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Higher Education Bubble Update May 9, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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ACTA has been fighting against one of the enablers of the higher-education cartel, the Accreditors, for some time:

The six regional agencies that accredit the vast majority of America’s non-profit colleges and universities have miserably failed to ensure educational quality but continue to control access to federal student aid.

Meanwhile the free market continues to provide solutions to our higher education problems. The latest I came across is StraighterLine: A company offering inexpensive online courses guaranteed for credit towards an accredited advanced degree.

How much of Higher Education is Content? April 20, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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Because if there’s one thing the information age has taught us it’s that content wants to be free.

Lectures look to me as much like content as movies and music. Five years ago I wondered why we weren’t simply recording and distributing the best lectures by the best lecturers, instead of charging students to attend small performances of lower quality in person.

Since then we have seen an explosion in “open-source” courses offered by universities. The Khan Academy led a proliferation of excellent, free, online teaching for K-12 students, and is no longer alone.

Now here comes Silicon Valley with the for-profit tech ventures that aim to provide free online education and, somehow, make money on the side. Since what they’re doing is providing content presumably the initial business strategies will mimic all other profitable content providers: upselling and advertising.

And eventually they should find a way to undermine the old-fashioned higher-education cartel. I’m kind of surprised it has taken so long.

Higher Education Bubble Update January 31, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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The higher education industry’s credential cartel is under financial threat, … legal threat, [and] cultural threat.

That’s the latest from James Taranto, who has been one of the more eloquent heralds of the higher education bubble. He elaborates on the credential-writing nature of the cartel:

The industry has exploded over the past few decades based on a business model that focuses more on selling the college degree as a credential–an “investment” that yields an increase in one’s own “human capital”–than on persuading young adults that education is intrinsically valuable.

If someone could offer a less expensive job-hunting license–one that assessed an entry-level job-seeker’s worth to a prospective employer at least as accurately as a college degree does–then the demand for college would plummet, as young adults could realize the same gains from a much smaller investment.

Last year I proposed a facetious alternative.

Charles Murray is another scourge of higher education I have cited frequently. His latest commentary on the subject is buried in a withering attack on the Department of Education:

The bachelor of arts degree as it has evolved over the last half-century has become the work of the devil. It is now a substantively meaningless piece of paper—genuinely meaningless, if you don’t know where the degree was obtained and what courses were taken. It is expensive, too…. And yet the B.A. has become the minimum requirement for getting a job interview for millions of jobs, a cost-free way for employers to screen for a certain amount of IQ and perseverance. Employers seldom even bother to check grades or courses, being able to tell enough about a graduate just by knowing the institution that he or she got into as an 18-year-old.

So what happens when a paper credential is essential for securing a job interview, but that credential can be obtained by taking the easiest courses and doing the minimum amount of work? The result is hundreds of thousands of college students who go to college not to get an education, but to get a piece of paper. When the dean of one East Coast college is asked how many students are in his institution, he likes to answer, “Oh, maybe six or seven.” The situation at his college is not unusual. The degradation of American college education is not a matter of a few parents horrified at stories of silly courses, trivial study requirements, and campus binge drinking. It has been documented in detail, affects a large proportion of the students in colleges, and is a disgrace.

Higher Education Update July 6, 2011

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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Let’s Face It: Not All Students Are College Material.” (WSJ letter.)

Is Yale Worth It?

In the debate over whether expensive and highly selective colleges lead to higher salaries, the latest answer is “no”—with a few exceptions.

The exceptions: black and Hispanic students and students whose parents didn’t get past high school. Top schools give such students access to networks otherwise out of reach, the researchers suggested.

One thing elite universities — or at least Harvard and Yale — seem to do exceptionally well is admit and befriend people disposed to give them money:

Yale University raised $3.88 billion amid tough economic times, finishing the largest fund-raising campaign in its history that will help pay for its biggest expansion in decades, extend its international reach and make its school of music tuition free. The campaign exceeded its goal of $3.5 billion. More than 110,000 alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations contributed.

