Sunday, September 22, 2013

Walter Block: The Reason Foundation is a Disgrace

Dr Block writes:
Reason is not libertarian, at least not on government subsidies to higher education
Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at the supposedly libertarian Reason Foundation. She writes an article which appeared in USA Today (September, 16, 2013, p. 8A). It is entitled “Higher education plans should focus on learning.”
In it she states, and I quote: “… there would be nothing wrong with making federal aid conditional on the use of these tests.”
Which tests? She says this of them: “Most higher education experts regard the Collegiate Learning Assessment as a good measure of how higher education is increasing the skills of students. It tests a sample of entering and graduating students to measure the improvement in their critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills. One-third of students in universities that use such tests show no gains after four years, which is why other universities aren’t clamoring to adopt them.”
Miss. Dalmia does a good job of criticizing President Obama’s initiative because it “would tie schools’ financial aid to ‘affordability and accessibility.’ Universities graduating more low-income students receiving federal Pell grants would get a higher rating. In short, existing federal aid will justify more future federal aid. The ratings would promote political, not educational, goals.”
But then she says this: “Texas mandates that its public universities use the test and publish the results. Obama needn’t go that far. But there would be nothing wrong with making federal aid conditional on the use of these tests. ”
But how in bloody blue blazes can this be reconciled with libertarianism? “… nothing wrong with making federal aid conditional on the use of these tests. ”
At least for the libertarian, there is lots wrong with this. First of all, this senior analyst is acting as an efficiency expert for the state. She is trying to make public universities run more effectively, more efficiently. (All universities nowadays, even private ones with the exception of Hillsdale and Grove City, are “public” in that they are subsidized by the government.) But if the very system is rotten to the core, why oh why attempt to support it? Why not, instead, support disbanding it, and replacing it with a completely private unsubsidized system? Is that not the real libertarian approach?
Secondly, just where does this Reasonite think “federal aid” comes from? From the tooth fairy?  No, it is derived from taxation. But taxes are compulsory! Ok, ok, a limited government libertarian might acquiesce in such coercive levies for armies, courts and police, the minarchist view. But for higher education? That, surely, cannot be compatible with libertarianism.
Perhaps Miss. Dalmia has not heard of the fact that most of what passes for “higher education” is an intellectual cesspool  Read the rest here.

Also note that Dr. Block is getting to the heart of the matter: government funding of education. Contrast this with Rand Paul's statements this weekend which appear to support voucher systems and government funded charter schools:
During his extensive political travels this year, Paul has called it a top priority to expand the reach of the Republican Party to young people and minorities. The former Bowling Green ophthalmologist said he spoke in Michigan with school-choice advocates from the Detroit area, and said he is likely to return to Michigan to visit charter schools in Detroit.
The idea is not to find news ways for government to control the education system, but to get government out of the sector.

Walter Block: 1 Rand Paul: 0