At a University of California campus, learning a life lesson about socialism

Not all the lessons kids learn at college happen in the classroom. One young man is learning about socialism thanks to the dorm food policy.

Cafeteria SocialismThe neighborhood kids are returning from college for the summer. Most of them have spent a happy year at their respective colleges and therefore what they have to say when asked is positive. Those in the STEM programs seem to have learned a lot; those in the liberal arts . . . well, they think they’ve learned something.

Not all the lessons they’ve learned have been in the classroom. One young man was complaining about the dorm food system at one of the University of California campuses. According to him, the food is really, really bad and it’s also expensive when compared to food available in restaurants near the campus.

Given how bad and overpriced the dorm food is, this young man’s preference would be to have his food delivered via UberEats. According to him, if three or more kids get together on a delivery, the cost per person for delivery is minimal. In addition, they get to enjoy good restaurant food of their choice.

Unfortunately, our young students don’t have a choice. If they live in campus housing, they are required to buy dorm food in order to create subsidies for less affluent students.

Yes, you heard that right: At least one UC campus has the equivalent of Obamacare for food. Buying the product is mandatory, even though the quality is poor and the price is high.

Those with means often end up spending twice on food. That is, they pay for the mandatory vouchers and then order in. Those without means are stuck eating poorly made, uninspiring food, stuck in a captive market that has no incentive to compete for price, quality, or convenience.

The kid who told me this story was just a little taken aback when I told him, in an appropriate low-key, smiling way, that he was seeing socialism in action. I hope that planted a seed. He’s a tremendously bright, logical kid and this might be the experience that leads him to appreciate the free market.

Photo credit: Cafeteria, by Shihmei Barger. Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.