ECONOMICS (AND LIFE LESSONS) 101 FOR QUEBEC STUDENTS

There is much that I do not understand about the Quebec student protests currently terrorizing the streets of Montreal.  I can comprehend neither the passion nor the lack of logic employed by the students.  The level of violence, and for that matter, the Quebec Government’s response is also mystifying.

As much I believe in post-secondary education (I have two post-secondary degrees), one must question the efficacy of an educational system that leaves the student with such a dearth of basic economic understanding.  For example a “strike” by definition is when there is a concerted effort by a group to voluntarily withdraw services of value to increase the value of that service to those who consume it.   Bus drivers and airline pilots can and do go on strike.  Nurses and certainly teachers, subject to Essential Service Legislation, can withdraw their service to improve their bargaining position. Even professional athletes have struck to increase their already excessive salaries.  But no part of what the Quebec University Students are doing qualifies as a “strike”.

Firstly, the only people they are inconveniencing by boycotting classes are themselves.  Their “service” does not have any economic value, except to themselves.    No part of the boycott inconveniences anybody including their professors, who suddenly have reduced class sizes and fewer papers to grade.  Worse, they have actually prepaid for the service they are now boycotting.  It defies both economics and logic.

Boycotts aside, certainly their extra curricular tactics are inconveniencing the public and severely threatening public safety.  They have evolved into street thugs; petty terrorists dedicated to wanton property damage to advance their cause.  Why the Quebec Government would negotiate with petty terrorists is quite puzzling.  Giving in on minor concessions regarding timetables and student loan forgiveness, far from placating the students, has only encouraged them. Apparently, the students believe their tactics have been moderately successful and accordingly have torqued things up a bit.

Quebec University Students pay, by far, the lowest post-secondary tuition fees in the country.  Even after the scheduled increments, the tuition fees will be barely half what students in Alberta, for example, pay for their education. Accordingly, one might expect that Quebec Students might begrudgingly accept the comparatively modest tuition increase, secure in the knowledge of comparatively how good they have it.  One would be surprised.

The Quebec Student strike and protests, like the popular Greek austerity protests, reveal some odd entitlements-mentality of consumers of the modern welfare state.  Since the Quebec students pay the least, they feel they have the most to lose by increased fees for their education.  Expressed alternatively, one becomes dependent on free or nearly free service.  Accordingly, when that free service is terminated, like any dependence, there is an adverse reaction caused by withdrawal.

I hope that eventually the striking students receive some valuable lessons that have somehow escaped them in the classroom:  Governments must live within their means.  There is no such thing as a free lunch; everything costs somebody something.  And disrespect for the rule of law will not lead to a cheaper education, but it will lead to a criminal record that will haunt them much longer than their student loans.

Brent

5 comments for “ECONOMICS (AND LIFE LESSONS) 101 FOR QUEBEC STUDENTS

  1. Rado
    May 24, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I could not agree more. Especially, the last two paragraphs. I don’t want education to be out of reach for Canadians, but QC students are unreasonable.

  2. Andrew Doyle
    May 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    The strike is a response to the entitlement of the baby boomers, who ran budget deficits for 40 years and now expect young people to pay it off while they retire with pensions intact. The students are not stupid, they realize that somebody must pay for education, but the deal since the Quiet Revolution was that we were going to do that with taxes, not tuition. To reverse that trend without even a debate is what the protests are all about

  3. David Robertson
    May 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Your first sentence sums it up quite well, “There is much that I do not understand about the Quebec student protests…”. And why the “terrorizing the streets of Montreal” ? Are you a Patriot Act Republican or just simply an Albertan Red Tory i.e. a suited redneck. I find your perception uninformed, your point of view offensive, but in line with one Westmount woman with an exagerated and equally obnoxious sense of entitlement who suggested that the War Measures Act be enacted and troops brought in – as if Bill 78 wasn’t draconian enough. You may be advised to have “opinions” in areas where you are probably better informed. Edmonton, for example.

  4. David Robertson
    May 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    My bad, got my colors mixed. Blue Tory.

  5. Michel Desmarais
    May 27, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I live in Quebec and am french speaking.

    The situation in Quebec is baffling to many locals too… a small group of extremists has taken over the city of Montreal.
    Now the movement is spreading and I am saddened by the ignorance of the protesters.

    The people you see in the street are basically againt democracy, they are attempting to shove their opinion down the throats of the majority by disrupting the economy and calling for a government resignation

    Their claims make no economic sense. There newer claim of an injust law make even less sense. they are protesting against the consequences of their own protests.

    PS: Protests are NOT rendered illegal by the new law, it is only required that organizers provide the intended route 8 hours prior. (The police is actually only asking that to b done before the start of the protest)