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


He wants President Romney to halt college 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.

Oh, Lanny….

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."