Coase Colored Glasses

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

USU Admisistration Needs to be "Simmonized"

I propose the outrageous idea that all members of the faculty, administration, hall monitors, tutors and playground assistants be required to attend and successfully pass Professor Simmons' Law & Econ class.

Taste the ill-flavored logic in today's edition of the Statesman.

Due to decreases in enrollment at Utah State University, students may be paying for several unavoidable increases in fees during the 2005-06 academic school year. Of the different university entities that receive money from fees, students may see increases in athletics, building, Student Health and Wellness Center, music and theater and bus fees. Members of the Student Fee Board heard proposals from each entity Tuesday whether to increase or keep fees the same. However, almost every entity is trying to offset the deficits from decreases in enrollment this academic year. "The bottom line is I didn't anticipate as much of a decline in enrollment," said Tiffany Evans, director of Student Involvement and Leadership Center who is in charge of the student activity fee. "We will not be asking for an increase; we will be able to handle this internally.” However, some areas of the university were not as fortunate. Clint Moffitt, associate vice president for finance, said they have no choice but to propose a $3.50 increase per semester for building fees for students with 10 or more credits. “I wish we could say we're going down and not increasing anything, but that's not happening," Moffitt said. The university is required to maintain coverage of a bond for the Spectrum, but decreased enrollment has offset that. There may also be a $1 increase for the music and theater fee to help fund the Aggie marching band. “We are anticipating an increase of some sort," said Felicia Horsley, ASUSU HASS senator. "We felt if it was a small fee that would be only a portion of what the band is in need of.” Although there may have been an increase for the computer fee, Spencer Watts, Academic Senate president, said there will be other changes made to compensate for lack of funding. The athletics department is also looking to receive a $5 increase per semester. But it is unsure whether the Student Health and Wellness Center fee as well as the bus fee will be increased and by how much. Those proposing fee increases will present their reasoning for the increase in late January and the Student Fee Board will vote on the increases in February. Students with questions about the fee increases can contact the Student Fee Board President Justin Atkinson at

Areas receiving increases are athletics, building, Student Health and Wellness Center, music and theater and bus fees. Let's look at these and see if a better solution could be had.

Athletics: Get rid of the fee and sell tickets. I only attended half of the home football games and the majority of the basketball games. All this for $200 a semester?! This fee (or better yet season tickets to all or any sport's season) should be optional at the time tuition is due.

The building fee should, and is, based on the amount of credits taken. I think that this fee should increase as more credits are taken. My logic being that the more credits taken, the more I will use the buildings. It should not be capped off at 10 credits.

Student Health and Wellness Center: I absolutely hate this fee! This if a great example of government imposing laws on the weak just because they feel that is what is best for society. I have only used the wellness center once in my 2 yrs at USU. I hate this fee! This fee should be optional when tuition payment is due.

Music and theater: Include their fee in the price of the ticket at the sporting events.

Bus: Charge a fee of $.25 to students who what to ride the bus. For one student who rides the bus twice a day for a semester the total would be $18.75. That's more than the fee and those who use the buses will pay for it. I use the bus about three times a week (I think it better to live closer to campus and walk, even in the snow, than to pay $.25). This fee of a semester bus pass should be optional at the time tuition is due! I hate this fee!

Other fees that should be added as a pay-as-used basis. Computer lab-My roommate never uses the labs because he has his own laptop. Why should he pay for something he is not using? Raise the price of parking. Activities-add the option of a season pass to all the activities on campus or charge us! This will reduce the cost of tuition and disposable income will fill our pockets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Measuring demand

