Monday, January 12, 2004

Should states build engineering universities? 

In its business forum today, the StarTribune calls for building a new engineering school in Minnesota.
The University of Minnesota is the state's only world-class research university. Its de-facto monopoly status is a weakness, not a strength, as it is forced to be all things to everybody. Asking a monopoly to become more market-driven contradicts everything we have learned about the power of competition.
Why must government build this, though? Engineering is a lucrative field; while it certainly has spillover benefits to society, the gains that can be captured by the inventor are large enough to provide plenty of engineers in the world. Perhaps what businesses want instead is a source of cheap researchers to help them individually become more profitable?