Liberalism 2012: Re-regulation for Airlines, "federal price controls" for College, and a "mandatory moratorium down the line" on University Construction

One of the main subthemes of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America was an examination/exploration of how Democratic and liberal thinkers and politicians during the anti-authoritarian ferment of the early 1970s helped spearhead deregulation and federal decontrols, resulting directly in a country more free, prosperous, and interesting. Sadly, that history has been whitewashed by some of the left's own historians, and that tendency has been largely replaced by a robust re-embrace of big government and big regulation. Exhibit A) today is this Timothy Noah column about higher-ed inflation in The New Republic, in which he states flatly that "What we really need is to move toward federal price controls." Here's what passes for Noah's big policy idea:

I propose a voluntary moratorium on new construction on college campuses. [...]

Is some of this new construction urgently necessary? No doubt. But if the president called for a voluntary moratorium on new university construction, he would empower state governments, local communities, and concerned faculty members [...] to press university administrators harder to justify their new projects. A voluntary moratorium would also give the federal government some running room to set up some longer-term procedures for imposing a mandatory moratorium down the line. Lots more needs to be done to control college costs. Curtailing runaway construction would be a good start.

Sure, a federal takeover of state, local, and private property rights might run a teensy bit afoul of the United States Constitution (a minor obstacle that, needless to say, Noah's spitballing does not address), but extremism in the cause of magically bringing prices down via artificial scarcity is apparently no vice.

Meanwhile, the formerly neoliberal Washington Monthly claimed in its March/April issue that "deregulation is slowly killing America's airline system." The rousing, Internationale-caliber conclusion:

Why have we become so passive and reluctant to face up to the hard task of governing ourselves and our markets? We don't need to recite "The Serenity Prayer." We need to get out from under the thrall of the false prophets of deregulation, conservative and liberal alike, and make the benefits of true capitalism work for us once again.

The WashMonth re-regulation proposal has received respectful hearings at The Washington Post's Wonkblog (where Brad Plumer muses that "Perhaps building a modern passenger-rail network between cities like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would be cheaper and easier than propping up air travel"), and at the centrish New America Foundation ("Is it Time to Re-Regulate America's Broken Airline System?"). And to think that six or seven years ago some damned fools were talking about the rise of "libertarian Democrats"....

Reason on airline policy here; on college stuff here. And here's a 2010 column from me on "The Death of Neoliberalism."

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  • Tman||

    THIS time, THIS time they promise to get it right though.

  • DJF||

    How about if we want to stop the universities spending too much we stop handing, directly and indirectly, bags of taxpayer money to them. If they get money from some other fools then they can do what they want with it.

  • o3||

    but its ok to hand taxpayer money to for-profit charters WITHOUT local voter approval?

  • Pip||

    "WITHOUT local voter approval"

    So you want a referendum for every dime the government spends?

  • R C Dean||

    I haven't noticed a lot of local voter approval* on handing taxpayer money to state schools, now that you mention it.

    *Outside of the very occasional vote on whether to issue bonds.

  • o3||

    its called levys...something about which charters know nothing

  • Matrix||

    Yes, let's bring back airline regulation and make flying even worse than it is now. Let's make sure that nobody flies anywhere for any reason... well, except for our illustrious betters. But see, if the rest of us didn't fly, that'd be less pollution and help end global warming.

  • T||

    This seems oddly familiar. Trains are the answer. And some new alloy.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Libertarian Democrat? I don't think so. The Democrats believe in giving you freedom in your sex life, but nowhere else.

    The Republicans aren't much better, but I believe, over time, they can be changed to be pro-freedom.

    I have been wrong before, however.

  • Raven Nation||

    "The Republicans aren't much better, but I believe, over time, they can be changed to be pro-freedom": that is at least part of what Ron Paul is trying to do, right?

    Kind of how the New Left re-directed the Democrats after about 1968.

  • J_L_B||

    Ay, the whole freedom only in your sex life is a stark difference between left and right.

    The right for the most part doesn't like some things, but tempers their desire to send the SWAT team after it (and even gives a voice to candidates (Ron Paul) that may offer a opinion to the contrary).

    The left wants to send SWAT teams into a home if too much salt is being used in cooking, or if a child is being taught "unapproved" morals by his "religious nut" parents.

    What would happend to a Ron Paul type figure if they ever ran in a democratic primary and spoke out against their sacred cows?

  • Mickey Rat||

    "The Democrats believe in giving you freedom in your sex life,..."

