Protest! Violence! Chaos!
Okay, no. But there was a protest. Coming out from lunch with Helmut at the MENSA (a kind of student union/cafeteria), I heard cadenced yelling and whistles. Hoping to see how they do it over here, I scampered (waddled, actually; lunch had been a really nice schnitzel with spargel and hollandaise and big boiled potatoes) over to demonstration. You know, to get my....fair share...of abuse.
I was hoping for the classic U.S. protest. A nearly complete lack of logic, no clear focus, no actual demand. Short haired women. Long haired men. And indignation, probably based on the fact there is no real offense or demand.
But no, this was an actual protest, I have to give the kids credit. They were protesting a specific thing, and had a specific "demand." The "thing" was that the students are now being charged about 500 euros per semester toward the cost of their education. And the demand is to get rid of that thing.
The university system is doing a pretty slick thing. They are NOT charging tuition, or Schulgeld. They are, instead, charging "fees," or Gebühren. Many, many state schools in the U.S. are doing this, and there are plenty of protests and upset people. Here is some background on the situation in Germany.
A quote from the above cited article, portion written a young Mr. Beard:
STEPHEN BEARD: The first day of term at Ludwig-Maximilian University. Sebastian Urqs and his friends are staging a symbolic protest.
They've put up a series of steel hurdles by the university cafeteria, and they're inviting their fellow students to jump over them.
SEBASTIAN URQS: We're trying to say: "You're here at the university. And there are guys that actually don't want to have you here so they're putting hurdles in your way.
Tuition here costs $1,300 a year, the legal limit in Germany. Not much of a hurdle by American standards. But many of the students emphatically reject the American model. Stefan Liebl, who's studying politics.
STEFAN LIEBL: I don't think American universities are better. Some very famous like Harvard or Yale, only better for very rich people. The system in America, I don't like it.
The protesters claim that tuition fees deter thousands of young Germans from coming to university. There is not the same range of scholarships available here as in the U.S. And unlike American students, Germans are very reluctant to take out loans. Maria Dangwerra has to work two days a week to help pay for her studies.
MARIA DANGWERRA: It's kind of annoying that other persons who don't have to work because their parents are rich, they can sit in library and study. And I have to go to work and sometimes I feel that I should study more, but I don't have the time to.
BEARD: But education has to be paid for. Who do you think should pay for your university education if you do not pay it yourself?
DANGWERRA: I will pay. I mean I will pay in the future when I earn money, and I will pay my taxes. And I think it's the state who has to pay for education.
The state? What is this "state" thing you speak of? The French economist Frederic Bastiat said that the state is the conceit that each of us should endeavor to live at the expense of ALL of us. In these quotes above you hear that conceit, in full force.
Education is expensive. It is not free.
The question is, who should pay?
Should the people receiving the education be paying ANY PART of the cost?
If German Universities were MORE efficient than U.S. universities, about 50% more cost effective (they are NOT, by the way), then the cost per student at German universities is about 8,000 euros per year, or 4,000 per semester.
So, the question is this: Should students pay 1/8 the cost of their education, with taxpayers who do NOT have kids in school picking up 88.5% of the total? Or should taxpayers pay 100%, with the people making the decision, the students, bearing NONE of the costs of the consequences of the decision.
I was intrigued by the "I'll pay later" answer. The way to do that, if your education is actually WORTH something, is loans. Then you borrow the money, in effect, against your own future improved earnings. "I'll pay later" as a taxpayer, on the other hands, means I expect thousands of people who get no benefit from increased earnings to pay for most of my education costs, and I'll pay for a tiny portion.
There is no state. THERE .... IS..... NO ..... STATE. There are only people who have money taken by the state, at gunpoint, and people who received money from the state, as a way of buying votes, and obedience. The money received is the money taken. Do you students really think you have the right to make other people pay for your tuition, at gunpoint?
The demonstration, I have to say. Was pretty fun. I walked along. There were flags, loudspeakers, whistles. The police were very helpful, directing traffic, and making sure that the righteous indignation of the masses didn't spill over into delaying traffic unnecessarily. Cops were smiling, talking to the students (particularly the young women, I thought, but that may be uncharitable). It was quite a day.
Of course, it was during prime class time. But while "I was smoking dope and playing Wii" is not a good reason to miss class," it is likely that "I was trying to save free education as a basic right for all humanity in the future, but mostly for me, mostly now" is much more acceptable.