Public Universities

There’s a great debate going on between Jack Balkin (here and later here), and the forces of reason: Sasha Volokh (here and here), David Bernstein (here and here), “Juan Non-Volokh” (here and here) and Glen Whitman.

I’ve long been intrigued by the “liberal” infatuation with state education, because it seems like such an incredibly illiberal idea to me. The last thing a genuine liberal should want to do is institutionalize state control over the indoctrination of our youth (I’m thinking of all public education here, not just universities). I understand that they’re comfortable with it now because their views are the dominant ones in academia, but that might not always be true. Do they really want supporters of a state whose policies they vehemently disagree with to be dictating the content and slant of education?

And, while Balkin’s view (that the essential public good of helping people participate in culture and democratic debate is necessarily provided by the state) could have had some appeal in the past; I find it hard to believe that as sensible a person as Balkin is could think that’s true today. Interested people can learn and discuss whatever they want today (both online, and in real-life meetings organized online). All without forcing others to pay for it, and without the coercion and hassles that schools regularly inflict on their victims students.


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