Using a free market system to assess demand for something assumes that everyone has equal oppurtuninty to money. The fact that not everyone has equal oppurtunity to money is obivious. I have a couple of friends who have graduated from college. They worked much harder than me in college and got better grades. Yet I will earn a higher salary when I graduate. Not because I worked hard in school or any other aspect of life, but simply because of natural and enviromental differences.
So you will ask do I think money should be taken from me and given to my friends. In many cases I would say yes. What they are doing is more important. So when I start making the money will I give it to them? Partly. If you have read the "All Government Employees are Overpaid" post then you already know that I do a lot to try to distribute the benefits of my advantages. I will probably continue to give more of my time then of my money, because I think it more beneficial that way.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Summery of “On K Street Conservatism,” by George F. Will of Newsweek, October 17, 2005

It all started in December 2001 and it all started wilt the detrimental School lunches of NCLB. It has been all bills and no vetoes ever since. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) “intruded the federal government deeply into the state of local responsibility of education…” Prescription-drug benefit to Medicare. Perverse agriculture subsidies. Terri Schiavo. Transportation bills. Katrina. G.W. Bush has had a atrocious case of veto-idious since being elected in 2000. He is the first President in the United States of America in 176 years to serve a full term without vetoing anything. Bush isn’t afraid of pork; in fact he loves it, just look at that transportation bill. Reagan vetoed it because the pork was too thick. G. W. Bush passed it, $24 billion. Add another 6,371 pieces of pork to that, and it only comes out to about $286 billion. Katrina? New Orleans sat below sea level and shouldn’t receive a penny because of that simple fact. And then there was DeLay. The guy knows less about limited government than a camel knows calculus. Some Republicans think, “big government is good government if it’s our government.” Republicans are starting to become a very good synonym for rent seeking, all of that thanks to their leadership. Will concludes with “Conservatives are not supposed to be cuddly, or even particularly nice. They are, however, supposed to be competent. And to know that scarcity-of money, virtue, wisdom, competence, everything-forces choices. Furthermore, they are supposed to have an unsentimental commitment to meritocracy and excellence. The fact that none of those responsible for the postwar planning, or lack thereof, in Iraq have been sacked suggests-no, screams-that in Washington today there is no serious penalty for serious failure. Hence the multiplication of failures.

He is right! Government has gotten way too big and fat and lazy, like one of my uncles who can’t get a job. I thought government was, in the minds of republicans, thought to more efficient when it is small and in the tiny hands of locals. I’m just glad that USU is following suit. I pay for the computer labs and don’t know how to type (my little brother was forced to type this up). I’m legally blind yet am forced to pay that obese athletic fee (It’s great to have you in class Blake, but I’m just too poor to be paying for your education). I stole a scooter but still have to pay a portly bus fee. When will it stop? Why do we have to pay for things that we are not using? USU and chubby Uncle Sam are loosing out on votes. I hope my parents will look at my failing grades like Big Brother would-after a light slap on the wrist; they would take me out to the King China Buffet.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coase Colored Glasses

Coase Colored GlassesHow to write a paper or give a seminar from Tyler Cowen at

At the Ph.d. level, that is. John Cochrane has great advice throughout. It starts as follows:

Figure out the one central and novel contribution of your paper. Write this down in one paragraph. As with all your writing, this must be concrete.

Here are John's far more specific (and for most people less useful) suggestions for paper topics.

Thanks to Newmarks' Door for the pointer, courtesy of Ngan Dinh.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

More on education, and a response to Kilroy

Below is a response posted by Kilroy, my responses to his arguments are in red italics.

J Alexander:
You suggest a privatization of public schools through a voucher program so that teachers can directly generate income. What a wonderful idea! Let's reward those teachers who are able to attract the wealthiest students, those who don't give out anything but A's to the rich kids for fear of offending their wealthy parents, those who spend more time and resources on recruiting and advertising than teaching. The amount of revenue they generate for the school is a great standard to judge teachers' competency by!
First of all, I think it is a mistake to assume that all wealthy parents would buy their kids’ grades; even if they did, this “wealthy” family would not last another generation—thus terminating the problem as you see it. Also, if schools were operated as private businesses, they would be wise to hire marketers to handle the advertising so that the teachers could focus on teaching. This way the school would have excellent teachers in order to differentiate this school from the competition; not only that the teachers would be paid for their excellence.

