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January 14, 2004
Socialism: The Minnesota Explanation

Yesterday I did some driving around in the afternoon when I'd normally be working and I caught a little bit of Michael Medved on the radio. I'm not a big fan of Medved's show, but yesterday he had a pretty provocative subject: Who voted for Bush in 2000 that won't vote for Bush in 2004? After all, polls among major demographic groups all show Bush and Republicans making inroads, some pretty significant, over the past three years, and if that's true, the Democrats have to find people switching the other way. Alternately, they could claim to be energizing a large group of people who didn't vote at all -- that's Howard Dean's claim -- which theoretically could counterbalance these Republican gains.

Those would have been intelligent answers. What Medved got was a procession of silliness: callers mouthing empty slogans like "Bush lied, people died," with no discussion of policy at all. When challenged by Medved for supporting evidence in either policy or actual implementation, without exception none of the callers could come up with anything. I think they expected a Michael Savage-like ten seconds on the air, and when pressed, had nothing to offer, giving Medved's listeners some great moments in radio comedy.

By far the funniest of these was a young lady from our state, who described herself as a college student and a Republican who wants socialism and doesn't think Bush can deliver it. Medved, obviously amused, asked her what she meant by socialism, and she replied that she wants to go to college for free and thinks everyone else should be able to go without paying tuition, too. Now, obviously this young woman has not yet been schooled in the art of demanding socialism by proclaiming it as a selfless and noble system under which every person is given equal distribution of resources, and so on; she took the breathtaking and refreshingly honest course of telling us it would benefit her directly.

Medved then asked if she thought a janitor working two jobs to put his own kids through a technical school should be forced to pay for her college education. She said, "Oh, I'm not asking him to pay for it, the government should pay for it." When asked where she thought the government got the money, if not from taxpayers, she said, "Well, it just should be free."

Nothing encapsulates the thinking of the socialist left better than this young woman's brief appearance on radio. It just should be free. Never mind that universities employ hundreds, even thousands of people to deliver an education, or that the authors of the textbooks spend years researching and writing them, or even that students consume electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, and so on. It just should be free. Why should it be free? Because she wants it. Why should health care be free? Because people need it. How can they be free? Government pays for it. Where does government get the money? By taxing the rich. Who are the rich? Everyone who can afford these things now, and more than that.

To take this young woman's example, then, what happens if socialism is only applied to higher education and all tuition and fees are abolished in higher education? The first thing that happens is that the private universities go out of business, either from starvation or excessive mandatory control by the federal government. After all, many of these are church-based, like the University of Notre Dame or Texas Christian. After that, the state-sponsored universities lose the most commercially employable professors as wages will require strict control; socialism, after all, rejects market control in all aspects.

Since government is footing the entire bill, higher education will become an entitlement, just like primary education, and everyone will go who wants to go regardless of their qualifications. Colleges will become vastly more overcrowded, but they will not be allowed to expel anyone outside of the most disruptive, as everyone will have the right to be there. Soon, college diplomas will be little more than attendance certificates as the faculty that is left is pressured to continue promoting failing students to protect their self-esteem and to keep their production levels up. (Think of it as the current varsity football team program for the entire student body, if you will.) It will be another level of public high school and just as effective.

Socialism is a utopian ideal for the shallow-minded, like the young Minnesotan college student on yesterday's show. It imagines a world where people do not act in their own self-interest at all, which means a world where people have no free will. It conjures up benefits without cost, freedom without choice, and peace without liberty. It's a shame that this young lady's Minnesota education never taught her that.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 14, 2004 8:21 AM

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