    Sexual harassment laws were supported mainly by whom? Need to reconsider your paradigms here.

  • NSFW||

    " We need to get out from under the thrall of the false prophets of deregulation, conservative and liberal alike, and make the benefits of true capitalism work for us once again." This might be the single most retarded statement that i have ever read. Apparently the regulation there is, the more capitalist a country is... apparently the Soviets had it right after all

  • plu1959||

    It's the "true" that's the giveaway. True capitalism is not incompatible with socialism, you see.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Indeed. You have to understand the nature of true Scotsmen Christians capitalism.

  • juris imprudent||

    Fuck Plato and his ideal forms. What an incredible bit of rot he injected into the Western mind.

  • Zeb||

    What is it, hate Plato day?
    Sure, he was wrong about just about everything, but at least he was trying to make sense of things.
    The classics are great, as long as you don't go around actually believing them.

  • plu1959||

    Price controls on college. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Evil Otto||

    I especially like how the "voluntary moratorium" coexists with "pressure from state and local governments". He's using the Stalinist definition of "voluntary", I see.

  • wareagle||

    he is also ignoring, and hoping you do not realize, that public universities are largely creatures of the state as it is. Faculty and staff are, in most places, state employees. Tuition does not go up without legislatures knowing about it and neither do ego-based construction projects happen in a vacuum.

  • Evil Otto||

    A rail line between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would probably be cheaper than our current air traffic network.

    Of course, it would also be a mite less useful. But that never matters to Stalinists.

  • SugarFree||

    Whatever, dude. I know you long to day-trip to scenic Cincinnati for a goetta fix.

  • T||

    Huh. Yankee boudin.

  • SugarFree||

    Closer to scrapple. A looser texture than boudin, with a creaminess from the steel cut oats.

    But you can buy it in a firmer sausage form nowadays.

  • fried wylie||

    "Cincinnati Caviar"

    God you suck, Cinci.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    I grew up outside of Dayton, and lived/worked in Cincinnati for a half dozen years, and I don't remember goetta. Move to Philadelphia area, and you can't walk around in the morning without being bombarded with scrapple.

    I would take a train to Cincinnati for Graeters ice cream though. Black raspberry chip. Mmm

  • KDN||

    Scrapple? Eww.

    Pork roll is such a superior regional breakfast meat. Favoring scrapple is just Philthadelphia staying true to form, I guess.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Jeebus but that WaMo article is a long one.

    A summary of what they think is wrong with air travel and how it was caused by deregulation might be more helpful than quoting a ZOMG reregulate! passage.

    A couple of your readers are a t work and might not have time to read and comment before this post is buried in the blog bog.

  • Evil Otto||

    Are there any new arguments there, or just a re-hash of the old elitist talking points that poor people being able to fly is bad, mmm-kay.

  • nicole||

    There was the new-to-me (in the context of airline regulations) complaint that there aren't enough flights to and from Cincinatti anymore, but before deregulation "the United States viewed airline service as a 'public convenience and necessity,' and used a government agency--the Civil Aeronautics Board, or CAB--to assign routes and set fares...to ensure that citizens in cities like Cincinnati received service roughly equal, in quality and price, to that provided to other comparably sized communities like Charlotte. The government also made sure that smaller cities maintained vital links to the national air network."

    Now the poor widdle babies in cities not enough people actually want to fly to are losing jobs, because the companies there are having a tougher time doing business without more and cheaper flights.

    Hey, if airline service is a necessity, does that mean we can finally agree that the TSA is violating our rights?

  • nicole||

    Aaaaand I made the mistake of reading more. Who the hell writes crap like this?

    Though they called it "deregulation," the practical effect of eliminating the CAB, especially after subsequent administrations abandoned antitrust enforcement as well, was to shift control of the airline industry from experts answerable to the public to corporate boardrooms and Wall Street.

  • Raven Nation||

    Who the hell writes crap like that? Why, other experts of course.

    How do you know they are experts? Because other smart people think the same way they do and since they're all smart people, they must be experts.

    Damn, it's like the ruling class in this country is a human tautology.

  • KDN||

    shift control of the airline industry from experts answerable to the public to corporate boardrooms

    In what parallel universe are career bureaucrats either experts in their field or answerable to the public?

  • JW||

    experts answerable to the public

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    That was too rich. Tell me another one.

  • Hugh Akston||

    No, see, when the TSA is involved it's a privilege.

