Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bastions of Liberalism   posted by TangoMan @ 9/15/2005 09:57:00 PM

I'm sure that few would dispute the claim that our elite universities are bastions of liberalism. The faculty are well known for advocating public policy like integration, hiring quotas and all sorts of redistributive schemes. They tend to minimize criticisms, and the critics, of their schemes on the grounds that they are protecting class interests. The liberal outlook certainly places a higher priority on egalitarianism than on efficiency so I'm delighted to present an opportunity for our liberal academician friends to show us how enlightened they are by endorsing the plan put forward by Robert M. Dunn, Jr., a professor of economics at George Washington University.

A core value of American liberals is the importance of redistributing wealth from the prosperous to others, through highly progressive taxes and transfer payments. Which leads to a question: If redistributing wealth is a good idea for workers, companies, individuals, and families, then intellectual consistency suggests it should be equally valid for institutions like colleges and universities. Right?

Why should students at Princeton, where economist Paul Krugman teaches when he is not thundering against the “well off ” on the New York Times editorial page, enjoy income from huge endowments, while students at poorer institutions have far fewer educational resources? How unfair!

Worse, the extreme inequality of colleges is subsidized by the government. Gifts to rich schools are tax deductible for the donors. Universities and colleges pay no taxes on their capital gains, dividend, and interest income. This is an outrage against liberal principles! Remedial legislation is clearly needed!

[ . . . . ]

It’s time for an egalitarian revolution. Liberal professors at Harvard, Princeton, Amherst, and Williams should follow the principles they proclaim and strongly support action to end campus disparities by redistributing educational wealth.

Congress should pass, and President Bush should sign, a hefty and progressive tax on large per student endowments. The funds should be transferred to poorer schools. The same tax should apply to future gifts from alumni.

And why stop there? If redistribution is good, the same concept should apply within universities. Why should the law schools at George Washington and Georgetown live in splendor just because their alumni make more money than theology or economics or anthropology majors? The wealth of these law schools should be transferred to poorer departments. Particularly economics!

Professors at rich schools will splutter that such taxes will sharply reduce incentives for alumni to make gifts. Are we to believe that graduates of Yale are so narrow-minded and selfish that they only want to help Yalies? Surely Yale, Princeton, Williams, and Grinnell alums will give just as freely knowing that their gifts are helping students at poorer schools, particularly since they were taught primarily by liberal professors devoted to income redistribution.

Administrators at rich colleges will claim they raised their money through great effort, that it is unfair to take it away, and that this transfer would eliminate the incentive for poor schools to do a better job of fundraising. We won’t take those arguments any more seriously than liberals take the similar arguments conservatives make about income taxes and death taxes.

So when members of the classes of 1956 and 1981 gather next June at their 25th and 50th reunions in the tony precincts of New Haven, Cambridge, Princeton, and Williamstown, they should expect to see 35 to 40 percent of their gifts whisked away to poorer schools. That should improve their feelings of virtue. In fact, they should increase the size of their gifts to make up for the tax. That’s the least they owe us all.