Why Colleges Should Be Free … Not Free of Charge, But Really Free

Should colleges be free? Absolutely. But not in the sense Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton mean. Sanders and Clinton want college to be free-of-charge, an entitlement or birthright for all provided by “the government” — which means, in practice, for some to pay the tuition of others.

But think about what colleges and universities are. They’re educational institutions of higher learning. Included in the education of a good college are the fields of philosophy, culture, political science, psychology and the humanities. In other words, the realm of ideas.

All education should be free, if “free” means unencumbered by government regulation or subsidies. State universities are funded by government and even many private universities obtain federal grants. This means that political and legal factors now determine, at least in part, the teaching of ideas at institutions of higher education. This is wrong. If Clinton and Sanders really wanted to improve higher education for all, they would seek to get government out of education.

Academia is supposed to be a competitive marketplace for, among other things, the fields and realm of ideas. The minute you inject government rules and subsidies into anything, creative potential and academic freedom are thwarted. In today’s universities, academic freedom and any sense of intellectual diversity (ironic, given today’s obsession with diversity) have all but disappeared. It’s particularly obvious in the humanities, but it’s spreading to the physical sciences, as well, with the government threatening to chill any speech critical of climate change, for example.

Consider what freedom of speech actually means. It means the right to spread any ideas you wish, on your own property or at your own expense (or at the expense of people who willingly support you).

By implication, the reverse is also true. Freedom of speech refers to the right not to be forced to fund or otherwise participate in speech with which you disagree. Many of us are appalled by the proliferation of the hard core leftist ideas — pro-Islam, pro-socialism, political correctness, environmentalism, antiAmericanism — entrenched in most modern American universities. While any university has a legal and moral right to include or exclude any ideas, professors or teachings that it wishes, people who oppose those ideas have an equal right not to be forced to pay for them. That’s why state-funded tuition is wrong, in principle; and it’s why Sanders, Clinton and other Democrats now pushing for universal college education are wrong, as well.

In an essay entitled “The Fascist New Frontier,” Ayn Rand wrote: Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government—and nothing else. It does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one’s own antagonists. A “right” does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort. Private citizens cannot use physical force or coercion; they cannot censor or suppress anyone’s views or publications. Only the government can do so. And censorship is a concept that pertains only to governmental action.

What Rand wrote applies not only to freedom of speech in general, but also to universities and schools in particular. People will rationalize that college has become so expensive that government must do something to control the costs. But he who controls and subsidizes universities will also control the content.

America is morphing into a fascist country. Why? Because government is so involved in every sector of our lives, including education. Government regulations and subsidies tend to drive up the cost of everything, which is one major reason why colleges and schools have become so expensive. Remember that the only way to drive down costs for anything is to increase supply relative to demand. A deregulated, open and completely free marketplace for higher education will only aid in the reduction of expenses. As with health care and primary/secondary education, if government would just get the hell out of the way, things would become, on the whole, more rational and affordable.

As it stands, higher education is on the verge of pricing itself out of existence. The higher education bubble will soon burst, because it has to do so. People simply cannot or will not pay costs for education as we know it, not if it ends up costing them more than they can expect to make in their entire careers. Hillary Clinton wants to make it all free (or cheap) so she and her p.c. fascists can mold education completely to their liking and do for colleges and universities what the federal government has already done for our grade schools and high schools, entrenched in uniformity and mediocrity. Good luck with that, America!

Freedom in education does not mean you have a right for education to be cheap. Good and important things are rarely cheap. Freedom in education should mean the right to be left alone to think, reason and learn with the educators of your choice, eductators selected in a free marketplace which today includes the Internet. Good education doesn’t have to be as expensive as government incentives, loan programs and politically correct state schools and otherwise federally-funded universities have made it.

If we surrender all of higher education to the whims and narrow-minded rigidity of politically correct hacks in Washington DC, then a college degree will become worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Get real, America.

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