Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
The language of reporting often masks more than it reveals. Consider your report that “Hillary Clinton is expanding her college plan to offer free tuition to millions of families” (“Hillary Clinton Expanding College Plan to Offer Free Tuition to Millions ,” July 6). As stated, Ms. Clinton’s plan seems so innocent; indeed, it almost seems as if she’ll use her own funds to pay the tuition bills of millions of families.
Of course, such innocence is an illusion created by the habit of reporting on government expenditures as if the only people involved are the grateful recipients of the expenditures and the magnanimous politicians who arrange the expenditures.
Yet despite Ms. Clinton’s impressive power to avoid the law, even she has no power to avoid economic reality. Therefore, a more accurate report would read “Hillary Clinton is expanding her plan to force some Americans to pay all the tuition expenses of other Americans.”
In addition to being more clear, this statement has the merit both of, first, avoiding the mistaken impression that collegiate instruction can be made free merely by relieving students or their families of the obligation to pay their tuition directly, and, second, reminding readers that ‘plans’ (What a sweet word!) such as Ms. Clinton’s involve extracting money from other people using threats of violence.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030