DeSantis reminds public universities of an uncomfortable truth about 'He Who Pays the Piper'

Public colleges are upset about what Ron DeSantis did recently. But are they allowed to say something?

"He who pays the piper calls the tune" is a well-known saying. According to Wiktionary, it means, "The person who pays for something gets to say how it should be done."

It's hard, if not impossible, to disagree with how wise it is. What are the other options? I guess it would be something like, "You give me the money, and whether you like it or not, I get to decide how it's spent." That seems very unreasonable, unfair, bossy, rude, and dictatorial to me, but that's the attitude that some academics in Florida with a sense of entitlement are taking.

The Washington Post says that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed a bill into law that stops the state's public colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. The governor is quoted in the story as saying, "DEI stands more for discrimination, exclusion, and brainwashing."

DeSantis is right on the mark. DEI is a trend that people use to show how good they are, and it supports speech police on campuses and in businesses. At its worst, it gives professors and managers the power to force their weird ideas on other people while making themselves look morally better. That's my personal view, and you may not agree with it. But that's not the point of this essay, either. In terms of the Florida rule, the bigger question is who gets to decide if DEI should be the policy at public universities.

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In an article about the bill in the Orlando Sentinel, a professor says, "The government has no business banning or censoring subjects in higher education." Another person told The Washington Post, "It's basically state-mandated censorship, which has no place in a democracy." (I have problems with the God of "democracy," but in a democracy, don't the majority get to set the rules, and didn't DeSantis just win in a landslide?).

Remember that the new Florida law applies to public schools and universities, which are higher education institutions that the state of Florida set up and pays for. It doesn't work for private schools or colleges. You might also want to know that most public schools and universities don't include different points of view when they talk about "diversity" these days. When it comes to intellectual viewpoints, they are all too often monopolies with only one point of view that fits everyone.

So, what the two academics are saying, in effect, is this: Once we get taxpayer money (basically at gunpoint, since you go to jail if you don't pay your taxes), we can do whatever we want with it. We don't have to listen to the people who pay the bill or their elected officials who gave us the money. In other words, even highway robbery is fine as long as we get the money; no one else has a say.

And, of course, those professors would be happy if even more money fell from the sky and landed in their already full laps.

No matter how many PhDs are after your name, I don't care. If you're so self-centered and moralistic that you think you have a right to other people's money that can't be taken away, you need to go back to school and learn who pays the bills.

Do I like the idea of politicians telling schools what they can and can't teach? No, I don't. I also don't like the idea of teachers asking for my money and getting mad when I tell my elected officials I don't want what they're selling.

There is something wrong with this situation that can only be fixed in one way. The trouble is that when governments pay for something with money from taxpayers, it always leads to disagreements that can't be solved. Not so in free markets, where I don't have to pay for a place I don't like. The answer, then, is freedom—the freedom to choose what you want, pay for what you want, and not pay for what you don't want.

In a free society, you can't force someone to give you money and then get mad when they say "no thanks." DeSantis should tell schools and universities in Florida the following: If you want to do whatever you want on your own, that's fine. We'll stop giving you money. You will then be free to get money from users, investors, donors, or anyone else who is willing to pay you. Or do what almost everyone else has to do when sales go down: cut costs.

Researchers in my state have found that there are "3.2 times as many DEI staff as history professors" at Georgia Tech. Sorry, Georgia Tech, but I thought I was paying for something else. If my lawmakers and governor decide to spend my money in ways that make me happier, you'll just have to eat it.

It's funny that some academics who want to force unpopular policies on people who don't want them are also the first to call "fascist" anyone who has a different view. But fascism is all about causing other people to pay for your own personal goals.

People who ask for money but freak out when responsibility is brought into the "exchange," I say, stop whining and grow up. At the very least, if you feel deeply about the issue, go work for a private school or start your own.

Whoever pays for the music has every right to decide what it sounds like.

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