July 08, 2003


Money is evil, which is why idealistic lefty students get so angry when they’re asked to earn some to pay for their own education.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 8, 2003 02:22 PM

Yeah... everyone else should pay for their education, so they can graduate and become our we-know-what's-best-for-everybody overlords.

Posted by: Brad at July 8, 2003 at 03:00 PM

Hrrumph, Crean wants more `aged ' and `chilcare' `workers'. The great road to prosperity, add on the army of `socialworkers', `community workers',bachelors of nursing , teaching, macrame,twiddlywinks and horoscope reading, `environemental workers'( read greeny ratbags) and by god the future looks f***g hopeless.Who is going to pay for all these retards, Mickey Mouse and 3 bears, or is it the money tree every one has growing behind their garden shed...or do a few urbanites have some oil wells they're sitting on. No, I've got it, fools gold, alchemy is in.
Go Crean, turn some more dumbed down things into real, genuine village bloody idiots.

Posted by: d at July 8, 2003 at 03:42 PM

Hi Tim, first time commentator, long time reader,

Tim, this is what I think when I see the tea cosy wearing, Marx spruiking stench that is the Green Left/Resisitance. Thank God I left ANU.

Anyway, if socialism is what it's proponent's claim it to be, the polar opposite to the filthy greed of capitlaist swine, yes, why do they need all that evil money?

As for Crean and "reskilling", perhaps we wouldn't have such high unemployment if we eliminated many taxes and cut others, and ended labour market regulation?

Posted by: Another Bloody Libertarian at July 8, 2003 at 06:40 PM

Gee d, I don't see nurses sitting very well with your rogues gallery, I like nurses and reckon they make a real contrbution. And, let's not forget Another Bloody Libertarian that our current Federal Govt taxes us plenty and would be very vulnerable on that issue if the electorate didn't roll around laughing every time Labor tried to pick them up on it.

Posted by: James Hamilton at July 8, 2003 at 08:05 PM

Even the cops have to pay HECS for their initial training these days, but that is money well spent if you get to bash the hippies at Sydney Uni when you graduate.

Posted by: Gilly at July 8, 2003 at 09:10 PM

I'm always amazed at how foreign students travelling or studying in the States find the idea of student loans so outrageous. "But... but... but... How are you supposed to pay it back?!!" they always stammer. Well, I answer, first, I didn't spend the year after graduation bumming around Greece, so I found a (gasp!) job and earned an income. Second, since I knew I had loans to repay from day one, I went and got a degree which actually boosted my income and employability somewhat.

This usually leads to protests that education isn't supposed to be an investment. I usually just reply with a simple, "Yes, it is."

US $6700 and counting. No complaints.

Posted by: George at July 9, 2003 at 03:39 AM

As an American who has been paying his student loans for tens years now (two more months!!!). These Aussies who don't want to pay for school can, in my humble opinion, kiss my black behind.

AND I might add that in the US, High-School dropouts fare quite well, e.g., Johnny Depp.

Posted by: Dave Studentloan at July 9, 2003 at 04:02 AM

the jury's still out on depp

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at July 9, 2003 at 04:42 AM

Oh goody, one of my favourite soap boxes!

I find it highly offensive that these whiners expect me to pay for their tertiary qualifications. Qualifications which will then enable them to go out and make far more money than I could hope to and who will presume to self-righteously tell me how society should operate.

An education is an investment (like any other investment) in their future and they don't want to pay for it? Since I am paying for their education, in return perhas they'd be interested in making an investment in my future? A sizable deposit into 'Naiad's Share Portfolio Fund' seems a fair exchange for an arts degree.

Posted by: Naiad at July 9, 2003 at 12:59 PM

It is usury and fraudulent, Hamilton , to spend taxed dollars on things which are not degrees and raises false expectations , false because they cannot be met.In this respect, both parties are villainous. And yes, becasue ALP is worse doesn't let the Lib-Nat of the hook either.Government is outright monstrous.If there is a genuine liberaly party come next fed. and state elections, one will be voting for it. Currently, the choice is restricted to types of socialism and all leads to metaphorical hell sooner or later.

Posted by: d at July 9, 2003 at 02:16 PM

did tim blair go to uni? obviously my face will be red if he says no, but it pisses me off how people who paid no tuition fees [or ones that were way more subsidised than they are now] can turn around and say that people should pay more for uni.

