The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Starbucks vs. Food Stamps 

This article from the Washington Post (free registration required) has been going around the blogosphere of late, and I thought I'd toss in my extra two cents as a Starbucks Addict myself. The premise of the article is that college students who are borrowing money to go to school shouldn't be going to Starbucks because it's too expensive. They're living unwisely on someone else's money:

She just graduated summa cum laude, after three years of legal training that left her $115,000 in debt. Part of that debt, which she will take a decade to repay with interest, was run up at Starbucks, where she buys her lattes.

The habit costs her nearly $3 a day, and it's one that her law school says she and legions like her cannot afford.
"A latte a day on borrowed money? It's crazy," said Erika Lim, director of career services at the law school.

The assumption made of course by the authors is that somehow the students don't get anything extra out of their Starbucks habit. Either they somehow don't deserve the better taste compared to the 99 cent gas station brew because they have student loans, or that the ability to study at a table in a nice environment for a few hours for only $3 is somehow unreasonable. Maybe these students just don't "know their place"... that somehow only college graduates on un-debted people are allowed to congregate at Starbucks.

My question for these obviously anti-corporate university crusaders... what do you say to people who think that the poor on food stamps ought to come under similar restrictions? I have read comments by people about that from time to time too... and the articles based around those comments are not nearly as friendly as this one. People who dare suggest that the poor shouldn't be paying for cable TV or gambling are generally classified as bigots... trying to deny a bit of pleasure to people living a hard life.

Yet this article does the same thing, only does so under the guise of trying to help these "uninformed college students". Maybe they do know the opportunity cost of that $3 latte better than you do... they simply also account for the non-monetary gains that they enjoy, which were ignored by this article. Virginia Postrel would go balistic on you folks.

Yes they may be borrowing that money, but they also have to pay it back. They are responsible for the extra debt they incur (unlike those on food stamps or other forms of public assistance I might add). Anyone who has ever loaned money to a friend or family will tell you this. Once you loan out that money, it's not yours any more, until you get it back. Never try to tell that person what they should and shouldn't do with it. If you feel that need... you shouldn't be loaning it in the first place. It will only get you in trouble.

For more discussion, take a look at Ann Althouse and OxBlog.


I guess what bothers me is the notion of luxuries becoming entitlements. This is why we have such problems with credit card debt.

From a Virginia Postrel sense, no, we are not to judge others on what they value enough to spend money on - but, well, all I can say is, I hope the student with the more than 100K in debt (over $4000 of which is starbucks lattes) doesn't end up defaulting. Because then her set of values gets imposed on me in the form of raised taxes to offset her default.

  Posted at June 22, 2005 10:04 AM by Blogger Be  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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