QOTD: The Higher Education Bubble May 19, 2011

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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From an article on Peter Thiel:

“Universities are like the General Motors of the 1970s,” said Mr. Thiel, a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School. “They’re incredibly dominant, incredibly arrogant and impervious to change.”

“I don’t think there’s anything controversial about an education bubble,” he said. “Price is up by a factor of 10; quality hasn’t really changed. There’s something really crazy going on here.”

Capitalism in Higher Education April 11, 2010

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education, Markets.
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Our most prestigious colleges and universities are … simply corporations operated to exploit their pricing power for the financial benefit of their senior faculty and staff, and to build monuments to their alumni.

That’s Andrew Manshel in his explanatory essay, “Why Top Colleges Squeeze You Dry,” following a theme I first covered two years ago in my post on “Runaway Higher Education.” He provides an extraordinarily revealing explanation of how this market works based on his two years as CFO at Barnard College:

[A]t the beginning of my tenure as an elite school’s chief financial officer, I was surprised to learn from my colleagues that tuition and fees were not set by analyzing budget projections. Instead they were set by looking at a chart of the prior year’s tuition charges at comparable schools and then trying to predict their increases for the next year. The goal was to maintain the college’s position in the pecking order of total charges. I learned that the most prestigious and desirable institutions have a good deal of information about the shape of the demand curve for the families seeking to obtain elite higher education for their offspring. These schools have the capacity to estimate with some precision how many applicants will go elsewhere for each additional dollar they charge in tuition and fees. Each sets its tuition so as to produce a targeted “yield”—the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll there. If in any year we over- or under-estimated the price changes made by the other schools, and we had moved up or down in rank, we corrected the following year by raising or lowering tuition by more or less to compensate. We essentially followed the price leadership of the wealthiest, most prestigious institutions.

The results of this market pricing power are straightforward. First, and most significantly—given that 60% to 75% of college costs go to salary and benefits—is handsome compensation for senior faculty and administrators.

Higher Education August 19, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education, Uncategorized.
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As I previously noted, our current system of higher education is an expensive way of taking an IQ test, and it’s a waste of time for most people to pursue 4-year college degrees.  Charles Murray returns to lampoon this system in a recent essay:

First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “BA.”

As the United States faces a shortage of skilled blue-collar workers, Murray’s new book, Real Education, is a timely proposal for overhauling the way society approaches education.

Here’s the reality: Everyone in every occupation starts as an apprentice. Those who are good enough become journeymen. The best become master craftsmen. This is as true of business executives and history professors as of chefs and welders. Getting rid of the BA and replacing it with evidence of competence — treating post-secondary education as apprenticeships for everyone — is one way to help us to recognize that common bond.

Murray takes a lot of flak from egalitarians who don’t like the idea that we are not all created with equal potential.  But it’s not just the IQ or “g” Murray often emphasizes.  Variations in individual dispositions and interest mean that education valuable to one person might be wasted on another.  We can preserve the idea that everyone gets an equal opportunity to pursue happiness without implying that happiness requires a college degree.

The first step we should take as a society is to depreciate liberal arts degrees.  A four-year vacation by a young adult to study liberal arts should soon seem as unusual and antiquated as the previous norm that every college graduate should be fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; or the earlier norm that most literate adults should take an oath of celibacy and spend their lives copying scripture by hand.

Higher study of liberal arts should be its own calling and profession, like medicine or divinity.  Unless someone intends to practice medicine we do not expect them to master more than first aid.  So why do we suggest that every sufficiently intelligent person should tuck themselves away for four years studying primary cultural sources and writing short papers about them?  Employers should never hold the lack of a liberal arts degree against someone who is not seeking a job as a liberal artist.

Even many of those who are “intelligent enough” spend most of college trying to do as little as possible to get the degree.  And why shouldn’t they?  It does not take four years of lectures, reading, and writing on arcane subjects to learn to read, write, and reason.  The content of these courses is readily available to anyone, whether as lectures recorded by master professors or books written by the most insightful scholars.  Those who have the interest and disposition to study liberal arts can and will do so outside of college — such study is a useful hobby.  The most motivated students of the Liberal Arts will follow popular derivative works to primary sources, and may even choose to become professionals in those fields.  Everyone else should feel free — even encouraged — to pursue productive hobbies and studies to which they are naturally attracted.

