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684853213/independenceinstA/> New York: Free Press.

Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado, https://i2i.org. This article originally appeared in the Colorado Daily (Boulder), for which Linda Gorman is a regular columnist.

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