Friday Ephemera

The Warm Glow of Socialism

Well, that was interesting.

One enormous placard read, “We are not your slaves!” An odd sentiment, really, from people so engorged with entitlement they assume an almost aristocratic right to other people’s labour and other people’s earnings. A more honest placard might have read, “You will pay for things I want or I’ll smash up your stuff.” But that would sound like extortion more than slavery.

And Tim steers us to The Englishman, who offers a handy summary of the higher education funding debate: 

The Question, Punk, Is Do You Think Your Course Is Worth £9000?
If you answer no then there isn’t a problem. Do something else.
If you answer yes there isn’t one either. Grow up, invest in your future.

Update, via the comments:

It’s strange how the protestors are somehow missing the larger issue. The higher education bubble appears unsustainable. This has quite a lot of bearing on assumptions of inter-generational subsidy. For instance, the average lifetime financial return on an arts degree is estimated at around £30,000. Set against the cost of courses, accommodation and lost earnings during the period of study, the net result is most likely a reduction in lifetime earnings. In short, there’s no longer a return for the taxpayer and little economic incentive for inter-generational subsidy.

Students first aimed their indignation at Conservative Party offices, to loud and destructive effect. A predictable gesture, certainly, but one that misses a much more pertinent target. The current bubble was inflated largely under New Labour and largely by people sympathetic to the left, with widespread grade inflation, an implausible doubling of first class degrees, insubstantial or disreputable courses, including football studies and pole dancing research, and an arbitrary target of 50% of young people in higher education, supposedly in the name of fairness. Taken together, these factors have had a huge impact on whether higher education is economically sustainable in its current form. The bizarre belief in “degrees for (almost) everyone” comes at a high and unprecedented price. Loans and higher fees follow from that egalitarian conceit. Subsidies and maintenance grants for 2% or 5% is one thing; for 20% or 50% it’s something else entirely.

Some view “free” higher education as an entitlement warranting violence. But who’s going to pay for this “free” service when its value is increasingly called into question, not least by employers, many of whom point to dramatically lowered standards and ill-prepared graduates? One complaint we hear is that many students will be left with large debt (or theoretical debt) and limited prospects of a suitable job. But if so, doesn’t that call into question the value of what’s being demanded? In the UK there are currently around 20,000 students of fine art, 10,000 philosophy students and 27,000 enthusiasts of media studies. But is there a corresponding economic need? If the investment of time, effort and (other people’s) money doesn’t pay off with a lucrative and fascinating career in the private sector, and a return via taxation, then how is the process justified in its present form?

You’d think of spot of protest would be aimed at the egalitarians who devalued the investment and made it all but unworkable.