It's Well Past Time to Stop the Looting

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Economist Barry Poulson, commenting at Forbes, drew me in this morning with the following rather inspiring title: "It's Well Past Time to Scrap the Federal Student Loan Program". But then he lost me when he noted that, "Milton Friedman challenged this social benefit argument and questioned whether government subsidies to higher education are a good investment".

At this point, it became apparent that Poulson was merely engaging in a cost-benefit analysis, and was not using his careful documentation of the damage wrought by this federal program as part of a broader argument for limited government. The rest of the piece bore these suspicions out. For example, rather than noting that such gimmicks as loan forgiveness and federal guarantees constitute redistribution of loot, Poulson takes the looting as a given and merely advocates a different means of fencing the goods:

If the federal government is to subsidize college students it should replace the student loan program with a voucher plan. All direct federal subsidies to higher education could also be redirected to a student voucher plan. With devolution of the voucher plan to the states much of the federal bureaucracy in higher education would be eliminated.
I pass over such questions as whether fifty bureaucracies are better than one, whether a voucher plan would do anything to eliminate the perverse incentive for people to attend college when they shouldn't, and how the chance for students to invest "their" "voucher funds" is any better than investing their own money has proven to be. These are all irrelevant since the government would still be picking our pockets and would still remain in a position to dictate how colleges are run.


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