Posted by: adam at July 9, 2003 at 02:51 PM

One year. No degree.

Posted by: tim at July 9, 2003 at 03:12 PM

free, heavily subsidised, not-so-heavily subsidised or full-fee?

Posted by: adam at July 9, 2003 at 04:03 PM


Assume Tim got his very own personal one-of-a-kind government handout for his one-year-no-degree uni adventure. Fine, Tim's a hypocrite.

What bearing does it have on his argument?

Posted by: murray at July 9, 2003 at 04:40 PM

It was 1983, so I can't fully recall the details, but I think it was semi-subsidised. Don't hold me to that, though. I really can't remember. Certainly it would have been cheaper than it is now, not that that makes any difference to my argument.

Posted by: tim at July 9, 2003 at 06:44 PM

I don't see that whether or not Tim has a degree has any bearing on his observation. It doesn't alter the fact that these people want the dividend without the cost of the investment.

Posted by: Naiad at July 9, 2003 at 09:02 PM

well the bearing is that tim got the dividend without the cost of the investment. or at least at a greatly reduced cost of investment. whatever dividend it is that you get if you drop out of uni after a year. anyway the point is that students today have to go into a large amount of debt to the state because people 20 years older than them are too cheap to now pay for what they themselves got for free. it pisses me off a little.

Posted by: adam at July 10, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Right, Adam. As I said, assume Tim is a hypocrite. It makes no difference to his argument, which is that the principal beneficiaries--students--should pay more of the cost of their education. Do you actually have an argument on this point, or are you simply content to make ad hominem attacks?

(If Tim went in 1983, uni was nearly free. I think all I paid in my one-year-no-degree uni experiment in 1986 was ANU student union fees, most of which went to the Sandanistas or something. However, I now have CDN$21,000 in student loans, so I suppose Adam would allow me to comment.)

Posted by: murray at July 10, 2003 at 02:37 AM

it's not about "allowing you to comment", it's about admitting that, yes, tim got a relatively "free ride" when he accuses others, who are in fact paying their way, of requesting a "free ride". surely you can see something wrong with that.

also, there is a question of generational justice that people in their 40s should really be thinking about right now. is it wise for them to be shirking their responsibility to students when, in twenty years time, they'll be sixty-plus and today's students will be in a position to shirk their responsibility to retirees?

Posted by: adam at July 10, 2003 at 09:07 PM

Once again, Adam, I find myself admiring your dogged stubborness in sticking to a silly argument. It doesn't matter what someone's personal background is, you should take their arguments on their merits. Twice now, I asked you to assume that, yes, Tim got a free ride, and then debate the issue. Twice now, you've simply reiterated your original point.

Look, I don't care if someone got a free ride at university or not--all I care about is your defence of the principle that the general public somehow has a "responsibility" (that it is "shirking", no less) to pay for other peoples' educations, especially when those people will be the overwhelming beneficiaries. Unfortunately, you seen keen to avoid actually arguing your own point.

Posted by: murray at July 11, 2003 at 01:50 AM

for a start, tim's post doesn't even remotely resemble an argument, which makes it somewhat difficult to answer your "What bearing does [tim's hypocrisy] have on his argument?" question. tim's post basically says "look at these dudes who want a free ride, what chumps". it's an invitation to laugh, not an invitation to think seriously about an issue.

the accusation that these kids request a "free ride" is stupid. they're paying through their f***ing noses for their education, more than any generation has paid for higher education since long before i was born. and they're protesting against fee hikes, not fees as such, so how is it that they're requesting a "free ride"? if tim is making an argument, then his only point is full of crap.

given that, what the hell else am i supposed to do but point out the hypocrisy?

also, the general public don't get anything out of education? all those doctors and nurses and accountants and teachers and so forth come from somewhere. is the public not an "overwhelming beneficiary" of having access to people who are trained in these professions? we all benefit from having an educated populace. lets say you own a business, and you want to hire someone to do your advertising. you can hire someone with a high school education and spend your money training them, or you can hire a marketing graduate. in other words, subsidised education is a massive gift to the private sector, in that it provides them with a workforce which is to a significant extent already trained. well, the private sector gets a benefit, so they should pay part of the cost.

i suppose you think that because grads usually earn more than non-grads, they should pay for their education. in addition to forgetting the public good that comes from subsidised education, that sort of argument also forgets that grads do pay quite a bit of the cost of their education, because: (1) they pay fees, which you might have noticed are really f***ing high right now, and (2) they'll pay more tax, at a higher rate, on what they earn, because they'll earn more.

and it does matter what someone's personal background is when they make a churlish, personal attack against others. if i assume that tim got a free ride, it becomes kind of hard for me to not point out that the only thing he can come up with in his personal attack is that "those guys want a free ride". in other words, weak.

