UK Students Protest Tuition Increases

Thirty thousand students have gathered in central London to protest plans to increase tuition fees and cut university funding in England.  The Guardian reports the protests are threatening to degenerate into riots.  Windows have been broken, bonfires have been lit, and two police officers have been injured, as tensions mount.

The protests were sparked by plans to raise the university tuition cap from 3000 pounds to 6000, with a maximum of 9000 allowed in “exceptional circumstances.”  This is coupled with a proposed reduction of 40% in funding for higher education.

The BBC quotes a heated exchange between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour’s Harriet Harman during Question Time, which is much more entertaining than anything the United States Congress does, since Parliament members and government ministers are not shy about expressing their true feelings for each other.  Also, there is a standing order that ministers cannot lie to members of Parliament, which would be very difficult to enforce in America without using cattle prods.  Clegg is a Liberal Democrat, and Harman accused his party of “going along with a Tory plan to shove the cost of higher education on to students and their families.”

Students and their families paying the cost of higher education?  What nonsense!  Everyone knows these costs should be paid from the thick soup of fungible tax money surging through modern governments.  That way, no one knows what anything really costs.  Besides, governments have limitless money, and can pay for everything, forever.

The ugly scene in London is reminiscent of the even nastier riots and strikes in France, where people went berserk after President Nicolas Sarkozy raised the retirement age from 60 to 62.  These riots were, in turn, a watered-down version of the chaos in Greece, where government insolvency led to fire-bombings and murder.  Americans depressed over being left out of all this excitement can take heart, as insolvent states like California should collapse soon, followed by the equally unsustainable federal government. 

The process that leads to these riots is inexorable, and plays out at different speeds in every bloated government on Earth.  When the government provides everything, the supply is extracted by force, from a private sector that withers beneath the unlimited demands of the beneficiaries.  The government eventually realizes it can’t squeeze any more cash from the dying free markets, and suggests reform… which the beneficiaries naturally oppose.  The only way a dependent population can bargain with the State is through protests, which grow increasingly shrill… and, inevitably, violent.  In the end, the protesters must call the government’s bluff, gambling that the State will capitulate to them instead of shooting them.  Meanwhile, the productive class toils at their jobs, and watches the riots on TV.

The larger the dependency class, the faster demonstrations become street battles.  The moribund French economy exploded over a two-year increase in the retirement age.  In American currency, those British tuition fees are rising from about $5000 to $10,000, with exceptional circumstances warranting fees as high as $15,000.  Those might seem like ridiculous reasons to hold riots to us.  We will soon learn just how much tougher we are.