Society needs to evolve beyond this four-year core-curriculum paradigm.  Or perhaps it needs a devolution to the classic apprenticeship model of developing productive adults.

QOTD: Proper Objectives of Higher Education August 16, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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Stanley Fish‘s new book is “Save the World on Your Own Time.”  A recent essay summarizes his advice for academia:

Pick up the mission statement of almost any college or university, and you will find claims and ambitions that will lead you to think that it is the job of an institution of higher learning to cure every ill the world has ever known….

So what is it that institutions of higher learning are supposed to do? My answer is simple. College and university teachers can (legitimately) do two things: (1) introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry that had not previously been part of their experience; and (2) equip those same students with the analytical skills — of argument, statistical modeling, laboratory procedure — that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research after a course is over.

He strikes the same chord as Alan Kors, warning the current crop of professors who seem more interested in converting students to their left-wing ideology:

Analyzing ethical issues is one thing; deciding them is another, and only the first is an appropriate academic activity.

Teaching is a job, and what it requires is not a superior sensibility or a purity of heart and intention — excellent teachers can be absolutely terrible human beings, and exemplary human beings can be terrible teachers — but mastery of a craft. Teachers who prefer grandiose claims and ambitions to that craft are the ones who diminish it and render it unworthy.

Runaway Higher Education December 14, 2007

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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The classic “runaway higher education” story is about the vicious cycle in higher education prices spawned by government subsidies.  However, yesterday a few essays in the  Wall Street Journal warn of another runaway scenario: the most well endowed universities have reached a point at which they are no longer dependent on anyone for funding.

Fay Vincent warns that with such vast endowments universities will no longer be accountable to any outside entity.  “In the present circumstances, the administration and boards of these schools now control the money because the endowment is managed by internally controlled entities.”  The Dartmouth coup is just a preview of things to come.

To this point universities depended on students, alumni, and (except for Hillsdale and Grove City colleges) the government to sustain their operations.  The most endowed universities have just recently reached a point at which they can readily afford not only to snub donors but also to stop charging tuition, should they so desire.

For what did the generations of alumni and donors who built these institutions hope?  A majority probably donated so that their children could eventually enjoy the same college experience as their parents. “Legacy” admissions used to be an explicit mandate at these institutions, and only recently have life-long donors realized that competitive schools are no longer reciprocating the financial commitment of their alumni.

Other donors may have donated to the ideals for which an institution stood in the past.  Depending on the era this might have included any of the following:

  • Preservation of Western civilization
  • Subversion of Western civilization
  • Promotion of WASPs
  • Promotion of colored minorities
  • Promotion of conservative ideals
  • Promotion of liberal ideals

Over the past century private higher education has given us a taste of each of these, indubitably to the consternation of large groups of preceding alumni and founders.  One hopes that astute donors discerned the whimsical nature of academia and never gave substantial gifts without tight controls to ensure that their vision was honored.

The alarming fact is that, regardless of the original intent of the donors, the unrestricted endowments of top universities are now so large that they have essentially purchased their administrators independence from any oversight.  For those who aren’t already appalled at the fact that private colleges have become bastions of anti-American, anti-capitalist liberalism, we could imagine any number of appalling scenarios engineered by faculty and administrators with vast resources and no accountability outside of their own ivory tower.

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Government Interference and Unintended Consequences in Higher Education November 19, 2006

Posted by David Bookstaber in Economic Policy, Education, Government Spending.
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Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, came out with an excellent essay detailing the havoc wrought by the federal government’s foray into the market for higher education.  Worth reading in full, but highlights are excerpted here:

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America’s Fertility Problem February 11, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in Economic Policy, Education, Human Markets, Social Politics, Taxation.
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America is fortunate to be lagging the demographic collapse that is plaguing Europe and the Orient, so we will have time to observe both the socioeconomic problems that low fertility creates and the means of fixing them.

Already some European countries have adopted extreme measures to stimulate childbearing: From tax credits and grants to increasingly generous time-off and childcare programs.

Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: American’s Coming Demographic Disaster, summarizes the current state of affairs in America and looks at some potential policies to motivate reproduction.

Indeed, for most Americans it is irrational to choose to have children today. The marginal cost to an educated working couple is staggering: Direct financial costs alone can run well into six figures and, if one pays for the “best” education, can even break seven figures. At least one earner is usually taken out of the workforce for years, incurring substantial opportunity costs in career and earning potential. And we rarely credit parents for the time, stress, and emotional agony of raising a child to maturity. Relatively speaking, life without children is a luxury: a carefree existence flush with money and freedom.

In a selfish world in which women often out-earn men and couples can easily avoid reproducing, who is having babies? Those too incompetent to use birth control, or too ignorant to rationally account for the full costs? Those on the fringes who can actually expect a net positive return on childbearing thanks to welfare systems?

There are many who bear children for religious and altruistic reasons. Indeed, when it comes down to it, modern childbearing is a gift to society as a whole. Children might grow up to honor and support their parents, but government will all but guarantee that as adults they will pay taxes to support their grandparents’ generation.

Until recently children were mostly unavoidable products of adult couplings, but they were also greatly desired because they eventually conferred status and security on their parents. Just as modern contraception has divorced coupling from reproduction, the senior welfare systems of modern government have severed parents from the support they could traditionally expect from their particular children.

Among Jonathan Last’s policy prescriptions for restoring fertility:

  • Recognizing that children are the future tax base, reduce the cost of bearing them by significantly cutting the tax burden on parents. (Or, presumably, wait until we are so far down the demographic cliff that we have to go European and outright pay people to bear children.)
  • Destroy the higher education cartel, which defers marriage, increases the opportunity cost of stepping away from the workforce to bear children, and then exacts a final, enormous toll to get the child out of the nest and into the most desirable jobs.

Is College Cost-Effective? February 7, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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This blog has long criticized the higher-education cartel and bubble.

Rick Bookstaber has a great analysis of the overt functions of higher education — to Learn, Signal, Network, and Party — and proceeds to point out that each of those functions can now be accomplished much more cheaply and efficiently than in a traditional 4-year-college. (Yes, one commenter even suggests an effective substitute for the Network/Party “feature” of college.)

Yes, I’m bearish on higher education. Unless they want to be academics, I don’t hope my kids go to college. I hope they find a passion, or at least a productive interest, and that they will use the modern tools for learning, signaling, and networking to side-step the debacle of traditional higher-education en route to fulfilling their potential.

College a Consequence of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? March 24, 2011

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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Michael Robertson points out a logical flaw inherent in many of the studies and comments on the value of a college education: In a sense college is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell people they have to get a college degree to earn more, then those most motivated to earn more will go to college. That doesn’t necessarily mean that college has contributed to their subsequent performance or production abilities.

For example, imagine a world in which the formal education system ends with high school. Society might tell high school graduates that to get ahead in life they have to spend a year digging a hole by hand and then another year filling it back in. Employers might reasonably conclude that people who perform that ritual have demonstrated a level of diligence, motivation, and responsibility that is not manifest, if not utterly lacking, in those who haven’t spent two years digging a hole. Furthermore, the fact that a person could waste two years in a hole instead of earning money also suggests they come from a supportive and resourceful family, so they are likely to have been natured and nurtured to produce excess wealth. Hole graduates would then justifiably get preference over non-graduates in the job market, marriage market, and any other situation in which their skills and aptitude can’t otherwise be measured or verified.

Yes, I think in too many cases American “higher education” is a waste of time and resources.

Crazy U March 6, 2011

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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Daniel Akst reviews Andrew Ferguson’s new book on admissions at elite colleges, appropriately titled Crazy U.

The most darkly humorous aspect of this often hilarious book is its depiction of an admissions process that corrupts everything it touches. It’s a process that discourages reticence by requiring students to write revealing and disingenuous personal essays; discourages thrift by regarding parental savings as fair game in the financial-aid evaluation; discourages intellectual curiosity by encouraging students to pursue grades rather than knowledge; and discourages honesty by transforming adolescence into a period of cynical calculation.

