Why do Democrats Hate the Bill of Rights?

Right now, Americans are more divided politically than at anytime since the Civil War. The reason is that half the country–Democrats–have moved so far to the left that they no longer support the traditional and uniquely American freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Democrats gave up on the Second Amendment decades ago. Thirty years ago, Democratic candidates often won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. Now they rarely do.

Democrats are shakey at best on the Fourth Amendment, as evinced by their lack of concern over the government’s domestic spying. They think the Tenth Amendment is a joke. And now they are turning on the First Amendment. Here’s a former Chairman of the Democrat Party:

And here’s the same statement from the Democrat Mayor of Portland.

Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Polls show that also the Democrat rank and file oppose free speech.

If the government is allowed to censor ‘hate speech’ then the government will be in the business of censoring speech, and the First Amendment will effectively become null and void. Anybody who claims some sort of ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment has, as Reason‘s headline correctly states, abandoned the First Amendment.

If you require more evidence that the left opposes speech, just take a look at the college campuses. The universities are dominated by the political left. That’s where the left, more than anywhere else in America, gets to set the rules. And under the left’s rules, free speech is suppressed more than anywhere else in America. Speech is tightly regulated officially by speech codes, and unofficially by leftist mobs. Both faculty and students fear to speak their minds. The campuses offer a peek at what the left would do if it had the power. It would crush free speech.

Interestingly, the modern liberal’s hostility to free speech is a relatively recent development. Fifty years ago, Democrats were actually more strongly committed to free speech than were Republicans. James Burnham in his classic 1964 analysis of modern liberalism, The Suicide of the West, comments several times throughout the book on the modern liberal’s almost fanatical devotion to free speech. But that was following a period during the Cold War when attempts were made to censor the speech of communists. In those days, unlike today, liberals also liked Russia. They flipped on both Russia and speech for the same reason–both ceased to be communist causes.

American freedom is uniquely defined by the Bill of Rights, and in particular the First and Second Amendments. In the rest of the world, only a very few isolated places, such as San Marino, recognize anything like a citizen’s Second Amendment right to self defense. And essentially no place else in the world respects anything like a First Amendment right to free expression. Even in the English-speaking countries like the U.K. and its Commonwealth, which share a common legacy of political rights with the U.S., ‘hate speech’ is illegal and the state can and does persecute and prosecute citizens for their speech.

In their indifference (at best) or hostility (at worst) to the First and Second Amendments, Democrats are definitely in the majority, if not in the United States, then in the world. If Democrats had their way, the Bill of Rights would effectively whither away, and the United States would become a lot more like the rest of the world.

Becoming more like everyplace else might not sound so bad, but here’s the thing–the U.S. is supposed to be different. The U.S. was founded to be different, primarily in elevating the ordinary man. In America, unlike Europe and the rest of the world, the ordinary man was very big. He was a citizen, not a subject. But now when the ordinary man tries to exercise his uniquely American rights, Democrats condemn him for ‘clinging to guns and religion.’ Essentially Democrats have given up on America.

If Hillary Clinton had won the election, she would have appointed a Supreme Court majority hostile to both the First and Second Amendments, and a Court that also would have acceded to her administration’s inevitable lawlessness. This would mark the end of America as an oasis of ordered liberty.

If the Democrats succeed in destroying American freedom, then maybe it’s time for some of us to plan our escape. Brazil, for instance, starts to look relatively good. No Bill of Rights, but at least the food and weather are better.

Leftist Violence Proceeding as Expected

Just six days ago, I warned on this site that the political left was starting to embrace violence. And just yesterday, Mark Steyn in his video blog observed that “the seduction and the appeal and the glamorization of violence on the left is getting worse.” The obvious trend was obvious, and so it was only a matter of time before one the left’s dumbass shock troops would attempt a political mass murder, as happened this morning.

