Credit where Credit is Due

Neal McCluskey at the Cato Institute notices an interesting Obama administration initiative to develop a Federal curriculum. Mr. McCluskey expresses reservations: "Washington would for all intents and purposes be on the way to creating a federal university, and not one like the service academies that is constitutionally justifiable under federal defense powers. No, this one would be completely and utterly unconstitutional, and would unfairly compete with lots effective private — including for-profit – institutions."

This is a problem because...?

Most of those "private" institutions survive on tax-subsidized tuition support, tax-subsidized "research" grants, and legally-mandated degree requirements for professional licensure (physicians, surgeons, lawyers, engineers, social workers, teachers, professors).

McCluskey: "And, of course, there’s the little matter of how this would be paid for."

In this answer to that question lies the resolution of the larger issues of federalism and the crowding-out of independent institutions by tax-subsidized competition. The service academies (the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Air Force Academy at Boulder, the Coast Guard Academy at New London, and the US Military Academy at West Point) serve a constitutional defense function. Mr. McClusky probably would object to the subsidization of the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Mr. McCluskey observes that the creation of a Federal University would subject independent schools to subsidized competition. Again: this is a problem because...?

The best is the enemy of the good. If a free curriculum (defined by designated text books and tests), coupled with a competitive market in examination services, reduces the burden on taxpayers, what's the problem?

The real problem is that effective reform probably will not happen; college professors are well-paid, articulate, and have a lot of free time. They (like public school teachers) defend their interests effectively. Reform will come only when legislators can no longer afford the wasteful State-monopoly school system. Public sector unions and their kept legislators will bankrupt this country (consider California) before they face this financial reality.

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