Akst reiterates arguments I have frequently made against higher education:

Most students (and their parents) have no clear idea why a university is the reflexive next stop after high school, and yet roughly 70% of American high-school graduates go on to college. Are they supposed to marinate themselves in the best that has been thought and written? Is the point to learn how to think? To gain marketable skills? To make social connections? Or merely to signal to potential employers and spouses that here is a person with the patience and cleverness to navigate a great deal of folderol on the way to a degree? Although nobody can quite agree on what college is for, Americans and their leaders have embraced higher education with cult-like devotion—which is one reason the cost of tuition at many institutions has climbed into the stratosphere.

Academic Bias August 7, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education, Uncategorized.
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Let colleges and universities have the courage, if they truly believe what they say privately to themselves and to me, to put it on page one of their catalogues, fundraising letters and appeals to the state assembly: “This University believes that your sons and daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, Eurocentric progeny or victims of an oppressive society from which most of them receive unjust privilege. In return for tuition and massive taxpayer subsidy, we shall assign rights on a compensatory basis and undertake by coercion their moral and political enlightenment.”

This is Alan Kors in his sweeping exposition of the origins and state of political bias in the Academy. His insider’s view on this problem is illuminating:

It is the faculties (both the minority of zealots and the majority of cowards) and the administrations (both the minority of ideologues and the majority of careerists with double standards) who are to blame.

Academics, in their own minds, face an almost insoluble problem of time. How, in only four years, can they disabuse students of the notion that the capital, risk, productivity and military sacrifice of others have contributed to human dignity and to the prospects of a decent society? How can they make them understand, with only four years to do so, that capitalism and individualism have created cultures that are cruel, inefficient, racist, sexist and homophobic, with oppressive caste systems, mental and behavioral? How, in such a brief period, can they enlighten “minorities,” including women (the majority of students), about the “internalization” of their oppression (today’s equivalent of false consciousness)? How, in only eight semesters, might they use the classroom, curriculum and university in loco parentis to create a radical leadership among what they see as the victim groups of our society, and to make the heirs of successful families uneasy in the moral right of their possessions and opportunities? Given those constraints, why in the world should they complicate their awesome task by hiring anyone who disagrees with them?

Even if we put them on truth-serum, the academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. Having convinced themselves that the students whom they inherit have been immersed in American and Western traditions without critical perspective—they do believe that—contemporary academics see themselves as having merely four brief years in which to demystify students, and somehow to get them to look up from their Madison and Hamilton long enough to gaze upon the darker side of American and Western life. In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation.

The rise of this counter-cultural mission in institutions of higher education has corresponded to an erosion of educational quality. Expanding on the idea that college is an expensive way of taking an IQ test, Kors explains,

The power of universities comes from their monopoly of credentials. As Richard Vedder so deeply understands in his “Going Broke by Degree,” they are the only institutions allowed to separate young individuals by IQ and by the ability to complete complex tasks. They do not add value to that, except in technical fields. Recruiters do not pay premiums because of what the Ivy League or the flagship state universities teach in English, history, political science, or sociology. They hire there despite, not because of, that. Recruiters do not pay premiums because our children have been sent to multicultural centers for sensitivity training. Recruiters pay premiums for the value already there, which universities merely identify. So long as recruiters pay premiums, however, it is rational for parents who wish to gain the most options for their children to send them to the university with the most prestigious degree. That will not change in the current scheme.

The sad bottom line is that there are no incentives for administrators to offer a different product, such as a niche of high-quality education, equal treatment, liberty and merit. Parents invest understandably in the value of degrees, not in the quality of curriculum and faculty.

Amplifying my warning in Runaway Higher Education he cautions:

We now have closed-shop, massively subsidized, intolerant political fiefdoms, and they are the gatekeepers of society’s rewards. Without incentives for different models of higher education, we shall have this same system of colleges and universities as far as the mind can foresee. The tax-free mega-endowments will grow. The legislators and the public will not end the subsidy. The alumni will continue their bequests. The trustees will proudly attend the administrative dog-and-pony shows, the most efficient act on any campus. Well-intentioned donors will support ghettoized “centers” (without faculty lines, cross-listed courses, graduate fellowships, or degrees) that marginalize inquiries that should be central to the academy. These provide protective coloration for administrators, help with fund raising in certain quarters, and permit a transfer of funds to the accelerating thirst for ever new forms of regnant campus orthodoxies. Until civil society makes administrators pay a price for the politicized hiring, curriculum and student life offices they administer, nothing truly will be reformed.

