Despite my overwhelming support for the principle of Voluntary Student Membership (VSM), and my delight when Andrew Bates and co. won the vote that made Auckland Uni voluntary a few years ago, I haven’t yet written anything about Roger Douglas’s VSM Bill: i.e., his Private Member’s Bill, drawn last week, that would allow Voluntary Student Membership at all New Zealand’s tertiary institutions – upholding, says the Bill’s stated aim, “students’ right to freedom of association, by ensuring that no student is compelled to join a students’ association.”
I haven’t written about it for one simple reason – because I’m unsure if I support the Bill.
First off, it looks to me like utter hypocrisy for a politician to write a bill allowing students to resile voluntarily from joining and paying for their student union, while insisting loudly and volubly that you and I and every other taxpayer stumps up compulsorily for his foreign holidays. Sorry Roger, your credibility is about zero with me right now.
Second, while the bill allows a student to resile from joining the student union at their campus -- and thus from supporting the unsavoury political positions of student politicians intent on putting their professors’ nutty political ideas into immediate action –- and to resile as well from paying for the numerous follies and iniquities of their campus’s student union -- it doesn’t however mean that the student union itself is starved of cash. When Auckland went voluntary, the balance of the student union’s costs were (as far as I’m aware) largely paid for by the uni itself, which means students were simply paying indirectly.
And so, while their name wasn’t necessarily attached to the various calls to make the Auckland campus a sister campus to Pyongyang University, they were still helping to pay for Martin Bradbury to visit Pyongyang in tribute to his spiritual home.
And third, you know what: the issue of Voluntary Student Membership is just so damned basic, that it’s worth having that battle on campus once a year just to give students practice in arguing for freedom.
As I said a couple of years ago, the issue pits freedom, individualism and voluntarism on one side, against collectivism, compulsion and bossyboot busy-bodying on the other. On the one hand it gives training, intellectual ammunition and a platform for freedom lovers to argue the issue of our age: freedom. And on the other, it shows just how disinterested the collectivists are in freedom, and how excited they are at the chance to get their noses in a trough. Any trough.
It’s not whether you win or lose a VSM campaign that’s even most important: The real victory of a VSM campaign comes in the number of people each and every year that a VSM campaign permanently switches on to freedom -- everything else is gravy. If campuses are going to be a breeding ground for future politicians, which they are, then I’d far rather they be a breeding ground for young student politicians who understand freedom and know how to argue for it.
And as long as you’re arguing about freedom every year, then you’re not arguing about making your campus a sister campus to Pyongyang University, are you.
It would be an awful shame to take that all away, don’t you think?