The ETSU Spring Major Event performer has been chosen – the GooGoo Dolls. I am actually quite disappointed that the Spring artist isn’t as controversial as the artist from last semester, mainly because even campus conservatives are saying things like, “Well, at least the SGA is doing something” and “At least the GooGoo Dolls are better than Ludacris.” I fear that many are missing the point. Whether or not the artist is controversial, while affecting the news-worthiness of the story, doesn’t change the fact that the SGA at ETSU has become a perfect form of liberal government. The entire student body – around 13,000 people – is being taxed for the benefit of the 8,000 students that will be able to attend the concert. I’m hearing a couple of major arguments supporting this practice, both of which are lacking (I would hope that a class in Practical Reasoning/Logic would solve this problem, but there are many in the Philosophy Department who argue in favor of such widespread taxation…)

The first argument is one that is so absurd it makes me sad to know that these students are actually going to obtain a college degree. The argument is as follows: other schools have much higher student activities fees than ETSU, so we should be thankful that we are able to have a major concert for such a low price/only have to pay this much/are having concerts at all. This logical fallacy is known as “An appeal to common practice.” This is what your mother was trying to tell you when she said, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” The mere fact that other schools tax their students for major events doesn’t make it correct/morally justifiable/reasonable for ETSU (or anyone else) to do so. While one may feel that it is OK to tax students for a major concert, this “appeal to common practice” is not persuasive.

The second argument that I often hear is that within the four (or more) years that a student is at ETSU, surely there will be at least one concert that they would like to attend. This standard Utilitarian argument (i.e., something is acceptable because it provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number) is also unpersuasive. While I’m not going to go into the minute criticisms of Utilitarianism in general, I would like to point out some specifics as to why this argument doesn’t work for the ETSU Major Event Taxation. There are many students (I’m still working on exact numbers…demographics are surprisingly difficult to track down) who will never attend a major concert, despite the fact that they were taxed $128 over four years. Even for those who attend only one concert, $128 seems a high price to pay. ETSU has a huge adult/non-traditional student population which consists of individuals who do not attend college to go to “major events.” The adult students, especially those who are married and/or have children, would most likely want to bring family members (e.g., a spouse or child) with them to the concert – if there was a concert that they would actually like to attend. A spouse would have to pay an additional $10 and the child is not permitted to attend unless he/she is over the age of 18. These students are very unhappy about the taxation which, it seems, diminishes the “greatest happiness” argument. The fact of the matter is that we do not know how many students are going to attend at least one concert over their four (or more) years at ETSU, so one cannot conclusively assert that there are more happy students than unhappy students.

Widespread taxation for the benefit of less-than-the-entire population is a staple of liberal political philosophy. It makes me very, very afraid that our generation is so comfortable with this idea. Maybe it is because the ETSU SGA is such a small scale ruling-body that people are rather apathetic about the situation, but I wonder if students who allow this sort of thing to happen on their campus are really going to fight it on a larger scale. Whether or not you plan on attending one of these events during your time at ETSU, you must think of those who would rather spend $128 on something of their choosing, rather than what their government thinks is best.

Advertisements