SteynPost #17: The Seduction of Violence

Something odd is going on here, something deeply disturbing. When a newspaper columnist is attacked in the street in broad daylight, when a man who gives a speech is deliberately poisoned in the restaurant afterwards, when a liberal professor in Vermont is beaten up and sent to hospital because she invited someone to give a speech to her students, take part in a debate…the left is moving closer and closer and closer to the reality of Kathy Griffin’s photoshoot, where you’re standing there with the severed head. This is not a healthy trend.

This trend in leftist violence didn’t come out of nowhere. It has been directly inspired by the hateful rhetoric of the leftist academic and political establishments, which for about 12 months now have waged a hysterical campaign to delegitimize and dehumanize Donald Trump and his supporters.

The United States has not quite yet descended into the political violence of the Civil War or even of the running street fights of the Wiemar Republic. But if it does, let history record that it was the left that started it.

California Seeks Socialism in One State

The California Senate recently voted to approve a bill creating a state-level system of single-payer healthcare. It’s doubtful that the bill will become law, because it is opposed by Governor Jerry Brown. But the various left-wing interest groups are nonetheless backing the effort with substantial political resources.

Strictly speaking, single-payer health insurance means that only the government–nobody else–pays for health care. That means no private insurance. So Canada, for example, has banned private insurance. People, however, often use the term single-payer loosely to refer only to a government-paid option–what Nancy Pelosi calls ‘the public option’–that operates alongside private health insurance, as in the U.K. I therefore expected that the California Senate must have voted for a public option, but was surprised to find that, no, they literally meant single-payer. The California Senate actually voted to outlaw private health insurance.

If I like my plan, can I keep it?
Not unless you go to the VA, the only non-Healthy California system that would remain in place. Private insurance would no longer exist. The roughly 50 percent of people who get insurance through their employers would switch over. Medicare, the federal program that provides insurance for the elderly, would cease to operate in the state. So would Medicaid, which insures low-income people. Companies would be banned from selling any form of supplemental insurance that covers the same things as the state’s program. It is single payer after all, with the singular entity being the California government.

Note the distinct rollback in the freedom and autonomy of the individual. If you like your plan, tough luck, you’re forced to enroll in the system whether you want to or not. Your employer might want to offer health coverage as a benefit, and you might be happy to accept it, but the state says no, you can’t do that. Or you might want to purchase private insurance on your own so you won’t have to rely on the state, and an insurance company would willingly sell you an acceptable plan. But the state says no, you can’t carry out that transaction. The citizen is transformed from a paying customer with some degree of autonomy into a supplicant of the state. If that’s freedom, then zoo animals must all be free–they don’t pay for their medical treatment either.

In any event, I still find it hard to imagine that California would ever operate a literal single-payer system, because it would mean that the privileged Hollywood and Silicon Valley elites would have to seek treatment out-of-state. No way would the elites submit to the waiting lists, restricted access, and deteriorating standards that will inevitably accompany a cash-strapped single-payer system. It’s one thing for the peons to go on waiting lists, but not Jimmy Kimmel’s son. So it will be interesting to see how the elites preserve their privileges.

But let’s get back to the actual bill on the table.

The legislation guarantees free government-run health care for California’s 39 million residents—no co-pays, deductibles or insurance premiums—as well as virtually unlimited benefits. Patients could see any specialist without a referral and receive any treatment that their provider says is medically appropriate.

Sure. Just write those provisions into the law and it will all come true. What could go wrong?

How will all this be paid for?

A University of Massachusetts Amherst study commissioned by the California Nurses Association—which favors government-run health care—claims that single-payer would reduce health-care spending by $37.5 billion a year. This miracle would be achieved largely by slashing administrative costs as well as provider and drug reimbursement rates.

So the California Nurses Association is pushing a plan that involves slashing payments to ‘providers.’ Last time I checked, those ‘providers’ also happen to be the employers that most nurses work for. Hard to see how dealing a huge financial blow to their employers will benefit nurses. If I were a nurse in California, I’d be concerned that the union leadership was selling me out. In most countries with single-payer healthcare, nurses get paid a lot less than they do in America. In France, for instance, nurses are paid less than half as much as in the U.S.

