As libertarians we spend much of our time worrying about the misuse of power at the federal level. Local government however can be just as abusive though. Student body governments in particular come to mind. Student body governments have evolved substantially from their humble origins as a way for students to stuff their resumes. Today many student governments have become quasi-private corporations with annual multi-million budgets. One of the reasons that tuition prices are going up is that student governments are increasing their taxes with little opposition. In defense of students, who has time to pay attention to campus politics in between examinations, partying, and other collegiate hijinks? Nominally these student governments are meant to represent the student body at large but, as most governments, they represent the interests of a few interest groups. This creates a strong incentive for redistribution of funds towards these interest groups. Members of student government for their part have a strong incentive to support public work projects, such as new buildings, that they can affix their names to.
If none of this were enough student governments have also increased their role as lobbies for greater subsidies to universities from the state and federal government. This upcoming year the California State Student Association (CSSA) is tackling a new tax, the Student Involvement and Representation Fee, to every one of the estimated 460,000 students in the California State University system. This fee will be used to “advocate for student access to an affordable, high quality education”. The fee itself is small, $2, and one can opt-out* but in principle it is disturbing that students are not only forced to pay for these politicians-in-training, but also have to pay so that these same individuals can lobby for more tax money.
If you are part of the California State University system, or know someone who does, I urge you to opt out of the fee. Opting out will do little to defund the CSSA’s efforts to lobby, but at minimum it will serve as a symbolic gesture that these student governments do not represent the interests of students and are nothing more than a training ground for politician larvae.
*To opt out follow the instructions here.