I saw this on the Atlantic Monthly’s website, written by an economist (/physicist? /finance professor? /midget wrestler?) named Noah Smith. He came up with a plan for solving the nation’s college education crisis. I am so out of touch, I didn’t even know the nation was having a college education crisis! There are too many crises today, it’s hard to keep up with them all so I hope you’ll forgive me.
Anyway, I read through it and my take-away was that economists like Noah Smith have given up on the whole “voluntary social cooperation” style of getting shit done and have decided it’s more effective to just crack a few whips and get people on board with their objectives that way:
So here’s my idea for increasing the supply of college: A system of federal universities. Currently, we have no such system, but it is not unconstitutional. After all, the federal government runs the United States Military Academy at West Point. My idea is simple: The federal government provides start-up funding for a large number of new universities, offering attractive salaries to professors.
I just realized something. Racism isn’t unconstitutional, but if we don’t amend the Constitution, pronto, someone might decide that the fact that racism isn’t unconstitutional is reason enough to be racist.
Why federal universities instead of state universities? State spending is likely to focus on the existing state university systems. But that will have a limited impact on total college availability, for two reasons. First, increased state funding for existing universities may simply displace alumni funding or tuition funding. That could lower the net price of college, but would have a limited impact on enrollment. Second, there are many geographic areas that don’t yet have elite universities, or only have a few (Ohio comes to mind, as well as much of the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest). Federal universities could fill these gaps. Finally, it’s very difficult to coordinate policy between states, and if we want to create new universities on a large scale, only federal government can do it. [bold emphasis added]
Damn straight! We don’t want any of these puny, fancy-pants small scale universities. If we’re gonna get serious about this crisis, we gotta put our big boy pants on and hire the big guns, FedGov-style!
My take? Dragooning national labor and capital into massive social development projects at the federal level is a great idea, Noah. And I agree, public goods, like education and pyramids, can’t be built any other way.
It’s like I’ve always said– if it’s good enough for the Pharaohs, it’s good enough for our education system!
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Noah Smith’s glowing praise of a man who is “an important and positive figure in America today,” Michael Moore. I love being helpful.
I stand corrected! A reader is also a writer and e-mails in a correction:
It is unconstitutional for the government to be racially biased–See the Equal Protection Act of the 14th Amendment. It’s why affirmative action is getting to the court so much these days.
I think I might still have a technical case in saying that the Average Joe isn’t prevented from being racist by the Constitution itself, but this is close enough that I might as well retract that little bit of wit.