The study also asserts that California could reallocate $225 billion a year in Medicaid, Medicare and ObamaCare spending for single-payer assuming a federal waiver. Thus the legislature would only have to come up with $107 billion.

‘Only’ $107 billion. For perspective, California’s entire state budget right now is $124 billion, so even under the nurses’ rosy scenario, the burden of state government would nearly double.

The Power Line blog highlights the comments of Wall Street Journal reader Craig Harrison, a California resident.

Can the state really commandeer my federal Medicare benefits?

Good question.

When it takes 3-6 months to see a physician in California, can the state stop me from going to Nevada, Arizona or Oregon for care? Will they put me in jail if I do?

Assuming the state is not required to reimburse you for your out-of-state expenses, I assume they would welcome being relieved of the burden. They’re happy for you to pay your own way out-of-state while still paying taxes to support the California system you’re not using.

How many miles offshore need a hospital or clinic ship anchor to be outside of the reach of the state?

Maybe the Queen Mary, permanently anchored at Long Beach, can be converted into a hospital ship.

If California ever does install single-payer, they can expect to experience a very bad selection effect on net migration. The most productive citizens will seek to avoid the tax burden by fleeing the state, while poor and sick people flock to California to take advantage of the freebies.

It’s also worth noting that this is not the first attempt by a state to create something like single-payer. Not too many years ago, attempts in Tennessee and in Vermont had to be abandoned due to the very daunting practical difficulties. Despite these failures, California leftists somehow imagine that they can make it work. Cuz they’re special or something.

The Administrative State is a Betrayal of American Values

The foundational promise of America was that the government would be accountable to the people. “Here, the people rule,” said President Gerald Ford. But that promise was broken one hundred years ago when the Progressive Era gave birth to the Administrative State. Since then, most of our laws have been enacted not by elected representatives accountable to the people, but by unaccountable bureaucrats. Law professor Glenn Reynolds summarizes the sorry state of affairs in today’s USA Today.

[Philip] Hamburger explains that the prerogative powers once exercised by English kings, until they were circumscribed after a resulting civil war, have now been reinvented and lodged in administrative agencies, even though the United States Constitution was drafted specifically to prevent just such abuses. But today, the laws that actually affect people and businesses are seldom written by Congress; instead they are created by administrative agencies through a process of “informal rulemaking,” a process whose chief virtue is that it’s easy for the rulers to engage in, and hard for the ruled to observe or influence. Non-judicial administrative courts decide cases, and impose penalties, without a jury or an actual judge. And the protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (like the requirement for a judge-issued search warrant before a search) are often inapplicable.

How did a system designed to provide government of, by, and for the people devolve into a system in which bureaucrats unaccountable to voters (though exquisitely accountable to political players and special interests) produce masses of law that was never voted on by an elected official? Simple: on purpose.

In the early days of the Republic, the franchise was limited. But as the mass of voters became larger, more diverse, and less elite, those who considered themselves the best and brightest looked to transform government into something run not by those deplorable unwashed voters but by a more congenial group. As Hamburger says, “They have gradually moved legislative power out of Congress and into administrative agencies — to be exercised, in more genteel ways, by persons like … themselves.”
It has been, in essence, a power grab by what Hamburger calls the “knowledge class,” or what others have called the New Class: A group of managers and intellectuals who, although they may not actually be especially knowledgeable or elite in practice, regard themselves as a knowledge elite.

The Administrative State stands as an affront to democratic values and violates both the spirit and letter of the Constitution on a daily basis. It’s really the biggest unknown scandal in America today. Unknown because hardly anybody ever mentions it.

Schoolchildren are taught, if anything, that laws are made by Congress with no mention of ‘informal rulemaking’ by bureaucrats. And the ongoing depredations of the bureaucrats are hardly ever reported by the news media. Turn on ‘conservative’ Fox News and they’re reporting on Washington’s latest pointless diversions like the ‘scandal’ of Donald Trump’s son-in-law maybe having spoken with some Russians, or the self-serving reminiscences of former bureaucratic operative James Comey. Sorry, but I can’t make myself care about any of that political theater while Americans are forced to live under the rule of unelected clowns in the bureaucracy. Priorities, you know?