Posted by: adam at July 11, 2003 at 03:32 AM

Good on you, Adam. An argument at last. More heat than light, but a definite improvement.

Let's agree that individuals' educations do benefit society, on average. Not only are they more productive, but they live longer and healthier lives, use fewer government programs, and are more likely to participate in public life. (Let's also agree for the sake of argument that higher education is the most cost-effective way for society to realize all these benefits, though I'm withholding judgement on that.)

I'd also propose that society (i.e. taxpayers) and the individual should both pay for the individual's education, in proportion to the distribution of benefits received. This is perhaps a little oversimplified, but OK as a general principle. Do you agree?

Suppose further that we're able to make a fair stab at estimating the public and private benefits of higher educational outcomes. The question then becomes an empirical one: what is the public/private distribution of benefits from an individual's education? If the individual receives (say) 60% of the benefits, she should pay 60% of the cost of that education, no? To put it another way, if TB, Taxpayer, pays $1 a year to A's education, but receives only $0.40 in societal benefits, s/he is not getting his/her money's worth, right? If you disagree, why?

You seem to be implying that the current fee increases are inequitable. What's the empirical basis? What level of fees is optimal? Why?

I mean, it's all very well to assert that all sorts of fuzzy societal benefits flow from education (and I agree), but if you want to argue about policy you should at least attempt to quantify them. So far, you haven't given me anything to go on.

(Perhaps you should provide your answer (if you decide to give one) on your blog, rather than have us take up more of Tim's comments section.)

Posted by: murray at July 11, 2003 at 05:35 AM

"What's the empirical basis? What level of fees is optimal?". that's pretty obviously an unanswerable question. i mean jeebus, how the hell do i know? do you know? does anyone know? would someone who wrote a book attempting to answer this question really know? i would doubt it. seriously, how do you expect me to quantify this? can you quantify your argument, beyond pulling for-the-sake-of-argument type figures out of thin air?

my empirical basis, such as it is, is that many people i know, who are obviously smart and capable of going to university, aren't going because they don't want to incur a massive HECS debt. i know that the reason i stay at university is because i have the privilege of living at home without having to pay board, so with my part time job i can pay HECS as i go, thus not incurring the debt. so part of my objection to the current fee/subsidy split is that it exacerbates inequalities in our society: the people who get the subsidy are those who are rich enough to pay the fees, which is a pretty counter-productive state of affairs.

so i don't fully agree with your "society (i.e. taxpayers) and the individual should both pay for the individual's education, in proportion to the distribution of benefits received" principle, because the societal interest in tendencies toward equality is ignored. society only receives this benefit if access to higher education is widespread. if access to higher education is not widespread, a subsidy probably hurts society by reinforcing inequality.

Posted by: adam at July 11, 2003 at 01:09 PM

Well, I've never heard of a "societal interest in tendencies toward equality", and it seems to me that you're just pulling in extraneous (and highly dubious) factors at will in order to cover up the fact that you don't really have a coherent argument. This is becoming a bit of a habit in my dealings with you.

And since you pretty much abandon the idea that there's any empirical basis to your opinions, we're left with the fact that you don't like HECS because you don't like it, and that's that.

Until next time.

Posted by: murray at July 11, 2003 at 01:45 PM

so, uh, where's your empirical basis? i admit that mine is anecdotal, but at least i have one. and what level of fees to do you think is "optimal", since you're so sure that i should know?

also, re "societal interest in tendencies toward equality", have you heard of this thing called equality of opportunity? i believe society has an interest in its members having the same opportunities, regardless of what socio-economic group they come from. i didn't think i'd have to spell it out for you, but here we are.

Posted by: adam at July 11, 2003 at 04:45 PM