By Richard Vedder
The greatest living human being is Margaret Thatcher in my opinion. I met her this morning at the Institute for Economic Affairs in London and chatted briefly with her, and my opinion has not changed. At 83, sher walks a bit slowly and is slightly hard of hearing, but her mind is sharp. She was surprised at the degree to which Obama is socializing the American economy, but agreed fiercely with me with of need for new forceful leaders -in both nations.
Our leaders today are mostly wimps who govern by poll rather than principle. That is to a considerable extent true in many areas of human endeavor, not just politics. Indeed, most university presidents I know are hard working, smart, articulate, and politically adept --but do not have a true vision of what universities should be doing. The Iron Maiden had a vision, as did her counterparts Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul, and she steadfastly did things consistent with both her principles and her vision of a more robust, growth-oriented Britain.
University presidents need to decide --what is it we want to do? How can we do what we want to do efficiently and in a cost-effective manner? And they need to look beyond narrow institutional self interest to look at what universities should be doing in society. Most simply define greatness in terms of spending and academic reputation, and refuse to move to a new paradigm where incentives are to maximize outcomes per dollar of revenue. Moreover, most of them either have no clear idea of what institutional outcomes should be, or do little to find ways of measuring performance towards goals. We need a few Margaret Thatchers in higher education. For me, I am glad I have met my idol.