Let me keep this simple for those playing at home. If Congress didn’t vote on it, and the president didn’t sign it, then it’s not a valid law, and Americans have no obligation to abide by it.

The Treason of the Bureaucrats: Part Deux

Last summer, I spoke before a civic group of about 35 prominent local citizens and warned them that the permanent federal bureaucracy in DC–which Franklin Roosevelt termed the 4th branch of government–was gearing up to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump. At the time, I also wrote a blog post entitled “The Treason of the Bureaucrats.”

“I do not rule Russia,” Czar Nicholas is reputed to have said, “ten thousand clerks do.” Those words might take on particular significance for Donald Trump, should he be elected president. Like Czar Nicholas, a President Trump might find himself thwarted and undermined by the clerks–the federal civil servants.

Since then, events have borne out my prediction, to the extent that commentators are for the first time starting to apply the old Ottoman term ‘deep state’ to the willful and partisan Washington bureaucracy. At a conference last week, bureaucrats met with Democrat activists and discussed openly their strategies for thwarting the Trump Administration.

The deep state is not actually hidden very deep. It’s right out in the open.

Forlorn liberals took refuge at the American Constitution Society’s national convention in Washington this week, discussing whether to encourage the growth of the “deep state” resistance inside the government or fight President Trump from outside.

“The election of Donald Trump was an assault on the federal bureaucracy,” William Yeomans said to a room full of students and civil servants, including those recently displaced by Trump’s administration. “His values are simply not consistent with the values of people who are committed to public service and who believe deeply in the importance of public service.”

Hey, anybody deeply committed to public service can easily find ways to serve without working as a federal bureaucrat. If a ‘public servant’ cannot in good conscience implement the agenda of the president, the honorable thing to do is to resign and find some other way to serve, like working for a non-profit. We’re constantly told by federal bureaucrats and their union leaders how talented and hard-working they are, and that they could be earning so much more in the private sector. Well, here’s their chance to prove it.

Yeomans, an American University law professor with more than 25 years of experience at the Justice Department, was holed up inside the Capital Hilton hotel downtown on a sunny Friday afternoon leading a panel of bureaucrats and scholars divided about how best to fight Trump.

On a Friday afternoon, aren’t bureaucrats supposed to be, you know, at work?

UCLA law professor Jon Michaels said he favors filling the Trump administration with liberals opposed to Trump’s agenda.

“We hear a lot of language about draining the swamp and this idea about a deep state that somehow was going to thwart the intentions or the political mandate of the president,” Michaels said. “I kind of embrace this notion of the ‘deep state.'”

His embrace of the notion of the deep state is a reason why I embrace the notion of draining the swamp.

Michaels listed his ideas for how to ensure the success of the “deep state.” Act as a group — a department, across agency lines, as a community — rather than as an individual when pushing back against Trump from the inside, he said. Once such a coalition is formed, he suggested “rogue tweeting” or “leaking to the media” as options for fighting the president.

Since this was a meeting of the American Constitution Society, maybe the participants can point me to the part of the Constitution that empowers the civil servants to serve as a check on the authority of the president.

If you think about it, the arrogance is breathtaking. Here are unelected bureaucrats deciding for themselves that they’re going to “push back” against the duly elected Administration. It’s essentially an attempt to overturn the result of an election, just because the bureaucrats disagree with the voters. And those voters also happen to be the people who pay their salaries. Apparently, the public spiritedness of these dedicated public servants does not extend to respecting the will of the voters.

The GOP Senate is supposedly working hard right now on a bill to repeal Obamacare, but the GOP should instead be working on repealing the Civil Service Act of 1883. Obamacare is already collapsing due to it own internal contradictions. But we’re never going to clear the DC swamp without drastic legislation reforming the civil service.

