Rand Paul's Dumb Idea

Rand Paul is a smart guy and a good guy.  Recently, however, this smart and good Republican proposed a really bad idea: make all costs of college completely deductible.

Government-supported college education is a giant redistribution of wealth from the poor, who often cannot afford college, to the rich, who deem college practically a constitutional right.  Between these two is the middle class.  Parents hock their houses to pay outrageous tuitions, and students incur big student loans to pay for the dubious blessing of a college degree.

Colleges also form a legal monopoly in many areas.  Government hiring for many jobs requires a college degree.  Many licensed professions also require college degrees.  The heavy hand of government infests the whole racket of “higher education” by taxing all of us to pay for it, subsidizing a professional class with fat salaries for working short hours, providing systems of student loans, grants, and subsidies – all based upon the assurance given by academic bureaucrats that their academic bureaucracies are efficient and effective.

These universities often crank out armies of sullen graduates who are woefully incompetent.  The softening of academic standards, the inclusion of empty-headed class subjects, the almost obligatory promotion of minorities (the easy path for professors), and the general grade inflation that squeezes brilliance and stupidity together produces graduates who know nothing except that they must already be smart and knowledgeable and that only bigots could think otherwise.

What makes this all worse is the fact that “Higher Education” is ideologically totalitarian and is a key component of the intolerant and bullying leftist establishment.  Conservative students are mocked and discriminated against in class.  Conservative speakers are almost never invited to speak on campuses, and those who do face leftist hecklers.  Student fees are used to support leftist causes.  Academicians whose research varies from the party line in areas like global warming or evolution by natural selection find their articles rejected and their tenured denied.

Beyond all that, college is an anachronism.  Education, to be useful in these days, should be lifelong education, and it ought to be self-directed education.  The means of learning are all around us.  Old-fashioned libraries have vast book and article collections.  Cable networks are full of educational programming.  Electronic media provide a vast array of tools to learn and also provide scholarship much more timely than what textbooks have.

Why not propose an alternative to institutionalized, taxpayer-supported, very expensive, limited-utility, leftist-infested higher education?  How many parents of college-aged kids, how many bright minds who cannot afford the treasure to spend to support the educational dinosaur of “higher education,” how many non-leftists repelled by the prospect of a four-year prison sentence in the classrooms of hectoring thugs would jump at the chance of an alternative to higher education?

Why not, for example, take a per capita share of the current government subsidy for institutionalized education and make that available to all young folks who reach eighteen?  Let each choose whether to use that voucher for a college education or for a self-directed education using all the various means to learn which we all can access easily.

The truly self-directed could learn at almost no cost, but those who needed structured education and outside help would be in better shape than they are today.  The marketplace would create providers who could allow young adults could learn while still at home and, indeed, learn in the evening at home while they work during the day. 

Why not go a bit farther and provide each American a single lifetime educational voucher, to allow each of us to learn and to study throughout our working years, making education much more relevant to the transitional character of work in our high-technology society? 

The smart market-driven businesses could also provide a much better validation of accomplishment than our current class of tenured professors.  Ideological indoctrination would also be deadly for these businesses, which would try not to offend their customers.  Government could insist that a successfully completed course of self-education or provider-guided education must be given equal value in hiring to the value given a college degree.

Higher education is a disaster, and Rand Paul’s plan to give it even more help is unwise.  Why not radically restructure the whole system and create as many market-driven alternatives as possible?