Friday, January 30, 2009

"Corruption" in Higher Education ?

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education Blog reports that lobbying expenditures by higher education ranked 7th among various American industries. The Blog references a study by OpenSecrets.Org.

"Pharmaceuticals/Health Products" ranked first, followed by "Electric Utilities," "Insurance," and "Oil and Gas."

Higher Education edged out "T.V., Movies and Music" (8th), as well as "Securities and Investment" (10th) and Telecommunications Services and Equipment (17th). Note the correlation between the extent of regulation and intervention, on the one hand, and an industry's place on the list. Of course, a correlation does not tell us which direction causation runs. Perhaps government's interest in regulating an industry is exogenous, in which case fear of regulation drives lobbying expenses. On the other hand, perhaps such regulation --- which can protect firms from competition --- is a function of lobbying expenditures in the first place, with the result that better organized industries obtain more industry-friendly regulation as a result of their lobbying efforts.
Many in higher education see such lobbying as a form or symptom of "corruption." Indeed, much campaign finance "reform" is premised upon the notion that any money in politics is "corrupting" or "corrosive" or creates the "appearance" of "corruption" of "corrosion." I wonder if these same academics reject the financial benefits that accrue to their own institutions as a result of such lobbying efforts ?