A Lesson, Revisited

In April of last year, I posted about the University of Maryland showing a porn movie, and the lesson we should learn from the Legislature’s reaction.

Personally, I really don’t care what the kids watch.  It’s insignificant.  But the Senate’s actions did have a benefit.. they demonstrated that if you want the state to use force to take money from other people and give it to you, well, you better do what the state says.

Think about that, and the implications to bailouts.  You really want the government to tell you what you can and can’t do when they are paying for your health care?


Unfortunately, few will get the lesson, and we’ll go on fighting about free speech and the evils of porn, missing the larger point that Andy Harris so thoughtfully (and unintentionally) made.

Well, it’s happening again.  This time, it’s the UM School of Law suing a small chicken farm over environmental concerns.

A suit by the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic that accuses poultry giant Perdue Farms and a small Eastern Shore farmer of pollution has angered Annapolis lawmakers, who are threatening to hold up hundreds of thousands of dollars in the university’s budget.

Some lawmakers warn that the school could harm the region’s fragile agriculture industry. They see farmers Alan and Kristin Hudson as victims of an over-reaching student project and want to send a message that the school should not use taxpayer funds to battle a small business during a recession.

“What I’m hoping is they’ll have more sensitivity,” said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, an Eastern Shore Democrat and farmer. “Engage in a lawsuit against an individual, struggling farmer? It could be any of us. It makes the rest of us wonder, ‘Is it worth it?’ Farming and agriculture on the Eastern Shore seems to be under attack.” A lawyer for the Hudsons said it’s unlikely that the couple can defend against the lawsuit without losing their land.

The criticism has stirred a larger debate over academic freedom at the state’s premier law school, while raising old questions about the appropriate role for the General Assembly in influencing decisions there. Some legislators criticize the funding threat, and the law school dean said legislative demands could have a “chilling effect” on the clinic.

But Middleton and 34 other senators have demanded that the law clinic turn over a list of clients and expenditures for the past two years, threatening to hold up $250,000 if the university does not comply. A similar measure in the House would freeze $500,000 in funding.

I will repeat the lesson:  If you rely on the government for your funding, be it education or healthcare, institutional or individual, you will need to comply with the will of the state. If chicken farmers are more powerful politically than law students, then it won’t matter if the lawsuit has merit (I honestly have no idea if it does, since it doesn’t matter).

Yet they just don’t get it.  At all.

The Senate measure, she said, “interferes with the ability of our law school to control its academic program.”

In an interview, Haddon said tying the information demand to the school’s funding creates a “chilling effect” on how the clinic and its student lawyers operate. “I don’t understand how it could not impact your judgment in the future, if you think somebody’s watching you, asking you for information and tying it to their money.”

The state funds about 30 percent of the law school’s $46 million budget.

What’s so frustrating is you can see folks in the article get oh so close to the actual lesson;  even The Sun reporter mentions last year’s porn controversy.  Yet no one goes so far as to recognize the problem is the government involvement.  Funding always comes with strings attached.  Strings attached always means less liberty.

So if you want the government money, you need to live with the government rules.


About Paul Stagg

Husband, lifter, MBA in Baltimore, MD. Will post about Powerlifting, politics, Classical Liberalism, Economics, building wealth, self improvement, productivity, heavy music, wine, food, beer, and almost anything else. View all posts by Paul Stagg

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