by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Forbes column examines two states’ interest in providing “free” college education.
One of the good aspects of federalism is that it allows states to go their own way. As Justice Louis Brandeis put it, they can be “laboratories of democracy.”
Unfortunately, that often means that interest groups will capture state legislatures and have their political allies push through foolish legislation that will harm most of the state’s residents while benefiting just a few – mainly their members. (That, incidentally, was true in the case that inspired Brandeis’ observation, New State Ice v. Liebmann. Fortunately, the majority ruled against Oklahoma’s scheme for cartelizing the ice business.)
Two states, New York and Rhode Island are about to indulge in a similarly foolish experiment, namely “free” college for most citizens.
During the hearings on President Trump’s just-confirmed nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Senator Bernie Sanders asked, “Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition free through federal and state efforts?”
That, of course, was an idea that he and Hillary Clinton supported in last year’s presidential campaign—that it would be great to make college free.
DeVos replied that the idea was “interesting,” but quickly added this fact that so often eludes politicians: “Nothing in life is truly free – somebody is going to have to pay for it.”