Tyler Cowen's Failed Critique of Cuts in State Funding
By David Henderson
While I was on vacation up at my cottage in Canada, Tyler Cowen wrote a piece on the Bloomberg site that made a case for not cutting taxpayer subsidies to Alaska’s universities.
The most striking thing about his piece is that he doesn’t really make much of a case. When economists argue for a subsidy, they generally point to some way in which the market has failed. Tyler doesn’t.
Actually, he comes close to doing so at one point. In his last paragraph, he writes:
The University of Alaska in Fairbanks is rated among the world’s top science institutions for studying the Arctic, a region that might well grow considerably in importance, in part due to climate change.
Presumably, Tyler is getting at the idea that research of the Arctic is a public good and that justifies government subsidies. But even if that’s true, that would justify subsidies for research, not for higher education per se. Look around at any university–and I doubt that the University of Alaska is an exception–and you will find a lot of subsidized research that provides no public good and sometimes a public bad.
That’s about it. The rest of his argument for keeping the subsidies sounds more like a “hurray for higher education” case than an actual case.