Lies, Damn Lies, and Conservative Economics

I work at a for-profit online college, and I worry about the future of our industry and my job, but I refuse to swallow the same old conservative Kool Aid that says that government can do nothing right and that the private market is always and everywhere the best choice. What’s hurting the industry now more than anything is its ongoing resistance to common sense regulations. We don’t produce a commodity, of course, we produce a particular kind of service, and service industries thrive only when they are properly regulated.

I guess that a few libertarian economists would argue that, say, we can have a medical industry without rigorous government regulation, but I doubt any one but the true believers would agree. The question is not whether there are regulations, the question is whether we get effective regulations that we can use to build a solid foundation for our educational capital. I think Daniel J. Solove’s call for transparency and privacy protection, for example, (“Gainful Employment: A Privacy Black Hole?“) makes a lot of sense in this context.

The argument over our industry, however, is littered with conservative banality that has never made any logical, much less economic sense. In “Democrat Discrimination in Education” for example, Kevin Jackson and Joe Wurzelbacher make all sorts of absurd claims that won’t help anyone, from the silly and hyperbolic “Democrats have declared all-out war on for-profit education” to the utterly nonsensical: “proprietary colleges are the direct competitor to public-sector education.” The “direct” competition is within the system. We work at the margins.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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