Friday 11 May 2012

Quebec student thugs

Andrew Coyne takes on the Quebec student thugs who have been rioting against tuition increases.
What they have to offer is violence and lawlessness. Which is what this is about. It isn’t about the poor: the enriched bursaries that accompany the fee increase ensure nobody on low income would pay another nickel. It isn’t about accessibility: a smaller proportion of Quebecers attend university than elsewhere in the country, notwithstanding fees that are a fraction of the national average. It isn’t even about students, really, two-thirds of whom are not participating.

Rather, it is about how we distribute resources in a society.

A civilized society distributes resources in two ways. One is through the market, based on mutually beneficial exchange. The other is through the state, based on need: the only moral basis of redistribution.
But the coercive power of the state is all too easily diverted into other, less savoury schemes of redistribution: on the one hand, by lobbying, connections or outright bribes; on the other hand, by threats, whether of the lawful, pressure-group kind, or the unlawful, violence-and-mayhem kind. In either case the aim is the same: to enlist the state to extract from others what we could not persuade them to give us freely. This has nothing to do with need, and everything to do with raw power.
Let's not forget that Canadian tuition subsidies are largely a transfer to the upper middle class. The Quebec thugs are rioting not for the poor but for a transfer to themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Ah plus ca change. Early on in my career at McGill, the Quebec government instituted a "thaw" on the tuition-fee freeze, to raise streets in protest and came on to the McGill tuition rates in Quebec from the lowest in Canada to .... the lowest in Canada. A bunch of students from UQAM decided to take to the campus, chanting "McGill, dans la rue; McGill, dans la rue". Apparently, it didn't occur to them that chanting in French was not the best way to mobilise students studying at the English language McGill! Thugs yes. Idiots as well.