If the GOP were smart (LOLOLZZ) they’d stop worrying about helping their hedge fund buddies with carried interest and start going after the left’s power bases: academia, Hollywood, the corporate media, and not least, the federal bureaucracy. They must all be destroyed.

Thank you and have a nice day.

The Futility of ‘Men’s Rights’

It’s also ungrammatical because the subject is singular (1) and so it should read ‘1 out of 4 homeless people is a woman.’

But nobody likes the grammar police, so let’s move on to the substance. Meninist’s point is well-taken. The implicit message of the graphic is essentially, ‘You didn’t care about the homeless when you thought they were all men, but we’ll have you know that one out of four are is a woman!’

So I sympathize with Meninist’s point, but at the same time we have to recognize the futility of it. Men’s rights advocates can keep cogently pointing out these anti-male double standards from now until the end of the next glacial period but things will never change. They won’t change because the men’s rights advocates are fighting human instinct.

Humans evolved the instinct to protect women because the female has inherently greater reproductive value than does the male. A man has millions of sperm, but a woman has just one uterus. Sperm, therefore, is not a scarce resource, but a uterus is. The tribe, therefore, cares more about the welfare of women than of men, or at least non-elite men. Of course, society will prioritize the welfare of the ruling-class males, but not the males who are ruled.

While people often try to deny it, ‘women and children first’ is a real thing. When the Titanic sank, 75 percent of the women survived, but only 17 percent of the men. Some of the men who survived were later socially shamed. A few years ago, Jeff Ruby’s floating restaurant in Cincinnati came loose from its moorings and floated down the Ohio River, stranding 83 people. All the women were rescued before the men.

Men’s rights advocates make cogent points, but their movement is doomed to failure. If you go up against human instinct, you’ll lose every time. Sucks for men, but as the saying goes, it is what it is.

Generation Snowflake Discovers Violence

We’re seeing more and more instances of political violence being initiated by young leftists. This leftist violence started as a response to the political rise of Donald Trump, and reached a crescendo at Berkeley with a violent riot that shut down a talk by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. In just the latest incident, Evergreen State College in Washington is reportedly being terrorized by a roving gang of social justice warriors carrying baseball bats.

Young leftists are being seduced by violence, probably because they have so little prior experience with it. They’ve grown up basically supervised by adults 24/7, both in school and after school, and the adults never let things get out of hand. Bullying, which always existed in the society of children, is now actively suppressed.

Back when I was a kid, however, we were free range. Since kids were left to their own devices, things sometimes got out of hand and fights would break out. I can recall as early as first grade, shortly before the morning school bell, a couple of my classmates brawling on the grass in front of school. Nobody was hurt, since six-year-olds can’t do very much damage. I’m not even sure the teachers noticed or even cared. The fight was just boys being boys, and part of the vibrant tapestry of life. The school bell rang, and everybody reported to class like nothing had happened. Nowadays, school administrators might call the police, and there could be a lawsuit.

While today it might seem hard to believe, getting in fights and learning how to defend oneself was once a normal part of growing up. Personally, the last time I got into a fight was during a pick-up hockey match when I was 15.

In How Green Was My Valley, Richard Llewellyn’s classic story of growing up in Welsh coal country, the boy protagonist, Huw, is being abused by a bully at school. In order to deal with the bully, Huw’s father has him take lessons from a former boxer. After fighting the bully, Huw’s teacher beats him savagely with a stick. The boxer then avenges Huw by KO’ing the teacher right in front of the class.

Llewellyn’s novel won the 1940 National Book Award, and John Ford’s film adaptation won the best picture Oscar for 1941, beating out now-classic films such as Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon. The story itself is set in Victorian times, but the action seems so far removed from our own era that it may as well be medieval.

In any event, fighting probably does teach kids some valuable lessons. For one thing, it teaches that if you start a fight, you can expect your opponent to fight back. And then you learn what it’s like to be on the receiving end of violence. Bullying and initiating violence has always been a human temptation, but knowing that you might get hurt when your target fights back serves as a potent deterrent.

