Its pretty clear that open academic discourse is on life support at Harvard in the wake of the recent Larry Summers vote of no confidence. Now, there is a question about whether simple entrepreneurship can survive. Via Cafe Hayek, several Harvard students created dormaid to provide maid services to dorm students that wanted to pay for it. Seemed like a great idea to me, which I would have loved at school, but the Harvard student magazine has hammered the entrepreneurs:
By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on
campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity.... We urge the student
body to boycott Dormaid
Socialism has been rejected by countries around the world. It seems like it is still alive and well at Harvard. Here is the angst coming through of a frustrated top-down Stalinist planner:
A service like Dormaid can bring many levels of awkwardness into this
picture. For example, do two people sharing a double split the cost?
What if one wants the service and the other does not? What if one
cannot afford it? Hiring someone to clean dorm rooms is a convenience,
but it is also an obvious display of wealth that would establish a
perceived, if unspoken, barrier between students of different economic
Here is the Cafe Hayek response:
This episode is too typical. An enterprising soul perceives a need
and creatively offers a product or service -- at his own financial risk
-- to satisfy that need. Everything is voluntary. No one is forced to
buy the service; no one is forced to work for it. But well-read
ignoramuses, infatuated with their own imaginary higher capacity for
caring for others, viscerally react against commercial exchange. In
this case, those opposed to Dormaid worry that because some but not all
students will find it worthwhile to buy maid service, "inequality"
among the Harvard student body will increase.
Is the typical Harvard student so immature that he suffers envy when
some of his fellow students buy maid service that he chooses not to
buy? (Bonus question for economics students: Why did I say "that he
chooses not to buy?" rather than "that he can't afford?") Is he so
sensitive, so very, very tender, that he loses emotional stability at
the sight of a friend's dorm room freshly cleaned by maids? Is he so
intellectually and socially inept that he can't work out an amicable
arrangement with his roommate if one wants to use Dormaid and the other
prefers not to do so?
Read the rest - Cafe Hayek has links to the original Harvard Crimson article. I will tell you that my roommates would have been fine if I had used this service in college. In fact, I was such a mess that they might have paid for it for me!