  • nicole||

    Remarkably, this call [Obama's line in the SOTU about pulling federal money from colleges if they can't control costs] provoked virtually no pushback from a Republican establishment ever-eager to denounce any exercise by Obama of federal muscle in the economic sphere as incipient socialism. Maybe the GOP has been silent because these days it see universities as the enemy--a redoubt for Marxists, "snobs," and way too many people who vote Democratic. Or maybe it recognizes that something really needs to be done to halt the rising cost of college.

    These people are so...I don't know, stupid?...they don't even realize that limited-government types (which I hesitate to even slightly conflate with Republicans) want to pull federal funding from colleges and universities because we think it is the problem. But I mean, what's the point of even knowing your enemies when you can shit-talk them better when you're clueless?

  • Evil Otto||

    Limited govt types support pulling funding back from ALL colleges.

    They don't (or at least shouldn't) support pulling funding back from SOME of them based on executive branch whim.

    Govt power is the enemy, not govt funding.

  • nicole||

    Tulpa, the line from Obama's speech is ambiguous: "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."

    My point is, why would we be against this--this is what we are for. In this idiot's mind, it's "incipient socialism" to stop federal subsidies of this bullshit.

    And yes, if it's done via executive-branch whim, on a college-by-college basis, that's not good. But government funding is also the enemy here in terms of causing rises in tuition and fees.

  • Evil Otto||

    Whenever there's ambiguity in BO's chatter, assume the more statist interpretation.

    It's only a rule of thumb, but it hasn't been wrong yet.

  • ||

    Shutting off the federal funding for some of the government-run colleges would be a positive step, even if the current executive would shut down the tap on the less-liberal ones, if the next R executive got to retaliate by shutting down, say, UC Berkeley and their ilk.

    Less government theft and spending is a good thing.

  • Evil Otto||

    So you'd be in favor of Obama only giving Social Security payments to senior citizens who vote Democrat and contribute to Democrat campaigns?

    Less govt spending is a good thing in isolation. When that spending reduction increases the power of govt to pick winners and losers...it's a bad thing. A very bad thing.

  • Raven Nation||

    Apart from whether or not this is a good idea as put forward, a school like Berkeley would take a hit if it lost funding no doubt, but it's endowment would be no small potatoes.

  • Tman||

    Obama is going to ride the hope'n'change mobile through this election. Get used to his promises of giving out more free shit by taking money from the rich.

    Why tell the truth when everyone buys his bullshit?

  • Brandon||

    Actually, it's starting to seem like only those who benefit directly from the status quo are buying his bullshit.

  • thom||

    Tax cuts take away money that could be used to build schools! We should place a ban on building schools!

    FFS...consistency please...

  • SugarFree||

    I'm pretty sure the budget crisis on campuses isn't due to construction. They are usually paid for with dedicated monies, endowments and bonds.

    Recurring costs like salaries is the hole universities burn their money in.

  • wareagle||

    and there are the pension and benefit payments. By the way, Google something along the lines of salaries for the professoriat. The change from days gone by when academia did not pay that much is almost unbelievable.

  • Evil Otto||

    There's a gigantic range of salaries in academic positions. If you're a department head of Harvard Business School you're getting Fortune 500 CEO money...if you're a "lecturer" at Bumhead State College, you're getting assistant crack whore money.

  • wareagle||

    the lecturer generally has a real job and is lecturing because of that practical experience. Those folks tend to not be career academics. Sorry, I grew up in a college town; a lack of money was not an issue.

  • Evil Otto||

    You're thinking of adjunct lecturers. There are lecturers who don't have outside jobs and are simply biding time for a tenured position at a better school.

  • RBS||

    I got so tired of listening to my professors whine about how little they make. Really? You make six figures and teach 5 hours a week. I know most also do research but since it is supposedly in the field of their own choosing I don't want to hear any complaints.

  • Evil Otto||

    You make six figures and teach 5 hours a week.

    That is absolutely not typical outside of elite universities. Nobody in my department makes six figures, and it's a big department.

  • Brandon||

    What department is that? My wife interviewed for a gig in the University of Northern Colorado's business department and they were talking about starting her at over 100k.

  • Evil Otto||

    I'm in math. Business departments tend to pay more from what I hear as their cashflow is more lucrative.

    Surprised about No Col though.

  • Raven Nation||

    Not defending all academics, but there ain't a whole lot of liberal arts profs where I teach making six figures. I still despise them when they complain though.

    AND, I'm not complaining. I knew what I was getting into money-wise; I like my job and I make good money (just not six figures). Plus I get to be an internal subversive.

