Government-approved degrees, for free!

Via Hit & Run comes the news of a proposal from Sen. Max Baucus, a classic example of government’s perpetual ability to ignore incentives and consequences:

Montana Senator Max Baucus says he wants free college tuition to be offered for students majoring in math and science.

The Democrat says he plans to introduce legislation in the coming months that would give full scholarships to high school graduates majoring in math, engineering, sciences or technology.

Naturally, Sen. Baucus proposes this because the U.S. needs to be more competitive with students around the world. No doubt he has an idea of the perfect mix of math and science to non-math and science college degrees in the U.S. Central planners always do, since who could be silly enough to rely on something as outdated and obscure as salary to be an indicator of what’s in demand and what’s not. No, it’s much better to trust Congress. That way, everyone can be a rich scientist.

Sen. Baucus does have one hitch in his plan to prevent gaming the system for a free education. Students would have to “to work or teach in a related field for at least four years after graduation.” That should suffice to weed out the undesirables who want to use the system for personal gain. They’ll clearly just give of themselves for the greater good instead of getting a degree in math or science, working four years at a job they may or may not like, and then retreating to graduate school to retool with four years of salary and no debt. But the incentive to do that once they have a government-funded love of technology instilled in them is too low to contemplate.

And I bet no one would think to get a dual degree in science and . The extra classes would still be on the taxpayer dime since most schools don’t charge for extra classes beyond a certain threshold per term. But that would be absurd. No, we can expect the best and brightest to finally shake off their aversion to intellectually stimulating fields and choose to go into the already highest-paying fields because the benevolent government would now deem them worthy.

What’s next, federal athletic scholarships for American high school athletes to enable us to better compete against foreigners? It’s not right that our professional leagues are being taken over by kids from the Dominican Republic and David Beckham.

The “do anything, as long as it’s something” mentality of politicians never ceases to make my brain hurt.

P.S. There is a stipulation in the funding based on merit, right? One not already met by merit scholarships provided by universities and private charities?