As to the privatization of public schools through a voucher program, I think that it is a terrible idea and here is why.The main reason I oppose vouchers is that it would further stratify and divide society. Public schools provide a public cohesiveness, a common standard of education, a shared background, and most importantly, diversity in the classroom. You’re right, communism does make everyone equally poor; or in this case, it would make every school equally worthless. The freedom of choice that vouchers give would divide American society along the lines of class, race, and religion. Rich parents will (continue to) send their children to exclusive schools where they will (continue to) associate with other privileged students. Most parents won't send their white child to a school that is predominately black, (further) segregating schools. And you know that the fundamentalists Christians will be sending their kids to a school where they will be taught that evolution is the devil's doctrine, and science is to be mistrusted. An entirely different debate, but let’s just say that discarding the possibility of intelligent design is an artificial restriction on science.
So what is wrong about allowing parents to reinforce their own beliefs and norms in their children by allowing them to send them to schools where they will be surrounded by like-minded and like-experienced students and taught the particular brand of education that the parent favors? I hope that this question is merely rhetorical. If not, we can get into a discussion about the benefits of diversity, or the benefits of broadening one's horizons and viewpoints beyond that which has been inculcated from an early age, or the benefits of having diverse opinions in the classroom, or of having lower-ability students next to higher-ability students (as the lower-ability benefit from their help, and the higher-ability benefit from assuming the role of mentor and teacher), or the social benefits of increased understanding and tolerance and decreased fear and hostility that come from associating with peers from different backgrounds. The only diversity that is truly beneficial is diversity of thought. A person’s skin color has no bearing on what that person can or cannot contribute to education.
Another reason I oppose vouchers is that they allow schools to escape accountability to the public. A privatized education system would make schools ultimately responsible to please the consumer (students). Just as businesses fail if they don’t do a good job meeting the consumers’ needs, so too a school would fail if it failed educate its students. Although they are partly funded by taxpayers, these schools are for-profit, and have profit at their motive. The profit motive is a powerful tool—it forces organizations to reach excellence. This would be no different for schools. This leads these schools to streamline – to strive for efficiency. The result? Inefficient programs like those for the disabled are cut, because they don’t further the bottom line of profit (or maybe you think this is a good thing, because the market will step in and provide some school just for the disabled, where the price is high, but the chance to associate strictly with other disabled students makes it worth it!).The last reason I oppose these vouchers is that I don’t believe they work. Read about the results of the trial voucher program in Milwaukee, and about how essentially no academic improvement was noted among those who switched from public schools to voucher-funded private schools. Many of the top private schools already in existence (44% in California) have said that they would not accept vouchers (why should they? They are already making plenty of moolah). What good is a system in which the top schools won’t even participate? The idea that by simply privatizing schools you are making them “direct generators of income” is absurd. Schools are not factories, they are not farms, they are not businesses, and they are not venture capitalists. If schools were private, good teachers WOULD generate revenue by attracting customers. They, do however, produce an item of extreme importance for the economy – a well-rounded graduate who has received a MAINSTREAM education; has associated with other classes, races and religions; has gained a common background and cohesion with the rest of society; and was afforded an equal opportunity to learn that which has commonly been accepted as essential in order for a student to deserve the appellation “educated” (accepted by qualified scientists, educators, and intellectuals, not by the often self-serving, uninterested, “bad”, absent altogether, uneducated themselves, racist, elitist, or fanatic parents (a description of SOME parents, I recognize that most are ok)).

There is simply no escaping the fact that a private school system would lead to a better, more cost-effective education system. Free enterprise forces participants to constantly improve, and thus allows consumers to constantly be better off. Which is more favorable: A school system that constantly strives for excellence? Or one that simply values a “MAINSTREAM” education that never improves, and is perpetually barron of quality educators?