By Andrew Finnerty
The use of the boycott in order for some entity to meet your demands is the most non-violent way to send a message. People refuse to buy products or services from big box stores, clothing companies, or energy companies due to possible political, societal, economic or environmental factors revolving around the business.
Drivers stopped purchasing gasoline from privately owned BP franchises shortly after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Nike also had problems years ago when it was discovered they used sweatshop labor.
Essentially, this is market democracy; your dollars spent show businesses what is in demand. However, there are other companies that do not react to market forces in the same way as private businesses. For instance, the General Motors bailout (where losses were socialized to the citizenry) was in exact opposition to market forces which would have allowed GM to fail. The moral hazard of such a program does not discourage from misallocation of resources or risky behaviors.
Another business that does not react to market forces the way other private businesses do are public universities. We live in a society where we believe universities provide enough positive externalities that tax payers should subsidize their goals (somehow not called a bailout). This sort of behavior destroys market incentives that normally exist, all of which help the consumer.
Currently, students pay a higher price for tuition because the government backs student loans for less than the market rate of interest. Consider this: if the government stopped backing loans there would be a massive influx of dropouts. This would send a signal to drop tuition rates in order to capture the loss of students. It would also help schools allocate resources to more necessary areas.
This subsidization is one of the reasons universities can charge higher prices in the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. Because many students are unable or unwilling to put their careers in jeopardy by boycotting tuition, I encourage students to do any of the following:
1) Never give money as an alumnus and write a letter stating why.
2) Rescind any fees the university charges unless you believe they directly benefit you (only available in the first week of class).
3) Encourage your professional RSOs to track students after graduation (you’re in trouble if no RSO for your major exists). There are no legal monetary repercussions for universities turning out students with inappropriate skills for the market; student debt and homelessness is not the university’s problem. n