  • RBS||

    Leave to Ms. Tulpa to miss the point. I was just responding to WE and adding that I get annoyed when professors complain about their pay. Of course they don't all make six figures, that wasn't really the point.

  • Raven Nation||

    Fair enough.

  • Zeb||

    Your original comment did read a bit like you were generalizing about all professors.

  • Evil Otto||

    Of course she was, however much she tries to walk back that comment now. No way her professors tell her what salary they make.

  • Evil Otto||

    So basically your response is, "Of course I was lying, that's not the point. You idiot."

  • WhereYou'reWrong||

    there ain't a whole lot of liberal arts profs where I teach making six figures

    There ain't a whole lot of liberal arts profs anywhere that are worth paying six figures.

  • ||

    I propose a voluntary moratorium on new construction on college campuses.

    So much stupid crammed into two words: "voluntary moratorium" -- how do you prevent entrepreneurs from responding to market signals to build college campuses where prices and profits from existing buildings show they would likely be profitable, without government force?

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    I propose that everyone agree to do exactly what I want them to do. Deal? Ok then!

  • juris imprudent||

    You didn't say "Simon says". Rosenthal really does explain the quality of the NYT.

  • Evil Otto||

    He explained this. There would be pressure, not force.

    Not sure how that's possible without shrinking the area to an infinitesimal size, but I'll take him at his word.

  • Brandon||

    There would be implied force. Then actual force later on, once we were all acclimated.

  • Gerholdt||

    Near U of MD in College Park, several large apartment complexes targeted to students have recently opened and another is under construction. Seems the little available space on campus has been used for academic buildings rather than dorms. It may be that UMCP has traditionally been around 50% commuters. Side effects: the traffic on US Route 1 has become even more hellish, smothering small businesses, and my formerly favorite supermarket has shifted its focus from budget-conscious locals to convenience foods and Terrapin indicia.

  • Brandon||

    They sell turtle meat?

  • ||

    true capitalism

    Wow, so much doublespeak in this article -- socialist intervention via regulations leads to a purer form of capitalism?

  • Loki||

    Is it Time to Re-Regulate America's Broken Airline System?

    Have I missed something? Other than the TSA, what exactly is broken about "america's airline system"? The fact that I can go to any one of about a dozen websites and purchase tickets to travel pretty much anywhere I want to for far less (adjusted for inflation) than my parents could in the '70s? Is that what's broken?

  • wareagle||

    what exactly is broken about "america's airline system"?

    because as the deep thinkers like to say, "fuck you, that's why". Here they are trying to improve your quality of life and you question their wisdom. No replacement monacle for you.

  • Brandon||

    Monacle? Is that like a monocle that's chained to you?

  • ||

    I propose a voluntary moratorium on new construction on college campuses.

    ...or else!

  • Colin||

    I like how the Washington Monthly article starts off by noting Chiquita's decision to move to NC from OH, which they would have you believe is all because of airline connections, and fail to mention that the NC government offered them $22 million to relocate.

  • wareagle||

    NC is also a right to work state, though I am sure that is coincidental. In addition, Charlotte is next to the SC border, so employees can a bit more leeway in where to live. And the airport is not too bad.

  • Evil Otto||

    Also Charlotte has better weather.

  • NL_||

    Democrats aren't amenable to libertarianism. Deregulation and profit are dirty words. They typically see most political conflicts like this: selfish powerful bigots try to make life horrible for everybody else, but all the little guys will band together and use their voice to make the government fix the problem. They can't comprehend a solution that doesn't involve charismatic politicians coming up with better policy prescriptions for us to live by.

    They only like the freedom argument when it comports with a historically shunned social practice that they find acceptable (which is why a woman has a right to control her body for abortion, but not for dropping acid, and why a man should have the right to marry another man, but not to marry two other men and five other women).

    Of course, Republicans only like small government because they think it means leaving society alone and letting traditional institutions and mores re-establish themselves. They don't really want small government, they just want moderately less active government. But the distinction is lost on them, so it's much easier to slip libertarianism past Republicans than Democrats.

    Republicans wrongly think they are quasi-libertarians; Democrats correctly intuit that they are anti-libertarian.

  • Gladstone||

    Interestlingly the Democrats used to be the classically liberal party so it was more libertarianism than the corporatist Republicans. Same thing in Canada with the Liberals and Conservatives. Guess that's what happens when you come to believe that the State is the solution to all problems.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Maybe universities should put a moratorium on churning out dimwits such as Noah.

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