Mysterious Charity Utility Functions July 15, 2007

Posted by David Bookstaber in Human Markets, Open Questions, Social Politics.
3 comments

In regards to personal consumption I am rarely baffled by the choices people make: I may not agree with their priorities, but I can usually imagine some combination of values (and ignorance) that lead to, for example, spending into debt to acquire name-brand apparel that will only be used for a season.

But when it comes to large charitable donations I am often at a complete loss.  When someone has seven, eight, or nine figures to donate to any cause of their choosing I assume that they give careful thought to all of the possibilities and then select a subset that has the greatest utility to them.  But why do so many millionaires value things like sports, higher education, or the arts more than basic human welfare?

Michael Linton in the weekend WSJ explains that symphony orchestras are increasingly surviving — and thriving — primarily on the donations of patrons.  I previously wondered why the world needs more than a handful of performing orchestras.  This news also leaves me wondering why someone with substantial charitable capital would spend it to maintain a large group of perfoming musicians?

What leads someone to think that it is better to spend millions of dollars paying disciplined people to play instruments instead of say, building potable water infrastructure in Africa, providing basic education in the third world, or sequencing a genome?

QOTD: “College is an expensive way of taking an IQ test” May 18, 2007

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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In her recent essay, “The Higher Education Scam,” Barbara Ehrenreich notes:

[T]here are ways in which the higher education industry is becoming a racket: Buy our product or be condemned to life of penury, and our product can easily cost well over $100,000. … My theory is that employers prefer college grads because they see a college degree chiefly as mark of one’s ability to obey and conform.

James Taranto compellingly blames the Supreme Court.  “[T]he higher-education industry and corporate employers have formed a symbiotic relationship in which the former profits by acting as the latter’s gatekeeper and shield against civil-rights lawsuits.”

About June 29, 2006

Posted by David Bookstaber in .
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David Bookstaber headshotDavid Bookstaber is a graduate of Yale University and presently works in the finance industry.

This blog is an outlet for his serendipitous and often reactionary musings on socio-political issues. A sample of themes that have been covered here over the years (in no particular order):

David’s pet peeves include:

QOTD: Teaching Without Tenure November 21, 2010

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education.
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The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering attracts 140 applicants for every faculty position.

This is a college that does not offer tenure to its faculty! Apparently this feature results in an institution of higher learning in which the professors care more about educating students, as Naomi Riley describes:

Students are also engaged in a constant process of evaluating their education: They are asked for extensive feedback about each course, and alumni are surveyed routinely. When I asked senior Theresa Edmonds how these policies affect her education, she said her professors are very “responsive” to the concerns of students.

What the Myanmar Junta and Washington State Teachers Union Have In Common May 30, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Diplomacy, Education, Government, Unions.
5 comments

Neither will allow benefits to reach their supposed constituents unless they exercise complete control over the resources.  Both realize that their power is secured only through a stranglehold on the livelihood of their subjects.

Even though many foreign nations and agencies stand ready to bring disaster aid to Myanmar following a devastating cyclone, the military junta that controls the country has refused all aid that is not explicitly channeled through its agents.

Some Asean diplomats say Myanmar’s demand is designed to prevent the country’s citizens from associating increased inflows of aid with help from the U.S. and other Western countries critical of Myanmar’s government.

The Washington Education Assocation, the state teachers union, refused to allow Washington schools to accept a $13.2MM grant from the non-profit National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).  Turn down free money for teachers and students?  Yes: Part of the NMSI’s grant involves direct merit bonuses to exceptional teachers.  The union demands that it have exclusive control over compensation of teachers.  If higher-performing teachers were rewarded for performance why would they support a union based on seniority and patronage?  More importantly, why do the citizens of Washington allow a union junta to control the public education system?