This piece caught my eye in the AFR:
Bruce [Chapman] and I [John Dawkins] have often shaiacked about the true father of HECS – was it Bruce who developed the scheme or me who had it supported by a divided Labor Party and passed through a disagreeable Senate?
But then great ideas have many fathers; terrible ideas are soon orphans.
This is a did Al Gore invent the internet question?
Bruce Chapman did wonderful work operationalising the idea and Dawkins did great work driving political acceptance of the idea. At best, however, they were midwives to the idea itself that was actually fathered by Milton Friedman.
A governmental body could offer to finance or help finance the training of any individual who could meet minimum quality standards by making available not more than a limited sum per year for not more than a specified number of years, provided it was spent on securing training at a recognized institution. The individual would agree in return to pay to the government in each future year x per cent of his earnings in excess of y dollars for each $1,000 that he gets in this way. This payment could easily be combined with payment of income tax and so involve a minimum of additional administrative expense.
That is from 1955.
Later in Free to Choose (1980), Friedman provided an update to the idea.
More recently (1967), a panel appointed by President Johnson and headed by Professor Jerrold R. Zacharias of MIT recommended the adoption of a specific version of this plan under the appealing title “Educational Opportunity Bank” and made an extensive and detailed study of its feasibility and of the terms that would be required in order for it to be self-supporting. No reader of this book will be surprised to learn that the proposal was met by a blast from the Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges—a fine example of what Adam Smith referred to as “the passionate confidence of interested falsehood.” In 1970, as recommendation 13 out of thirteen recommendations for the financing of higher education, the Carnegie Commission proposed the establishment of a National Student Loan Bank that would make long-term loans with repayment partly contingent upon current earnings. “Unlike the Educational Opportunity Bank,” says the commission, “. . . we see the National Student Loan Bank as a means of providing supplementary funding for students, not as a way of financing total educational costs.”
More recently still, some universities, including Yale University, have considered or adopted contingent-repayment plans administered by the university itself. So a spark of life remains.
As Dawkins confesses great ideas have many, many fathers and I don’t want to detract from what has turned out to be a very good reform and application of one of Friedman’s better ideas (the withholding tax being the worst, of course).