By Richard Vedder
I have been spending a few days at the meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Atlanta, a gathering of mostly conservative legislators from the 50 states. Several things struck me during the visit.
First, there are an extraordinary number of serious and unprecedented federal intrusions on state authority that threaten the very fabric of our federal system of government. The President and his team are making a huge power grab. I have always considered this President to be a socialist, firmly distrustful of private solutions to anything; one British visitor to ALEC, Lord Christopher Monckton, thinks he is closer to a Communist than a socialist. The Cap and Trade and Health Care bills are enormous intrusions on our private lives, while the GM and Chrysler bailouts have, among other things, meant that state laws dealing with dealer franchises have been abrogated. Similarly, I believe federal intrusion into the running of colleges and universities is threatened by a whole variety of new initiatives. Community colleges, for example, have not had much to do with the federal government other than the student loan programs, now will be involved in begging the Feds for construction money.
Daniel Hannen, brilliant British member of the European Parliament, argued that America is the leader in continuing the great institutions evolving out of the Enlightenment of the 18th century. They, however, believe our leadership is threatened by Obama's attempt to change the very nature of the American experiment.
As a consequence of this meeting, I also am becoming convinced that virtual learning using new technologies should play a possibly dominant role in higher education change in the coming generation, not only as a cost-saving device, but as a way of effectively educating some persons of the modern age who do not respond to traditional methods of teaching. Also increasingly constructive roles are being played by for profit institutions. Randy Best of Higher Education Holdings and Mark Pelesh of Corinthian Colleges made convincing arguments that state governments should not get in the way of these institutions that are increasingly important in educating Americans beyond high school.