As so like little child bullies who have never learned their lesson, Generation Snowflake, since they’ve never been in a fight, think it’s fun to go around initiating political violence. They’re so narcissistic and solipsistic that the thought that their opponent might fight back probably doesn’t even occur to them. Still less do they stop to consider that their opponent might be more proficient at violence than they are. After all, your typical social justice warrior has zero fighting experience, and never lifts anything heavier than an iPhone. But as predicted by the Dunning-Kruger Effect (the most ignorant are the most confident) they imagine they can kick ass with impunity. Maybe they watched too many of those ridiculous go-girl movies where the 120 pound female heroine goes around beating up 200 pound guys. Or maybe they just had too much smoke blown up their asses by their parents, teachers, and coaches constantly telling them how special they are.

Just this week, Andrew Bolt, a prominent Australian conservative, got suckered on the street by two leftist twerps. Bolt fought them both off, but the video reveals that neither Bolt nor the twerps know how to throw a punch properly. The leftists seem totally disoriented by the sheer fact that Bolt fought back.

Leftist Protesters get more than they bargain for when Andrew Bolt

I know that every generation has always been somewhat disdainful of the younger generation, but what are we to make of a generation that embraces the novel concept of a ‘microaggression’, while simultaneously believing that sucker punching your political opponents is cool?

It so happens that the vast majority of the people in this country who are most proficient with fighting as well as the use of weapons are actually on the political right. If the left wants to continue on the path of political violence, it won’t end well for them. Here, for instance, is an androgynous commie getting decked by a right winger at a protest in Portland.

ANTIFA Member Gets Knocked Out By Conservative in Portland

I suppose we can be thankful that these leftists are not more proficient at violence. Here, for instance, is a pic of the baseball bat gang from Evergreen State.

I don’t think they could use those bats to beat open a bag of Cheetos. They think they’re cool because they’re fighting ‘Nazis.’ They think the reason Hitler came to power was insufficient leftist violence. Of course, the real reason Hitler came to power was…too much leftist violence.

The Tyranny of ‘Hate Speech’ Laws

Instead of catching terrorists, police in the UK are busy making threats against citizens.

I would remind the Cheshire Police to think carefully about what they are saying before posting messages online. Although they may believe their message is acceptable, citizens who cherish liberty could find it extremely offensive, since it disrespects fundamental free speech rights. At some point, the people might notice that agents of the state are not protecting their rights and decide to take corrective action.

Note that this tweet is a literal expression of tyranny, not just for the obvious reason that it threatens punishment for speech, but because it deliberately seeks to create a chilling effect on speech by instilling fear. The tweet stokes fear by invoking the arbitrariness of Britain’s hate speech laws. The laws are vague and selectively enforced, so it’s difficult for the people to know what might or might not be a crime. The Cheshire Police deliberately exploit this uncertainty by reminding people ‘Hey, you think you’re OK, but you never know when you might be facing a large fine or up to two years in prison!’ That’s an attempt to intimidate the citizenry. In a word, tyranny.

Citizens should not have to face uncertainty about whether or not they’re on the right side of the law. A fundamental requirement of the Rule of Law is that the law should define a bright line. Britain’s ‘hate speech’ laws and the actions of the Cheshire Police therefore contradict the Rule of Law.

Notice also that the law, or at least the interpretation of it by the Cheshire Police, defines an illegal act according to the arbitrary reaction of others: “other people may take offence.” Since discerning in advance what might or might not offend someone can be difficult, leaving it up to others to determine what offends them creates further legal uncertainty that is inconsistent with the Rule of Law.

Memo to the Cheshire Police: When you’re on the wrong side of the Rule of Law, you’re on the side of lawlessness and tyranny.

The Long-Term Rise in College Tuition: Justifiable or Not?

Our friend Mark Perry possesses a unique talent for producing interesting graphs of economic data. Recently, he produced one regarding the long-term increase in college tuition and fees.

Mark’s point is that tuition has been rising faster than it would have in a purely free market, mostly due to intervention by government in the form of grants and subsidized student loans. Mark implicitly assumes that in the absence of these malefic interventions, we would expect tuition to rise no faster than the overall average level of prices. This assumption, however, is not correct, and contradicts Mark’s own explanation for another compelling graph he produced last fall.

At the time, Mark was asked by the Washington Post to explain why prices of some goods in his graph had fallen while others, including education, had risen dramatically. Here was Mark’s answer, which is essentially correct.

“The ‘miracle of manufacturing’ delivers lower prices all the time, and would explain why those prices [of manufactured goods like TVs] have decreased significantly over time, relative to overall price increases,” he said in an email.

On the flip side, things like education and medical care can’t be produced in a factory, so those pressures do not apply.

That’s right. Because education is not produced in a factory, we would expect the price, even in a free market, to increase faster than the average level of prices. It follows that the CPI does not provide a valid benchmark for evaluating the price of tuition. The sole fact that tuition has increased faster than the CPI price index does not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that tuition has risen too rapidly.

In contrast, prices of manufactured goods tend to fall, or rise less rapidly, over time due to cost savings fostered by improvements in productivity. For instance, before Henry Ford revolutionized the auto industry, a car cost more than a house. By introducing more efficient factory techniques, in just 8 years Ford was able to slash the price of a car by half. Similarly, if car prices during the past 20 years have not increased significantly, as shown in Mark’s graph, the reason is primarily due to increased automation and expanded use of industrial robots.

Because education is not produced in a factory, however, increasing productivity is not so easy. In fact, aside from a few adornments like Power Point slides, a classroom lecture or lesson is essentially produced today the same way it was hundreds of years ago. The primary cost factor driving the price of education is, as it always has been, the salaries and benefits paid to instructors. It follows that the only way to substantially increase productivity is to somehow economize on the use of classroom instructors. Maybe online classes will eventually achieve those economies, but that remains to be seen.

The fact that the prices of labor-intensive services like education or health care can be expected to rise, even in a free market, faster than the average level of prices is known as ‘cost disease,’ and was first explained decades ago by economist William Baumol.

So, can cost disease alone, without considering interventions by government, explain the long-term rise in college tuition?

First of all, Mark’s first graph uses the tuition price that is ‘posted,’ but that’s not the price that students actually pay because they receive substantial discounts euphemistically known as ‘scholarships.’ We therefore need to subtract scholarships to obtain the so-called net price.

In a subsequent tweet, Mark referenced data from the College Board on the net price of tuition, fees, room, and board (TFRB) over the past 20 (not 50) years.

That College Board data, available here, indicates that, adjusting for inflation, TFRB increased from $8,730 in 1996 to $14,210 in 2016. As Mark notes, this implies an increase of 63 percent.  Price indexes, however, tend to overestimate the rate of inflation. In particular, Michael Boskin says that the CPI overestimates inflation by about 0.8 or 0.9 percentage points per year. Shaving 0.8 points off the inflation rate puts 1996 TFRB, in terms of 2016 dollars, at only $7,440, not $8,730. Now the inflation-adjusted increase in TFRB looks even bigger: 91%!

But we have not yet accounted for cost disease, which implies that prices should rise in the long term approximately as fast as labor productivity. From 1996-2016, labor productivity increased about 49 percent. So cost disease alone would have increased TFRB from $7,440 to $11,090. This figure gives the correct benchmark for judging if tuition increased faster than would be expected in a free market. Turns out that it did, because $14,210 is greater than $11,090. As a percentage, however, today’s figure exceeds the benchmark by 28%, or only a little more than one percent per year. This rate of increase is far less dramatic than implied by Mark’s first graph.

Finally, to complete the picture, we would need to account for changes in the quality of higher education. Students today perhaps receive better service than they did in the past. Even if the classroom experience hasn’t improved, casual observation suggests that housing, food, and athletic facilities have improved considerably. The excess price increase of just over one percent per year could possibly reflect these improvements.

In short, the long term increase in tuition is much more nearly justifiable than most everyone believes.